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The Obedience of Love

Easter 6
Acts 10:44-48 • Ps. 98
1 John 5:1-6 • John 15:9-17

Knowing that the grace of the Holy Spirit had fallen upon foreign nations, hearing them speak in tongues and glorifying God, Peter responds. Indeed, “he commands them to be baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus” (Acts 10:48). Not offended by his forthright words, they obey to the letter and “ask Peter to remain with them a few days.” Peter acts as an Abba, a spiritual father commissioned with authoritative words. His words compel obedience and invite a deeper listening. “Stay with us a few days.”

The lesson from John’s gospel and the pericope from the First Epistle of John connect the words commandment and love, almost as if they are interchangeable.

“Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ, is born of God; and everyone who loves the parent loves the child” (1 John 5:1) “For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments” (1 John 5:3). Love is carried out with fidelity and obedience toward both the parent and the child, that is, toward God and all those who are born of God. Commandment is coupled with love, suggesting what William of St. Thierry famously called the obedientia amoris (the obedience of love), a love which exceeds mere “imperious authority of constraining necessity” (The Golden Epistle §240).

In this sense, obedience has a natural flow; personal desire is transformed by the inward grace of love. One who is born of God wants to obey, wants to remain in the current of love. There is a sense of ease. “His commandments are not heavy” (1 John 5:3). Those born from God conquer the world through the power of Christ. Baptized and frequenting the Lord’s Table, the children of God are ever new through water and ever strengthened through blood (1 John 5:6). Christ’s victorious inward presence is love and love’s obedience. For love asks, What does my beloved want?

The gospel text tells us twice, “This is my commandment, that you love one another” (John 15:12,17). Verse 12 adds “as I have loved you.” Thus the commandment to love can only be understood through a deep meditation on Christ’s love for us. Christ explains that his love is rooted in love itself, love’s source being the Father. “In precisely the way the Father has loved me, I have loved you” (John 15:9). The Father’s love is an unrestrained outpouring of divine life into the Son, such that the Son is light from light, true God from true God, the exegesis of the Father (John 1:18). All that the Son “hears” from the Father he makes known, and thus the Son’s love imitates the Father. The Son does not edit the Father, but lives from every divine word he hears. The Son speaks the Word. In the fullness of time, the Son “gives his life for his friends” (John 15:13). Love never ends.

The problem! How do we get ourselves in the current of love, so that the love of the Son for us gets into us? How do we desire the very thing God commands? There are a million sacramentals and God will do what God will do. Still, there are some reliable old tools. Prayer, meditation, works of mercy, frequent and devoted communion at the Lord’s Table, Scripture reading. Draw near to Christ with a humble and honest heart. “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.” Let love form you, let love inspect your desires, let love speak the truth, and let love live in you.

Look It Up
Read John 15:10. The Father gives commands and the Son is happy to keep them in a perfect communion of love.

Think About It
Love’s obedience may be high or low. Write this meditation. Feed the dog.


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