As I’ve previously mentioned, I’ve been reading Altared by Claire and Eli as part of the Single Roots first community book read. I just finished the book, and something else hit home with me that I felt I should share.
Claire writes about taking a much needed mini-vacation to visit the Cloisters in Manhattan:
When I walked into the Cloisters, feeling like a flat stick figure amid the centuries of spirituality that had come before me, I was more agitated than soothed. I was encouraged but also discouraged by the examples of lives lived for God. At every turn, the phony marks of tourism reminded me that I had lived my life with as much commitment to love as a mere visitor. For so long I had cheapened the extravagant vision of God’s love with labels, tied it off with ropes, and studied it as an artifact rather than as a living emblem of truth.(emphasis mine)
So many of us approach the Christian life like a museum. We read about the sufferings of Paul. We marvel at the faithfulness of God in the lives of the apostles. Perhaps some of us even go so far as to read Foxe’s Book of Martyrs (the older editions are better) and are astonished by the sacrifice and boldness of those who gave their lives for the sake of the gospel. And then we put that astonishment back on the shelf, and go about our daily lives, remaining unchanged by the testimony of the apostles and the early church. Remaining unchanged by the power of the gospel. We look at the gospel and its implications and application objectively, like we would a museum artifact, and then we walk away. Yet, this is not what Jesus commands.
John 15:1-8; 9-11 ESV
1 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. 2 Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. 3 Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. 4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it Abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you Abide in me. 5 I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever Abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If anyone does not Abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. 7 If you Abide in me, and my words Abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.
9 As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. 10 If you keep my commandments, you will Abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and Abide in his love. 11 These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.
In this one passage alone, we see that the Christian life is not one to be approached as a tourist, but rather one in which we live, eat, breathe, and are transformed by the gospel. The ESV Study Bible notes that to “abide” means to “continue in a daily, personal relationship with Jesus, characterized by trust, prayer, obedience.” Yes, we must look at the gospel objectively, to get a clear meaning of the text, but then we must also press into it subjectively, asking how that objective meaning should change us in our lives today. How does it dictate the way we should live, think, and act? The gospel isn’t just a legal justification and a relational invitation, though it is certainly no less, but it must also be personal transformation.
And we can’t overlook WHY Jesus commands this: So that His joy will be in us, and that our joy may be full.
How can we go about this week embracing and embodying the love of Jesus by obeying His commands?