In the New Testament readings for this week’s lectionary readings, both from the Johannine perspective, there is a common theme of God’s initiative. I John 4:19 reminds us, “We love, because God first loved us.” In John 15:16, Jesus states, “You did not choose me, but I chose you.”
I don’t know about you, but I can still remember the uncomfortable experience of “choosing teams” in school. Everyone would line up, captains would be named and then, one by one, the rest of the class would be chosen. Individuals who were deemed most advantageous were picked first. Those who waited the longest were left with the impression that they were not important, valuable or beneficial.
Unlike this painful process of our school-age days, God’s selection of us is not based on what we can do for God, but what God can do for us. God choosing us to be a part of the divine family, to be sons and daughters of our Creator, isn’t because we are so adorable, but because God’s nature is to love. God’s love for us is independent of our current state of being lovable. Rather, God sees through our brokenness and sinfulness and perceives our true worth. God can see our full potential, even though it may be locked away and covered up by bad attitudes and behaviors. God sees who we are intended to be and who we can become. Despite our rough exteriors, God loves us and God chooses us.
This is the gift of God’s love. However, with the gift comes a responsibility. In both the Gospel of John and the First Epistle of John, there is an expectation: As we have been loved by God, so we are to love one another. God’s love shared with us, is to become the basis and model of the love we show others. In fact, 1 John 4:20 suggests that if we cannot love others, then we cannot truly love God and we lie when we say we love God. That’s pretty strong language.
So how can we love those who appear and act unlovable? We can do so only when we are connected to and immersed in God’s love. This is why the metaphor of the vine and branches in John 15 is so important. We are only able to live and love like Jesus if we are connected with Jesus. In a grape vine, it is hard to know where the vine stops and the branch starts. In the life of faith, it should be equally difficult to discern between the life that Christ lives in us and the life we live for Christ.
In Eugene Peterson’s paraphrase of John 15, He writes, “Live in me (Jesus). Make your home in me as I live in you.” Perhaps Peterson’s metaphor of a metaphor, moving from the vine to the home gives us a glimpse into the notion of abiding. Just as our home becomes the base of operation for our lives, so Jesus should be the basis of our lives. All that we say and do, should be lived out of Christ’s example.
Ultimately love is creative. Whether it is God’s love for us or our love for others, love has the capacity of creating and transforming. God loves us in such a way that we grow into our best selves. When we love others in a similar manner, we allow them to develop into their full potential.
This reminds me of a story I often share in wedding homilies. A person went to the 50th wedding anniversary of a friend’s parents. As he entered the reception room, he immediately noted that the couple radiated a tremendous happiness. Of note was the woman’s sweet, warm smile and the husband’s deep spirit of gratitude. During the reception the person said to her friend, “No wonder they have stayed together. With her smile and his attitude, how could they not love each other!? To this, the adult child responded, “No, you have it all wrong. It wasn’t the smile or attitude that kept them together. It was the love they shared that warmed the smile and made glad the spirit.”
I pray that you find yourself chosen by God, connected to the Vine, and at home in God’s love. I hope you are sharing this gift are living in the truth that God loves you and chooses you, that you are sharing the same love of choice of with others that they may accept and live into these truths, that they may find true joy in life.
If you would like to view past editions of Moments with Mike, follow this link: https://corridordistrictnc.org/category/from-the-ds/