Today’s epistle lesson and tomorrow’s Gospel lesson describe the radical difference faith in Jesus Christ makes in who we become through him. Both offer antidotes to a religion of “oughts,” “musts,” and “shoulds.”
The epistle writer’s familial language of parent and child depicts the conversion from the self-centered motivation of legalistic obedience with its preoccupation with reward and punishment to self-denying yet self-fulfilling love. We become, by the truth the Spirit conceives in us, a “love child.” As such, we love all that the Parent loves. When we love what and whom the Parent loves, we trust and obey not because we are forcing ourselves to do something contrary to who we are but rather because not doing so would be contrary to who we are. God’s commandments, Jesus shows us, are not burdensome because they give expression to our soul’s deepest desires. However, “not burdensome” isn’t the same as “easy.”
With this faith we join Jesus in conquering the world as we know it so it may become the world he reveals to us through his own obedience to the divine commandments.
Most teenagers view their parents’ commandments as burdensome. Obedience is another word for doing what they don’t want to do. They can’t wait to leave home and be free of the rules. Wise, loving parents accept that parenting is not an exact science. They try to release the tether of parental control in manageable increments. This way the discipline that has been authoritatively enforced slowly becomes inward self-control.
And, sometimes, by the grace of God, when we observe the child, we see a resemblance to the parent.
Spirit of Truth, help us conquer the world with love by living as though the victory is already won. Because when we do, it is. And what a wonderful world it will be. Amen.
The Acts passage continues to tell the story of the advance of the gospel. The Holy Spirit falls on a group of Gentiles. They believe and are baptized, thus showing God’s inclusion of all peoples in the plan of salvation. Psalm 98 is a simple declaration of praise. All creation will sing to and rejoice in the Lord. The two passages from John are linked by their emphasis on the relationship between love and obedience. We do not follow God’s commandments in order to make God love us. On the contrary, because God has first loved us and we love God in return, we follow God’s teachings. Jesus provides the model for us, being obedient to his Father out of love.
• Read Acts 10:44-48. When has the Spirit of God brought you to a new understanding?
• Read Psalm 98. Does the guest of honor’s coming to judge the earth make you feel easy or uneasy? Why?
• Read 1 John 5:1-6. Is your life one of “oughts,” “musts,” and “shoulds”? Do you impose them on yourself, or do they come from others? How do you move toward loving obedience?
• Read John 15:9-17. How do you experience yourself as a manifestation of the Logos?
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