“Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine…I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit…As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now abide in my love.” – John 15:4, 9
In the 3rd century, Anthony of Egypt decided it was time to go. The Holy Spirit, through Matthew 19:21, compelled him to sell his possessions, give to the poor, and move into the desert to live as monk. Over the next several decades Anthony’s reputation as a man of God grew. People were convinced that he had a close connection to God. People of all walks of life would seek him out for his counsel and his blessing. It is said that one such pilgrim came to Anthony and asked, “What must one do in order to please God?” The old man replied, “Pay attention to what I tell you: whoever you may be, always have God before your eyes, whatever you do, do it according to the testimony of the holy Scriptures; in whatever place you live, do not easily leave it.”
1. Always have God before your eyes
2. Whatever you do, do it according to the testimony of the holy Scriptures
3. In whatever place you live, do not easily leave it
It’s the third one that stands out to me. It’s the third one that resonates deeply with the Gospel of John.
Throughout John’s story of Christ we hear the word, “abide”. The same word is also translated as dwell, remain, and stay, but at the core, the root word in Greek is the same. Abide.
Growing up, John chapter 15 gave me a sense of movement, of urgency, and a bit of anxiety. If I wanted to remain connected to God, I thought for sure, I needed to be doing something (“If you keep my commandments…If you do what I command you” John 15:10, 14). Keeping busying and doing more certainly fit well with the dominant cultural norms reinforced in advertising and institutions.
French philosopher Blaise Pascal once wrote that “all of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly, in a room, alone.” Our minds and hearts are easily distracted if not actively seeking the next distraction. Does the fear of missing out, the anxiety of the next achievement, and the go-go-go pace uproot us before we’re able to go deep? Perhaps what Christ is telling us in the Gospel of John is that the love of God is not something we earn but something we live in, and live into. Perhaps love is the highest form of abiding, of being present for another. Perhaps the constant movement and distractibility threatens our ability to simply, “be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10).
You live in the love of God. From the moment you rise until the moment you rest your head and everywhere in between, the love of God shelters you. You live in the love God. Take Anthony’s advice, “In whatever place you live, do not easily leave it.”
Abide. Remain. Stay connected.
Dear God, what if I had the strength today to live as though I lived in your love? What would today look like if I remained grounded in this truth? Let no doubt, discouragement, or decision deprive me of my home in you. In you I abide.