We Are Loved and We Love
A sermon based on 1 John 4:7-11, 19-21
Sunday, May 21, 2017 – Easter 6B
Let's play a game: "Name that Tune." I'll play a song. You name the title and the artist. Are you ready?
- "I Would Do Anything for Love" (Meatloaf)
- "This Crazy Little Thing Called Love" (Queen)
- "I Just Called to Say I Love You" (Stevie Wonder)
- "Can't Help Falling in Love" (Elvis)
- "I Will Always Love You" (Whitney Houston)
- "All You Need Is Love" (Beatles)
How many other songs aren't there written about love? If you're young and hopeful, don't you love it? If you've been single for a while, aren't you sick of it?! If you're married, don't you wish your marriage still had that passion where all you did was sing about your love?! If you have teens, are you ready for it? At times it seems to consume our culture as if it's the only thing worth pursuing, this crazy little thing called love!
Well, this morning, I'm here to tell you that it is. Love is the only thing worth pursuing. But of course, I don't mean it in the way the songs of pop culture do. I mean it in the way the Bible does. For starters, God's love is the only thing worth pursuing. It's the only thing that will matter at all a hundred years from now. But of course, we don't really have to pursue it. We are loved by God, without our effort, for Christ's sake—because of the great love he showed us in giving his life for us. But now, in thanks to him, the only thing worth pursuing is loving our neighbor for Jesus' sake. Our text for consideration this morning is from the great "love letter" of God of 1 John. Today we consider chapter 4, verses 7-11 and 19-21…
7 Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9 This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another…
19 We love because he first loved us. 20 If anyone says, "I love God," yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. 21 And he has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother.
Love comes from God. He is the source of love. In fact, he is love. That is all he ever does or thinks about is doing for others, serving them, giving to them. He is the opposite of selfish. And so, God cannot tolerate unloving or selfish actions, unloving or selfish words, unloving or selfish thoughts.
Friends, do love God? Do you really? John would challenge, "If anyone says, "I love God," yet hates his brother, he is a liar." If you claim to love God, do you act like it? Do you show your love to God by the way you love your brother? Your spouse? Your child? Your parent? Your friend? Do you go out of your way to serve others, not so that you can get something out of them (that's selfish and unloving), not so that you can feel good about how good you are (that's selfish and unloving), not so that you can feel that God will love you more (that's manipulative, selfish and unloving), but only out of a desire to do what's best for them?
In 1 Corinthians 13(:4-7) this is how God defines love: "Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres."
So, how well have you loved? Have you been patient with your kids or your parents? Have you been kind to your friends and your co-workers? Have you envied others and what they have? Have you boasted in what you have? Have you been proud? Rude? Self-seeking? We all have been, haven't we? Have you kept no record of wrongs, but eagerly forgiven everyone who's hurt you? It doesn't take much reflection to see how loveless we've been. It doesn't take much to see that we who claim to love God are big fat liars.
Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love… If anyone says, "I love God," yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. 21 And he has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother.
And for our loveless ways, we deserve anything but to be loved by God. We deserve to be his enemies, for that's what we've declared ourselves to be by our loveless acts, our loveless words, our loveless thoughts. We deserve to be hated by God, divorced from him, and forever banned from his presence in hell.
But, "God is love." God isn't just loving. He is love. He is the very definition of selfless service to others, of choosing to be loving when there is no reason to be so in the object of the loved. You and I are loved by God even though we don't deserve to be in any way whatsoever. And as love must show itself in action, so God showed his love in acting to save you and me.
"This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins."
I like you guys. I really do. But I don't think I would ever hurt—let alone torture—one of my four sons to help any of you out. I don't love you that much. I love them more. But God loves you so much that he would not just hurt, not just torture, but damn his Son—and not one of four, but his only Son, and not an imperfect, sinful naughty son, but his perfect, always-obedient, always-loving, sinless Son. And he this because he loved you that much!
And Jesus loved you so much that he was willing to go through it all. To borrow a phrase from Meatloaf, "He would do anything for love. He'd run right into hell and back. And that's a fact." In fact, that's what he did do.
God sent his as an atoning sacrifice—placing on him all the blame, all the guilt, all the shame, that you and I deserve for our loveless thoughts, words, and actions and damning to hell on the cross for all of our sin. Jesus willingly endured that hell and died for our sins and came back from the dead on Easter morning that we might be right with God, that we might live through him.
"This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins."
And so Easter—the proof that our sins are forgiven—means that we are loved. And that love will never end. To borrow a phrase from Whitney Houston, "He will aaaaaall-always love you!" You don't need to love God first to gain his love. You don't need to behave or clean up your act. He loved us first. And to borrow a phrase from the Beatles, "All we need is love;" his love for us, demonstrated on the cross and in the empty tomb.
But this love, this passionate zeal to do anything to rescue us, to save us, to make us his own, to bring us into his home… this love changes the way we feel about God. We can't help it. To borrow a phrase from Elvis, "We… can't… help… falling in love… with… him." "We love because he first loved us." Because of all he's done for us we can't help but love him in return. And we can't love God without loving his kids, that is… everyone.
"Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another…"
"Love God and love your neighbor." That's not just a concise summary of the two tables of God's law, it's also a progression of thought. It's not an imperative: "This is what you should do." It's an indicative: "This is what Christians do." If you love God, you will love your neighbor too. We do love God, and so we do love our neighbor. Love must show itself in action. We must love our neighbor.
And this isn't must like, "you must do this or else," but in the sense that "a human must breathe," "a spruce tree must make spruce cones," "a dog must bark," and "a Christian must love." While it was in our sinful nature to love no one but ourselves, it's now in our restored Christian nature, in our "new man," to show love to one another. That's just what Christians do. Beloved, love. That's not a command, but a statement of fact. Those who are loved by someone love back. Those who are beloved by God, loved by him, love back. And we love each other. Not a love of feelings or emotions alone, but a love of action.
What does that look like? Let's go back to 1 Corinthians 13(:4-7). Because God has been so patient with us, we are patient with each other. Because God has shown such kindness to us in his Son, we are eager to be kind to one another. Because we know we have all we need in Christ, we don't envy the blessings of others. Because we know that all we have is by God's grace, we don't boast and know there's no room to be proud. We're not rude, but knowing how God sacrificed himself for us, we're no longer self-seeking, but look for ways to serve. Seeing how God doesn't grow angry with us, but forgives, we too are slow to anger and keep no record of wrongs. In short, "We love because he first loved us." Easter means that we are loved and that we, in turn, love others.
I'm not sure it's this is what the Beatles mean, but it is true that, "All you need is love." All you need is God's love and you are forgiven, redeemed, and destined for the glory of heaven. Now all we need is love: to love God for the way he first loved us, and to love each other in thanks. In Jesus' name, dear friends, amen.