Words of Jesus, from John 14:15-21…
“If you love me, you will obey what I command. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever—the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him.”
On the surface, this reads a bit petulantly–as in, God will love you if you do what He tells you. The implication we could insert, however incorrectly, is that we will be loved by God ONLY if we do as He commands. Or go even farther–if you don’t love Jesus, you won’t be loved by God the Father. Spiritual blackmail of sorts. A bit unexpected coming from a supposedly benign Creator.
And yet, while hearing these words read in church today, I found myself examining the meaning behind the word “love”. I know I personally have a tendency to over-specify certain words or labels, and find myself applying them to only a few of the many possibilities. Surely the word “love” has suffered greatly as one of the most overused and least-understood words in the English language. I mean really, if a person “loves” a particular favorite song, doesn’t that just mean they greatly enjoy the experience of hearing that song? That word, love, can be cast about recklessly, diluting its true character and emotional impact. For although music can inspire feelings like love, it’s not as though the song itself actively shares in a spiritual bond with the listener. Isn’t that what love is supposed to be, an active spiritual joining of people?
What does it really mean to love another person, and to be loved in return? Why does God want us to love each other as He loves us? How can we do that if we don’t even fully understand what that entails? Why did Jesus say, “If you love me, you will obey what I command”? Is that simply Jesus’ way of telling us exactly how to participate actively in that spiritual joining with God? And isn’t that level of spiritual oneness the same kind of love we should strive to create with one another?