Take a second and bring to mind someone who loves you; family, friend, romantic partner, mentor. Once you have them in mind, what are some of the ways you know they love you? How do you experience their love? A couple weeks ago in worship on campus, we spent time talking about the people who love us and how we experience their love. People talked about parents and grandparents, mentors and friends. The stories we told were different, but all the people we talked about manage to live out their care for us in ways that are not only loving, but also reflect how well they know us.
The gospel lesson for that week was part of Jesus’ farewell discourse from his final days with the disciples. Jesus tries to help prepare them for continuing without him, summarizing and fleshing out much of what he has been teaching them in the years they’ve travelled and worked together. Things are getting intense and uncertain for them, as they begin to see the potential consequences of pushing against the establishment. As we read this story, we know the outcome. We are on this side of Easter, so we know that death does not have the final victory.
Jesus says to the disciples, “As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you: abide in my love.” It led me to consider what Jesus’ love for those followers looked like. He invited them to follow him and included them in the work of sharing the good news. He taught them new ways to see God and their role in God’s world. He continually forgave their mistakes and failings, even the really big ones. He invited them (and maybe pushed them) to try new and challenging things like feeding 5000 people or going out on their own to share the good news. He protected them from storms and leaders (religious and political).
Jesus’ phrase “abide in my love” initially evokes the image of resting and living in a safe space, comfortable and content in connection with God. But like the disciples, God’s love for us includes challenges and invitations to grow, reaching beyond what seems comfortable and safe. Jesus pulls us to more – to learn and expand and more fully abide in the very love that supports us and urges us forward to love others and the whole world in powerful ways.
We abide in God’s love – surrounded, enfolded, embraced, and immersed in the love of God. This love provides safety and support that helps us try loving others, even in ways that seem beyond us. God invites us to love, even if our attempts are not perfect, and graciously, lovingly gives us another chance to try again.