There’s a very important nine words in this passage that relates
to our faith and those words are from Jesus’ ‘You did not
choose me, but I chose you…’
We tend to think that we made the decision to follow Jesus, which could be a perfectly sensible thing to say, but in fact what this passage tells us is that all we did was respond to His call and that has real implications for everyone because it means that we have to be tuned into his voice, which is not a loud one (more of a whisper in a world which is increasingly noisy from all manner of distractions) but one which can be heard if you are tuned in to the right station!
And that’s actually quite encouraging because it means that if we’ve made a decision for Christ then we can hear God’s voice – think about that for a moment, it’s quite some thought, isn’t it?!
Jesus uses the word ‘chosen’ of his disciples. Quite a privilege,
to be chosen for anything (I remember the joy of being chosen to play
in the cricket team at junior school!) But chosen by God, that’s
on an entirely different level! Chosen for what? Well, our passage from
John’s Gospel gives us a few hints!
1) “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.”
One thing we are chosen for is to know joy in our lives! Anyone who’s been a Christian for any length of time knows that life isn’t always a bed of roses, that things don’t always go the way that we would like and there are sometimes disappointments – But, and it’s actually a big ‘But’ all these things which try their best to trip us up on our journey of faith pale into almost insignificance when compared with the truth of our Salvation which is that God takes ordinary people like you and I, with all our faults (which are often many) and not only forgives and forgets but welcomes us into His family as we journey with Him. That’s the real joy of the Christian life and why, as one commentator says ‘A gloomy Christian is a contradiction in terms!’
2) Secondly, we are chosen for love. “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love” said Jesus , adding “My command is this!: Love each other as I have loved you”
Oh, if only that were true in this world of ours! People should know that we are Christians not just by what we say but by what we do, and the way that we interact with other people. But that’s not the way of the world, is it? That’s not what we see in our newspapers or on the TV news. We don’t really seem to live in a world where people think of others first – it’s quite a selfish culture at present, maybe more so than it was 50 or so years ago. And yet Jesus demands that of us.
And why? Because that’s what he showed to us and to all of humankind on that first Easter. Jesus laid down the supreme example of what love really is, and then invites humankind to thing likewise – that love sometimes means sacrifice and sacrificial giving to others.
3) “You are my friends if you do what I command” Jesus calls us to be his friends, and then goes on to expand this statement to his disciples "I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master's business. Instead, I have called you friends"
What did Jesus mean when he used the word "servant?" We might think of a pretty lowly position. There’s a nice audio/visual display in many stately homes which explains the role of typical servants, and I don’t think it’s the sort of job that I’d want to be honest.
But to be called a servant of God was something totally different, and the disciples wouldn’t have minded that at all. The Greek word is Doulos and it’s actually a very honourable title. Moses, Joshua and King David were all called "God’s servants" in the Old Testament, and Paul and James in their letters were proud to be considered servants of God. And here we have Jesus telling his disciples that those who follow him (and that is as true for us as it was for them) can call themselves not servants but his friends.
The idea of being a friend of God is nothing new, way back in time Abraham was described as a friend of God. There’s a lovely description of this which comes from the life of the Roman emperors and middle eastern kings. In their courts there was a sort of inner circle called ‘the friends of the king’ who had round the clock access to the king, and he talked to them about his day to day decisions before he even talked to his generals.
Can you picture that in your mind? What does it mean for disciples or followers of Jesus? It means that God is not some far-away distant deity who we have to go some roundabout way to get access to. We are called the friends of the King and we have access to him. That’s why we can hear his whisper when he calls to us, and why we can pray to him knowing that he hears us.
4) Jesus calls us to be advertisements! But not the irritating sort that
make you want to throw something at the TV or go out and make a cup of
coffee. “I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit—fruit
that will last.” Jesus sent his disciples out, and by implication
he sends us out with the task of attracting others into the Christian
life. The fruit that Jesus talks about is the way that we live our lives,
because that’s what attracts others in, like bees to nectar. I’ve
already talked about the world out there which in general does not consider
others before self, but that’s what is so attracting about Christians
when they are going around and being what they should be, bearing the
fruit that Jesus talks about.
1 John 5
How are you on being commanded to do something? I’m guessing that most of us probably don’t like being told to do something, we’d much rather be asked nicely, and yet there are times when our natural reluctance to follow instructions that seem a little difficult do mean that we need a little more than simple persuasion.
I’m guessing it’s probably a "man thing" but we do tend to think that when it comes to putting together a flat pack piece of furniture that we don’t really need to look at the instructions because we instinctively know how it should go together – until of course there’s a piece or two left over and the whole thing wobbles! Sometimes we need to be told what to do!
And here in John’s letter we are reminded indirectly of Jesus’ own command about love in Mark 12:28-31
This passage only reinforces what we’ve been thinking about in
John’s Gospel, namely that love of God and love of humankind are
inseparable – you can’t have the one without the other. John
goes a little deeper here and relates it to family life. It’s a
natural thing for children to love their parents, we’re created
to have that bond. And the love between brothers and sisters should also
be a natural thing – it’s the family unit that God ordained,
and although humans mess things up at times, it’s still the perfect
model when it works.
So John says if that’s how it works in the natural family then that’s how it should work in the spiritual family. Just as we love the heavenly father so we should love his children who he considers to be part of his family.
And that of course is where it often falls down, because we are after all only human and there are lots of people out there that we naturally don’t get on with particularly well – they say things we don’t like, or look odd, or have different interests to us, their behaviour is less than we would call acceptable… the list is a long one, isn’t it?
And yet John says that God’s commands are not burdensome or heavy, not too difficult for us to carry out in our daily lives. Why? Because, he says "for everyone born of God overcomes the world"
The great truth about anything God asks of us is that they are all possible. No loving father asks of his children to do the impossible. What God asks, he also provides the strength to do. Jesus said "My yoke is easy and my burden is light."
In our own life what this means is that if we are acting out of love then
we are prepared to go that extra mile, stretch ourselves a little in order
to help someone who needs our help. And what we find is that what started
as a burden is in fact no burden at all, it becomes a joy.
Remember that old story of someone meeting a boy going to school in the days before school buses were invented, and this lad was carrying a younger boy, obviously lame on this back. "Do you carry him to school every day?" asked the stranger. "Yes" the boy replied. "That’s a heavy burden to carry," said the stranger. "Ah, he’s no burden," replies the boy. "He’s my brother!"
Love turns burdens into no burden at all and that’s the way it must be and is with the Christian life, for God never asks us to do something which is impossible for us to accomplish. His commands are not a burden but a privilege, an opportunity to show his love in the world.