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How does a grapevine help us answer the question this series explores?

“How can you love like Jesus?”

Jesus intends that you and I love just like him, and yet, all too often, we fall short.

I presume that you have read the six posts that bring us to this point. If not, I encourage you to begin with “What is love?

So, how can you and I love like Jesus?

Let us begin with how Jesus was enabled to love.

Divine Dynamic Expressed

From the beginning of John’s Gospel, the careful reader is aware that Jesus is God in flesh (John 1:1-18). The Lord Jesus gives us a glimpse into the divine dynamic between the Father and the Son when he responds to Philip in the presence of his other disciples (14:10-11):

Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father is in Me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on My own initiative, but the Father abiding in Me does His works. Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me; …

The words that Jesus spoke and the works he did were initiated and carried out by the Father in and through the Lord Jesus. This divine dynamic includes the ultimate expression of God’s agapē-love.

Twice in this short passage, Jesus declares, “I am in the Father, and the Father is in Me.” What does that mean? How can that be?

Early Christian “fathers” and scholars attempted to explain this intimate, interpersonal, inter-penetrating relationship of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit as early as Gregory of Nazianzus (ca. 329-389/90 A.D.) with the concept of perichōrsis (peri-kor-ay-sis). 

Despite being God in flesh, Jesus Christ relied upon this intimate, interpersonal, and inter-penetrating relationship with the Father for how he loved.

Divine Dynamic Extended

As incomprehensible as it may seem, Jesus declared that his followers would engage with this divine dynamic as well. Here is how he puts it when referring to the time following his physical resurrection (14:19-20):

“… because I live, you will live also. In that day you will know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you.”

Note the similarity with the earlier language of the divine dynamic (14:10-11). In the same kind of way that the Lord Jesus is in the Father, and the Father is in Him, we are in Christ, and He is in us.

One caution is that we do not become God. We engage with God (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) in a manner that empowers and enables us to love like Jesus.

Again, what does this mean, and how can this be?

Divine Dynamic Engaged

In the same context as this amazing statement (“you in Me, and I in you”), our Lord gives four promises of a Paraklētos (para-klay-toss). Various English translations render this word as “Helper” (ESV, NASB, NKJ), “Advocate” (NET, NLT, NRS), or “Counselor” (NIV). These attempts do not adequately convey the concept of Paraklētos, a word that has the literal sense of “one called to one’s side” for help, advocacy, counsel, and so many other things.

The first reference to the Paraklētos is (14:16-17):

“I will ask the Father, and He will give you another [Paraklētos], that He may be with you forever; that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you.” 

Here are two basic observations of this text:

1.         The Paraklētos is the Spirit of truth, the Holy Spirit, who is co-equal with the Father and the Son.

2.         At the time Jesus addressed the disciples, the Spirit was “with” the disciples. After the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, the Holy Spirit is “in” all followers of Jesus intimately and powerfully.

We will explore the person and the activities of the Holy Spirit in a forthcoming series.

At this point, it is enough to realize that the Holy Spirit—a Paraklētos just like Jesus Christ—indwells and empowers every follower of Jesus.

Divine Dynamic Explained

In John 15, Jesus provides us with an illustration or metaphor of the divine dynamic between himself as the Vine, and followers of Jesus as branches. Here is what he says (15:1-5):

“I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit. You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.”

Again, here are five important basic observations:

  • Jesus Christ is the Vine; we (as followers of Jesus) are the branches.
  • A branch abides in the Vine by being connected and drawing upon the life of the Vine. The Vine provides its life to the branches. Thus, “you in Me, and I in you” (14:19-20), as he said earlier.
  • The fruit is the reproduction of the life of the Vine—therefore, the life of Christ—in and through the branches.
  • Apart from Jesus “you can do nothing.”
  • The larger context shows that the Holy Spirit conveys the life of Jesus Christ to us, and through us.

Paul confirms this when he writes: “the fruit of the Spirit is love …” (Galatians 5:22-23; see also Romans 5:5; Philippians 2:1; Colossians 1:8; 2 Timothy 1:7).

Living in the divine dynamic

So, how can you and I love like Jesus?

The answer is not found in being “nice” or in attempting to perform in our own strength, two non-starters discussed in the previous post.

The answer is found in abiding in the Vine (Jesus Christ) and relying upon the Spirit to not only love like Jesus but also live like Jesus.

We will explore what that means in practical terms in future posts. In the meantime, write to me ([email protected]). What are your questions, challenges, encouragements, and other comments regarding “How to Love Like Jesus.”

 

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Photo credit: Image by Heidelbergerin from Pixabay

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