Scripture: 1 John 4:7-21
There seems to be a desire in humanity to find acceptance somewhere. A child seeks to be accepted in a crowd and will participate in things they may not agree with, we often call this peer pressure, but all it really is is the screaming of a child to be acceptable and loved. Adults are no different, they seek to find acceptance through education, careers, offices, and countless other venues. We seek out love through fat bank accounts, and interpersonal relationships. Often Christians stand on corners protesting things like homosexualtiy and abortion crying out for repentence, but they are casting coals on the heads of people hungry for acceptance and love.
People want to be loved, they seek love from whoever will give it. Their perspectives as to what love is become perverted or skewed, so much that they have been wounded to such a degree where love is replaced by hate, freedom is replaced by bondage, acceptance by rejection. We accept the lesser because we come to the conclusion that something better is not available. We believe a lie.
Love… John the elder says that God is love. If we love one another that is a sign that we are of God. The opposite is true as well if we do not show love we are not of God. Does this bother anyone else? For us to be with God we must love. If you are human I will tell you that you have already failed in this area, probably several times already today. For John being known as the apostle of love, he gives the hardest comand to follow.
There is a reason for this. I will not diminish the command because it is a lifestyle we truely should strive to mimick. During the last days of the apostolic age there were already factions within the church that threatened to fracture the unity. This is to be expected when people from various walks of life, with diverse experiences begin to relate to God personally. Every person in this room interprets the meaning of the truth differently. Does this mean truth cannot be known, no it merely means that truth must be saught diligently.
John the elder most likely wrote this letter to the leaders of the Ephesian church, the church he was ministering at after he escaped from excile. We may ask why he wrote a letter to the church he served but again we read things through the lenses of our own experiences. In the ealriest days of the church they did not meet in centralized buildings or cathedrals like we do today. If they had a house where several could gather they met there and the people would visit these meeting as they could. They met to worship and encourage each other to love God mind, body, and spirit. John the elder was not able to visit the houses himself any longer, if tradition is correct he was most likely crippled from scars from multiple attempts on his life, so he passed that ministry to others. Sending this letter with his scribe to share with them all, which was the ministry role he took up do to his condition.
With so many pockets of varying maturity there were people that would try to explain the Gospel in ways contrary to reality. These various pockets of the church would get influenced by Greek philosophy or Jewish legality, or maybe a mixture of both. Some would blend in aspect of polytheism with monotheism causing both confusion and the beginings of the various sects or denominationalism we see so rampant today. Some of the greatest struggles dealt with was the gnostic teachings, which basically say that your body and spirit are seperate, and what you do physically does not matter if you have the secret knowledge. Others struggled with how to define who Jesus was. Was he divine, human, half and half, or both.
John was trying to say that ultimately God is Love. Going on to say that we know He is love because He love us so much He sent His Son to be a sacrifice for us. If we claim to be followers of Jesus we should also sacrifice ourselves for the sake of others.
Love is the way people know we are different. Love is what attracted the earliest followers to this movement. Those that first read this letter did not have the tangible realationship with Jesus, he was basically unknown to them. They did not understand the Jewish history, culture, or law that he emerged out of. They did understand love. These people would meet together to worship under the threat of death. They would go out into their communities serving others, praying for the sick raising orphaned children left out to die in the elments. They would share their homes, food, and money. It made absolutly no sense to the world because the very things used to gain acceptance and respect in the world were rejected by these people of Chirst.
Love is to give yourself for others. It is rare to see real love. There are pockets of love, glimspes of it, but love is a rare commodity like the ore of a precious metal. I have seen it though. I saw it in the eyes of my grandfather as he held the hand of my grandmother as they said goodbye for the night when he was in the hospital. I saw it in my sisters facebook posts joyfully sharing comments about her daughter’s gymnastic performances. I see it in people walking to raise support and awareness for premature birth issues through the march of dimes. Love is around but often hard to see. The greatest symbol of love that humanity can participate in is a marriage. In marriage each member loses themselves in each other forming not two halves but a two in one whole, two personalities making up one entity. They no longer exist seperatly but are linked physically and spiritually. Just think briefly at who is in this Meeting of Friends, I would guess that you though of the couples together almost as if they were one. Mark and Ellen, Kay and Charles, John and Ramona, Jared and Kristy. If people are married they are linked. Those married are not any greater or worse than those unmarried but we recognize and think of them together.
What about our large communty? Are we linked deeply to Christ so that when people think of us Christ is all they see? That is what John is getting at, the theology and philosophy is important to an exstent, but if there is not a deep devotion and sacrifice the theology is pointless. Living the love of Christ with others is what we should be about. Losing ourselves in Christ just as we lose ourselves to our mates, should be our goal.
This is idealistic though. Most things are, because we live in a broken world. We live in a world of broken dreams and promises. Marriages do not always reflect the sacrifical love of God. Families do not always live lives of loving encouragement. Often they are filled with selfish manipulation and fear. We fear love because we have been hurt in the past. We do not want to help the hungry or poor because we did it once and were taken advantage of. Perfect love casts out fear. Perfect love was hung on a cross left to die, not only rejected but betrayed by a kiss given by a close friend. The truth is perfect love wins perfect love conqures death, perfect love lifts those crippled by past experiences so they can thrive and shine.
Loving others will change lives. We are not asked to feed every person that is hungry, we are not asked to comfort every person that is suffering a loss, or to heal every broken spirit. We are asked to love those around us, those that come into our lives. We are asked to encourage our coworkers, our families, the people that are waiting in the line at walmart with us, and the waitress or waiter that serves us our Sunday dinner. We are called to love and encourage those around us how ever we can, supporting them, giving our lives for them because our God did that and more for each one of us.
As we enter into this time of Holy Expectancy, encourge and challenge each of us to intentionally bless and share the love of Christ with those around us. As we sit listening for the Spirit to lead us into our ministry outside of these walls, let us be obedient to His leading and cast out the fear our world i bound in with the Love of God.