We saw in yesterday’s reading that the key word to missional theology is dwelling. The dwelling place of God is not a physical location, but the dynamic relationship between God, Jesus, and the disciples.
But, how do we do that?
Today’s reading, John 14:11-21, gives us the key to dwelling. It has two parts:
- It is all about LOVE. Jesus said that if you obey his commandments then you will dwell with God and God will dwell with you. What are Jesus’ commandments? Love one another. That’s it. If we make our whole life mission to be about loving one another, rather than protecting ourselves, then God will be set loose amongst us. This is how we will be able to do even greater things than Jesus did. Imagine a world in which everyone was actually looking out for the good of everyone else. There would be no more war, no more hunger, etc. The dwelling place of God.
- We need a helper. Here’s the problem. We can’t do it. We cannot simply choose to obey God’s law and love each other with the love of God. Martin Luther called it the Bondage of the Will. We, individually and collectively as a race, are so trapped in our destructive tendencies that we cannot free ourselves. We need someone who can stand beside us. We need someone who will defend us and speak for us against our accusers and declare that we are good and worthy of receiving God’s love and able to give God’s love. This is the Spirit of Truth.
Jesus calls the Spirit the Advocate. Other versions translate it helper or counselor. The Greek word is Paraclete. It literally means one who is called alongside. It has a legal connotation and is like the defense lawyer who speaks for you and defends you against your accusers.
This is such an interesting term, especially in light of the fact that we are currently reading Mark 1 in our parallel devos. Jesus spent forty days being tempted by the Satan, the adversary. Do you see what is happening here? Our accuser is not God. I believe that our enemy, our accuser and adversary, is shame. We constantly tell ourselves that we are not worthy of God’s love so we guard ourselves with either self-loathing or pumped up false-pretenses. We hide our true self from the world and from God and cannot receive or give love. The Advocate, the Spirit of truth, steps in beside us and speaks the truth about who we are. We are children of God. Yes, we have done heinous things. Yes they are bad and justice needs to be served to insure a good and trustworthy world. Yet, God’s love is constant and can heal and restore all things. And, most importantly, we are worthy of God’s love, because God created us.
Today, as you navigate your world, imagine a defense attorney standing next to you. She is strong, tender, and confident that you deserve to have your worth proclaimed to the world. “Here, beside me,” she declares to the court, “is a child of God; a beautiful creation of God who deserves to be loved and is able to give love.”
This is the truth, my friend. The key to God’s kingdom is to realize that you cannot do this on your own, but to trust that the Spirit of Truth is there, You have a helper, an advocate, a counselor. You are loved and you can love others. In this we can dwell with God and each other.