If the World Hates You

Photo by Zeyn Afuang on Unsplash

Gospel of John 15:18-16:33

18 “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. 19 If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. 20 Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. 21 But all these things they will do to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me. ESV

We Americans seldom face hatred just for being followers of the Messiah, though Churches with predominantly minority members still experience such hatred from time to time. According to polls, about seventy percent of Americans identify with various branches of Christianity. That does include many once-a-year attendees. Still, being an active Christian in the US is relatively safe.

Peter and the boys did not have it so easy. For decades, the Romans had little interest in what they saw as another Jewish group, but the Jewish leaders saw them as the most serious threat in years. Luke records many of the conflicts in the Acts of the Apostles, and Paul records many more.

When American Christians get into trouble, it is because they take a stand that goes against the popular position. William Barclay wrote, Anyone who is different, who wears different clothes, who has different ideas is automatically suspect. James Earl Ray murdered Martin Luther King, Jr. because he dared to claim black Americans were equal to white Americans. Today, Democrats are accused of being socialists because they favor programs to help the poor.

Barclay adds, The world acutely dislikes people whose lives are a condemnation of it. When we preach and teach that certain acts are wrong, people may react violently. Gay rights is a hot button to push, even within congregations.

Finally, Barclay writes, The basic demand on the Christian is the demand that the Christian should have the courage to be different. To be different is dangerous, but no man can be a Christian unless he accepts that risk, for there will be a difference between the man of the world and the man of Christ.

In verse 20, the word translated as servant should be slave, as in the Greek doulos. Jesus does intend for all his followers to act as slaves, doing only what he has commanded. At the same time, Jesus expects us to know his commands. One of my favorite Bible quotes is, Judas went out and hanged himself. Go thou and do likewise. You are right, it is a mashup. But Christians often do that and create troubles. How about Matthew 22:30: At the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven. NIV From that, some have decided that marriage is not proper on earth, while others say that in Heaven, we will be angels. First, study the Word, talk to knowledgeable people, and listen to the Holy Spirit.

22 If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not be guilty of sin. But they no longer have any excuse for their sin. 23 The one who hates me hates my Father too. 24 If I had not performed among them the miraculous deeds that no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin. But now they have seen the deeds and have hated both me and my Father. 25 Now this happened to fulfill the word that is written in their law, ‘They hated me without reason.’ NET

This is a bit strange; ‘without me, people would not be sinners.’ What was Jesus saying? As stated above, we must study this before claiming that sin did not exist before Jesus. He pointed out the world’s sins, and people did not like it because they did not see themselves as sinners. Being rude to a waiter because the kitchen messed up the order is not illegal, but it is a sin. Refusing to pay for a paint job because you no longer like the color may be illegal, but is certainly a sin.

If you do not like Jesus pointing to your sins, you should know that you do not like God either. Despite that, both still love you.

Psalm 35:19; Do not let those who are my enemies for no reason gloat over me. Do not let those who hate me without cause carry out their wicked schemes. NET Psalm 69:4a; Those who hate me without cause are more numerous than the hairs of my head. NET

26 But when the helper comes, that is, the Spirit of truth, who comes from the Father and whom I myself will send to you from the Father, he will speak plainly about me. 27 And you yourselves will also speak plainly about me for you have been with me from the first. Phillips

Jesus speaks of the Holy Spirit, but notice that he says he is sending the Spirit, even though the Spirit is of God. This is not a presumption; God, the Son, the Holy Spirit are one. The Son has been acting on God’s behalf for three years and was with God before Creation; the Son can send the Spirit.

Jesus has warned them of the consequences of speaking plainly about Jesus, but now tells them that they will do so because they are his disciples and can do no less. Nor can we.

16 1 “All this I have told you so that you will not fall away. They will put you out of the synagogue; in fact, the time is coming when anyone who kills you will think they are offering a service to God. They will do such things because they have not known the Father or me. NIV

I think it is essential that Jesus stresses the importance of the Holy Spirit before moving into this disturbing portion of his warning/caution. He seems to be saying, ‘you will face traumatic shocks very soon, even before you receive the full force of the Spirit. Hang on through the bleakest times, it will get better.’

They remember that Jesus was not always welcome in synagogues. That was trama for Jews, but they knew Jesus got through it, so they could too.

Anyone who kills you.” Now Jesus is no longer dancing around the worst to come. ‘People will kill you for being my disciples.’ He has said several times that he would leave them; that he would die. ‘After I die, it will be your turn.’

