“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. These things I command you, so that you will love one another.” (John 15:12–17, ESV)
When I read these verses I am drawn back to one of my favorite Keith Green songs from the early 80’s. It is titled simply “Scripture Song Medley,” and I think one of the reasons it comes back so easily is that this is exactly what it is—a medley of favorite Bible passages strung together in a song of rejoicing. In the second stanza Keith sang that our joy would be full as we live out Jesus’ command to love one another. In the verses just before these Jesus had said we would find joy by abiding in Him and knowing His love, and here we are commanded to love others with the love we have known from Him. Our love is an outflow of the joy in our hearts knowing that God’s love for us will never fail and that He is faithful to work in and through us to accomplish His incredible work.
Particularly in these verses the focus is on our friendship with Christ and others. Jesus said that the greatest display of love is laying down one’s life for his friends, which is exactly what He did for us. But in doing this He also took it back up again so that we might have life in Him. Jesus commands us to love others with the love that He has shown to us—His love flowing in us as we abide in Him. We learn not to love as the world loves, but to love with the love of God, and God’s love is immensely powerful to bring about salvation and life.
We are not called to do this out of servitude or repaying a debt which in reality we never could repay. We are to love one another because God loves us. This is something that friends do, and they do this even when the other person might be acting unfriendly or it might be inconvenient or hard. Speaking to His disciples Jesus reminded them again that they did not choose Him, but He chose them. And the same is true for us. We read in Scripture that God chose us from before the foundation of the world. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him.” (Ephesians 1:3–4, ESV)
And in choosing us we were chosen with a purpose that we might go out into the world and tell others of the love which God has shown to us. As we grow in Christ people will see that we are different. As we demonstrate the love of God to others people will see that we are different. And, as we tell them of the love of God people will have seen the difference and be presented with the truth of what made that difference. Jesus said that His disciples, and us as we read elsewhere, were chosen to go and bear fruit and that the fruit would remain or abide. What remains forever are saved people, also abiding in Christ.
It is because of God’s love for us that He sent His Son for the forgiveness of our sins, to seek and to save us who were hopelessly lost. And it is in response to the love of God that we go and do likewise, knowing that as we abide in Christ and walk in His love that He indeed will bring about fruit and that fruit truly will remain.