Give Yourself to Others …

Posts Tagged ‘John 15:9-17

When I was younger  — I’ve passed the 60 mark — I actively engaged in what I now label as the “endless doctrinal debates.”

I won’t say they are useless, but they do get pretty close.  As I read the Text, especially the gospels, Jesus pretty steadfastly chastises the Pharisees and Sadducees for their pre-occupation with and arguments about Jewish doctrine.  Just because the issues may have changed — and not all of them have — I’m skeptical Jesus’ view would change.

Jesus seemed pre-occupied with forgiveness and charity ….

Even when individuals were obviously guilty, Jesus overlooked their guilt and showed them love.  And with his parables, he often only hinted at a better way … rarely “laying down the law.”

I cannot say I’ve done an exhaustive review to confirm the following point, but I’m pretty it’s accurate:  most of the doctrinal issues Christians argue about are based upon statements by someone other than Jesus — perhaps the writings of the Apostles, or Luke.  Rarely, if ever, do we argue over things Jesus said.

As I’ve noted before, the only time in the Text, where Jesus describes his own words as “commands” are in John 13 and John 15.  Both times, he says he’s giving them a new command, to love another the way He loved us.

Oh, how I wish we would be pre-occupied with doing that.

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Among theologians, both professional and amateurs, there is sometimes a debate over Solo Scriptura, or the idea that everything about God is contained in the Scriptures … variously defined as either the Old Testament and/or New Testament text.

First we have to recognize that the “word of God” as used in the NT Text is not a reference to scriptures.

Second, even the NT Text itself seems to minimize the value of written text. Hebrews 10:16 emphasizes that God will write his covenant with us in our hearts — in contrast with the old covenant which was written in stone.

Third, the NT Text cannot possible be comprehensive in it’s presentation of or about God, the Son and the Spirit. No human text could possibly contain everything there is to know about the subject. You might argue the NT Text contains everything we NEED to know — which is a credible position — but not everything THERE IS to know.

Fourth, the NT Text itself says that a legal or command oriented approach to righteousness is not what the new covenant with God is about. However, what does a reliance on the Text result in? A perpetual argument about what the Text means — which cannot be what God desired. And in fact, it seems to perpetuate a Pharisaical approach to our relationship to God, which is repeatedly condemned in the NT Text, especially in the reports in Mark about Jesus.

The only time Jesus is quoted as describing his own words as commands occur in John 13 and John 15. Both times, his command is to love one another as he loved us.

For me, everything flows from that. If it doesn’t, then it’s not from God.

This is the reason, for me, the debate over IM is so misguided.

Because for anyone to condemn or even chastise me for using IM — whether a little or a lot — requires you to judge my heart. And no one knows my heart, except God. Some times I don’t even know my own heart.

So, back to the initial focus of this post … a Solo Scriptura approach to understanding God is limiting. I won’t say I have a better source than the NT Text. I don’t.

But I also know that God is not constrained by or limited to what is written in the NT Text.

Okay, here’s where I am:  what does it mean to love?

I mean, let’s face it, love is so overused — used to mean so many different things — that it has become almost meaningless.  Can anyone dispute that?

In the New Testament, as well as the Greek language, there are several words which we translate as “love” in English.  Specifically, they are:

eros — the root word for erotic.  Obviously, a reference to the physical aspects of infatuation, sexual arousal, etc.

phileo — “brotherly love.”  This is the beginning of Philadelphia (the city of brotherly love) and philanthropy.  It is also used to describe the affection between friends.  So there is this sense of reciprocated care between two people.

agape — this is the word Jesus used in John 13 and 15, which I talked about last time.  He used it in a lot of other places as well.  It’s the word Paul used in 1 Corinthians 13.  The King James Version translated it “charity” in 1 Cor 13.  One of the best definitions I’ve run across is from Bill Clark:  giving yourself to others for their good, expecting nothing in return.”  I think you could also say “requiring nothing in return.”

That’s the way Jesus loved us.

Another point — note the different standards for love when Jesus cites the Old Testament:  Love your neighbor as yourself; compared to Jesus’ new command in John 13:  Love one another as I have loved you.

Have you ever taken note of people who seem to really dislike themselves?  Treat themselves pretty poorly?  Well, if we stick with the love your neighbor as yourself standard, if you’re one of the folks who don’t think much of themselves, you might treat others as poorly as your treat yourself.

However, then consider how the standard changes if you move to Jesus’ new command in John 13: Love one another as I have loved you. Wow, what a difference.  Now, it’s not how I treat myself that becomes the baseline, it’s how Jesus treated me.  While I don’t like the “advertising” connotations of “what would Jesus do”, it is the right question.

How do I love you the way Jesus loves you?

That is a standard to try to live by.

That’s what really matters!


Okay, so, I’ve gotten to the point that I’m focused on the two commands that Jesus described as the greatest commands in the Mosaical Law:  Love God … and love your neighbor as yourself.

I’m not sure exactly how long I contemplated the question of how those commands work themselves out in my life.  It seemed like a long time, but I didn’t try to keep track of the time.

Then, one days I was watching brief video presentation by one of my spiritual mentors, Landon Saunders.  He was talking about 1 John 4.  And, the light bulb lit up.  Here’s the important versions, beginning in 1 John 4:7 (NIV)

7 Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.8 Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9 This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.

13 We know that we live in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. 14 And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. 15 If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in him and he in God. 16 And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.

God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him. 17 In this way, love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment, because in this world we are like him. 18 There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.

19 We love because he first loved us. 20 If anyone says, “I love God,” yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. 21 And he has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother.

What struck me about this passage is that it seems to say, you can tell if someone loves God, by whether he loves his brother.  (I’m ignoring the question of who is my brother, for the moment.)  That seems much more understandable.  I can get my mind around that.  It seems very simple and clear.

The simplicity and clarity of this idea was reinforced when I read two section of the Gospel of John… 13:34 and 15:32.  First, John 13:34 (NIV), you can read the entire context by reading the whole chapter:

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

Wow.  Talk about simple and straight forward:  Love one another, the way Jesus loved us.  Could it be any simpler to grasp!  Not easy to do but anyone can get that message.

Just for emphasis, Jesus repeated himself in John 15, specifically, verses 9-17 (NIV)

9“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. 10If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love. 11I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. 12My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. 13Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. 14You are my friends if you do what I command. 15I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. 16You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit—fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. 17This is my command: Love each other.

Note the emphasis I added — almost identical to John 13:34.  Straight from the mouth of Jesus.

Here’s another interesting point, which I make for emphasis.  I looked up the Greek word for command, to see where else Jesus used the word.  The only place Jesus used the word command to describe his own words are here in John 13 and John 15.  Even several years after discovering this point, I’m a little cautious about making too much of it.  But I still think it is a telling point.

But now I’m faced with the other question I posed earlier — what does it really mean to love?  Six Greek words = One English word.  That doesn’t help much.  So, next time, I’ll tell you what I’ve learned about that.


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