If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love…
Upon a surface hearing of this verse, it sounds rather legalistic. Obey my rules in order to earn my love.
But then we see a couple verses later what command Jesus is asking us to keep, and realize that there’s nothing close to what can be labeled legalism.
This is my command: love one another, in the same way that I loved you. No one has a greater love than this, to you lay down your life for your friends.
As we’ve seen before, the way Jesus loved the disciples was in radical equality and total sacrifice of self.
One way we can practically love one another is to cease from all “detraction.”
Over our wonderful weekend Arizona with long-time friends, I was reading my favorite author, Michael Casey, and came across his reflection on the 40th verse of chapter four in the Rule of Saint Benedict which admonishes “Not to be a Detractor.”
What is a detractor?
No, it is not someone who takes tractors away from people.
Detraction is sin against a person who is the object of our negative speech; it is an attempt to damage or destroy the reputation of someone; attacking someone in the hope of diminishing their value in the eyes of others. These are often acts of injustice which require some form of compensation or restitution for the wrong done to the other person.
It’s talking bad about someone who is not in the room.
I will leave you with a ridiculously poignant paragraph to ponder from Michael Casey that states the seriousness of detraction, and what it really is, perfectly:
Detraction is the most cowardly mode of aggression. We do not confront the other person; nor do we offer them any opportunity of self-defense. We do not need witnesses or evidence. We simply make an unsupported negative statement and call on our hearers to accept it without qualification. We not only narrate a particular unflattering incident, whether it is factual or fabricated, but also extrapolate from it to arrive at generalized conclusions, larding our recital of external events with generous helpings of our own interpretations. And we go further; we proceed to give a reading of the person’s intentions and motivations, even though we have no means of knowing what these were. The guilty verdict is inevitable, and we feel no compunction at all for our part in it. Mostly we walk away feeling blameless, but an injustice has been done. Our sense of righteous innocence is no more than an indication of an inoperative conscience.