Why can’t you always be good?” These were my words, a few years back, directed at one of my children after they did or said something particularly helpful or nice. I don’t remember the details of what made me say it but I do remember the response.
“I try to be good all the time, but it is just too hard!”
I think we can relate to these words. We try to be good but it is hard. As Christians we try to be good so we can be like Jesus. Be the body of Christ in the world and reflect Jesus. But like Paul says in Romans 8:
“I can will what is right, but I cannot do it. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do.”
In this week’s Gospel reading Jesus says:
“If you love me, you will keep my commandments.”
And a few verses later he says
“They who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me.”
And so we think, we had better be good and keep the commandments so Jesus knows we love him and we work hard at being good. Even protestants, like ourselves, who know we are saved by grace, not by works, want to “do good”, want to keep the commandments to prove we love Jesus. But it does not say that if we do keep the commandments it proves we love Jesus rather if we love Jesus keeping the commandments will come naturally, it will just happen.
It is important to understand what the commandments Jesus is talking about are. In the chapter before this Jesus gives a “new” commandment. He says to his disciples:
“I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
Then in the chapter after our reading Jesus says:
“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.”
But still we may worry and question if we love Jesus enough since we find it hard to love each other at times, especially those who disagree with us or hurt us, or someone we love. Rather than focus on how well, or not, we are loving others, our attentions would be better served by focusing on loving Jesus for then loving others would fall into place.
So what would a life focused on loving Jesus look like? Jesus gives us the answer to that too.
“I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing…As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love.”
We focus on loving Jesus by abiding with Jesus. That is by staying, remaining with Jesus. It is by being in relationship with Jesus, spending time with Jesus, talking with Jesus, being aware of the presence of Jesus walking beside us throughout our whole lives and knowing ourselves loved and accepted by Jesus that will empower us to love and accept others.
Rev Tammy Hollands