A reflection on Jesus’ words from John’s gospel ”If you love me, you will keep my commandments.”
Jesus said, ”If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you.
”I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you. In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me; because I live, you also will live. On that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. They who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me; and those who love me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them and reveal myself to them.”
As parents, my wife and I have rules for the kids. We have these not because, as they might believe, we like being mean (thought that’s what I tell them sometimes) but because we want to create an environment where they can grow and learn and have the opportunity to live into their potential. Most of all though, we ant them to be as safe as possible.
Since they are of tender years and haven’t seen or experienced many of the negative consequences possible in life, so we hope that might learn from us and trust us as they go through their lives.
This doesn’t always work out as well we might like. They, unfortunately, are too much like me.
So this week, we had a good reminder of this as our son, who is five, made some choices that were contrary to the rules we have established – and managed to break his elbow.
In case you were wondering, he was playing paratrooper and didn’t quite stick the landing.
At any rate, it could have been worse, and we are thankful it isn’t and that he was able to receive excellent medical care. It would surprise no one who knows him, that an elbow to wrist cast has barely slowed him down.
But this idea that we, as parent, impose limits and boundaries on our children is pretty much the same thing Jesus is getting at in our gospel reading today.
Before Jesus came, humanity was subject to God’s Law that it might learn how to be free when the day came to be unshackled from evil’s bondage. As Jesus comes and sets us free, he reminds us here that those “rules” might still be a good idea to follow.
Jesus came to set us free, but Christians have all along sometimes misunderstood what this freedom means. St Paul himself dealt with this issue when he reminded the churches that our freedom doesn’t mean we get to do whatever we want without consequence.
The freedom of Christ isn’t a freedom to….
It is a freedom from…
We freed from our bondage to evil but we will only truly live into the abundant life when we use our freedom from to submit ourselves wholly to God’s dream for us. By setting aside our selfish concerns and impulses. The salvation of Christ is not a personal liberty to pursue whatever tickles our fancy. Instead it is an invitation to participate in ushering in God’s reign by seeing that all those around us prosper too.
We are freed of all that we might fear, so that the fear which drives our selfish and greedy impulses can be safely ignored.
At heart we are – like our God, who exists in three persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit – relational beings. We can only be who we were created to be, our very best selves, in community. We can only truly follow Jesus together.
A faith that denies our communal responsibilities and obligations is not a faith in Jesus’ promises.
And like my little paratrooper, when we stray from the life God desires from us, we shouldn’t be surprised when negative consequences come our way. But when we do, in the church, as in the ER, there is a community of helpers ready and willing to bring you back to healing and wholeness.
Thanks be to God.