Philip Casmer

What Is Love?

by Philip Casmer on May 5th, 2024
John 15:9-17

This morning our bulletin makes an equation between Jesus’ business and ours. And, I don’t know about you, but that sounds very serious to me.  You know, like if I said I’d run your business for the next month, how you’d he like, “No…” Jesus sounds pretty serious here too, doesn’t he? What is he serious about? Well, again, to the front of the bulletin: Jesus’ business is love… Which is a marshmallowy sort of feely word, but not if you think about it for more than a passing second. Love is deep and serious. And here, in specific, Jesus loves and he expects us to love too. And it’s framed in “if…then” ways of talking, which usually imply contingency and what makes two things related in reality or not. Like, if you do this or that…then you love me, but if you don’t… in this case: you don’t love Jesus and you’re not in Jesus’ love. 

Sounds serious… And, in its businessy way, perhaps complex. I was recently talking with someone about real estate venture capital business. Now, I could gather something of what it’s about from the title, but to really understand I need more… I wonder if that’s what we need, listening to Jesus’ business this morning. If Jesus’ business is love, and that’s to be ours too, perhaps we should ask, “What is love?”

John’s gospel is a great book. It’s not hard language, but it is full of big concepts. And John, in his way of writing, sort of puts ideas together the way a needle and thread sews – diving beneath to pop back up a little bit later. So, talking to his disciples on the night he was betrayed, Jesus threads various concepts but, last before our section, the picture that he is the Vine and that we can only do what God loves when we’re connected to God through Jesus… Which does give us a nice unifying theme when answering our question. According to Jesus, love is always connected to God’s love… And there are a number of big pictures in what Jesus says that will help us piece it together “What is love?”

Let’s start where Jesus does: with the Father. The Father God loved Jesus and Jesus loved him and you and now you, his disciples, love too. I wonder if you are like me and sometimes tend to think of God’s love and what it’s like when you’re afraid that it’s not… 

Last weekend my family celebrated confirmation as many others did. I was blessed to have out-of-town family here helping with things. So, I’m riding down Springdale Rd with my brother after the 2nd HD / Menard’s stop of the morning… He says, “Dad would have loved this. I wish he was here…” Yeah… he liked building decks and loving his grandchildren and knowing his son’s family had a church family… I wish too… And it ticks me off at the milestones of his grandchildren’s lives sometimes. Sometimes dads die, or parents outlive their children, and people get cancer – life as-we-wish-it never materializes. Maybe you too ask, “How is this God’s love?” And, sometimes, “If his love is like this, why should I?” There’s a great temptation to be disconnected from God’s love, to frame it poorly, to excuse ourselves.

You might say that your perspective on love – what it is and whether to do it – it’s related to how you think of God. Students are said to have asked Martin Luther once how he conceived of God. He said, “When I think of God, I think of a man hanging on a tree.” Jesus is thinking of that too. Here’s Jesus’ love: the man who lays down his life for his friends. He’s looking to Golgotha – of course, the blood and the death, but most the God-forsakenness. How he would stand in the gap and stretch out his arms crucified before God, so that God’s hellish justice would fall on him instead of us with our sins. Jesus is thinking of perfect, complete love – in his death, when he would finish things – every sin removed – so that there would not ever be a question about whether you belong with God; in his perfect life among us – every holy thing added in – so that you are everything God wants. All, exactly according to plan.

That’s love, in Jesus’ words: v.9 “as the Father has loved me, so I have loved you…” (God the Father set in motion his plan of salvation, which the Son of God knew with him before time itself, and loved it to complete it.); v.10 “I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love,” (God the Father loved the Son in all his work for the Son spoke the Father’s words and did what the Father does.); and vv.12-13 “I have loved you [with the greatest love, if you will]: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” And, according to the Father’s plan of love, the Son of God, Jesus, laid down his life to take that love of God he deserved and give it to ones who don’t – by dying for them – sinners he’s called something else.

