“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love.”
John 15:9 NIV
My grandparents had a wood-burning stove. They were very excited about this ancient technological miracle that allowed a fire to heat the house in an efficient and effective way. Instead of building an unsafe raging fire in your home for warmth, you could build a more compact fire in a safe enclosure, and then the heat would be blown throughout the room.
The only problem was when you left the room.
As a child, I remember going to bed, the door being shut due to the grown-ups still watching TV and talking, and I would think, “wow, it is sure cold in here!” Had the heat changed? It wasn’t the heat that had changed. There was just a door in the way.
Now in my house, we have an actual heater. One that reads the room, kicks on, heats the house, and then shuts down. The benefit is it heats all the rooms, not just the room with the stove. The other perk is no one goes to school smelling like a campfire. The only problem is, in an effort to conserve energy, I’ll close off the vents in some less-used rooms. Occasionally my wife will go into one of those rooms and wonder why it’s so cold. But it isn’t the heat that has changed. There’s just a closed vent in the way.
Our relationship with God is very similar. The light and heat of the universe is burning and fueling everything that is good and pure in the world. And Jesus says, “remain in me and you’ll always remain in this light and love.”
“Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. ‘I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.’ ‘As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love.'”
John 15:4-5, 7, 9 NIV
What Jesus is saying is that the life source of the Father is consistent. The love of God never changes. It’s just that sometimes there’s something in the way.
When my wife and I were first married, we’d sit on the couch and watch tv, and she’d sit right next to me. Snuggled up together, under a blanket, watching our favorite shows, I could even handle a chick-flic or a Hallmark movie as long as we were close. But then you have kids. Then life gets busy. Then the seat gets uncomfortable. Then the blanket is on the other side of the room. And one day, we realize we are sitting on the other ends of the couch, sometimes in separate chairs. Some couples can even end up in separate rooms. One day she said to me, “I don’t feel as close to you.” My reaction was slightly sarcastic when I said, “who moved?”
Here’s what this reminds me of:
When I feel less than, when I feel unloved, when I feel out of God’s goodness and grace – the problem isn’t the love and light of the Father. The problem is my location to the Father. In other words, I’m the one who’s moved.
John wants us to know the love of God is constant. He is the one Jesus loves. You are the one Jesus loves. But the reason this seems less than real in our lives is not due to him but to us. We’ve moved.
So, John is quick to point out how to stay.
“If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.”
John 15:10-12 NIV
The more you love others … the more you feel the love of God. The more self-consumed I am, the more I move away from God. The more inward I become, the more I shut the door to his warmth. Thus the colder I become, the more distant I feel, and the more I shiver in the winter of my discontent.
But one simple act of kindness and grace to someone else opens the door to the raging fire of God’s love.
His love doesn’t change … just our location to it.
In a few years, John will write down his revelation of Heaven. A place where the love of God not only heats and lights the whole world but there are no more vents and doors or impediments to this love. But until then, we’ll have to consciously work to keep our selfishness from closing the door.
Thank you, Jesus, that your love for me never changes. Help me to see who I need to love.