"I am the Real Vine and my Father is the Farmer. He cuts off every branch of me that doesn't bear grapes. And every branch that is grape-bearing he prunes back so it will bear even more. You are already pruned back by the message I have spoken.
"Live in me. Make your home in me just as I do in you. In the same way that a branch can't bear grapes by itself but only by being joined to the vine, you can't bear fruit unless you are joined with me.
"I am the Vine, you are the branches. When you're joined with me and I with you, the relation intimate and organic, the harvest is sure to be abundant. Separated, you can't produce a thing. Anyone who separates from me is deadwood, gathered up and thrown on the bonfire. But if you make yourselves at home with me and my words are at home in you, you can be sure that whatever you ask will be listened to and acted upon. This is how my Father shows who he is—when you produce grapes, when you mature as my disciples.
"I've loved you the way my Father has loved me. Make yourselves at home in my love. If you keep my commands, you'll remain intimately at home in my love. That's what I've done—kept my Father's commands and made myself at home in his love.
"I've told you these things for a purpose: that my joy might be your joy, and your joy wholly mature. This is my command: Love one another the way I loved you. This is the very best way to love. Put your life on the line for your friends. You are my friends when you do the things I command you. I'm no longer calling you servants because servants don't understand what their master is thinking and planning. No, I've named you friends because I've let you in on everything I've heard from the Father.
"You didn't choose me, remember; I chose you, and put you in the world to bear fruit, fruit that won't spoil. As fruit bearers, whatever you ask the Father in relation to me, he gives you.
"But remember the root command: Love one another.
Too often I think that following the way of Jesus will rob me of joy. The reality is the opposite. When we follow Jesus, intimately and organically, we experience a joy that is whole and mature.
It turns out that living a life where you pursue a subversive-gracious-love draws joy out of you.
Jesus says that the best way to love one another is to do so in the way that he loves. How did he love? Self-sacrificially.
I have been thinking a bit about this self-sacrificial love over the last few years. In some ways I think we understand what it means to love like Jesus. But, in some other ways I think we have lost the plot a little.
When you read through the gospels one of the things you will notice is that Jesus practices self-care throughout. He is consistently getting away on his own or with his closest friends. Jesus, while giving all of himself, makes sure there is something to give. Another way of saying this is, Jesus loved himself. When we begin to see the self-care of Christ we begin to understand that we can’t love others if we don’t have a love of self.
Many object at this point. “I am unlovable! This is selfish! This is self-centered non-sense! This is narcissism!” And the list can go on. I have heard them all. But, the fact remains to love like Jesus is to “love your neighbor as yourself.” To love like Jesus demands that we practice some sort of self-care to insure that we are not pouring from empty jars. We are, after all, jars of clay. I know that I give from a broken cistern and so I need to be intentional about keeping that cistern full.
My aunt and uncle live on a beautiful piece of property in central Illinois. It’s breathtaking! It is also one of the most relaxing places that I’ve been. There is endless coffee, endless scenery, and a quiet that fills your senses. However, their well has a tendency to run dry. They have tried and tried and tried to find the root cause but it has been elusive. Soon, they will be getting a cistern and that will help the water situation. But, when the well runs dry they have to add water to it. My uncle fills a water tank and replenishes the well.
Our lives are like that.
We will never, this side of glory, find all the leaks. Eventually, our wells will dry up. Therefore, we need to be intentional about self-care.
If we are going to love another and love with a subversive-gracious-love then we have to be caring for ourselves in such a way that allows us to be ready to love.