"A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." Jesus' words as recorded in John 13:34-35
"I am the True Vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father's commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends." Jesus' words as recorded in John 15:1-2, 9-12
Relationship stands out as the heart of Jesus' teaching on love in John 15. Love starts and exists only in relationship to God himself. Love does not start as an action (although actions will always follow!), but love begins in a relationship with the living God.
I am currently reading the book Bold Love by Dr. Dan Allendar and Dr. Tremper Longman.
· “We have come to view love as being nice. Forgiving and forgetting. Yielding to the desires of others. Yet the kind of love modeled by Jesus Christ has nothing to do with manners or unconditional acceptance. Rather, it is shrewd. Disruptive. Courageous. And, as a result, socially unacceptable.” (back cover)
· “When the question of failure to love is raised, it should be heard as the whisper of a friend, not the accusation of an enemy, because our failures can be the delicious entry into a new comprehension of God’s grace…Dependence on God’s grace requires a broken heart that has given up the demands of pride. (p. 36-37)
· "There is an inherent battle involved in learning to love. If we are to learn to love, we must begin with an acknowledgement that love is not natural and that love’s failure is not easy to admit. How then does God intervene? The answer is found in an understanding of God’s relentless, intrusive, incarnate involvement and His patient, forbearing forgiveness. The essence of Christianity is God’s tenacious loyalty to redeem His people form the just penalty for sin. (p. 37)
· "The heart must be restored to its full image in Christ, inch by precious inch and battle after tragic battle. As a new creation, citizens of a new kingdom, we are given the unbelievable opportunity of being ambassadors of reconciliation. (p. 49)
Through challenges, heartbreaks, and grief, God’s Spirit rewrites the script of what it means to love. God prunes us to bear fruit.
Love, God’s love, bold love, is messy. It is not a Valentine or a fuzzy feeling, LOVE is visceral.
"Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entablements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket -- safe, dark, motionless, airless -- it will change. It will not be broken' it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable." From The Four Loves by C. S. Lewis
I believe that the time and attention we spend this year on what love does will transform us. Let us enter this year with knees bent, heart open, and hands lifted up in anticipation of what God will do in and through each of us and the lives we touch.