Last week we said farewell to a beautiful man in our congregation who lived a joy-filled life. His joy was so complete, it spilled out from his pores whenever you were near him. From his vigorous bell ringing to his infectious smiles to his proud excitement over announcing his Special Olympics medals and achievements, he was simply pure joy. Our sanctuary is a bit dimmer in his absence. He knew that God is love, and he exuded that love everywhere he went. Now he knows completely what he only knew in part here on earth. A life-long fan of The Wizard of Oz, his eternal life over the rainbow is a source of joy for all who mourn his passing.
Do you know this joy? The joy that comes from living a life fully centered in God’s presence?
We continue with Jesus’ last set of discourses to his disciples, and we find a clue in the 15th chapter of John about how our joy may be made complete. Would it surprise you to know that it comes from obedience? Not the “obey the rules, don’t rock the boat, stay in the lines” kind of obedience, but the type of obedience that comes from living IN the love of the father where obedience to his commandments brings harmony, peace, ease, and relief. Think about that for a moment. While following the rules brings a certain kind of order and calm to our lives, real joy comes from remaining inside the boundaries of God’s love:
John 15 (Common English Bible)
9 “As the Father loved me, I too have loved you. Remain in my love. 10 If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love, just as I kept my Father’s commandments and remain in his love. 11 I have said these things to you so that my joy will be in you and your joy will be complete. 12 This is my commandment: love each other just as I have loved you.
Jesus instructed his disciples to keep the main thing the main thing: to love one another just as he loved them. This kind of love is the key to joy. It is the gateway to peace on earth, if we could just be obedient!
Jesus offered the extreme example of sacrifice by giving up his life for that love.
13 No one has greater love than to give up one’s life for one’s friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command you. 15 I don’t call you servants any longer, because servants don’t know what their master is doing. Instead, I call you friends, because everything I heard from my Father I have made known to you. 16 You didn’t choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you could go and produce fruit and so that your fruit could last. As a result, whatever you ask the Father in my name, he will give you.
And so we are left with this…the call to obedience to God’s commands is centered on the greatest command that we love each other. And when we lay down self and selfishness and do just that, the world indeed will become a place of complete joy.
17 I give you these commandments so that you can love each other.