I just had an awesome weekend near Palmer, Alaska with some wonderfully fun believers on a marvelous journey. I wish I had time to tell you about the North American Funsucker and those brothers and sisters going through their Pharisectomies. I wish I could show you the view out my window from the home I stayed in on the shore of a lake with mountains in the background. (I’ll try to put a picture up when I get home and have my cable to download the photos.)
Many of these have connected with me through the podcasts. I’ve had a ball. Now I’m in Anchorage for the day and fly out on a red-eye tonight. So, think of me when you put your head on a pillow tonight… I’ll be coveting a more horizontal sleep configuration.
Yesterday I got this email and know it is a question many others have as well. It fit in so well with so many things we’ve all been talking about this weekend:
I’ve been enjoying listening to the Transitions teachings and over the last couple of days have been pondering the parable of the prodigal son. The things you said strike a chord in my heart and it’s what I really believe about God, but I was reading John 15 and came to verse 10 (“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…) and was wondering what your thoughts on it were. Sounds a bit conditional, doesn’t it? Some versions actually say, “If you keep my commandments. I will keep loving you.” Could this just be one of those translation leanings, do you think? I did read the Amplified Bible which said something about “remaining in the intimacy of my love” which I thought perhaps made a bit of a difference. Is that the sense of “abide”? Not that God doesn’t continue to love even if someone isn’t keeping his commandments, but that those who do enjoy a greater intimacy with him?
Yes, on first read it does sound conditional. But in the context of the entire upper room discourse (John 13-16) and John 15 itself, we know thatâ€™s not what heâ€™s saying. Heâ€™s not saying we earn his love by keeping commandments. That goes against everything else heâ€™s been saying in this passage.
So, what could it mean? I think the context gives us the answer. Heâ€™s inviting us to remain in the love heâ€™s already given us. He made the disciples clean by his word and asks them to simply remain in him. So they didnâ€™t earn their place there and neither do we. But what Jesus is saying about obeying his commands, is that we live in the reality and fruitfulness of his love by following his ways. So it doesnâ€™t mean he loves us more, it just means we live in the fruit of that love by following him. So if Iâ€™m in a situation and Jesus gives me wisdom as to how to deal with it, but I refuse that wisdom and do what I think is best, Iâ€™m going to end up in a bigger mess. He will still love me the same, still offer me the same relationship, but I will not live in the fruit of that love because Iâ€™ve gone my own way.
Itâ€™s just the prodigal story. The son goes his own way and by doing so doesnâ€™t live in the Fatherâ€™s love, even though the Father still loves him completely and the same offer of relationship is always there. Heâ€™s just not living in its reality because he has chosen his way over the Fatherâ€™s way. But his rebellion works its own way in him until he comes to see the love the Father always had for him.
So keeping his commandments doesnâ€™t earn us more relationship, it just allows us to live in the fruit of his love. And that command remember, is not following a list of rules, but living lovedâ€”experiencing his love for us and then loving others around us the same way. It really isn’t rocket science. It’s so much easier and more freeing than that.
Two more meetings today, then I’m off to the airport…