In the Gospel of John, we get a glimpse into what it means to abide in God’s love.
Jesus has just washed his disciples’ feet and shared the Passover feast with the rag-tag crew he had called, just three years earlier, to leave everything behind and follow him. Then, with the profound poignancy of one who knows that they won’t be together for another evening like this again, Jesus opens his mouth and we hear him say, “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you; abide in my love.”
At first it sounds warm and fuzzy but after giving it some serious consideration this declaration is, in fact, terrifying.
There is no doubt that the disciples were dumbfounded by the passionate intimacy Jesus shared with the Father, and they certainly wanted in on that. However, they had also seen what had issued from that intimacy.
How did the Father love Jesus?
He pushed him out of the comfortable confines of heaven onto the earth where, as a baby, Herod tried to kill him. He then sent him into the wilderness for 40 days where he was assaulted by the source of all evil. The Father loved him by pressing him into conflict with the ultra pious and violent bureaucrats who plotted to put an end to him. The Father loved him by encircling him with friends who never fully understood what he was about and ran for the exits at the first sign of danger.
How did the Father love him?
Peril at every turn.
No roof over his head.
The worst conceivable end.
If I am honest, I wish Jesus would have said something like, “As the Father has loved me…well…don’t worry, I will love you differently. I will let you live on an island of ease and weave a spell of protection around you.”
If we abide in the love of God, we may lose the roof over our head.
If we abide in the love of God, we will be forced to combat evil.
If we abide in the love of God, we likely won’t get ahead in the world and will be catapulted into serving in daunting places.
By loving us, God is sending us out to do something hard and unfathomable in the world.
Yet wherever we go, we can rest in the assurance that the one loving us has been there.