There are hearts that are hard enough to resist the forces of wrath and the fury of pride. But hard is the heart that can resist the warm flame of Love. In his own way, Solomon seemed to understand this, as he shares in his love story in Song of Solomon 8:6, 7a. There is a strong fire-like passion in love. There are times when we “feel the love”…and at other times, perhaps, “not so much.” Solomon explains that the strength of commitment is like a seal over the heart and on the arm. The seal is a symbolic reminder of the commitment of love. The seal could be likened to steel for any relationship, and should be so…particularly for the marriage relationship. Our commitment to love another is to be like solid steel. Even though we may not always “feel” like love is present…it is not about feelings most of the time. Feelings ebb and flow like the tide, but the solid steel commitment to love should our foundation for life. These are Jesus’ final hours with His disciples, and so He wants them to understand matters of genuine importance. So, it should not be a surprise that “love” is at the center of it.
The story of the Bible is about relationship…it is about how God chooses to befriend mankind and bring salvation. The basis for our loyalty as Christians is founded upon this very principle. It is because of the love of the Father that He shares with us through His Son, as seen in John 15:12-17, that we are even able to understand genuine love and commitment. As John tells us in chapter four of his first letter – it is not how much we love God that makes the difference for our lives, but how much we truly understand that God loves us. He has granted us a multi-faceted special relationship with His Son. He is Savior because of His sacrifice on the cross on our behalf in order to take away our sins…and because His sacrifice is empowered by the resurrection, we are able to live eternally. He is Brother, as Jesus shares in Matthew 12:50, “For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven, he is my brother.” He is also Lord, which means that He is to be our Master. As His bond-servants we Christians take our marching orders from Him! In this passage, Jesus offers yet another form of relationship. He calls His disciples His friends (v.14). We who are His disciples, likewise, are His friends. Jesus’ relationship with His friends is based upon love and respect, as well as knowledge. This should be the primary concern of Christianity at its most fundamental and important level – it is about a relationship with Jesus. As His friends, the disciples are able to interact with Jesus and get to know Him, “What we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we beheld and our hands handled concerning the Word of life…” (1 John 1:1ff) Jesus let His disciples in on His plans, which included their call to become apostles who would go out and spread the gospel message. God loves you and me and He wants us to be a part of His family for eternity.
Jesus’ also shares concerning how important it is that His disciples be selfless…to love as He loved. This is called, agape, or unconditional love. Commitment to unconditional love seeks to put others first…serving without expecting anything in return. This is the new commandment as seen in 13:34-35. Jesus says, “This is my commandment,” which is not necessarily to be taken as an exclusive command (although, I do not necessarily have a problem with it), but it is the primary commandment. This old commandment has been reshaped in a way that only Christians can understand and assimilate it – “love one another, even as I have loved you.” “Greater love” indicates the ultimate love for disciples…that they would be willing to lay down their lives for their friends, and perhaps others. All of this adds a whole new dimension to the commandment -- sacrifice. Jesus’ love is sacrificial. He willingly laid down His life as the Sacrificial Lamb for all mankind…including those who were His enemies. Many of us would lay down our lives for our family and perhaps for some close friends, but we would not do so for all, and certainly not for those who would hate us or mistreat us. While we may not ever be called upon to literally lay down our lives as the early disciples did, we must be prepared to do so. And we must be prepared to continually give ourselves in service to our Lord and Savior. Jesus and His disciples had to learn to live beyond their comfort zones. Should we be any different? Sacrificial love has a cost. This is the commitment of love…this is the “steel” that is supposed to be a part of our lives. We are to live lives of service, building relationships with one another, and others, to the building up of the Kingdom of God.
We live in a pragmatic world that is governed by many other things than agape. Loyalties have been divided concerning a principle where loyalty is critical. Agape is not to be “optional” but “imperative.” Genuine love is necessary in order that the church may prosper and grow…but it comes at a cost. It may cost us time, energy, some spirit, but nothing that does not come back to us as a far greater reward. When we come together, we may see some evidence of agape, but being friendly and shaking hands does not necessarily mean that we are committed to one another, the body of Christ, or to Christ himself. Jesus paid the price so that we could overcome shallow ups and downs…so that we could survive “the feelings” of love…ultimately, so that we could experience “the commitment” of love -- agape. Be willing to live a life committed to genuine love…to living life abundantly…and do not settle for something less. Loyalty to the Savior and His body is the steel that is going to grow and prosper our spiritual lives as well as the Kingdom of God.