While yesterday’s epistle metaphor of parent and child is susceptible to a hierarchical power dynamic, today’s Gospel lesson portrays a mutuality of the divine-human relationship that is so nonhierarchical it’s mind-blowingly incredible and disconcerting. As Marianne Williamson observes, “Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light not our darkness that most frightens us” (A Return to Love: A Reflection on the Principles of “A Course in Miracles”).
Here Jesus continues the good news that seems too good to be true. Earlier he told his followers that they will do what he’s done and “greater works than these” (John 14:12). They will not be ignorant, for the Helper, the Holy Spirit, will call to memory the wisdom he’s taught and demonstrated. Now he calls them his friends and promises the Father will give them whatever they ask in his name.
As long as the relationship is that of master-servant, Jesus knows he spares his followers the vulnerability that friendship entails. But their naïve bliss of ignorance is dispelled when Jesus makes known everything that the Father has made known to him.
Living in this holy friendship is what Jesus means by “abiding” in the love that entails laying down one’s life. In the laying down of one’s life, fruit is born that will last. We enjoy eternal life by living life the way Jesus shows us is eternal.
The fourth-century church father, Athanasius of Alexandria, professed of Jesus Christ: “He became what we are that we might become what he is.” It’s not our idea. Jesus chose us. When we become his friends, the relationship turns us into manifestations of the Word, the Logos, as Jesus was.
Hear Jesus say, “Let us be friends and see what a wonderful world it will be.”
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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