The lessons for this particular Sunday give direction and encouragement to those who are going to follow and lead the Church in God’s mission to the whole world. If you love me, obey my commands. There is only one test of faith that matters in John’s Gospel – obedience. If you say that you love someone, then you will listen to what the person has to say and will do as the person asks. Therefore no one can say that they love someone else and then do things that would disregard, disrespect or event injure the loved one. And living in obedience to the command of Christ shows not only that we love him (and good religious people should love Christ), it also helps us to have opportunities to speak the good news to those who need to hear it in a way that will enable them to receive it with the grace and the love that God intends.
The Gospel needs to engage and enmesh with the culture we live in so that people can hear it. We as the Church need to model it so that people can see it, be drawn to it and then begin to live it. It does not mean that once they accept the good news that everything is all right, perfect and that they don’t need anything else, in fact the opposite is true. They need the Church more not less. This is where the Spirit works in the life of the Church. The Spirit enables the Church to “re-language” the Gospel so that the culture can hear what God is saying to them and to understand what God has done for them in sending his Son Jesus to us. This does not mean that the principles of the Gospel change to fit the culture but rather that the culture is challenged to change and be transformed.
And we need to recognize that we are not left behind to do this great thing on our own. We are guided by the person of the Holy Spirit. We are given another Advocate who will be with us and within us throughout our ministries. The Spirit is here to defend us against charges of serious nature, specially charges that would carry penalties like death. The Spirit enables the Church to defend (in the sense that Christians can actively proclaim) the good news of God in Christ when they are brought before people of position power to actively witness to the world that God is making things new. The Spirit witnesses to the people around us as to who God is and is for them through our own lives. Christians, as it was once said, are not perfect, just forgiven. The Spirit enables the people in the world to see and hear God through the Church as we live and move and have our being. The Spirit also draws people who would respond to the message to the Church and begins the transformation of lives that will not finish until they are made perfect in Christ at the end of this age. And last but certainly not least, the Spirit comes to us and within us to give us strength and to embolden us to be and to do what we need to be and to do that we would make the kingdom known in the world. The Spirit fills us with the love and the courage of Jesus that we might look, sound and act like Jesus.
It is noted in the lessons that no one usually suffers for going about and doing good for people. But if it were to happen, count yourself blessed and endure whatever it is you need to go through. None of us should shrink back from doing good nor should we avoid doing good even when it means there is a price to be paid for it. God calls us to love and to live with him and sometimes that means that there are moments when life and faith are going to be tested and refined. We have known such things in the past while through tornadoes, floods, earthquakes, fires. We have seen scandal in sporting events and in government. We are calling to continue loving God through the hard spots and tough times. And when we still our hearts we can hear God over the rolling of the thunder and the falling of the rain, “I am still with you” and we can say, “Amen.”