Have you ever noticed that certain people just really bum you out? Whether it’s the constant critic who finds fault with everything and everyone; the woman who has to put people down in order to lift herself up; or the guy who incessantly compares himself to others, always feeling like he is coming up short—all these dramatis personae affect our demeanor in deep and lasting ways.
And here’s the truth: I’ve played all of these roles. For that, I have to say many apologies to my family and friends—especially my wife! She’s the one who has to listen to my mildly depressed existential musings nearly every New Year’s Eve, while simultaneously trying to pull me out of my despondent doldrums of missed expectations. She’s a stalwart saint.
Now, I’m getting better at this, but the fact still remains: I can really bring people down with my often glass-90%-empty view of the world. And so can you. But do not mistake me here—this is not a call to a Pollyanna-esque, rose-colored view of the world. Rather, it is a call to examine what you are abiding in.
And that’s where Jesus comes in. In John 15, Jesus tells his friends to abide in his love. Abide is such a wonderful word, with an aura of luxuriating, waiting-without-a-care, guiltlessly delighting in a lazy front porch conversation on a summer evening, a glass of lemonade in your hand. It is, mostly, inert—but it is a beautiful and wonderful inertness that comes from confidence in the relationship and a deepening of attachment to Jesus, who sacrificed everything for us.
At the Clinic, we strive to abide in God’s love. But it’s hard. Abiding strikes us as an unnecessary luxury—we have work to do, doggone it! And for the activist-types at the Clinic, abiding can be an especially hard thing to do. But Jesus notes in this same passage that unless we abide in his love, we are not able to love each other.
Abiding in Jesus’ love equips us to love other people. And this is not the idealized, Rom-Com depiction of love. It is love that causes people to lay down their lives, to sacrifice themselves and their interests, for the sake of others. Indeed, in this same passage, Jesus says, “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”
But, how do we abide? First off, we need to know about Jesus—so we need to joyfully read our Bibles. There’s no getting around it. Second, we need to meditate on Jesus—what he did for us, what he taught us, and what he continues to do now. Third, we need to do this as a “we”—find a church, find a small group, and resist the temptation to treat your spirituality as the lonely-dude-walking-along-the-beach-in-contemplation-scene in an indie film.
Unless we abide in Jesus’ love, we are unable to sacrifice ourselves for our Clinic friends, like the domestic violence survivor, the homeless veteran, the vulnerable youth, the widow facing foreclosure, or the ex-offender vying for a second chance.
The Clinic’s theme for this year is Abide. Our hope is that our staff will more readily abide in this love so that we can better love and zealously advocate for those who come through our doors. This year, may you abide in Jesus’ love and not in your own particular blend of optimism or pessimism. And, as you abide, may you reach out and love others in self-sacrificial ways so that they may flourish and be drawn to abide in that same love.
Until Justice and Peace embrace,