Jesus excuses their murders as he excuses and forgives his own because the murderers will believe they are doing right.

Once I decide a person is less important than I am, I am ready to mistreat him until, at last, I kill him. Most of us never reach the final stage, but too many of us move through increasingly nasty stages of maltreatment.

Jews first, then Romans determined that Christians were a threat to the ‘proper worship of God or the gods.’ With that decision came the possibility of imprisonment and execution. Many thousands of Christians were killed in the first centuries, but the killings continued after Constantine made Christianity the state religion.

But I have told you these things so that when their time comes, you will remember that I told you about them. “I did not tell you these things from the beginning because I was with you. But now I am going to the one who sent me, and not one of you is asking me, ‘Where are you going?’ Instead your hearts are filled with sadness because I have said these things to you. NET

We cannot know if John added what he knew had already happened to the actual speech made by Jesus as John remembered it. But I have no trouble believing that Jesus saw far into the centuries ahead—in the general sense at least. I also have no problem believing that John could remember such a long soliloquy. Neither would I be disturbed to learn that John added to Jesus’ words.

“Where are you going?” Strangely, Peter did not assure Jesus that all would be well, Thomas did not doubt Jesus’ words, and Nathanael had nothing to suggest. It is not at all strange that Jesus knew what they were thinking. That they were sad tells us they were beginning to believe something big was soon to happen. I think they were also sad because they did not understand what Jesus was really saying.

When Jesus made that spectacular entry into Jerusalem, the disciples probably reached the peak of excitement. But Jesus left the city without claiming the Davidic throne and began to spout all this negative talk about going away and the disciples being killed—what???

We know that the disciples, all one hundred plus, spent the time between the resurrection and Pentecost talking about everything Jesus did and said. They had fifty days to wait for the Spirit and to remember. In the church’s early years, the disciples lived in Jerusalem, traveling within Palestine as needed. All told, they had several years to talk, refresh memories, and work out what it all meant—and what it means to us.

John became the last keeper of all that understanding.

 But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I am going away. For if I do not go away, the Advocate will not come to you, but if I go, I will send him to you. And when he comes, he will prove the world wrong concerning sin and righteousness and judgment— concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; 10 concerning righteousness, because I am going to the Father and you will see me no longer; 11 and concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world has been condemned. NET

Here Jesus puts a positive spin on what he described. ‘You need the Holy Spirit, and this is the only way you will get it. When I leave you, I will send the Spirit. Hold tight.’ “The ruler of the world has been condemned.” The ruler is the devil.

Jesus did not say that people would continue to live in the sin-filled world for centuries to come, nor did he say the devil would cease to exist. He said the devil is condemned but not yet eliminated. He faces that defeat in the future—as humans see it.

12 “I have much more to tell you but you cannot bear it now. 13 Yet when that one I have spoken to you about comes—the Spirit of truth—he will guide you into everything that is true. For he will not be speaking of his own accord but exactly as he hears, and he will inform you about what is to come. 14 He will bring glory to me for he will draw on my truth and reveal it to you. 15 Whatever the Father possesses is also mine; that is why I tell you that he will draw on my truth and will show it to you. Phillips

We see now that Jesus understands his words are upsetting to the disciples, to the point that he must not tell them the rest just now. They will be able to understand it after the resurrection.

The truth of all that he has said and all that is yet to happen will be explained by the Holy Spirit. Even when we know what happens, it can be challenging to read and comprehend the Truth of God. It is not that the Truth is hidden—as the Gnostics say, God’s Truth is from another Existence. We humans are easily fooled; we often fool ourselves. The internet today contains millions of lies and misdirections.

Here is a clip from someone who answered the question, ‘what is the biggest lie on the internet?’ Obviously the manned moon missions. The videos and photos supposedly sent back are fake. There have been too many findings of photo fakery and equipment and lunar anomalies in the NASA released photo archives. This fraud was a triumph of propaganda for both the USA and the Soviet Union. This idea began after Sputnik in 1957 and is alive today. Of course, those who reject the idea that things can go into space do not mind getting all the benefits of our thousands of space-based equipment.

Back to the Truth of God; we must spend years learning to understand that Truth. We have to sort out our misconceptions and misunderstandings—our false facts—before we can fully understand God’s Truth.

