In today’s Gospel passage, Jesus commands His disciples to “abide in me.” A few verses later, he says, “Abide in my love.” In the church, we talk about God’s love a great deal. But a lot of this God-is-love talk glosses over how costly that love is—not just for Jesus, but for us, too.

Right after Jesus tells the disciples to abide in His love, He says: “If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love.” And then: “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.” To abide in Jesus’ love, we must love others, as John points out repeatedly in today’s epistle.

Sometimes it is easy to love. Sometimes it is not. But easy or not, Jesus commands us to love. And His love is costly. It’s not about self-fulfillment or having my needs met. It’s not, actually, about me.

Such love is foreign to contemporary sensibilities. We have been brainwashed—I include myself here—to believe that we deserve to feel good, to be happy, to be fulfilled. And if we don’t feel good, are unhappy, are unfulfilled, then it is our bounden duty to change our circumstances.

And perhaps our circumstances do need to change. But we focus on the wrong circumstances: our lame job or our unhappy marriage or our bratty kids or our lousy apartment/neighborhood/church/city/whatever. Those aren’t the circumstances that we need to change. We need to change where our hearts live: are they abiding in Jesus’ love?

All this can get overwhelming quickly. But take heart: every act of love–a gentle touch on my son’s head, biting my tongue when I’m angry, hugging my daughter when she’s pitching a fit–draws us a little closer to Jesus’ love, leads us a little deeper into identification with him, the ultimate Lover, who suffered a Passion of Love most of us cannot even imagine. In our every act of love, however large or small, whether it feels costly or free, we abide in Christ.

The lectionary readings for the Fifth Sunday of Easter:
Acts 8: 26-40
Psalm 22:25-31
1 John 4:7-21
John 15:1-8