15”If you love me, you will keep my commandments. 16And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. 17This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you.
18”I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you. 19In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me; because I live, you also will live. 20On that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. 21They 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.”
What I am Learning:
The first sentence of this passage can really throw us off. It sounds like Jesus is demanding moral and ethical perfection in order to prove that we love him.
How “disappointed” Jesus is with us when we do something wrong…
There is another way to see this passage, however.
First we might want to know what commandments Jesus gave in John. There are only two:
1) John 13.34:I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.
2)John 20.21: Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.’
In the first, Jesus commanded them to wash one another’s feet - to practice being mutual with each other instead of competing with each other. He asked them to be authentic to their God-given self while engaging deeply with each other.
Love, as I like to describe it is “to risk oneself so that yourself and others may be more authentic to themselves.” Not by accident, love is related to leadership as when it is done in Jesus’ way is a form of love.
Jesus is asking them to honestly and fully engage with each other as mutual partners in community.
In the second Jesus is asking them to continue his work as change-agents in the world. This does not mean that Jesus is against the earth and its creatures. Rather that the cultural world, the world view of human beings, was a domination and submission culture. This world of domination/submission, in the first chapter of John, “did not know him.”
His whole mission in John is to re-unite human beings and the culture of human society from a domination/submission culture to one of mutuality. When Pilate asks him some questions, Jesus says “he is not from this worldview.” His reasons and his values would seem crazy to Pontius and his Caesar so there was not much use answering.
As his disciples, Jesus asks us to embody a culture of mutuality, loving one another and ourselves as we are and striving for equal and deeply honest relationships with each other. As an alternative community, we then begin to take part in Jesus continuing work of public leadership to call all people to God’s way of mutuality.
This sounds nice. But I suspect that when you hear it you might feel it is a bit difficult if not impossible to live out. You might feel a weight on your shoulders and a lump in your throat. You might look at your life and honestly wonder if you have what it takes to be a part of a community like that and to carry on even a small part of the work of Jesus like that. Your inner accuser or critic can have a field day with this one.
I feel that way, too.
The disciples must have felt the same way as Jesus is giving them his last instructions in the days before his arrest and death.
But Jesus said that it was not only going to be up to them alone.
Jesus told them that they would be given Holy Spirit, an advocate who would stand up for them and guide them into loving community and into public leadership. The Holy Spirit would power and guide their community and mission.
He was not expecting them to be morally or ethically or relationally perfect people. Remember that when Peter denied Jesus three times, Peter remained a key leader in the church. I think Jesus would have voted a lot of disciples off the island of moral and relational perfection!
In this passage he was trying to be clear about the mission of his community: love of one another and public leadership toward the reign of God.
Instead he invites the disciples to participate in the very life of the Trinity – the Father in Jesus, Jesus in us, and the Holy Spirit between and among us.
This is not an invitation to some super-human life of leaping tall buildings. Rather it is a restoration to the life that God intends for all human beings because God so loved the world.
Part of the way God is healing us is to invite us to join God in the healing and creation of the world.
Welcome to the life of the Trinity!
Relax. Know you are loved. Know you are enough. Know you are not alone. Get to work. And when you need to rest sit back in the sun with a cool beverage in the company of friends and the God who loves you.