Jesus said to his disciples, ‘They who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me; and those who love me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them and reveal myself to them.’ Judas (not Iscariot) said to him, ‘Lord, how is it that you will reveal yourself to us, and not to the world?’ Jesus answered him, ‘Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. Whoever does not love me does not keep my words; and the word that you hear is not mine, but is from the Father who sent me.
‘I have said these things to you while I am still with you. But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you.’
They who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me.
In modern English we have a problem with the word ‘love’. We use this significant word in such a casual manner that its meaning is often both confused and confusing. Think of all that you have associated with the word ‘love’: your favourite book, film or piece of music; your pet; your car; your hobby; your children; your partner. These, and many more, are regularly described as objects of human ‘love’. However, when we examine the disconnected nature of this list we soon come to the conclusion that no one word can capture the subtlety of what we are trying to express. Surely our ‘love’ for a round of golf or a particular football team cannot be expressed in the same terms as our love for our partner or our children. In modern English we have a problem with the word ‘love’.
In classical Greek, the language of the New Testament, the different nuances associated with the word we universally express as ‘love’ are broken down into six different words. Those six words convey ‘love’ in terms of friendship, or hospitality, or parental love, or physical love, or self love. And then comes the sixth type of ‘love’: agape. Agape is the specific type of love spoken of by Jesus. Agape is the type of love which specifically defines the love of God.
Today’s reading opens with Jesus making a characteristically uncompromising statement: They who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me. Sadly, it seems to be hard-wired into human mentality that, when confronted with an uncompromising statement, we begin to search for loopholes, for ‘get-out’ clauses. We begin to play linguistic games that sow the seeds of uncertainty and doubt. We construct arguments that create an aura of self-justifying and self-serving accommodation.
The opening statement in today’s reading leaves no wriggle-room! We cannot deny that we have the commandments. Jesus has made it clear that we are to ‘love’ both God and neighbour with an uncompromisingly open and mutual ‘love’ … the love that can only be described as agape. When we are truly committed to living a life which honours that form of self-sacrificial love we will know the total joy of God’s love for us.
Let us pray that agape may become the love that dominates and drives every moment of our lives.
Let us never fail to thank God for his agape for us.