9I have loved you, just as my Father has loved me. So remain faithful to my love for you. 10If you obey me, I will keep loving you, just as my Father keeps loving me, because I have obeyed him.
11I have told you this to make you as completely happy as I am. 12 Now I tell you to love each other, as I have loved you. 13The greatest way to show love for friends is to die for them. 14And you are my friends, if you obey me. 15Servants don't know what their master is doing, and so I don't speak to you as my servants. I speak to you as my friends, and I have told you everything my Father has told me.
16You did not choose me. I chose you and sent you out to produce fruit, the kind of fruit that will last. Then my Father will give you whatever you ask for in my name. 17So I command you to love each other.
In verse 11, where the CEV has “to make you as completely happy as I am,” the NIV translates “so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.”
This joy that Jesus talks about is total immersion in God, total love, total belonging, total peace, being joined as one. And Jesus is the way to this happiness, this joy. We are made for this.
Several times in the book of John, Jesus connects God’s love with obeying his commands. You can’t understand this until you actually do it, and then you’re astonished at the blessing and joy that is yours because you obeyed. It’s not that you earn God’s love because you do a good deed for another, but rather that the doing for others is actually the map, the path, the mysterious maze that brings you into joyful union with God.
A trivial example is a recipe for chocolate brownies. If you obey the recipe – exact ingredients, exact measure, exact treat. The reward is taste-bud joy. The obedience is not hard, but it is precise and necessary for the final prize.
Similarly, the obedience that Jesus commands is to bless us, not to abuse us. Joy awaits!
Jesus tells us in verse 13 to do for others, give to others, show love to others, lay down our lives for others. It’s a strange miracle, that we find this joyful union with God when we sacrifice ourselves to show love to others.
Want to try it today? Give up that hour of TV shows to call a friend who needs encouragement. Pass on the chocolate hoka mocha frappé latté swirl, and buy a Swiss Chalet chicken dinner for that old guy who’s slumped on the sidewalk grate trying to keep warm. Sign up to spend a week of your summer vacation working at a kids’ camp. Sure, pray about it, so you are confident you are laying down your life where God wants. Then go for it.
Open my eyes, Lord. Open my heart. Help me walk in obedience and trust toward this joy in you. May I bring others along with me that they would know you, too. In the name of Jesus, I pray. Amen.