Monday, May 18, 2009

Love, Joy, and Friends

Jesus told his disciples to love one another as he had loved them. In fact he commanded them love one another. Commanded, did you notice that? How is it possible to command somebody to love someone? Jesus said it so it’s something we are supposed to do or at least give it our utmost effort. And why you may ask?
It’s so Jesus’ joy might be our joy and that our joy might be mature. And finally he said to them that he would no longer called them servants but he would call them friends because he had told them everything the Father had told him. He had shared everything with them. He gave them his love so that they would be filled with his joy. And one thing that probably filled them the most was being called his friends.
Love, joy, and friends, what more could anyone want out of their time here? But what does this all mean? People have been asking these questions for eons. What is love? What is joy and how can we get it? How important are friends? What does it mean to be called “friend?” There are probably more questions here than I have answers.
We could begin by trying to define what each of these words mean. The word “love” used in the New Testament is based on the Septuagint. The writers used the Greek word agapao, to emphasize choice, selection, and action in the meaning of love, rather than the impulsive desire of eros.
Love usually requires some form of action, but the word is rooted in emotion and affection. This complicates how the word can be understood. Love is an emotion. It’s how we feel for our spouses, our children, our friends, and our community. Love can be shallow or it can be deep.
If love is to mean anything to us at all it must include a depth of caring, for whatever or whoever we love, that is so deep that at times it’s painful. Love seems often to be linked to suffering. In the New Testament we can see that in Jn. 3:16, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son.” In chapter 15 we have heard read today John reflects on the self-giving love from God through Jesus to the disciples. It reaches the climax in verses 12 & 13, “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” Friends, that’s what love is. It’s caring so deeply for someone that you would willingly sacrifice anything for them; even your life if that would bring them joy.
There’s that word “joy.” How do we define joy? Isn’t it the same as being happy? Well, not exactly. Happiness is usually achieved by luck or good fortune, while joy on the other hand is often described as a vivid emotion of pleasure. At first glance these may seem to be very similar but think about it. You would be very happy if you had purchased a lottery ticket and discovered that you had won the big one. Joy on the other hand would be what fills our hearts and souls when we think of our beloved children or grandchildren. Happiness may give us a warm feeling but joy, now joy on the other hand, creates an emotion that fills us to overflowing. It just about takes our breath away. You know what I’m talking about don’t you?
I’m happy when I find a five dollar bill in my coat that I didn’t remember putting there but I am filled with joy when one of my children or grandchildren calls to ask me for some help or some advice. I am filled with joy every time they give me a hug or a kiss when they’re ready to go home.
What fills you with joy? What takes your breath away? There are times when I’m walking Murphy in the morning just before the sun comes up and we get to experience the sun exploding over the horizon. You know what I’m talking about. It’s when the sky is kind of a steel blue gray and then a pink color that gets rosier and rosier. Then there’s a sliver of reddish orange and before you know it the full power of the sun has burst over the horizon. I don’t know how many times I’ve seen the sun rise but it still fills me with joy and awe.
John writes in his gospel in chapter 17 verse 13 that the ultimate joy, immeasurable joy, comes when people live in intimate contact with Jesus. When we relieve ourselves of our burdens and take up Jesus’ yoke we begin to experience the special care and protection that God provides us through His Son, Jesus. In chapter 15 verse 11 Jesus said that when we do what he commanded then we will be filled with all the joy that he has, and that’s more than we can even imagine. Think of the time when you were filled with the most joy you’ve ever experienced, and then multiply that by a gazillion. That might come close to joy that Jesus was talking about.
I’m talking about love and joy and it may sound to you as if it’s something easy to obtain. It isn’t. It takes work. Just think about how much work we put into getting along with our co-workers. Just talk to any married couple and ask them how hard they work to make their marriage one that’s filled with joy and peace. Think of the most difficult person you know of that you have had to work with and then remember Jesus’ commandment to love one another. How easy is that? Not to easy, right?
It’s way too hard for any of us to do, in fact it’s impossible to do it alone. We need help. We must accept Jesus as the Son of God and trust him as our friend before we can expect to have even a glimmer of hope in achieving true love and joy. We need a friend. He’s already called us friends but some of us haven’t accepted his invitation. And that’s really too bad because he just wants us to be filled with the joy of the Holy Spirit.
So if any of us ever expect to be joyful and loving then we need a friend. I don’t mean Larry or Betty at the bakery though they do make very good friends and there is a lot of joy found there. But the joy doesn’t last. It’s kind of like the energy boost I get from eating one of their maple frosted snails. But if we ask Jesus to be our friend then we will be filled with love and joy that will never end. Who wouldn’t want that?
We can have it all just by asking Jesus to be our friend. He’s already forgiven us for our sins. We just have to repent of them and invite Jesus into our hearts. How easy is that? Pretty easy.
Friends, if you want to have love and joy and friends you can have by talking to Jesus. Love and joy could be yours right now just by claiming Jesus as your friend. What’s holding you back?
Maybe you need to think about it for awhile. Okay, but come back next week and see what God has for us then.
Thanks be to God for his gracious love and joy and mercy. Amen.

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