That’s an important picture too – how should you think about yourself as you consider Jesus business? He calls you friends…  Like sitting around the fire on a cool May evening (or maybe gathering in a private upper room for a dinner on the last night of your life) to share company, conversation, camaraderie; talk about plans, family, life, and business – close things. 

That’s love, in Jesus’ words. More than servants or workers, “The servant doesn’t hear his master’s business…”  That’s not you. v.15, “I have called you friends for everything I learned from my Father I have made known to you.” Those disciples were Jesus’ closest companions, in the inner circle. That title “friends” in Scripture is used for people like Moses and David. But even you… hasn’t Jesus made known, openly known, what his business is and how you fit into it? John will later write, “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us.” (1 Jn 3:16) And he said earlier, “God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” You know exactly what his business is and what he’s about – you, his friends.

Don’t miss though what kind of friends. Jesus says that his friends he chose and he appointed. But even these are dear words… God appointed priests and prophets. He chose those disciples – hand-picked – and not because of their amazing talents it seems. Even you he’s called his “chosen people, a royal priesthood,” appointed for great things, if you will. “[God] chose us in [Jesus] from before the creation of the world [to be his holy people]…” (Ep 1:4) And, as Jesus says here v.16 – you’ll bear fruit (love) the kind that will last. In Jesus, God’s love has been worked and shown, and it makes you specially his own – intimately his – connected to him – friends, chosen and appointed to love in a lasting way…

So, then, perhaps we ought to talk about the way of your doing Jesus’ business? I want you to consider this – here, Jesus doesn’t lay out all the specific actions you do – John didn’t in our 2nd reading either. Here, it’s mostly about how you love. And so, to the theme, look one more time how connected to Jesus’ love it is… It’s just like in the work of a marriage. In a marriage, when someone is loved – wholeheartedly, selflessly, givingly – what do they do? They stay… Jesus says v.15, “Remain in my love…” How? He said in v.10 “If you keep my commands…” To keep is to guard, cherish, hold, prize Jesus’ commands. Of course, these are his commandments and the things you do that follow his law, but noteworthy also is what John will later say, “[This is [God’s] commandment, that we believe in his Son, Jesus Christ…” This is love for you: stay, live in, Jesus’ love – prize it, hold it, learn it, know it, cherish it, keep it… So that you can keep God’s commands and love one another…

I suppose, if there is part of any trouble for us it’s the us with other people aspect – to love them. Because that can be tough. And let’s be honest, we’re not each that great at it always. What kind of attitude will go with us? Isn’t it funny though that Jesus talks about all of this as no problem at all? In fact that, his very purpose in telling you his business is that the joy he has (divine, perfect, complete, holy) would be in you and your joy would be full. Full as Peter means: even in sufferings, inexpressible and glorious. (1 Pe 1:6,8) Full as Paul expressed when God works in you – God’s Spirit gifting peace to your heart and joy. (Ro 14:17) We think we can find joy in things, in the right job, the right person, so on… Popular mantras even say, “Choose joy…” But joy, really, wells up from being loved; it’s the byproduct of Jesus’ gracious work – and the byproduct of the good work you do in his name… This is love for you: not fear, not doubt, not worry, but great, lasting joy that Jesus himself gives.

In fact, to wrap it all up and tie with a bow, I’d call the love Jesus calls you to something very, very confident. All of his working and choosing and appointing and promising aside, he even says, “whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you.” Whatever we ask in the pursuit of knowing Jesus’ love and keeping with Jesus’ love – God will grant, according to his gracious will? Wow… It sounds like he’s saying, “My love defines you – does the work, calls you who you are, is the place you stay, brings the attitude you’ll have — and for you to love one another, I’ll even grant you everything you need.” Sounds to me like he’s just set the stage, explained the plan, so we can simply get down to business…

Sermon Archive
I’m New to Christ the Lord Request More Information

Copyright © 2024
Website by Sinclair Design Group