Sunday’s reading from the Gospel of St. John invites us to think about something else that shouldn’t be stuck on: love for Jesus and for one another. In our reading from John’s Gospel, Jesus tells his followers that those who love him will keep his word — follow him faithfully. That means we need not make a fake commitment but a real one.
In calling us to follow him, Jesus wasn’t necessarily calling for feelings but rather for actions. Jesus talks about “keeping” — keeping his commandments, keeping his word, keeping his words . “Keeping” is a verb, an action word.
In this context, Jesus’ commandments, Jesus’ word and Jesus’ words are all synonyms that refer to the totality of what Jesus says and reveals about God and about himself. If we love Jesus, we aren’t necessarily feeling an ocean of emotion, but we’re working to apply his example and his teachings about God to all our daily lives. As one commentary puts it, “To love Jesus is to keep his commandments. To keep his commandments is to love Jesus.”
It is significant that Jesus’ statement about keeping his words has a future tense cast to it. It isn’t stated as an order — “If you love me, keep my words” — but — “If you love me, you will keep my words.” That distinction is important, for it means that applying Jesus’ teachings will flow naturally out of our commitment for him. It is much like saying if you love your spouse, you’ll think of good ways to show it. It will happen naturally.
The actions we take in Jesus’ name flow out of our inner nature. Not our unredeemed inner nature, not the nature we were born with, but the nature we were reborn with. In other words, the action flows out of our commitment to keep Jesus’ words.