“Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you.“
This is an incredible verse. Yet, it is so easy to just pass over in the reading of John 15… it just kind of gets lost in the flow, but it is so rich if you take the time to ponder it. I love how it starts with, “Ye are My friends…” especially considering the immediate context. He has just stated that there is no greater love than for a man to lay down His life for His friends and then He calls us “friends.” If you recognize Who it is saying this and to whom He is saying it, it is utterly bewildering. We dare not presume a friendship with One so great! Yet, He has condescended to initiate relationship. He initiated it and defined it and then sealed it in His very blood.
He loves you. Just stop and ponder that for a moment. He. Loves. You. We have all grown up singing, “Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so…” and have in so many ways lost its incredible wonder. He loves you. And He hasn’t just loved you with “I love pizza” kind of love… which would be crazy enough when you think of it… but He loves you with the greatest love you could ever imagine, then above and beyond your greatest imagination. No one has greater love than to lay down his life for his friend and He did that for you. He has called you “friend” and it’s not because you impressed Him somehow or earned it… which leads into the next part of the verse.
I don’t know about you, but when I actually stop to think about this verse, the very first thing I notice are the words, “…if ye do…” (Those are some big words!) And my heart goes right back to where it has gone most of my life; to me, in my own strength, attempting to “do” all the commandments. If I don’t read this verse in the context of what this whole chapter has been talking about, I fall right back into the flesh trying to improve the flesh in order to please God and be His friend. It’s so easy to read this verse as if God is going to hold me at arms length until I can perfectly do everything He has commanded me in His word, then He will let me get close to Him and be His friend.
Let me just state right off the bat that is not what this verse says! So, what is He saying? “…Do whatsoever I command you…” There it is again – that weight – the weight of the Law. But what is it the He just told us to do? All the verses leading up to this are talking about abiding, about keeping (terao-ing) His word. He is telling us to keep His word; to allow His life to enter in and overtake us; to abide in Him and allow Him and His life to dwell in us and live through us. In the verses immediately before, He is telling us to “love one another as [He has] loved [us].” Okay, so that is what we are supposed to do, right? Love. So when I perfectly love as He loves, then I will be His friend? (See, there I go again. Don’t act like I’m the only one! ;)) No. It isn’t about me conjuring up love and trying to love like He does… it comes straight out of abiding n Him.
Consider verse 9, “…continue in My love.” Every “do” in the Christian life is simply a response to what He has already done. He initiates it and we simply respond. We receive His love and as His love and His life fill us, (as we simply abide,) it is His very life and His love that flows out. It is not out of me striving and struggling to conjure up this life and this love, but Him – Himself – doing it all in and through me. This is how the world will know we belong to Him! They will know we are His because it is His very life and love they see. They will know we are His by our love, not the manufactured kind, but the Heavenly kind; the kind that can only come from Him.
Okay! That’s all fine and dandy, but what about that “if”? That “if” feels like a wall. It feels like a barrier that requires a proving of something on my part. But, once again, this is not the case. It’s not, “Once you do this perfectly, I will maybe consider letting you be My friend.” That is not the heart of God towards you. He is not stingy. He is not stiff-arming you. He is not waiting for you to prove yourself worthy. You can’t. He is the One Who wanted you first; Who loved you first; Who is reaching out to you first. He initiated this whole thing. You were made for relationship with Him, and there nothing you could ever do to attain it if He had not first initiated it. It’s not, “If you do ‘this,’ I will consider letting you come close.” It is, “Do this [keep my commandments], because this is how you come close.” Doing what He commanded (abiding/keeping), is how we come to know Him and truly become friends with Him as He desires and intended.
As we abide in Him and keep His Word, we enter into deep, intimate, life-giving relationship with Him where His life comes and lives in and through us and He does the work that He desires to do through our life.
– Amy S