We Have No Other Choice

In an article published in March of this year in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, it was discovered that it takes about 90 hours to make friends. They studied different groups of people like students or those who have recently moved, and the researchers took careful note that friendships are not unilateral. One does not simply have a friendship with another or not, there are levels. There are acquaintances and casual friends, there are strong friends and best friends; each level requires a different amount of time to be spent. In the findings of this study, it came about that it takes about 50 hours in time spent together to move from acquaintance to casual friend, about 90 hours to have a strong friendship, and about 200 hours to move to a close or best friend.

Our passage picks up in the gospel according to John from last week’s text on being part of the vine and the branches, and Jesus names the disciples as friends. There’s no doubt that by this point in Jesus’ life and ministry that the disciples had spent more than 90 hours with Jesus. Yet, Jesus still names them as friends; their relationships has shifted from teacher-student or master-slave to a deep, love-filled friendship.

Friendships require something of us. Friendships require us to, even if only a little bit, to reorient our lives to another person. Friendships require us to let our lives be shaped not solely by our own intentions, but to also consider our friends when we make choices about how we spend our lives.

In preaching and praying through the gospel according to John, it feels a little bit like listening to a broken record, because for John there is s no single thing greater or more important than love. In our passage, John lauds the love found between friends as some of the greatest of the great.

While the study published a couple of months ago puts forth that it takes about 90 hours to become friends, there is a caveat. These hours can be hours engaged in activity or in a comfortable silence, but they have to be chosen hours; hours that you choose to spend time with the new friend shape how the friendship develops.

In naming the disciples as friends, Jesus asserts that they did not choose him, but that he chose them. This is of course, not entirely true; no friendship is one-sided, dictated by another’s choice, but there is something beautiful that this captures. There is a gift in being chosen. The disciples are chosen friends of Jesus in that he wants to invest in them. Jesus naming the disciples as friends indicates that their relationship is not solely about Jesus being their savior, but is also a relationship full of a love that must be experienced and felt, not just told.

There is a gift in being chosen. The disciples in the gospel according to John are enigmatic of all those who choose to follow Christ. Jesus did not just choose those disciples, but Jesus also chooses us. There is a gift in being chosen, but there is a responsibility as well. Being chosen by Jesus as friends and followers, we step into that relationship and the choices that we make become markedly more limited.

While we of course still have free will, our choices as those who follow Jesus are much more limited. Not limited by a lack of freedom, but we, as friends and followers of Christ, often have no other choice. We have been chosen, and we have no other choice.

We have no other choice than to love like Jesus loved. Jesus gives two commands in this passage to love one another and to abide in his love. As people chosen by Christ, we must love like Jesus loved. We do not get to choose who we love; because we are chosen by Christ, we must love all with the love of Christ.

We have no other choice than to let our joy be complete in Christ. Joy is something that arises out of a deep love. We abide in Jesus’s love as Jesus abides in the Father’s love, and this is where our joy rests. Our Christian joy is not the fleeting happiness of a temporal need being met, but our joy is deep, abiding, and powerfully rooted in the love of Christ.

And we have no other choice than to believe in the hope of the resurrection. Our hope rises from the grave just as Jesus did on that third day. Our hope is not a shallow hope; our hope has lived, died, and has been risen. Our hope finds it’s grounding in the truth that Christ lived, loved, died, and rose from the grave. Our hope is a hope that shapes the love we give and it is rooted in the love of Christ.

Because we are chosen, we have no other choice than to love all we meet with the love of Christ. But love is not easy; so when we fail to extend this love to all, we must hold onto the joy of made complete in Christ, and when we fail, we must believe in the hope and power of the resurrection. It will not always be easy to love all with the love of Christ, but we have no other choice.

A sermon delivered to the people of Christ Episcopal Church in Bowling Green, KY on Easter 6B, May 6, 2018 on John 15:9-17.

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