The Bible is the best place to start understanding God’s Truth. He has been speaking His Truth since creation. His Son joins Him in speaking the Truth; His Holy Spirit joins both of them in speaking the Truth. No false facts are coming from God.

We do need to take care in our Bible studies. It is not the perfect Word of God. It was thousands of years in the making by the hands of humans. It is God inspired, but not God dictated. A text needs to be copied every century or so because the scroll is wearing thin and the ink is flaking off. Over the centuries, thousands of copies have been made, along with thousands of copy errors.

The good news is that the Hebrews took extra care in making copies. A team of scholars inspected every copy to ensure it was perfect. Until the return from the exile, there was only one text, and they kept it in the Temple. During and after the time in Babylon, synagogues became the principal place of worship for Hebrews/Jews. That meant every synagogue wanted a copy of the Torah, and eventually, the Prophets and the Writings. A system was set up to make multiple copies and have a team of experts proofread them. In the second century BCE, when the first Greek copy was made, seventy scholars were selected to ensure that every Greek word was the best word to express the ancient Hebrew. The final Septuagint was only accepted when all seventy agreed on every word.

We Christians did not follow that standard in the early centuries. A scribe generally did copies of the Christian writings with no one proofing. By the seventh century, monasteries and convents (still often together and sharing in the copy work) had a solid system to assure quality results. But many mistakes had already found their way in.

That alone is an excellent reason to check the expert commentators. The number of second-century texts of the NT and even older texts of the OT is impressive, and that just since WW2.

16 “In a little while you will not see me any longer, and again, in a little while you will see me.” 17 At this some of his disciples remarked to each other, “What is this that he tells us now, ‘A little while and you will not see me, and again, in a little while you will see me’ and ‘for I am going away to the Father’? 18 What is the ‘little while’ that he talks about?” they were saying. “We simply do not know what he means!” Phillips

The disciples are still confused. Nothing he said made sense to them. ‘You will not see me; you will see me.’ It does seem like double talk. Once we know of the resurrection, we know what he means, but they did not know. Why did he not tell them he would die, be buried, and walk out of the grave? He does, but directly.

19 Jesus saw that they wanted to ask him about this, so he said to them, “Are you asking one another what I meant when I said, ‘In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me’? 20 Very truly I tell you, you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy. 21 A woman giving birth to a child has pain because her time has come; but when her baby is born she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world. 22 So with you: Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy. 23 In that day you will no longer ask me anything. Very truly I tell you, my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. 24 Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete. NIV

You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy. We can see this sentence as the crucifixion and resurrection, but in a parable form. He follows with the childbirth parable. In verse 22, Jesus makes a plain statement: I will see you again. ‘As you mourn my loss, remember that I will not be lost; I will, like Lazarus, step out of the grave. Your joy then will know no bounds.’

Jesus returns to the promise that God will provide what they need. If they ask for something to further the Gospel message, they will have it. Asking to be spared beatings, torture, and death would not help the cause, so….

25 “I have been speaking to you in parables—but the time is coming to give up parables and tell you plainly about the Father. 26 When that time comes, you will make your requests to him in my own name, for I need make no promise to plead to the Father for you, 27 for the Father himself loves you, because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God. Yes, 28 I did come from the Father and I came into the world. Now I leave the world behind and return to the Father.” Phillips

This is Jesus being blunt. ‘God loves you, and I love you. You know God and will serve him. I am the Son of God. No, he did not say that last openly.

29 “Now you are speaking plainly,” cried the disciples, “and are not using parables. 30 Now we know that everything is known to you—no more questions are needed. This makes us sure that you did come from God.” 31 “So you believe in me now?” replied Jesus. 32 “The time is coming, indeed, it has already come, when you will be scattered, every one of you going home and leaving me alone. Yet I am not really alone for the Father is with me. 33 I have told you all this so that you may find your peace in me. You will find trouble in the world—but, never lose heart, I have conquered the world!”

The disciples think they understand, and that excites them. We know they were thinking a false truth. We might believe that the disciples should not doubt that Jesus was from God; they spent three years with him. The truth is, knowing is not believing. Jesus can tell Peter he will deny Jesus, but Peter cannot believe it.

Jesus reminds them that they can expect suffering along with their joy. The peace of being in Jesus, being in his great congregation, will carry us through any hardships.

