“Abide in me: and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abide in the vine, so neither can you, unless you abide in me… for without me you can do nothing.” -John 15.4
The word “abide” takes on various meanings; many of which I found very relevant to what Jesus says in John 15:4.
I would like to focus on three of these meanings: faithfulness, acceptance and patience. These three things are what I believe will allow for the intimacy that Jesus spoke of in this verse. In order for love to flourish, both the Lover and the beloved must freely express these forms of intimacy to one another.
Being the perfect Lover, God did not wait to receive our love before gracing us with His: God loved (and continues to love) us into existence. He cradled us in His love from the moment we were conceived, and patiently waits until we return our love to Him. God knows that He is our lifeline, and if He were to leave us, we would die “for without Me you can do nothing.” God is faithful to us even when we ignore Him, hurt Him, and try to push Him away. He is generous with us even when we are selfish with Him. He is patient with us even when we falsely condemn Him. All God asks of us is to be faithful to Him- to love Him more than the gifts He graces us with. If you love someone simply for the things or feelings they give you, you do not really love the person, but the thing. If God loved us only when we give Him good things, we wouldn’t be alive right now. Faithfulness means to remain with another unconditionally, and that is what our loving God does for us.
God loves us just as we are. In all His perfection, God knows that we’re prone to failure. He knows that we can do nothing good or loving without His help. “The branch cannot bear fruit of itself.” He’s aware that we will often fail to even ask for His help. Yet, in all His perfection, He continues to love each and every one of us. We are called to accept His perfect will, even when we don’t understand it. When I was little, I heard a song called “Do It ‘Cause Daddy Says So.” It’s about a young child whose father asks her to take her usual nap rather early in the day. After she wakes up, her daddy surprises her with tickets for the circus for that afternoon. The father knew that if he had told his daughter about the circus before her nap, she would be too excited to sleep. Then, she wouldn’t have been rested enough to enjoy her surprise that afternoon. The little girl had to trust her father’s judgment, even though he did not offer any explanations at the time. In the same way, we are called to accept and trust in God’s judgment. Being mere humans, we tend to dismiss the people God places in our lives and the challenges we are called to overcome, as “needless obstacles.” God is asking you to embrace those things, and to use them to grow in intimacy with him.
Patience (or Tolerance):
Being the extravagant Lover He is, God reigns over us with infinite patience for all our shortcomings. He illustrated this patient love when He stepped down from Heaven to teach us how to love Him on earth. When we were too slow to learn His lesson of love, Jesus suffered. He suffered tremendously when we mutilated His precious body on the tree He created for our enjoyment. He endured excruciating pain when He was rejected by His beloved. How then, could we ever learn to love Jesus as purely as He loves us? Do as He did: love until it hurts. Tolerate the people you usually can’t stand. Stand firm even in the face of pain or suffering or heartbreak. Reject the pleasures of this world so vehemently, so that you may be drawn closer to your Saviour. Offer to God everything you do each day- the tests you take, the meals you prepare, the work you perform. At all times, invite God to abide in you, and you in Him.