Our reading for Thursday, May 9, 2019 is John 15:9-12
9 “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. 10 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. 11 I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. NIV
There is no better feeling than to know you are loved. To be loved is to be appreciated and valued; those who are loved know the one who loves them longs to spend time with them.
The question we must ask ourselves is whether we love Jesus in such a manner. Do we truly appreciate all God has given to us or is our attention always drawn to what we feel we lack. Do we appreciate deeply the cost to Jesus in terms of his suffering and determination to die on account of our sin, or do we take it for granted.
We so easily can take for granted what is provided for us by God in terms of the people in our lives, the opportunities and even the possessions we are allowed to earn and enjoy. They can become entitlements or accomplishments we feel we have earned. I am sure we acknowledge this trend in us and it is good that we take regular moments to review what we have been given to intentionally remember and render our thanks to God lest these precious gifts be reduced to trivialness.
Thankfulness for the love offered to us in the cross of Jesus is especially desired for it is within the cost of Jesus’ sacrifice that we embrace a longing to rid ourselves of the sins which we know made necessary his suffering. Only through a regular assessment and emotional engagement with our true self-centered oriented selves can we ever hope to be released from the addictions which define us. This does not mean that we live every moment under the shadow of failure, but with gratitude for God’s grace and a determination toward holiness.
The believer’s gratitude is intensified in the realization that God’s love is unconditional, or at least we are told this is so. The comfort found in this thought is born from an understanding that no sin we have committed can obstruct us from access to the grace we need to find forgiveness and reconciliation to God for whom any sin will separate us from intimacy with him.
Yet, I would challenge you to find where it says anywhere in the Bible that God’s love is unconditional. I have not discovered it.
The unconditional understanding of God’s love is implied by the persistence of God throughout history in his attempts to redeem us and guide us into a right relationship with him. The very extent God went to in becoming human and bearing the cross of death also leads us to mistakenly believe God’s love for us is unconditional.
Now that I have shocked you let me comfort you who want God’s love. It is not God’s love that is unconditional but God’s grace. God desires intimacy with every human being and is willing to forgive whatever obstacle of selfishness placed in the way by our attitudes, values and actions. But grace must be received and the reciprocal pursuit of companionship with God must be embraced if the relationship with our Creator is to be found and enjoyed.
Jesus made it clear that there is a condition to experiencing the love of God in its fullness. We may have fleeting experiences of God’s love, those “warm fuzzy” feelings during moments of appreciation for the gifts he brings to our lives. We will have moments of feeling loved when we are spared consequences we know we rightly deserve, however, the deep potentials of intimacy with our Creator cannot be regularly and consistently appreciated if we ignore Jesus’ commands.
Yes, John makes it clear that God has formed firm boundaries as every good and intimate human relationship will have. Relationships which have loose boundaries of expectation and respect can never know the depth of intimacy that is possible. We may understand that God pursues us and desires us but there can be no deep and constant intimacy if we accept the notion of God’s desire without reciprocating by accepting the boundaries necessary for love.
Jesus explains this from the desire to have this intimacy with us as he has with his Father. The joy he shares from his closeness and constant companionship with his heavenly Father is what he longs for us to have and to enjoy with him. We have the choice of remaining in his love or playing games with our relationship which will only lead to disappointment. Only by our respecting the moral values which are the relational boundaries God has established can we enjoy the fullness of God’s embrace.
Think of other relationships you appreciate and enjoy – do they not have boundaries which both of you accept and respect. While the desire of God for a relationship with us is expressed through the offer of unconditional grace the intimacy and companionship that is offered must be accepted and lived. The continuance of the relationship is also contingent upon our remaining in Jesus’ love which comes from living within the boundaries set by God. Failure to do so will cause us to accept less than what God intends for us and we will miss out on the “Blessed Assurance” we long for and often sung of in worship.