Acts 14:5-18; Psalm 115; John 14:21-26
Many today say, love is all that matters, that we are to love and not hate. When people say that to me, I ask what they mean by those words and if they claim to be Christians, I ask them what the Scriptural meaning of those words are. Every time, I get a long winded answer that mean nothing. EVERY TIME! Which is why I find it strange that people will use words when they do not know what the words mean. Because for them, love is a feeling, an emotion. Which is why society today finds it hard to make a commitment, because their actions are based on emotions.
But in the Gospel reading today, Jesus defines clearly what love is: They who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me. Love is to obey Jesus FIRST! Our love for others should be based on our love for God. I cannot love others if I do not love God, which Jesus also said: those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. Two things that come up with this statement. First: the word keep means to guard from loss or injury, like keeping an eye. Jesus knows we will fail so he did not say perfectly do. He said keep, meaning watch his word, remain focused, make sure nothing happens to it, in this case, in our hearts. We will sin and fail, but when we keep an eye on his word, we will know we fail and we will repent and turn back to him.
Second, Jesus said my word in the singular, not the plural. This means everything he said. We cannot pick and choose the teachings we like and discard those who do not want. But we need to keep watch on ALL Jesus taught. We cannot pick and choose.
This is where the Holy Spirit enters in our lives. Jesus said he is sent by the Father and will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have aid to you. The word remind in the Greek means to remind quietly. He will not condemn us, but will gently lead us back to God. When we love Jesus, we keep our eyes on his word, turning back to him when we stray as the Holy Spirit gently leads us back.
All this, the ability to love God, the ability to turn back to him when we sin, the healing we receive when we come back to God, is a gift from God. God uses frail human beings: our friends, pastors, even our enemies to show us how to keep our eyes on the word of Jesus. We know when a person is helping us keep our eyes when like Paul in the First Reading, they point to God. After healing a man, the people thought Paul and Barnabas were the gods who descended to them and healed the man by their own power. But Paul spoke out and told them to: turn from these worthless things to the living God. Not only did he tell them to turn back to God, he described who God is: the God who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and all that is in them. The Psalm echos this when it says Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to your name give glory.
This is why it is important to listen carefully to what we hear, because not everything we hear gives glory to God. Society today turns the focus to self rather than God. It is always what I want, how I want it, when I want it. When someone teaches us to go ahead and continue doing what we do because God loves us any way, when someone does not teach us the need to respond to God’s love by keeping an eye at his word, then that person is not glorifying God. To use what Jesus said yesterday, that person is a thief, who comes to steal, to kill and destroy. They steal from us because they deprive us of our inheritance: eternal life of peace and joy with God. They kill because by not turning us back to God, they let us live in mortal sin which separates us from God and kills our soul. They destroy completely because when we die separated from God, the consequence is eternal damnation.
Let us keep an eye on the commandments. Is it difficult? Yes. Does it require a lot of sacrifice? Yes. Does it require me to give up a lot of things? Yes, everything! Yes, we will fail. But when we return the Jesus, he will accept us and heal us.
Lord, I come to you, wanting to keep an eye on your word. I will fail Lord, but I know, you have sent your Holy Spirit to lead me back gently to you. I reject my sins. I do not want them. I do not need them and Lord, in your name, I condemn them to hell because all I want is you. Holy Spirit, come and lead me to Jesus.