Be Righteous and do Good

Mike Lawrence

If You Really Love Me

Gospel of John 14:15-15:17

15 “If you really love me, you will keep the commandments I have given you 16 and I shall ask the Father to give you someone else to stand by you, to be with you always. 17 I mean the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot accept, for it can neither see nor recognise that Spirit. But you recognise him, for he is with you now and will be in your hearts. 18 I am not going to leave you alone in the world—I am coming to you. 19 In a very little while, the world will see me no more but you will see me, because I am really alive and you will be alive too. 20 When that day come, you will realise that I am in my Father, that you are in me, and I am in you. Phillips

Chrysostom wrote around 290 CE, At all times it is works and actions that we need, not a mere show of words. It is easy for anyone to say or promise something, but it is not so easy to act on that word or promise. . . . “If you love,” Christ said, “keep my commandments.” . . . I have commanded you to love one another and to do to one another as I have done to you. To love me is to obey these commands and to submit to me, your belovedACCS

Jesus orders us to love, and Chrysostom adds that love is a verb; it is only love if there is action. Sunday church is all about refreshing ourselves to be ready for the week. But if we are not watching for opportunities to love someone with a kind word, a smile, an encouragement, then Sunday was wasted. Sunday, ask yourself, ‘what do I do Monday?’ If you are ready to practice love on Monday, it will be easier on Tuesday, next week, and next month.

We also need to be careful how we package our love. The old approach of offering the homeless a bed and a meal as long as they sit through a service of singing and preaching is counterproductive. Jesus did not demand obedience before he would heal, feed, or teach them. If people see us freely giving love, they will be more interested in joining that love.

We are not alone; Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to help us. We cannot see the Spirit, but we can feel the Spirit’s presence if we focus on living out the Messiah’s love. The ball is in our court, and we must do some heavy lifting. Strangely, the lifting gets lighter with practice.

We see the Holy Spirit throughout John. It is in the testimony of the Baptizer and the second birth of Nicodemus. The living water at the well is the Holy Spirit. When Jesus declared that the Twelve, except one, were clean, it was through the power of the Spirit.

In this passage, Jesus promises they will receive a parakletos, an advocate to assist them in their teaching, revealing, and interpreting Jesus to new disciples. This advocate, the Holy Spirit, will be the mediator of God and Jesus to us who seek to do the will of God. Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels

Notice that Jesus identifies the Spirit as the Spirit of Truth. That should hardly need be said as the Spirit is of God and God is Truth. Any Word coming from God is Truth. And, any word coming from Jesus is Truth.

The world does not accept the Truth, nor does it even recognize the Truth. The world seeks its way apart from God. Living in the darkness, a person cannot recognize the light. That seems senseless in the dark/light metaphor, but look at it as a person standing at Kit Carson, Colorado, some ninety miles east of Colorado Springs. He cannot see the mountains, so claims they do not exist. If he goes west, he will know the truth.

In verses 19-20, Jesus tells us what life is. It has nothing to do with a big house, a nice car, a good education, a pleasant job, and a trip to the islands every year. You are in me, and I am in you. God and His Son are in me if I live in Jesus/Messiah. The fact that I have a job to buy a house and food, etc., is irrelevant to living with God. If I am homeless and hungry but living with God, I am wealthy. If I make a million dollars a year and share ninety percent of it with the poor, it only counts if I am with God.

21 The person who has my commandments and obeys them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and will reveal myself to him.” NET

Speaking of love, if we do not love Jesus, we do not love at all. To love Jesus is to both know his commands and obey them. What are his orders? Matthew 22: 36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” 37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” NIV

If burglars take most of your possessions and later you are mugged, beaten, and left for dead, will you still love God? Or if an eyewitness identifies you as the murderer and the court sentences you to life, will you still love God? Can you love the neighbor who throws rocks at your children, shoots your dog, and poisons your cat? How about the boss who puts you down in front of everyone else?

Life is not easy, nor is agapao.

I click on Youtube talks by atheists who explain why God does not exist. Many say that if God is all good and all-powerful, why would He allow so much suffering? They completely miss that we live in sin because we humans always seek to do things our way. Many former Christians make the same point, often because they suffered great losses at some time. It seems to be easier to blame God than to love Him.

Jesus is our example in his continued love for Judas, even as he knew the betrayal was coming. He never stopped loving Simon Peter in the face of his shortcomings nor even his thrice denial. Nicodemus left unconvinced but still loved by Jesus. He never condemned the several women living in sin but continued to love them.

We also see Jesus withdrawing from people who oppose him. But he does not hate his opposers. He will speak the truth to them, and he leaves when they reject the truth.

