Already you are clean because
of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned.
Commentary: Washed, Abiding, and Belonging
What does being clean have to do with abiding in Christ?
As I pondered this question, I turned to the early church. To my surprise, I found two fathers named Sts. Basil the Great and Gregory of Nazianzus who understood this “cleansing” as an act of healing. Where my first thought had been about a bath, St. Basil connected Jesus’ words to the healing of the blind man earlier in John’s gospel (9:5-7). In this passage, Jesus says, “As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” He then makes mud from His own spit, anoints the blind man’s eyes with it, and tells him to go wash in the pool of Siloam, where he is healed. When he was questioned by the Pharisees about his healing, he boldly proclaimed its truth, even without knowing Who had healed him. As a result, he was cast out from the synagogue, before finally seeing Jesus with his newly healed eyes.
How can the blind man deepen our understanding of abiding in Christ? In John 9, this man had to stand by what he knew about his Healer, even to the point of exile from his community. And yet, Jesus appeared to him again, this time with a full revelation of Himself which compelled the man to believe, to worship, and to belong to Jesus instead. Abiding in Christ meant being torn off from his previous place of belonging, in order to be grafted onto the Vine.
Like the blind man, we must be both washed and healed, so that we may stand firm in what Christ has done for us. Choosing to abide will often be costly, since we must leave behind our places of belonging in the world, and get grafted onto Jesus. Without this, we will fail to bear the spiritual fruit characterized by love of God and neighbor.
Jesus calls us to abide in our Healer, and in the word which calls us out from our former places of belonging. He wants us to cling wholly to Him, and to experience a belonging that comes only from His love. I often find it easy to forget that I belong to Christ, and revert back to finding my identity through “in-groups” or parties. Although they promise many things, I find that these identities can blind me to the identity of Christ, and to the love I ought to have for those who are not “insiders”, or who may even be my enemies. Without deep joy in beholding the love of Christ, my soul withers — and without love for others, I fail to bear fruit.
Remember a time when God opened your eyes to a deeper understanding of His love. What types of worldly belonging can make you forget the healing that Jesus has given you? If there is anyone you have struggled to love because of worldly divisions, find a way to seek their forgiveness, and/or tangibly showing your love for them.
Abba, I belong to You.
Jesus, I abide in You.
Holy Spirit, You are alive in me.
Oh Light of the World, open the eyes of my heart, that I may see You as You truly are.
Whenever I find it hard to hold on to your love, I pray You would hold on harder to me.
Whenever I forget my baptism, I pray You would remind me that I belong to You, and that You deserve my affections.
Whenever I fail to bear fruit, I pray You would prune me of worldly identities and heal my wounds of rejection.
Empower me to love washing feet more than I love being right.
Empower me to love my enemies more than I love winning.
Empower me to love You above all, and to embrace the way of the cross as the way of freedom.
Writer and Educator
Kristin Caynor is a writer and educator in full-time ministry who grew up in Thailand and the U.S. and is currently based in Phoenix, AZ. She is earning a PhD in Bible and Cultural Studies, and working to develop biblically-based resources for approaching cross-cultural work, and for aiding the global church in reconciliation efforts around the world. She is also blessed with the opportunity to integrate her learning locally through building relationships and caring for needs in areas of brokenness with the R/City Outreach street ministry at Redemption Alhambra in Phoenix.