How is your relationship with Jesus? | Charles Auld
The Vine and the Branches
1 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 2 He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. 3 You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. 4 Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.
5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. 7 If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.
9 “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. 10 If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. 11 I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. 12 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command. 15 I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. 16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. 17 This is my command: Love each other.
The World Hates the Disciples
18 “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. 19 If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. 20 Remember what I told you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also. 21 They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the one who sent me. 22 If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not be guilty of sin; but now they have no excuse for their sin. 23 Whoever hates me hates my Father as well. 24 If I had not done among them the works no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin. As it is, they have seen, and yet they have hated both me and my Father. 25 But this is to fulfil what is written in their Law: ‘They hated me without reason.’
Christianity would be a lot easier if it was just a matter of sticking to rules! You could work out how well you were doing – for example reading your Bible every day, giving away one-tenth of your income… And you could compare yourself with how well anyone else was doing.
But it’s not like that. And Jesus even told parable about a Pharisee and a tax collector to warn against that approach. Rather than being all about rules, Christianity is about a relationship with Jesus Christ. Jesus gives us a picture of himself as a vine of which we are the branches. We remain in him and he in us, and as with all thriving vines, we get pruned from time to time.
We want to please those we love, so we don’t cheat on them or treat them violently – not because we know we should keep to the rules but simply because we love them. It’s the same with our relationship with Jesus – we want to do what pleases him, from love rather than from rule-keeping.
As with a human relationship, the one with Jesus cannot remain static if it is to deepen and mature. Just as in a good marriage, communication and honesty are needed for it to thrive.
Communication means time set aside for prayer, meditation and reading the Bible where we learn more of God’s heart’s desire for a relationship with each person.
Honesty means not pretending that everything’s alright when it isn’t. It means not being afraid to tell God how you feel. Darrell Tunningley had been a drug dealer and an armed robber. You can hear his story on YouTube, and how he didn’t pretend to God that he believed in him, but spoke to him honestly, saying ‘Lord if you are real, prove it. Take away my anger and bitterness and I’ll serve you for the rest of my life.’ You can watch YouTube to see what happened after that.
Jesus left us with a commandment: ‘Love each other as I have loved you’. That is challenging but is no more than what God the Father commanded him to do. Loving and supporting each other, doing small acts of kindness, is not an optional extra.
Who do you think Jesus is and what kind of relationship do you have with him?
You probably know the Prime Minister from seeing her on TV but she wouldn’t know you unless you had actually met. If it’s like that with you and Jesus, if you know about him but have never met with him, you could pray humbly: ‘Please can I now become your friend. Forgive me that I haven’t kept your commands and help me to do so.’
Perhaps you are questioning whether or not he exists. Then you could pray ‘Jesus if you really exist, prove it to me.’ If you say this genuinely, he will answer you.
As for those of you who already have a relationship with the risen Lord Jesus, by learning to keep his command to love one another you will strengthen the community you are part of, and find your relationship can deepen further.