John 15:17 NKJV
Greetings from the piney woods of East Texas! I’m Elizabeth Baker with a word of encouragement of your Monday.
As a writer, I notice things like verb tenses and plural nouns and misplaced modifiers. I suppose that’s why it jarred me a bit when I realized I had read John 15:17 hundreds of times and never noticed the plurality of “things” and the singleness of “love.” While grammatically correct, I found the contrast curious. How was this statement different than Jesus’ statement in verse twelve when He said His “commandment” (singular) was for His disciples to love one another?
A singular command would have been enough. No questions. No room for argument. Just do it. But in this verse Jesus refers to many commands. It is as though He said, “Look at it all. Listen to it all. Follow it all, and learn to love.” Part of “all” were surely the His examples for these were how He demonstrated the commands at work in everyday life.
When it comes to love, one of the most powerful examples had occurred only hours earlier. The disciples had been arguing on the road to Jerusalem. They maneuvered for position and split into fractions. Who was the most important? Who deserved the greatest honor? Their actions were anything but loving.
For three and a half years their Master had talked of love, but these hard-headed humans didn’t seem to get it. So, when they got to where they were going, He demonstrated love. He took off his robe, wrapped a towel around His waist and one by one washed their feet. He was their servant. He loved them by putting them first.
Love is an attitude. Love is a pliable nature and humble spirit. It isn’t enough to observe a commanded action then check it off the list. Love is a habit; a way of life. Love makes the way easy for someone else. Love offers humble service. It is many things we do; many things we say.
February is a month of love with a celebration of romantic love right in the middle. In America, we celebrate love by giving flowers and cards and candy while retailers make a profit. This is not bad. Romantic love should be celebrated. But a far more true and accurate celebration of real love occurs when a weary mother puts her own need for rest aside and feeds a baby. Love is celebrated when a wealthy businessman resist the temptation to expand his marketing in order to give a bonus to the workers. Love takes flight when a spouse sticks with a difficult marriage believing it’s best for the children.
No wonder Jesus used a plural noun. Expressions of love are as varied as human experience. Every command He gave, every example He left, are all ways of loving and much, much more. Anytime one person puts their own comfort, benefit, desires aside in order to lift another up, there is love. It is the essence of “these things” as Jesus commanded.