Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The first fruit

Whatever it takes, Lord, fulfill your promise and work your purpose for my life. Even if I lose my job. Or my health. Or my possessions. None of that matters without love. You formed me for that purpose: to love. You said, 
"If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. This is to my Father's glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father's commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master's business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit—fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. This is my command: Love each other. John 15:7-17 NIV
And that's all I'm asking. For the completedness of love. That God will take delight and joy in me because I love others. Finding the job and the concerns with daily life will be resolved because when I ask in Jesus' name (which is Love) and for his glory, he will give whatever I ask, and as he said at first, whatever I wish. What I remember hearing in countless Bible classes and commentaries, sermons and seminars, is whatever I "need." [And forget asking for anything material, the teachers and pastors said. What we're supposed to ask for is the Holy Spirit and his gifts.] But Jesus is not talking about needs of food, water, shelter.

This passage is not the Great Commission, where Jesus sent his disciples into all the world to tell people who he was and what he stood for, and to love others as he loved, resulting in discipleship and enlargement of the kingdom of God. No, this was an intimate, last-will-and-testament moment before Jesus' arrest, trial, and crucifixion. Final words spoken with urgency and on the verge of tears because they were so important. Jesus communicated his most intimate thoughts with his Father, and let his disciples—now his friends—into that relationship.

Jesus said that he was the vine, and his followers are the branches which bear much fruit. But he doesn't describe the fruit in terms of works of righteousness or accomplishments. He doesn't say that keeping the Ten Commandments is fruit. His fruit is about loving one another. In Galatians 5:22, the first fruit of the Spirit is love. The trunk of the vine carries nourishment from the roots to the branches with their leaves, tendrils, and the grapes themselves. This love or fruit is not a product of our trying, but of our receiving.

It seems too simple. Just "love." Shouldn't there be more to it, involving time, money, exertion, or pain? Shouldn't we sell up, give our goods to the poor, and travel to foreign lands to preach at people? Maybe, if that is what God is unmistakeably telling you. As anyone knows who loves, those things come right along with love. Love is not just a pleasant emotion about the upholstery in your new car, or that you prefer chocolate ice cream to 100-calorie yogurts. Love can be a very rocky road, as parents of teenagers will tell you, or spouses who have weathered life's storms. Or missionaries who have been surrounded by death and disease, terrorism and peril. Love is difficult.

But in this passage, Jesus says that love is the most important concept, the most important life, that we can choose. The decision to love is the decision to be godly, because God is Love. He is the source of love. He is the sap that runs through the vine's trunk and into the branches, and fills the fruit with sweet juice. That juice is what we drink at the Communion or Eucharist service. Jesus' blood was symbolized by the juice of the grape.

So this is my prayer: that your love will flourish and that you will not only love much but well. Learn to love appropriately. You need to use your head and test your feelings so that your love is sincere and intelligent, not sentimental gush. Live a lover's life, circumspect and exemplary, a life Jesus will be proud of: bountiful in fruits from the soul, making Jesus Christ attractive to all, getting everyone involved in the glory and praise of God. Philippians 1:7-11 MSG
Oswald Chambers wrote: "The love of God is not created— it is His nature. When we receive the life of Christ through the Holy Spirit, He unites us with God so that His love is demonstrated in us. The goal of the indwelling Holy Spirit is not just to unite us with God, but to do it in such a way that we will be one with the Father in exactly the same way Jesus was."

Love is more than a feeling. It's part of our spirit, the spirit that was created in the image of God. He created us to love him and to love one another. He is the love that runs in our veins, and fills that best fruit of all with its sweet juice.

Lord, give me love. Let love fill my respiratory and circulatory systems to overflowing. Let me bear fruit.

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