Scripture: John 15:9-17
Today we are placed in a precarious situation. Every four years our nation is purposely divided and set on the course of a total all out revolution. Yes i am being dramatic, but it is the truth. Our society is built on this battling of idea, because it is supposed to keep violent warfare out. There is a problem, we have friends from all sides. I know it is surprising because we assume that everyone thinks like we do. If that were the case then all of you would think like me, which would a little scary. We have people here that love art and some that think that art is a nice hobby but not a real career. We have people who embrace technology and others that barely know what the term texting is.
Do these things really mater? In the larger picture of our society we need all kinds of people. Think about the little things that we enjoy? Many of us just prior to falling asleep probably watched a program on the television, but how many of us have thought about the personalities that have gone into making that box a success? There were scientists that first had a dream of transmitting a signal from one area to another. Their ideas had to be sold to a businessman to market, so a creative mind joined the mix to perform some sort of entertaining show to attract investors. The scientist, the businessman, and the artist merge together, without one we would not have a single television in our homes. Which of the these are the most important? Depending on our personality we debate this idea, we would have valid arguments supporting each side of the issue.
In many inner cities across the nation after years of neglect and abuse, communities are being revived. Not because there is a profitable industry coming in, but groups of artists are taking over warehouses and converting them into studios to live and create. Even in our own downtown areas every first Friday of the month there are galleries opened to the public where people flock to these areas once decayed but now filled with color and life. What determines the value of a person? Is it only the amount of money their work can be traded for?
In this passage, often refered to by scholars as the last discourse, Jesus gives the last major block of teaching to His followers. The final words of wisdom passed on from the rabbi to his disciples. Within this block of teaching Jesus teaches us the true value of a person?
As the Father has love me, so I have loved you; abide in my love. Abide. To abide is an alien concept to many of us. To abide is to slow down, absorb, to bond, and to take root. Abide in my love. For many of us we cannot abide because we are too busy running from one thing to the next. Many of these things are good, even important things to invest our time in. But do we spread ourselves to far to truly abide, are we moving to quickly to take root?
We abide in the love of Christ by keeping His commands. He goes on to say that His joy and ours are made complete if we keep His commands and abide in His love. This concept is not difficult to grasp. If we take a moment to consider the things that bring us the greatest joy, you would find that it is those areas that we abide in. A musician is filled with joy when they are able to spend time just playing their instrument, they can get lost in the music. If you really want to see them beaming with joy allow them to share their passion in by listening to them and letting them teach you about music.
The command of God is to love one another as God has loved each of us. The extent of His love is beyond our understanding. We do not earn his love, our performance has absolutely no bearing on it. Paul goes as far as saying we were enemies of God, yet He still loves us. His command is to love as He loves. Imagine what that may look like in the midst of our political war. At times things become cloudy, we forget that at the opposing end is a person. A person loved enough by God that Jesus left His heavenly throne to live, teach, and die for. A person for whom Jesus rose from the grave to glorify and bring hope to.
We are called to love. When we live in love we go beyond being servants of God but become Friends of God. Anyone can be a servant. God made a servant out of the King of Babylon to bring about His plans. God used the hateful rulers of Rome as servants to pump the gospel throughout the world. Servants are willing or unwilling, they are there to do a job. I really do not see why anyone would be excited to ay they are the servant of God, because God can use anything. Friends are different. Friends are not always around for the benefit or service they provide, instead they are there for the companionship. People have friends not because they are profitable, but they enjoy being around them. There are benefits from friendships. Mutual benefits, both parties have costs and rewards.
Several people throughout history have been known as friends of God. These men and women had great blessing but they also risked everything. Abraham was called a friend of God, the cost was that he had to leave his home and go to the place God lead him. He gave up everything, what did he gain? The disciples were called to follow Jesus, most of them paid with their live, yet each would say it was worth it. If you were to look throughout history you would find countless people who gave it all. They were missionaries, pastors, nuns, and monk. They were sinners and saints. Our own religious history embraces this theme. Our name, the Religious Society of Friends, comes from this concept.
The reason we used this name is because we believe that we can hear the voice of God and follow His callings. They were called and worked in areas of prison reform, slavery, education, women’s right, and civil rights. They were known as people of peace, honesty, and love. When Ben Franklin left New York for Philadelphia he knew he could go to the Friends meeting to find assistance in finding a place to start. When troubles emerged between the native nations and the United States, Friends were often called in to mediate the treaties. A Friend named Rufus Jones and other traveled to Nazi Germany to negotiate a treaty to allow them to bring Jewish people to the United States, they were granted permission. These men and women realized that God valued all people equally and worked to show love and respect to all people. They got into God, they embraced the leading of the Spirit, and they lived the love of Christ among others. The greater the cost the greater the reward.
Today we live in a world of comfort. Many people would choose comfort instead of risking themselves in loving. It turns heads when groups strive to build relationships with people others find unworthy. It peaks the interest because there is not the profitability factor. I challenge us all to consider what we are willing to invest, how much of ourselves are we willing to put on the line for God? Are we willing to listen and love, are we willing to be true to our name and become Friends Of God? Let us now take some time to abide. Let us listen and expect God to draw us into something amazing.