This article is an excerpt from Real Relationships, a six-week study in the Summer 2017 Bible Studies for Life. Learn more about this curriculum and preview one month for free at biblestudiesforlife.com.
The Point: Base every relationship on the unconditional love of Christ.
Ever noticed how more and more people seem to be having conversations with their phones rather than with the people around them?
Psychologist Sherry Turkle observes the impact of texting, email, and social media on our ability to have honest conversations and deepening relationships with people. “In today’s workplace, young people who have grown up fearing conversation show up on the job wearing earphones…. we are together, but each of us is in our own bubble, furiously connected to keyboards and tiny touch screens.”
Technology has given us a world of better things, but not necessarily a better world. We are a culture starved for relationships, but even the latest smart phone app doesn’t seem to help us really connect in those relationships. We read in the Gospel of John that Jesus gave us the key to relationships that matter. He showed us how our relationship with God affects all our other relationships. This one relationship is the key that makes all the difference.
Read John 15:9-11.
John 15 overflows with words we love to hear in the context of our relationships: “love,” “remain,” “joy,” “friends.” Like a wonderful stew filled with savory ingredients, each of these words adds to the delicious medley of a great relationship. But Jesus doesn’t just apply these words to any relationship: Jesus used them to refer to the intimate relationship we can have with Him.
To understand this loving relationship, look at Jesus’ relationship with God the Father. Notice how Jesus began in verse 9: “As the Father has loved me.” Jesus Christ, the Son of God, enjoys an incredible bond with His Father. A unity and oneness defines that relationship, and their indivisible unity is enveloped with love.
What an incredible love—and Jesus loves us just as His Father loves Him! This is a far different kind of love than the romanticized, sentimental love our culture continually highlights. We see God’s love in the amazing world He created —a world He both loves and sustains. He created people unique from all the rest of creation, to know and worship Him (Ps. 8:3-8). His love for humanity is unparalleled. This is why, although sin broke our relationship with God, He still demonstrated His love for us by sending Jesus to die for our sins (Rom. 5:8). Through Jesus, God restores us to the relationship He desired for us all along.
You will never meet anyone who loves you like God loves you. His love is unconditional, which is wonderful beyond description! If He gave us what we deserved, we would all face judgment. But God has lavished His love on us through Christ. This love is without condition, but not without a cost. It cost the very death of Jesus.
Our response to this great love can only be awe and wonder-filled obedience. “If you keep my commands you will remain in my love.”
Jesus is not saying, “If you obey me, then I will continue to love you.” That false statement makes love conditional, and conditional love is the epitome of religion devoid of the gospel of grace. But obedience flows out of love. Because God loves us, we respond to His love by obedience. We don’t keep Jesus’ commands to earn His love; we keep His commands in response to His love.
God’s love changes us when we believe, so that we choose obedience because it pleases the One who first loved us. The result of our love and obedience is joy! Our obedience to Jesus that grows out of His great love brings joy both to Him and to us.
We have no better place to be than to remain—take up residence and make ourselves at home—than in the love of Jesus.
How does obeying God’s commands demonstrate our love for Him?
Excerpted from Bible Studies for Life: Real Relationships © 2017 Lifeway Press®. Used by permission.
Scripture quotations are taken from the Christian Standard Bible®, Copyright © 2017 by Holman Bible Publishers. Used by permission.