“Love, Friends, Chosen”
John 15:9-17
Dr. Robert J. Anderson
May 10, 2015

  

The Beetles sang to us in 60’s that “All We Need Is Love.”  Those were turbulent times filled with the Viet Nam War and Civil Rights.  “All We Need Is Love” created two main reactions.  One was an enthusiastic embrace of love as a simple solution to the problems the world faced.  The other was a critical rejection of love as a dreamy emotion that would lull people into thinking that things would get better while the problems only got worse.

 

These two views characterize our modern culture too.  “Can’t we all just get along?”  Opposed to this is the group that wants clear-eyed acknowledgment and a forceful response to the base motives of others and evil intentions.

 

Although these two perspectives are popular, neither one gets Jesus’ vote.  According to Jesus, love is a gift of God, an excellence of character, and a way of life.  There is nothing here that suggests love is naïve or fanciful.

 

However, the word love is ambiguous, and it isn’t enough to simply say “love one another.”  We know this first-hand, because the word “love” is thrown around so frequently and lightly.  “I just love this or that!”

 

There are several Greek words that translate into our language as “love.”  Philia is often thought of as the love of a friend.  Eros is the erotic side of love.  Agapé is God’s love.

 

The Latin form of Agapé is caritas and comes into our language as charity.  Then there was a gradual shift to mean “philanthropy” which brings us back to love.  This love is the excellence of character that God has by nature and by his grace we can participate in.  This love is primarily interested in the other person; it doesn’t attempt to dominate but allows the person the space to be.  This love is also not limited to time and space and it is unlimited.  We can have a few friends; we can have a few lovers.  But, one can have Agapé for all.  The supply of Agapé is superabundant and can be offered without reserve.  Agapé is not feelings of euphoria but a disciplined habit of care and concern that is perfected over time that becomes so interwoven into our lives that we would die for it.

 

“I do not call you servants any longer….but I have called you friends because you know everything I have heard from your father.”  What does being called Jesus’ friends mean to and for us?  In Jesus’ day to be called the servant of a master was not necessarily denigrating, but it could be a title of respect.  But, none-the-less a servant was not on the same level as a friend.  A slave was obligated to support the master through difficult times.  A friend, on-the-other-hand, would do that freely because of mutual commitment and affection.

 

Aristotle had a lot to say about friendship.  According to Aristotle, one of the best ways to learn a virtue and make it your habit is to emulate those who already have it, and this is most likely to be successful when you become friends with that person.  Friends take on each other’s characteristics: good or bad.  It is said that we become known by the company we keep, but it can be said that we are likely to become the company we keep.

 

Aristotle describes three kinds of friendship.  Some are friends because they are useful to us (business, social).  Other friendships are pleasurable, and we enjoy them.  The best kind of friendship is friendship for friendship’s sake.  We can’t have many of these friends because of the amount of physical presence and availability required.  These are the friendships that are the most formative.  Such a true friend who loves as God loves, will, over time, teach us to love as God loves.  I do not call you servants.  I call you friends.  When Jesus says you are my friends if you do what I command you, he is not offering a useful or pleasurable friendship.  Jesus describes the best kind of friendship Aristotle describes.

 

You did not choose me, but I chose you.  When the disciples heard him say that, what did they understand it to mean?  For the disciples on that night in the upper room it meant that when the hard times come, they were held tight by a loving God.  That night it meant that when things looked like it was all unraveling and the world was falling in on them, God still embraced them and would not let go.  When they heard those words from Jesus they heard that there was a power stronger than their personal choice; for God had chosen them.

 

When you and I hear Jesus say, “You did not choose me, but I chose you,” what do you hear?  Do you hear the assurance that we need to stand fast in the face of opposition to our faith in Jesus Christ?  Stand fast when the Christian values are assailed as wrong, misguided, or just plain silly.  Do you hear God’s call back to an awareness of God’s initiative in seeking us out while living in a culture that celebrates autonomy and personal choice?  Do you hear that you were chosen to be here today? to live in this community? to belong to the community organization or club that you joined?  Do you feel the awe at being chosen by God for his work where you are?

 

You and I live out our journey of faith and spiritual growth over the course of our lifetime.  We grow into the words of Christ and live in a faithful community leading us into deeper and deeper joy.  We grow in friendship where we emulate the God-given best in each other and help each other become more Christ-like.  We help one another know what it means to be chosen by God and lifting one another up when down and celebrating the joys we have.

 

Love, friends, chosen are the words of encouragement that Jesus gives all who believe in him that enable us to face each day.  We are loved.  We are God’s friends.  We are chosen to be God’s partners in his work of redemption and reconciliation.  Go forth in strength and courage.