As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.
“Joy is the serious business of heaven.” ~ C.S. Lewis
The love of God is not something that comes to us in abstraction, but is revealed as both personal and particular. This is seen in the love that the Father revealed in the Son, the one with whom he is well pleased. It is this particular love that Jesus personally invites his disciples into, a love that has precedent and to which their new life is to be bound. Here they are to remain, implying that this particular love already inhabits them and they it.
Just as this love is revealed as personal and particular, so is the way in which they are to remain in it. The Father loves the son because he lays down his life and picks it up again (John 10:37). The Son does not just reveal the source of God’s love, but also how to habituate it in walking in obedience to the Father. We too share in and habituate that love as we walk in obedience to the Son. In fact Jesus sums up the totality of God’s revelation in love, inviting his disciples to love God in their entirety and to love others as themselves, even those whom they would consider their enemies.
This particular love would be an impossibility apart from the love of God as revealed in Christ. Here we discover that our abiding in it depends not on our circumstances, but is something that is transcendent. It moves beyond circumstances and it is in this movement, that we also find the transcendent reality of joy. While happiness is tied to our circumstances, well-being, and quality of life, joy surpasses all such requirements and finds its source and fulfillment in love. We see this is in the fact it was the joy set before the Son that compelled him to the suffering of the cross, a joy bound in the sacrificial love of God.
It is this joy that Jesus gives to his disciples and this joy that he wishes to bring to fulfillment in them. A joy forever wrapped in the love of God, that frees them to embrace a reality in which they can love God and neighbor. If we wish to see the world radiate with joy, we must see it first filled with love. This is again a love that is particular and personal, not engaged begrudgingly but willfully, and to which we, who are in Christ, now belong and reside.
“As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you,” finds it compliment as the resurrected Christ commissions his disciples. As he appeared to them, Jesus proclaimed his peace upon them, and stated, “as the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” He then breathed upon them and filled them with his Spirit. This same Spirit is now in us working to fulfill Jesus’ prayer that by our union one to another in God’s abiding love, the Father would be revealed through us so that the world may believe.
Spend some time today praying specifically and personally for those who have caused you pain or suffering, especially for those who are in Christ. As Christ endured the cross for the joy set before him, see if you can discover his joy as you do.
Thanks be to you, my Lord Jesus Christ, for all the benefits which you have given me, for all the pains and insults which you have borne for me. O most merciful Redeemer, Friend and Brother, may I know you more clearly, love you more dearly, and follow you more nearly, day by day.
-Richard of Chichester (1197-1253)