Love that “Abides”

- Sam B. Sears

“Abide” is one of those Christianese words, we often use in churches. It’s used even by those of us who don’t regularly preach from the King James Version of the Bible. We still cling to the word, especially if we understand what it means. “Abide” is used 134 times in the New Testament, and it’s an incredibly important concept. It means simply “to continue in,” or “to stay connected.”

John 15:4-6 says this

4 Abide in Me, and I in you.

As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine,

so neither can you unless you abide in Me.

5 I am the vine, you are the branches;

he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit,

for apart from Me you can do nothing.

6 If anyone does not abide in Me,

he is thrown away as a branch and dries up;

and they gather them,

and cast them into the fire and they are burned (NASB)

Jesus is concerned that we maintain our connection with Him. It’s not a one and done check on a piece of paper (such as a church roll) nor is it just a simple set of words spoken one time, like a spell. Life with Jesus, salvation itself, involves a deep commitment and is demonstrated by an ongoing relationship.

Our culture has a different view on “Love.” We are limited by using the English word “love” for so many related, but distinct, concepts for which our language doesn’t provide clarity. The Greeks would know multiple words for what we call “love.” With Valentine’s Day this month, it is a wonderful time to reflect upon what love really is. 

Jesus gives us an instruction in John 13:34 “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.” That phrase “even as I have loved you” should elevate our understanding of love. It can’t just be what the Greeks would call “eros,” or erotic attraction. Yes, there is a place for that, in marriage, and it’s wonderful; but even within marriage, that alone isn’t what God calls us to. There are also distinctions in Greek for brotherly and familial love. Those aren’t it, either. God is calling us to sacrificial, “agape” love — love that ABIDES.

Our culture starts and stops relationships too frequently. They are physical and emotional, but they often are not covenantal. By covenantal, I also mean contractual. It may sound cold, at first, but our culture has wired us to seek passion in the moment over something more substantial and long lasting. Right now, I’m trying to dramatically cut back on my Mountain Dew intake. I love the soda for its caffeine, and for its taste, but I’m not loving the long-term effect. I don’t live on a farm anymore, and haven’t in years, so I can’t work off all those extra calories. So, I’m trying to think longer term and be a little healthier. I’d encourage you to do the same in love, as that’s what the Bible wants us to do.

A Christian marriage, a healthy marriage, isn’t always going to be fun in the moment. Couples fight. That initial intensity of passion is there to help us bond, as God has wired the brain so that we literally get addicted to each other, like a drug. We must work to keep that bond strong. There will be mountains to climb along the way, but agape love is beautiful to give and to experience, and the victory of weathering storms is also beautiful. This idea — while counter cultural, and not “me” or consumer centered — results in something far more satisfying. This Valentine’s Day, if you are married, commit afresh to abiding in agape-loving your spouse. All of us — married and non — should be praying for one another to have great relationships; and we should be praying for the upcoming generation, sharing the wisdom and benefits of truly committed relationships, and praying for protection for them from our “hook-up” culture.

It is also pertinent to think of Christ’s love and our response. Are we loving as he loves… To our spouse? To one another as church family? To the world around us? What about God himself? Are we truly loving him back. This month is a wonderful time to reflect on love and who loves us. His very nature allowed John to declare, “God is Love.” (1 John 4:8) Are we abiding? 

Originally printed in the February 2019 FCC Newsletter