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For Your Weekend: What It Means to Abide

Lisa Brenninkmeyer

Dig Deeper into Sunday’s Gospel: Read John 15:917

When I love someone, I go all in. I trust until a person gives me a reason not to. This has led me to some incredibly beautiful connections and friendships but also experiences of being taken advantage of and hurt. You can likely relate because real relationships can get messy. When they do, I am always comforted by Psalm 119:114, which reminds me that God is “my hiding place and my shield.” Hiding away in the shelter of Jesus reminds me of our gospel this Sunday, which begins with Jesus’ words, “Abide in my love.” 

I wonder what that looks like for you—to abide, to rest, to feel embraced by the love of Jesus. It makes me think of times when I have quieted down and allowed the words of Sarah Kroger’s song, “Belovedness,” to fill my mind and heart. An hour in Jesus’ presence in the Blessed Sacrament can give me this experience. So does uninterrupted time with Scripture, a cup of tea, and a cozy blanket. 

John 15:9–17 expands our understanding of what it means to abide in God’s love. Jesus said, “If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love” (John 15:10). One of those commandments is to “love one another as I have loved you” (John 15:12). What Jesus is teaching here is that while our inner spiritual lives must be nourished by our connection to Him, it should translate into outward action. In the words of Jen Pollack Michel, “What Jesus does here is abolish any neat distinction between the contemplative life and the activist one, between spiritual experience and social responsibility. To be connected to Jesus, living in constant conversation with the indwelling Word of God, ensures that we become people actively committed to the good of our neighbor.”[1]

This is what turned the world upside down in the first century of the early church. There were no podcasts, conferences, or programs. No one had a complete version of the Bible; there were no women’s Bible studies. It was the radical, self-sacrificing love of the Christians that caught the notice of the watching world. Tertullian records the way in which outsiders observed Christians feeding poor people, burying the dead, caring for orphans, and being attentive to aged slaves and prisoners.[2] The Christians loved as Jesus loved, and it piqued the curiosity of those around them. 

We are called to do the same, and this passage indicates that our intimacy with Jesus is connected to our willingness to love sacrificially. This certainly does not mean God wants us to stay in abusive relationships. Healthy boundaries are important and there are times we need to love from a distance. But Jesus has made charity—radical love—the distinguishing mark of His followers. Do we resemble Him in this way? Or do we shy away from complicating our lives since we have more than enough to do to just look after ourselves?

He said, “You are my friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit” (John 15:14–16). When Jesus shared this command to love as He had loved, He wasn’t shouting an order from afar. He was letting His disciples know that He was inviting them into a friendship and a partnership with Him. This would have been very different from a master/servant relationship at that time in that a master would never share his mind with his servant or slave. Jesus, by contrast, let His followers know what He was trying to do and why He was doing it. 

He calls us in the same way and offers us the intimacy that accompanies a shared mission. He’s not commanding from a distance; He invites us close so that we can partner with Him. But we have a choice. Will we accept it or refuse it? 

As Saint Paul later writes, “We are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making his appeal through us” (2 Corinthians 5:20 [AMP]). He has chosen us as ambassadors and sends us into the world, not to retreat into a holy huddle, but to represent Him wherever we go. The fruit of our lives is to be so attractive that people want to know what makes us so different. In what way is God calling you to love radically today? How will you respond?

With you on the journey,

P.S. If you would like to read more of the Gospel of John in a way that helps you apply its teachings to your life, I encourage you to order Touching the Divine. It’s a wonderful Bible study that will draw you into a deeper, loving relationship with Jesus as you reflect on His life and personality. 

Food for thought or journaling…

Where do you focus more of your time—the contemplative life or actively serving? What is a specific thing you could do to grow in the area that comes less naturally to you?

Dear Lord, Open my eyes to the needs around me. Break my heart with what breaks Yours. Please fill me with Your Holy Spirit—with Your divine love—so that when I step into the brokenness, I bring Your healing presence. Amen.

[1] Jen Pollack Michel, A Habit Called Faith: 40 Days in the Bible to Find and Follow Jesus (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2021), 191.
[2] Alan Kreider, The Patient Ferment of the Early Church: The Improbable Rise of Christianity in the Roman Empire (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2016), 62.

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