5/20/01, E6C

“If You Love Me You Will...”
John 14: 23-29

"If you love me, keep my commandments." (John 14: 15)
"If you love me you will live true to my word." (John 14:23)

John is often referred to as "The Apostle of Love." It is easy to understand why he was Jesus' closest friend; he understood that friendship is a two way street. John not only was Jesus' best friend but he also seemed to be a friend to all. John placed love as the central theme of the five books of the New Testament attributed to his authorship.

John believed that one's attitude does effect behavior and thus, positive attitudinal modification will directly improve one's life. Much of western civilization has been built upon John's assumption. The idea behind our educational process is to direct thoughts in the proper channels so that one's life will be improved. Theologically we assume that if we enter into a relationship with Jesus our lives will be changed.

Twice in the fourteenth chapter of his gospel John quotes Jesus as saying, in his "Farewell Discourse" to the Apostles, "If you love me you will..." Thus, love evolves from a noun to a verb; from a notion to an experience we must live out in the real world.

All human interaction is based upon mutual respect, friendship and love. Last Sunday, Mother's Day, we looked at the four Greek New Testament words used for our English word Love: "Storge," which is natural affection; "Philia," deeper personal friendship; "Eros," the experience of a man and a woman falling in love; and "Agape," the love of God that is extended to us and through us as we allow it to take place. In all of these ideas about love there are two attitudes that we must have: willingness and commitment. The Apostle John had an experience of love that he was willing to die for. C.S. Lewis expressed this high moral commitment in his poem, "Pinder Sang."

"But we are tethered to Hope that will promise
anything without blushing,
And the flowing water of foreknowledge is far
away beyond our reach.
Therefore neither ashore nor in the hollow ships
will any praise
Be given to any act on which the doer does not
stake his life."

In Jesus' words: "If you love me you will act upon what I have taught you." Discipleship is never a part time job. Jesus has no nominal disciples. He demands that we place him first above all else. We can't just say we love him and then continue to walk down the old familiar road. New faith always leads to new living or the new faith is soon lost.

The Apostles who first heard Jesus say this paid a big price. This statement was a part of his words to them just prior to his death. Most of them would eventually follow him in martyrdom. As he gave his life to save them from their sins, so they gave their lives as a result of their great love for him. Sometimes love requires our all.

There is a military cemetery on the island of Oahu which honors the remains of thousands of American soldiers who gave their lives in battle. I was moved to tears as I walked through thousands of white crosses set against lush green grass. It brought to mind the words of Jesus, also preserved for us by John, "Greater love hath no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends." (John 15:13, KJV). Sometimes love requires that we stake our lives on it.

What else could motivate a sinful human beings to willing give their lives for others than being overwhelmed by the love of God. In his first epistle John expressed it this way: "We know love by this, that he laid down his life for us-- and we ought to lay down our lives for one another." (I John 3:16, NRSV). We may never actually have to sacrifice our lives but we should be willing to do so. John is said to be the only Apostle who was not martyred. He died in his 90's on the Isle of Patmos.

Most of us also believe that being willing to give our lives includes choosing a life style of service to others. Every day in a thousand ways our church members give of themselves to others. Parents are willing to work their fingers to the bone in order to provide for their children. Grown children sacrifice in order to care for sick or aged parents. Good neighbors mow their neighbors lawns when they are ill. We kid about "Soccer Moms," but there could be no soccer leagues without them. I had lunch last week with a successful businessman who has given up his career to enter pastoral ministry. His calling is clear and his sacrifice is noble. And then we sometimes hear about missionaries being placed in a situation where their lives are actually lost in Christian service. What else could motivate a sinful human being to such high selflessness, but a vision of the Cross of Christ?

This higher calling and vision can only have its origin in God. Jesus said that it is a result of the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit. Over and over we hear Jesus promising the "Advocate, the Holy Spirit who will teach us," and remind us and will lead us into a deeper love for God and for his creatures. (see v. 22). In two Sundays as we look toward the annual remembrance of the Day of Pentecost we must underline that the real purpose of his presence in our lives is not so much for us as it is for the enabling of our ministry to others.

Through finding our calling we also find our reward of "Peace" that Jesus promised to give to us. (see v.27). His love, working through us, to others is the way to happiness, joy, fulfillment and true spiritual peace.

a sermon synopsis by C. Robert Allred, Th.D., Pastor

5/20/01, E6C