“Jesus said to his disciples: ‘As the Father loves me, so I also love you. Remain in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and remain in His love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and your joy may be complete. This is my commandment: love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. I no longer call you slaves, because a slave does not know what his master is doing. I have called you friends, because I have told you everything I have heard from my Father. It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain, so then whatever you ask the Father in my name he may give you. This I command you: Love one another.’” (John 15: 11-15)
`This passage is part of what we might consider the last will and testament of our Lord. It is part of his final words to his disciples, given at the Last Supper, after three years of ministry with them and to them. Beginning with chapter thirteen and only ending as Jesus begins praying in chapter seventeen, Jesus tells his disciples at length what he intends to leave to them (the Holy Spirit –“I will pray the Father and he will give you another Counselor, to be with you forever… I will not leave you desolate”) and what he asks of them (To carry on his mission – “as the Father sent me, so send I you”). The two bequests come together in the marvelous realization that the mission can only be accomplished through the power of the Holy Spirt (“ I am the vine, you are the branches. He that abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing”).
In the midst of it all there is a beautiful verse that stands out as pivotal: “It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you and appointed you.” They and we are disciples not primarily by our choice but by his. He chose us, called us, picked us, claimed us, drafted us – put it however you want, but remember that the initiative was his. Walking by the Sea of Galilee he saw Peter, Andrew, James and John and said “Follow me”. Their’s was only a response; they left their nets and followed. Walking by a tax booth, Jesus saw Levi and called to him; Levi left all and followed. Likewise, know it or not, each of us who follow him were first pursued by him, drafted by him, called by him, and our response is just that, a response. Baptism is the outward sign of his choosing, the physical tap on the shoulder and announcement that we have been claimed by him and belong to him. It is him incorporating us into himself and into his mission.
This has always been a beautiful thought for me. I have been chosen by God, deliberately chosen, to be on his team and to play for him. As boy who spent a childhood afraid he might not be chosen as we picked teams for sandlot baseball, nothing inspires me more than to play the best I can than to know that God really wants me on his team. He has chosen me and you to play for Him and we should be inspired by that to play the very best we can.
But for what exactly has he chosen us? William Barclay tells us that among other things we are chosen to be “ambassadors and advertisements”- to be sent out and to bear fruit:
“He did not choose us to live a life retired from the world, but to represent him in the world. When a knight came to the court of King Arthur, he did not come to spend the rest of his days in knightly feasting and in knightly fellowship there. He came to the king saying ‘Send me out on some great task’”
(That great task for us being the spread of the Gospel) .
“The way to spread Christianity is to be a Christian. The way to bring others into the Christian faith is to show them the fruit of the Christian life. Jesus sends us out , not to argue men into Christianity, still less to threaten them into it, but to attract them into it; so to live that its fruits may be so wonderful that others will desire them for themselves.” (Barclay, John, Vol II, p179)
Ultimately, if the vocation for which we are chosen is put into a single word, that word is “Love”: “A new commandment I give you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.” It is a commandment given multiple times in this “last will and testament” of our savior and we must know that is at the heart of all he asks of us. Love, in fact, is our calling. It may take different forms and may be expressed in different ways, but love IS our calling. Remember St Therese of Lisieux’s personal discovery after agonized seeking for her particular place, vocation, in God’s economy:
“At last I have found my vocation. In the heart of the Church I will be love!”
Would that we all should make the same discovery!
The command comes again and again and, lest we forget, once again: “This I command you: Love one another.”
Will we obey? We must. After all, we have been chosen and it is our calling.
Fred Durham is the President of Alighieri Press and serves as an author and speaker.