I’ve just been reading the final discourse of Jesus (John 14-16) and was struck by the theme of love.
1. Love is key to knowledge
John 14:22-24: Judas (not Judas Iscariot, but the other disciple with that name) said to him, “Lord, why are you going to reveal yourself only to us and not to the world at large?” Jesus replied, “All who love me will do what I say. My Father will love them, and we will come and make our home with each of them. Anyone who doesn’t love me will not obey me.
The prerequiste for knowledge is love. This was the arugment of Augustine. Jesus reveals himself to those who love him. The Father makes his home in those who love him. Knowledge is relational. We know this from human interaction. We disclose to people we love and trust. Knowing someone in a significant way goes hand in hand with loving someone.
There is a counter-truth: those who do not love God can never truly know him.
This means knowing God begins not with investigation, study or philosophy. It begins with love ad obedience. It begins with the fear of the LORD.
2. Love is key to obedience
John 15:9-16: “I have loved you even as the Father has loved me. Remain in my love. When you obey my commandments, you remain in my love, just as I obey my Father’s commandments and remain in his love. I have told you these things so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow! This is my commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you. There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command … is my command: Love each other.”
Again we are in the territory of Augustine who (along with Luther) said: Love God and do what you want. Love creates genuine obedience. The alternate form of obedience is legalism. But legalism is self-serving. The legalist obeys for what obedience brings to them. Love obeys for the sake of the other – for the sake of God – and only that is true obedience.
And again there is a counter-truth: the world hates Jesus and it hates his followers (15:18-25).
3. Love is key to mission
Here we are straying somewhat from the final discourse:
John 13:34-35: “So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.”
John 17:20-26: “… I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one—as you are in me, Father, and I am in you. And may they be in us so that the world will believe you sent me … May they experience such perfect unity that the world will know that you sent me and that you love them as much as you love me … I have revealed you to them, and I will continue to do so. Then your love for me will be in them, and I will be in them.”
The world will know as Christians love. If love is key to knowledge then love is also key to apologetics.