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John 15:9-17

Just about all living things need oxygen in order to live, grow, and sustain their species. Human beings need oxygen for absolutely essential things like breathing, brain function, and even cell health. Consider this: When our blood oxygen saturation levels drop below 90% (hold on, I thought 90% was a good grade!) we are advised to seek medical attention immediately. We need a steady supply of oxygen in order to stay alive and healthy, plain and simple.

 

With this in mind I would like to present to you a simple association that has been at the front of my mind over the last several years in my life as a pastor, non-profit professional, husband, father, and neighbor:

 

Clarity is oxygen.

 

In life, how many of us enjoy being confused? Who out there actually likes moving forward (literally or figuratively) down an unknown and hardly-visible path? Is there anyone out there who routinely puts themselves in positions of complete uncertainty, on purpose?

 

Because I have both experienced it myself and witnessed it happen to others, I know how lack of clarity in one’s self, or one’s career, or one’s relationships, or one’s future, can be completely debilitating. Disorienting. Suffocating.

 

Many times as Christians we find ourselves deeply concerned with doing exactly what God would want us to do with our lives, and since God has not been known to send very specific emails to us telling us what we should do with our days, we cautiously move forward. As each day passes we hope with everything in us that God is not looking down on us from heaven and adding tally marks to our life’s ‘good job’ and ‘bad job’ performance charts.

 

When we lack clarity we lose confidence in ourselves; our worry and anxiety increases; we may even start making up things that are not true about God. Just like lack of oxygen messes with the human body, lack of clarity messes with us, too.

 

This passage from the Gospel of John is surrounded by plenty of other passages that would most certainly have come across as ‘less-than-clear’ to their original hearers and early readers. Consider the lack of clarity in Jesus’ predictions of betrayal and denial (13:18-38), or Jesus promising a ‘spirit’ (14:15-31), or Jesus referring to himself as a ‘vine’ with us as ‘branches’ (15:1-8). We are still trying to figure out who this guy even is, and now he is speaking in all of this coded language.

 

However, eventually, the dense fog clears and reveals – you guessed it – clarity from Jesus!

 

You will experience my love when you keep my commandments (v. 9-10)

 

I have said all of this so you would experience joy (v. 11)

 

My top priority for you all is to love one another (v. 12)

 

I consider you all my friends (v. 15)

 

All of my commands are designed to help you increase your love for one another (v. 17)

 

Today, we read these words with a post-resurrection framework, knowing that Jesus has in fact overcome death and ushered in the promise of new life in and under God’s power. The tomb is empty and the true light of the world has never shown brighter. Jesus has risen and has revealed everything we need to know to understand God, ourselves, one another, and the world around us.

 

We should not follow the commandments Jesus gives us with a motive of fear, but rather with a posture of pursuit for the love of Christ and the joy which results. In the same way, the commandments of Jesus should not be put on others with the intentions of yoking them to guilt, shame, or subordination.

 

Now we see that any words or frameworks that claim the influence of Jesus Christ, yet produce in us a hatred for others, are not actually of Jesus at all.

 

Although the deceivers of this world claim that any set of commands are too rigid and result in a lack of freedom (see Genesis 3:1-5), the same Jesus we are trusting with our lives after death can be trusted with our lives today as well.

 

Enemies of the Kingdom of God seek to cause confusion, however, the citizens of the Kingdom of God have been given a full portion of clarity.

 

In times of global unrest and national insecurity, let the Church not soon forget that it has been given an abundance of clarity from our Lord, and that we can trust our Lord with our lives.