In this week’s gospel Jesus says that those who have come to love him will keep his word. His comment may sound backwards, but it isn’t. As a rule, we pay closer attention to folks we find attractive.
Christians have been telling one another, and anyone else who would listen, to love Jesus for over two millennia. It begs the question, what does it mean to love someone we’ve never met? There are several ways to answer the question.
Loving Jesus can mean that knowing how deeply he valued and cared for everyone and what a forgiving person he was, we find him very attractive. We can imagine him so intensely that we begin to have an emotional response to the character of Jesus. In Christian circles this knowing and responding to the story, or gospel, of Jesus is seen as a gift of God’s Spirit. Given that understanding, we’ve actually come to love the person of Jesus in the presence of his Spirit.
There is another way of thinking about our relationship with Jesus. His Spirit, the presence of God that guided him throughout his life guides everyone today who continues to live his way. When someone touches us with forgiveness, caring, acceptance, generosity and true respect, we are touched by God’s Spirit, Jesus’ Spirit. When we find ourselves responding with love to a community or person who treats us as Jesus treated people and is therefore guided by the Spirit of Jesus, we can well say that we love Jesus.
Everyday life is filled with the Spirit of Jesus. When we are touched by it and encouraged by it, respond to it and then carry it to others we not only love Jesus, we become Jesus. We extend Jesus’ life through time and space. Paul taught that and the gospels taught that. No need to look for trumpets and angels; simply loving Jesus we become Jesus and we move the world a bit closer to its real future.