Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.
Whenever kids are playing marbles or some other game “for keeps,” it means that the stakes are high because this game matters. To “keep” something is to treasure and protect something as one’s own. Jesus invites me to do so with his “word.” This could mean many things on multiple levels.
Most directly, it means to follow his commandments, which are summed up quite succinctly in his farewell discourse: “Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.”
More abstractly, I think of Christ’s “word” as referring to the Scriptures themselves. How do I “keep” them? I once gave a Bible to a young friend at his graduation from high school. I told him, “You might not be very interested in it right now, but I want you to keep this Bible in a drawer somewhere. It is still a part of you. The day may come when you need to reach out for some kind of hope, comfort, or inspiration. When that happens, I want you to have this close by.”
I have no illusions that this person suddenly became passionate about biblical studies, but I do hope that he continues to keep that Bible somewhere, even if it is just stuffed into the back of a sock drawer.
In my own life, I am keenly aware of my daily failure to “keep [Christ’s] word” in the first, more specific, sense of following his commandments. Just ask my family and they will tell you.
But in the second sense, I do slightly better. Through the practices of the Daily Office and weekly Eucharist, I “keep the word” by regularly sitting with the Scriptures. Sometimes, the words just bounce right off my ears, but then there are days when something sneaks through my defenses and stays with me a while. I keep coming back, in hopes that today might be one of those days.
In the words of a former mentor, “I don’t read the Bible for what I get out of it; I read it for what it gets into me.”
God, help me to keep your word today. Amen.