There is truth and there is Truth. We must always seek God’s Truth. Humans want to know who is right in a disagreement when as often as not, both are at least partially right. There is no correct answer if the fight is about who should get the dwindling supply of freshwater—farmers or city dwellers. God wants all of us to have an abundant supply of water, but we live in a sin-filled world where bad things happen.

Learning to love in this world requires effort, study of Scripture, and constant prayer.

22 Then Judas (not Judas Iscariot) said, “But, Lord, why do you intend to show yourself to us and not to the world?” 23 Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. 24 Anyone who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me. NIV

You will remember that John did not give us a list of the Twelve as did the Synoptics, nor did he mention this Judas as one called. John alone brings him into the conversation instead of just one on the list. Yet, this name—Judas—is not certain. In the Four Gospels, this disciple is called Thaddeus, Judas, son of James, and Simon the Cananean. We know almost nothing about him before or after the resurrection.

The question Judas asked can be misunderstood. Back in verse 19, Jesus said that soon the world would not see him but the disciples would. When we get to the resurrection account, we will see that Jesus appeared to his disciples only, hundreds of them, but all disciples. This continues the idea of God versus the world. Here, the world represents darkness while the disciples represent light. Only those living in the Light of God can see the risen Messiah.

In answering Judas, Jesus expands the Presence of God to mean that God and His Son will live with all disciples. This statement seems to suggest a Presence even larger than the Holy Spirit, though, as we will see below, the Spirit is what he means. The Spirit is of God just as the Son of Man is of God. You see one, you see them all.

Jesus repeats his message that we are to love God and all humans; in return, God will love us and dwell with us. He does not say here what happens to those who do not love him, nor does he say whether God loves them or not. But I believe that God loves every human ever born; even those who died before birth. God’s love is without limit. But only those who love God and His Son and his believers are allowed to spend eternity with Him.

25 “I have said all this while I am still with you. 26 But the one who is coming to stand by you, the Holy Spirit whom the Father will send in my name, will be your teacher and will bring to your minds all that I have said to you. Phillips

When Jesus leaves, the Holy Spirit will fill the disciples [at Pentecost] and teach them. This also applies to us. We will have a hard time making sense of the Bible if we read it without the help of the Spirit. The Spirit comes from many sources: Bible commentaries, pastors, saintly friends, Sunday school and catechism teachers, even very carefully selected websites. As we grow in our knowledge, we need to test new ideas with trusted sources constantly. The disciples—including the hundred and more who were constant followers—had their memories refreshed by the Spirit. That is why, sixty years later, John could include so much detail in his account of his Master.

27 “I leave behind with you—peace; I give you my own peace and my gift is nothing like the peace of this world. You must not be distressed and you must not be daunted. 28 You have heard me say, ‘I am going away and I am coming back to you.’ If you really loved me, you would be glad because I am going to my Father, for my Father is greater than I. 29 And I have told you of it now, before it happens, so that when it does happen, your faith in me will not be shaken. 30 I shall not be able to talk much longer to you for the spirit that rules this world is coming very close. He has no hold over me, 31 but I go on my way to show the world that I love the Father and do what he sent me to do … Get up now! Let us leave this place. Phillips

The peace of the world is escapism, hiding in the darkness with the Prince of darkness. The peace Jesus gives us, in the words of William Barclay, is the peace of conquest. It is the peace which no experience in life can ever take from us. It is the peace which no sorrow, no danger, no suffering can make less. It is the peace which is independent of outward circumstances.

Verse 1 of this chapter opened with these words: “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me.  Verse 27 ends with these words: Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraidESV We are at the end of chapter 14 before we read the first mention of peace. Jesus is telling the disciples they have a long road ahead. There is much to learn and understand. J Ramsey Michaels adds: In the same breath, he takes another opportunity to distance himself and the disciples from ‘the world’ and the way the world sees things. . . . Without quite saying so, he hints that persecution may await them, and that this would not be incompatible with the “peace” he is offering them, for the peace he offers is in their “heart,” not in their outward circumstances.

People who choose to follow the Jesus Way will suffer from the world’s sin. If there are no ‘slings and arrows,’ we may not be doing it right.

