Dispatch One Hundred Fifty-Nine

Posted: August 5, 2015 in Thirty-Sixth Bundle
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JOHN 15:9-17

As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love. 10 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. 11 I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.

12 “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.13 No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.14 You are my friends if you do what I command you. 15 I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father. 16 You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask him in my name. 17 I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another.

All this talk of commandments makes it seem like we’re back in the First Testament with its strong accent on the Law and human obedience. Weren’t we set free from all this? Time and again, libertarian sects of one form or another have arisen from the slough of guilt (under management of the institutional church) with the proclamation that we are free of all rules, obligations, and constraints.

Without conscience, charismatic leaders have brainwashed their followers and not infrequently directed them to their destruction. Are Christians free from the law? As is typical when we are wanting a “yes” or “no” answer, we find the truth to be nested in a paradox – both “yes” and “no.”

Yes, we are free from the Law insofar as the teeth of the Law are conventionally found in its schedule of threatened (and feared) penalties for the transgressor. Perfect love, as it says in the Letter of 1 John, casts out all fear. Therefore, living by love we are set free from fear. Our motivation is no longer self-serving (to avoid pain and punishment) but self-transcending in sacrifice to the greater good.

The commandments that Jesus left to his disciples were all for the expressed purpose of promoting the value and cause of love – in the Christian circle, certainly, but also (especially) in the broad and harvest-ready field of the world. Of course, love itself cannot be commanded, since to be genuine it must be freely chosen.

In the early Christian community love was experienced as the generous self-giving of God, incarnated in Jesus of Nazareth and now indwelling those who live in his name.


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