If you’ve ever been in a relationship, you know that, even the best have some expectations. Each partner is expected to do certain things, perform certain duties, show their affection in certain ways. I learned this early in life – in the 2nd grade. I learned all about relationships from my 2nd grade girlfriend, Claudia.
There I was, minding my own business when a note landed on my desk. I looked up to see Claudia passing by on her way to the pencil sharpener. Checking to make sure no one was looking (you know how teachers are – “Mr. Freeman, perhaps you would like to share that note with the whole class?”), I opened it:
“I like you.
Do you like me?
Check yes or no.
___ yes ____ no”
Yes. I am the guy George Strait wrote the song about! As she sharpened her pencil, Claudia was “staring a hole through” me, nodding her head. She meant “check yes or no now.”
I checked yes, of course. What self-respecting, 2nd grade, man-about-town would not? What would Greg Brady do? As easy as that – I had a girlfriend! We executed a flawless hand-off on her way back to her desk. That was that! Or so I thought.
A few weeks later, at the Halloween Carnival, I was taking in the “Haunted House” (Which we all knew was Mrs. McCool’s fourth grade classroom. We weren’t dummies!). Someone grabbed my arm as I was leaving the “Brains and Eyeballs” room. They pulled me behind the curtain just before the empty coffin room (special thanks to Collier-Butler Funeral Home for the donation). It was Claudia’s older, much tougher sister, Lisa.
“You the kid who likes my sistah?” I should tell you, at this point, that Claudia and her family were new to our school. They “weren’t from around here” as we might say. “I hear they’re from New York,” I heard my mother and friends say.
“We need to tuwahlk. We don’t think you’re paying her enough attention, if you know what I mean.”
“We? We who?” I stammered.
“The family. Her sistahs,” she answered, putting her arm around my shoulder, walking me toward the next curtain (mannequin dressed like Dracula, thanks to Hagedorn’s Department store). “We want you to be nice to Claudia, you know? Walk with her. Sit with her at lunch. Talk to her at recess. Maybe you could give her your turn on the teetah-tottah.”
“The see-saw, moron!” We had arrived at the back window of the classroom and Lisa motioned out to the bike rack. “Do you know my boyfriend?”
Burt. Oh sure, I knew Burt. A sixth-grader. He was a Patrol Boy. If “Star Wars” existed in 1971, Patrol Boys would have been “Stormtroopers” and Burt “Darth Vader.” No one messed with Patrol Boys, with their helmets and badges and those yellow flags on those long, bamboo poles. They ruled the parking lot – before and after school.
As Burt looked at us through the window, Lisa gave an almost imperceptible nod. Burt held up a yellow Ticonderoga pencil – and snapped it in half!
“I’m glad we’ve had this little tuwahlk,” Lisa said. Turning me to face her and patting my cheek, she ended “I think we’ve come to an understanding. You have fun out there tonight.”
Love has expectations. It should come as no surprise. If you love someone, you act in certain ways – hopefully without the threat of a 6th grade tough guy. Yet, we Christians are fond of saying that Jesus’ love is unconditional; there are no conditions placed on his love for us. That’s true. We never earn Christ’s love. He died for us “while we were yet sinners, that proves God’s love for us.”
But, there are certain ways that we Christians should act once we profess our love for Christ. In his last moments with the disciples, Jesus talked about that – about how to act once we enter a relationship with him:
John 14:15-21 (CEB)
15 “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. 16 I will ask the Father, and he will send another Companion,[a] who will be with you forever. 17 This Companion is the Spirit of Truth, whom the world can’t receive because it neither sees him nor recognizes him. You know him, because he lives with you and will be with you.
18 “I won’t leave you as orphans. I will come to you. 19 Soon the world will no longer see me, but you will see me. Because I live, you will live too. 20 On that day you will know that I am in my Father, you are in me, and I am in you. 21 Whoever has my commandments and keeps them loves me. Whoever loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them and reveal myself to them.”
“If you love me, you will keep my commandments . . .” That was hard enough for the twelve guys who walked around with Jesus for three years. Time and time again, they messed up. They misinterpreted Jesus’ words. They got self-righteous, argued about status, got scared. If they couldn’t do it, how are we supposed to?
Once we profess our love for Jesus, there are expectation placed in us, namely “keep his commandments.” Do what he says to do!
We’re not doing a very good job of it. Do I have to remind you of the hate and fear that passes for Christian action. I cannot conceive how those who profess love for Christ can spew such hate for God’s children. If they proclaim to follow Christ, then they conveniently forget his call to feed, house, and care for the “least of these.” Some who claim to be Christian pray out loud as the Publican in Luke 18 – “Lord, thank you that I am not like them!”
Elsewhere, John writes a letter (1 John 4) and explains more about the expectations of love:
- People who love Christ aren’t afraid: “There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear, because fear expects punishment. The person who is afraid has not been made perfect in love.”
- This love doesn’t start with us, it comes from God. “We love because God first loved us. 20 If anyone says, I love God, and hates a brother or sister, he is a liar, because the person who doesn’t love a brother or sister who can be seen can’t love God, who can’t be seen. 21 This commandment we have from him: Those who claim to love God ought to love their brother and sister also.”
Good news! Jesus will not leave us to do this “commandment following” all by ourselves. He speaks of another Companion. He, of course, is the first “companion.” The Holy Spirit is the other one. Everything the Holy Spirit will do is something that Jesus has already done.
This chapter begins with Jesus saying, among other things, that he is “the way, the truth and the life.” That word, translated as “way,” also means “practice.” Jesus isn’t entirely a “path” to God, but the actual behaviors the practice of holiness.
If we wish to know how to “keep his commandments,” we must simply go back and read the gospels. Then, act as Jesus acted. Tall order, but one that we never do alone
We fulfill these expectation with the help of others. Hebrews 10:24-25 (Amplified Bible) says:
And let us consider and give [d]attentive, continuous care to watching over one another, studying how we may stir up (stimulate and incite) to love and helpful deeds and noble activities,
25 Not forsaking or neglecting to assemble together [as believers], as is the habit of some people, but admonishing (warning, urging, and encouraging) one another, and all the more faithfully as you see the day approaching.
Not only do we have spiritual help, we ought also to have the help of our brothers and sisters in Christ!
This leads me to a question – for whom am I this kind of Companion? If I am called to follow the commandments of Christ, and he is sending a Companion to help me, then how do I help others? How do I “stir up, stimulate, and incite” others to “love and helpful deeds and noble activities?”
If one of the functions of the Holy Spirit is to prevent us from being “orphaned,” then it stands to reason that we are to be each other’s Companions, or advocates. Emilie Townes, Dean of the Divinity School at Vanderbilt University, says we need friends who “tell us when they see pieces of us drifting away.”
Not only ought we try to be each others’ Companions, but we ought to seek out those people who could be our Companions.
In doing so, we would truly live a life like Christ, not lording our holiness over one another, not intimidating one another into compliance, but accompanying others along the way of Jesus.