The end of verse 28 has been a difficult read for two thousand years. My Father is greater than I. We preach that God and the Son of Man are two parts of a whole, along with the third part, the Holy Spirit. If they make up a whole, how can one be less than the other? I believe part of the difficulty is that Jesus describes a Heavenly existence in worldly terms. In his human form, Jesus was less than God. He said that he only spoke the words given to him by the Father. With his human body and brain, Jesus had to depend on God the Father to help him face the Prince of darkness. While we know little about Jesus as he grew up, the Devil knew him and, no doubt, attacked him at every opportunity. With the help of God, he survived every challenge.

The Devil still has no hold on him. We will look more closely at the role of Satan in the crucifixion, but up to that event, Jesus was protected.

I go on my way to show the world that I love the Father and do what he sent me to do. Can we do less?

15 1 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. 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. NIV

This is the seventh and final ‘I am’ statement. The image is of the grapevine, a common sight in Judah. The vine is also an ancient symbol of Israel; it is the vine of life. The only idea new in this statement is that Jesus applies it to himself.

Pruning is not always the term used in the OT, but it best describes the idea of God separating the wheat from the chaff, the unproductive from the productive, the loyal from the disloyal. We find the most direct pruning example in Isaiah 18:5-6. The nation God will prune is Nubia (Ethiopia), rulers of Egypt in the eight century BCE.

For before the harvest, when the blossom is gone,

and the berry has ripened, becomes the bloom,

He shall cut away twigs with pruning hooks,

Lop off, take away the slack branches.

They shall be left together for the mountain vultures,

And for the beasts of the land.

The vultures shall summer on them

And all the beasts of the land winter on them. Alter

Jesus wants us to understand that he is the way to God, the protector of those who walk in his path, and the viticulturist who can prune away our faults to help us grow even closer to him and God.

“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 do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples. NIV

Apart from me you can do nothing. Let me illustrate Jesus’ meaning with John D. Rockefeller, at the risk of offending some. He died in 1937—amid the Great Depression—with a net worth of $1.4 billion. No one has ever approached that wealth when considered in terms of percentage of GDP. John senior’s was 1.5%. Jeff Bezos’ is 0.008%.

But, did John D walk the Jesus walk? If not, his life was a waste. I am in no position to judge. I will say that, as he aged, he started giving millions to churches. He also set up his only son, John D Jr., with the task of giving away as much of the wealth to worthy causes as he could. When Junior died, the Rockefellers were worth more than when he started his handouts.

Each of us must look at ourselves in the mirror, so to speak, and decide—am I doing the kind of good work that Jesus was doing? Do I treat people as equals and with respect? Am I willing to spend time with people who … ‘are not my people?’ Is the job I do for the paycheck a help to others, or does it hurt them? If my job pays well, do I spend all of the money on my family? If I work three jobs sixty hours a week and still earn below the poverty line, do I envy, complain, curse, slap my kids, kick my dog?

Money was not even the way to measure walking in the Jesus Way in the first century. Many followers were poor, many were slaves, a fair number were wealthy. Those who had money shared with those who had too little. We tend to forget that many slaves in the Empire did not need money as their masters provided very well for them. The churches were in the homes of the wealthier Christians, but they all met as equals, though some left the meetings as slave and master.

Verse 7 causes many to get the wrong idea. I could ask for a million dollars, but it will not drop out of Heaven. Our asking does not depend on our wishes but on Jesus. We cannot forget the second part of verse 5. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. It is ALWAYS about Jesus. Our only requests should be about bearing good fruit.

I am not a defender of Mohammad, but I like one feature of alms. The teaching includes that the poor should accept the gift so that both can be blessed. We Americans have a strong spirit of independence, and we often needlessly reject help.

“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. 10 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. 11 I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. NIV

The rule of love is the building block for all that Jesus has told us in the preceding verses. God loves His Son; His Son loves all of us. All we have to do is keep his commands. Many people hear commands and think of the Ten Commandments. Jesus was not talking about that. It is still the love commands. If we love, we will not violate the big Ten.

Did Jesus violate any commandments? He consistently said that there is one God. He never misused God’s true name. He did not worship idols. He did get into trouble for failing to keep the Sabbath, but that is another lesson. He did honor his Father and his father and his mother. No murders, adulteries, theft, false witness, or coveting. I do not know how well Jesus did with the remaining commands of the 613 that Pharisees said God gave to them.

Love covers it all.

12 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command. 15 I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. 16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. 17 This is my command: Love each other. NIV

Disciples of Jesus are his friends. Friends are willing to die for one another.

Be Righteous and do Good

Mike Lawrence