“Ought To Love” Let’s Pray…Rev. Stuart C. Buisch
I John 4: 11-21
Alright already, is it Valentine’s day, I am sick of hearing about love. What are we one of those flaky hippy churches that only talks about love. Sin, judgement, salvation are key to Christian faith too, why all this love?
I am not sure that I have ever preached on this passage other than at weddings. But there are key sections of this text that we need to hear.
We can’t see God, we can see love. When we see love, when we show love, when we live love, God is seen. But it isn’t just a one-way motion. As God loves through us we are changed. God’s love is made perfect in us. Perfect. Really perfect. Maybe a more useful word than perfect is the word complete. Is that something we can notice in ourselves? Can we see that we are more patient? Can we see that we are dealing with individuals that at one point in time we would have crossed the street to stay away from? How do you see God’s love being perfected/completed in you?
John returns us to the Spirit. We have a measure of the Spirit. We have strength we would not have apart from God working through us. We have compassion that is not human in its capacity or its stability. We have not been raised to look carefully at ourselves but it is important to realize this following of Jesus is not natural, not human, not rational. It is beyond the norm.
Furthermore, as we continue being the conduit of God’s love for others we become more certain of God’s love for us. How often are we around those who are unsure, insecure, wavering in doubt that they are loved, they belong to God, or that they have value. As God’s love moves through us to others we become more certain of, and in, our place in God’s love.
Judgement day is coming but those who live and remain in God’s love know the verdict – acquitted! Some today question our judicial system. They wonder if it has become politicized. Thus, they wonder if it is fair. To some extent that begins to challenge our understanding of God’s capacity to judge. In Christ we are set from condemnation, sin and death and we are offered life which we experience as love. We need to base human justice on God’s style of justice not the other way around.
That is how love casts out fear. Sin no longer holds its sway in our thinking and living. Because we are loved we have faith in God’s liberty and life and the proclamation ‘you are mine’ says the Lord. Because we are first loved by God, we can love others and so the test presents itself. Do we love those around us, brothers, sisters, parents, children, neighbors? How do they know that we are loving them? In this divisive time in our nation, can we as followers of Jesus Christ really express God’s love in our family with those we disagree with?
So we look again at the word Love. C. S. Lewis reminds us that there are four Greek words for love. One is the affection we express for a pet, one is the love of desire to connect deeply with another human, one is that love that exists between brothers and the fourth is the unconditional love that exists between God and us. Its pretty interesting that love between us and our family is pretty clear to everyone around. That is the acid test of whether God is at work in us. Do we love our siblings? We have become artists at interpreting that truth. Some only consider their friends at the church they worship at their sisters and brothers and actually use that language.
Others have left the community of some gathering of neighbors and have gone off into a kind of desert to really love God and show that love to the Brothers or Sisters in their monastic community. If you ever have the opportunity to visit a community you will discover very quickly that they have not made it any easier to love. Living and loving in a gathering of people is not easier or harder with blood brothers/sisters or water brothers/sisters-those we are baptized to be connected with.
Probably the more troubling part of this text is the number of people today who have no interest in showing anyone that they love a God who for them doesn’t exist.
This is the challenge of I John in our generation. Not only must our faith be built on a trust in Jesus Christ. It must also show around us, in all the people we interact with. It must disclose the truth of that loving God for a world that doesn’t believe there is such a God. The good news is that God is much more at work in this process than we can ever be and will work through us, in the name of the Creator, our Redeemer and the Spirit of God in our midst, amen.
Most High, your vision for our world inspires us and fuels us …
Suffering Savior, your love breaks through our hardness and liberates us…
Wind of God, you blow through the big and small holes in our thinking offering us life…