What does it mean to live in the love of God? I thought I lived in the United States, or in Texas, or in the city of Arlington. Is it possible to live in God’s love and, if so, how?
We learn that living in God’s love is possible on the basis of Jesus’ teaching. Jesus says, “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you; abide in my love” (Jn. 15:9). When we abide in something, we live there, we stay there. Jesus is teaching that the spiritual environment of his love is more permanent, more solid, and more real than any physical environment surrounding us.
Archbishop William Temple comments on the spiritual environment of God’s love. “The divine love, which is the Holy Ghost, is much more than a sheltering protection; rather it is a pervasive atmosphere in which we may dwell, and which we may breathe, so that it becomes the breath of our lives (see Jn. 20:22). We are to let that love wrap us about, enfolding us in its embrace.”
If that is the case, then we can learn to live in that love. Jesus tells us how to do this in his very next sentence in the passage. “If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love” (Jn. 15:10).
This can sound off-putting, given that keeping commandments sounds heavy and stifling to many of us. Archbishop Temple speaks powerfully to this. “We hold ourselves in that love [which is the Holy Spirit] by obedience; and the love is the power by which we obey. He had said If ye love me, ye will observe my commandments (Jn. 14:15); now He says If ye observe my commandments, ye will abide in my love. Love and obedience are two parts of one relationship—the relationship of creature to Creator, of child to Father, of sinner to Redeemer. Is my obedience defective?—let me kindle my love by communion with the Lord. Is my love feeble? Let me deepen my communion by deliberate obedience. But what kind of obedience is it? Are we to ‘do’ this, and avoid ‘doing’ that? No; that is the way of the law and its works. Our obedience is to the commandments of the Lord, which are—to trust God and to love Him (Jn. 15:12; 6:29; 8:34; 1 Jn. 3:23).”
At this point in our reflection we are moving from the idea of living in the love of God toward the idea of living by the love of God. These are simply two aspects of a unified, whole, and satisfying life and love. No one lives in the love of God without living by the love of God. But there is a logical priority to living in the love of God. This is because he first loves us.
“In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the expiation for our sins” (1 Jn. 4:10). “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (Jn. 3:16).
At St. Mark’s Church: we believe people exist to live in this love; we believe people exist to live by this love; we believe people exist to live for this love.