Jesus gives us a profound image of what discipleship looks like in the Gospel of John; however, I would suspect many of us have glanced over the all too familiar verse without a second thought. We have heard it so much, repeated it, and perhaps memorized it that we have never evaluated what “abide in Christ” looks like in our daily life.
“Abide in me, and I in you. Just as a branch cannot bear fruit on its own unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me.” (John 14:4 RSVCE)
In other translations, such as the NAB, it reads: “Remain in me, as I remain in you. Just as a branch cannot bear fruit on its own unless it remains on the vine, so neither can you unless you remain in me.”
To fully understand the picture Jesus is painting for us, we must look at the original Greek. The Greek word for “abide” is “meno”. It has many different definitions but some of them include: “to continue to be present”, “to be held, kept, continually”, “to continue to be, not to perish, to last, to endure”, “to remain as one, not to become another or different”, and “of persons, to survive, live.”
We get an image from these definitions that show it is a state of continuality which provides life and endurance. Isn’t that what we all want in our life. We want continuality, life, and certainly endurance in this horrible and evil ridden world. However, it is even more than the surface definitions.
The same word, “meno”, is used throughout the New Testament and in considering a couple more examples we are given a more complete picture of what our life is supposed to look like when we abide in Christ.
In Luke 1:56 we see the visitation where the Blessed Mother rushes to her cousin Elizabeth’s home after being told by the angel that Elizabeth was pregnant as well. “Mary remained with her about three months and then returned to her home.” In the Greek we once again see “meno”. The verse reads “Mary ‘meno’ with her about three months and then returned to her home.” It could even be read as “Mary ‘abides’ with her about three months and then returned to her home.”
When I go to visit a friend and stay with them for a few days there are certain expectations on both ends. There are expectations I will treat the friend’s home with respect and care, obey their house rules, and treat the friend with love and value. In exchange, I may expect to have a bed, electricity, and of course…coffee. But, if I was living in the home for an extended period as opposed to a weekend or week long visit, there may be some added expectations. Perhaps I am expected to clean the bedroom weekly, take the trash out, and help prepare meals. It could be, depending on the amount of time I intend to stay, that I pay rent or buy groceries. Regardless of what that looks like, it would always include a few things: following the rules, being around those individuals consistently, my friend being an integral part of my daily life and planning and I being a part of hers, communicating, as well as perhaps the impact she could have on me. Perhaps I learn something new or become a better person the longer I am around her. We all know the longer you are around someone the more they rub off on you or you rub off on them. This is what abiding looks like. Your spouse abides with you in your home. Your children abide with you in your home. Everyone has rules and expectations, and they are a consistent part of your daily life. This is the example we are given of “meno” when Mary goes to stay with Elizabeth for three months. Mary was not just visiting her cousin. She was living with her for three months. She was “abiding” with her.
Is that how your life with Christ looks? Can others tell that you are around Christ, think about Christ, and follow Christ daily? Do others around you know that Christ dwells in your home and in your life as much as your own family? Would they be able to tell others you abide in Christ as closely as you do with those in your home?
When I visit my friends out of state for a week or so annually, I do not abide with them. I visit. I might stay with them in their home for a week but then I plan on returning to my own home. This is not the same concept as “meno”. A visit occasionally, as most of us are guilty of doing with only visiting Jesus once at Mass on Sunday and not much more, is not the concept of “meno”. It is not abiding. It is visiting.
We are not called to “visit” Jesus. We are called to “meno”, to “abide” in Him and that requires us to dwell in Him and He dwell in us. That requires us to surrender. We are not comfortable surrendering to anything in our society, but in order to abide in Christ we must totally surrender. We must be willing to accept the requirements He demands in order to dwell in Him and be His disciple. We must make a determination to encounter Jesus daily in our life. We must live as if we live with Him because that is what it means to abide. Abiding includes speaking, listening, loving, and being a part of each other’s life.
The Jerusalem Bible renders John 14:4 as “Make your home in Me, as I make mine in you.”
Jesus never disappoints when our home is in Him.