Our gospel lesson today seems to make a connection between obedience and love. Jesus said to His disciples in the 1st verse of this passage; “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” And then in the last verse, “They who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me; and those who love me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them and reveal myself to them."
Remember that this is part of Jesus’ farewell discourse, His final lesson to the disciples as he says goodbye. This is important stuff, and he says it twice. “If you love me you will keep my commandments.” And what are Jesus’ commandments? "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself."
But does that mean you must earn Jesus’ love? Does that mean that if you are disobedient you don’t love Jesus and then He shuts you out, excludes you, rejects you? Does He then say “I don’t love you?” From a human perspective, in human relationships, that may in fact be the result of being disobedient; rejection, isolation, exclusion.
With Jesus, something different happens when you are disobedient. Something different happens when you don’t love God because of your disobedience. God is still there with you. You are a sinner and you can’t keep the commandments. But your sins are forgiven, and God continues to love you. If not, Jesus’ suffering, death and resurrection have no meaning.
Jesus is saying that this is all about relationship, a close, intimate relationship marked by love, conversation, exchange, giving and receiving, in an ongoing connection. Ask yourself what happens in a relationship with someone you don’t love? NOTHING! There is no connection, no conversation, no getting to know one another, no exchange.
If you don’t love Jesus how can you have a relationship with Him? If you don’t love God how can you receive and live in the blessing of His presence? How can you be open to Jesus’ love and the Father’s love when you don’t love them?
Jesus is not setting up a prescriptive conditional relationship here in which you are loved only if you love but describing what life with Him looks like. Life looks like you loving Him and your neighbor, and Jesus and the Father loving you in that close intimate relationship. Jesus calls you to that emotion of love. There is power in that emotion when there is passion in it. In that feeling is the power of life, the power for life, the power to make life different for you and for everyone around you.
Jesus wants your love for Him to have a passion that carries you beyond just the emotion. A passion that drives you to taking some action.
How do you love Jesus? You love him through worship. You also love Jesus by loving your neighbor. Again, it is not just emotional. What have you done for your neighbor lately? Have you helped the needy, the hungry, the homeless with real clothing, food and shelter?
Living life in love with Jesus changes your life. Living life in love with Jesus lights a fire in you that drives you to acknowledge His sovereignty in your life, and to the aid of your neighbor to make life better for them.
Love of Jesus, love of God changes how you live. Neither Jesus, nor the Father play favorites saying if you don’t obey I won’t love you; if you don’t love me I am not going to love you back. In obedience, in loving Jesus and neighbor you are given new life, life lived in love with Him; open to life in relationship to and with Him and the Father. Jesus is talking about living with your hearts open to the intensely personal and passionate relationship He wants to have with you. In that love you share, you are not orphaned by Jesus who died, but you are united with Him and the Father.