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Abiding in Jesus' Love – Br. Curtis Almquist

John 15:9-11:  As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.

This verb we’ve just heard – to abide, Jesus’ saying to “abide in my love” – appears many times in the New Testament, well more than 100 times, and especially here in the Gospel according to John and in the First Letter of John. The word’s repetition – abide, abide, abide – signals something of its importance, and yet the sheer repetition can blunt how radical and demanding Jesus’ words are, here: As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love.”

First, Jesus is saying here, “if you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love.” Jesus here is not speaking to individuals, individually. He’s speaking to us, 2nd person plural: “If you-all keep my commandments, you-all will abide in my love.” Jesus here is talking about life together: we are to abide in love. The New Testament says virtually nothing about personal spirituality or personal salvation; all its emphasis is on the Body of Christ, the Kingdom of God, the New Humanity in Christ. [i] Jesus here is speaking to us.

And then this much-repeated verb, to abide. The Greek root, meno, means to remain, endure, be steadfast, wait, stay, continue… which goes without saying if we weren’t tempted to flee, abandon, disregard, vacate, denounce. The poignancy of the verb “to abide” is to remain steadfast when everything inside of you says, “I’m out of here.” “You’ve offended me or disappointed one time too many, and I will now, justifiably shun, or abandon, or punish, or get even with you. However many times I’m supposed to forgive, this is over the line. I’m done with you.” The verb “to abide” redresses that temptation to leave people.

And then, what Jesus is saying here is even more radical. This is not just about flight; it’s also not about fight. Jesus says, “abide in love.” There’s several Greek New Testament words we translate in English as “love.” This is the most radical of loves. This is self-sacrificial love, laying down our lives for another. The love here is not about mutual attraction or brotherly/sisterly affection. This is the kind of love Jesus demonstrates at the cross. Self-sacrificial love.

“You all: abide in love,” which are very strong words. Those who know us the best and love us the most can hurt us the worst. And we them. Jesus here is speaking to us collectively, not individually, and he presumes life together: that we need one another; see love, show love, God’s love in and through one another; and because we must be reminded so many times “to abide,” we know that this is not always easy. Necessary, exceedingly challenging, possible. Only made possible by Jesus who calls us to this high mark. Our living into Jesus command “to abide in love,” requires practice. And it requires prayer: Gracious Jesus: supply what you command.


[i] Insight drawn from the writings of Archbishop Michael Ramsey.

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6 Comments

  1. Richard Lundberg on April 10, 2013 at 12:15

    This is a great day for abiding cool and rainy , a good day to think about abiding. Thank you Curtis again you are a very helpful person. Still and again.

  2. Bob on April 6, 2013 at 08:14

    Br. Curtis, Just insightful, beautiful, amazing as always but where does the ‘us’ begin and end? and how long is it for? Everyone? Always? Margo

  3. Anders on April 6, 2013 at 07:27

    This is a radical perspective that is opposite of the Christianity I grew up with and wounded me. First, the idea of first person plural, that we are in this together rather than it’s all up to me and I must be a loyal spiritual producer/consumer. Second, the concept of abiding or to show up and stay with, rather than to change or afflict others for their own good. In another sermon on Jesus love, you cite Merton that we in essence need to love in a way where we become our neighbor, rather than demanding our neighbor becomes like us. Finally, you point to the conclusion that self-sacrificial love makes our joy complete.

    Thank you for your clarification on how my path of Christian sorrow is based on the evangelical teaching that the Kingdom of God is achieved through personal spirituality or personal salvation, and the Apostle Paul is used in particularly to justify this as the Christian agenda. As I continue to heal from these wounds, I will consider what it means to abide.

  4. Cindra anderson on June 22, 2011 at 12:22

    Thank you for the word and emphasis on “not running”. Sitting in the fire with one another is starting to make some sense.

  5. Derald W. Stump on June 22, 2011 at 11:40

    Thank you, Bro. Curtis, for this reminder to abide. I remember that Bro. Robert Smith, SSJE, who endured much ill health, was one of the order’s “champion abiders.” He was a great role model for those who would abide, as have been many of the brethren throughout the years.

  6. char vinik on June 22, 2011 at 07:28

    Brother Give Us A Word–June 22, 2011

    The word “community” struck a chord with me today, as All Saints Episcopal Church in Fort Lauderdale and St. Gregory’s Episcopal Church in Boca Raton will this evening join together in community to lift up two ordinands to the transitional diaconate. It is a significant community gathering for me since I am employed full time at All Saints, and worship and serve as head verger at St. Gregory’s.

    Please keep our ordinands, Susan Beebe (St. Gregory’s) and Todd Hoover (All Saints) in your prayers as they embark upon this new journey of service to God.

    Blessings
    Char Vinik

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