June 28, 2020
1 John 4:7-21
7 Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. 8 Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love. 9 God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might live through him. 10 In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11 Beloved, since God loved us so much, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God lives in us, and his love is perfected in us.
13 By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. 14 And we have seen and do testify that the Father has sent his Son as the Savior of the world. 15 God abides in those who confess that Jesus is the Son of God, and they abide in God. 16 So we have known and believe the love that God has for us.
God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them. 17 Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness on the day of judgment, because as he is, so are we in this world. 18 There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear; for fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not reached perfection in love. 19 We love because he first loved us. 20 Those who say, “I love God,” and hate their brothers or sisters, are liars; for those who do not love a brother or sister whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen. 21 The commandment we have from him is this: those who love God must love their brothers and sisters also.
Fruit of the Spirit: Love
About 5 years ago, New York Times Columnist David Brooks wrote a book called “The Road to Character”where in it he highlights the difference between what he refers to as Resume Virtues vs. Eulogy Virtues, that is, the kinds of virtues and qualities that we remember and celebrate on our job resumes versus the ones that we remember and celebrate when we give a eulogy at someone’s funeral.
Think about the kinds of virtues and qualities that we celebrate and champion in a job resume. It’s things like proficiency in a given skill or area of expertise, past success, awards won, promotions given, things like efficiency and productivity, conflict resolution, time management, and the like.
But yet, think about the kinds of virtues and qualities that are mentioned when someone gives a eulogy … we reflect on how loving that person was, or kind, or faithful or honest or generous, things like that. The two lists are a little different, aren’t they?
Think about how weird it would be if someone were to stand up and give a eulogy where they commented on how “Mr. Jones never missed a key deadline” and how “he was always early when it came to submitting his TPS reports.” It would be so weird and feel so very out of place. Because for whatever reason, during a funeral, we all know in that moment that the resume type stuff doesn’t really matter all that much.
And Brooks’s point in all this is that you and I spend so much of our life focusing on the resume, trying to build up the resume, when rather than living a life in light of the resume, you and I should instead live lives in light of the eulogy.
And in so many ways, that’s what we’re doing this summer through our summer sermon series on the Fruit of the Spirit. To some extent, we’re reflecting on what it looks like to live in light of the eulogy, as we think about love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control … virtues and qualities that you are very likely to hear, well, during a eulogy.
And this morning we’ll start with the first one mentioned in the list, and it’s arguably the most important one, and that is, love.
And while love just might be the most important of the nine characteristics that make up the Fruit of the Spirit, it also honestly feels like the hardest word to pin down as to exactly what it means, and that’s partly because you and I use the word love for just about everything from I love you to I love pizza to I love football to I love summer to I love Jesus and so the word love can sometimes become this muddled, diluted idea.
So what is love exactly? What does it mean, what does it look like? As people trying to grow in godliness, as people trying to grow in the Fruit of the Spirit, what does it look like to love well as God calls us to?
Truth is, we could answer this a number of different ways, after all, the bible has a lot, and I mean a lot to say about love, but for today, we’ll zoom in on 1 John 4, the passage that Pat just read.
John, the author of this letter, begins by saying “Love one another” in verse 7 and then two verses later he fleshes out what love is by saying this:
9 God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might live through him. 10 In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins.
Notice what John is saying here about how God loved us and how his love for us was revealed, and that is, his love was demonstrated through the giving and sending of his Son Jesus to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins.
And yet while we do not serve as the atoning sacrifice for each other’s sins, no, no, only Jesus can do that, nevertheless, here we get a glimpse of what it looks like to love and love well. Love, at its core, is sacrificial, that is, it’s a dying of ourselves in a way that gives life to those around us.
In just the chapter before, John is even more explicit in drawing the connection between love and sacrifice and what it looks like to love when he says in 1 John 3:16
16 We know love by this, that he laid down his life for us—and we ought to lay down our lives for one another.
Love, in the Christian understanding, is inherently sacrificial. It looks like laying down our lives, our preferences, our freedoms, our desire for convenience, for the good of another.
On the night before Jesus died he gave his disciples a new command saying, Love one another. Just as I have loved you, you should also love one another.
And the key phrase within that command is that we are called to love like Jesus – to love one another as he loved us. And on that night, we see Jesus’s love revealed in a couple ways. One was through the Lord’s Supper, symbolizing his costly death on the cross, sacrificing himself for all mankind. The other was through washing the disciples feet – which was admittedly gross and something typically only done by servants.
All of which tells us that love is a lot less like your favorite rom com and instead is costly, sacrificial, at times uncomfortable, often inconvenient, maybe even a little gross.
Years ago when I was in college I went on a couple mission trips to the Dominican Republic and we’d go to these villages with all these kids. And there would be a bunch of little kids, many naked, dirty, running around everywhere, kids I of course had never met before, but yet they wanted us to pick them up. And at first, I was shaking my head. Uh uh. No way. But then I saw someone else pick up a kid, and I say, okay fine. And I remember that moment, of my smile matching their smile. It was beautiful. You see, love picks the kid up. That’s just what love does.
Love is taking care of your kid who is home sick with the flu, you’ve got Kleenex and Dimetapp everywhere. Love is visiting and caring for an aging and struggling parent. Love is taking an extra shift at work so that someone else who’s in greater need can get more time at home.
Love is sacrificial. It’s a laying down of our lives for the good of another.
And here’s a super relevant example. I want to briefly talk about face masks or face coverings, whichever name you prefer. Now, Lord knows, I need to stay in my lane here, and so I’ll let our public health officials lead the way as for why people should wear one and the science behind it. I also want to recognize that I haven’t been as diligent in wearing a mask myself and to be honest here in Beaverhead County where we’ve had 1 single case, wearing a face mask can feel about as helpful as wearing a bike helmet while walking down the street.
All this to say, I want to highlight the reasons why people wear a mask, that is, the motivation behind wearing one. Something that deeply troubles me is that in some corners of society, people have labeled mask wearing as being motivated by fear. Now I suppose that could be true – who knows what going on in each person’s mind. But yet I want to put before you a different motivation, one that has led many people across our country to wear a mask, and particularly many Christians. And that motivation is love– specifically a love for their neighbor and fellow citizen – it’s making a small sacrifice, a minor inconvenience, all driven by love as people try and lessen the chance of possibly spreading the virus to someone else.
As Christians, our choice in wearing a mask need not be predominately driven by fear, after all, as Paul says in Romans that nothing, not even death, not even a virus can separate us from the love of God and the eternal life that is promised to us because of Him.
Later in our passage here, John says these famous words, “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear.”
Here Paul is talking about death and the final judgment we all will one day face. And he’s reminding us because of God’s perfect love and our unshakable identity in Christ, that you and I don’t have to fear death or judgment. We don’t have to fear this virus and its death toll. Instead, the Christian motivation for wearing a mask ought to be driven by love, as we extend the perfect love God has shown us to one another.
So friends, if you see someone wear a mask, I want to encourage you to see it as a symbol of love, not a symbol of fear.
Alright, mask talk over. I promise J
Friends, so far we’ve discussed what is love and what it looks like. It’s costly and sacrificial, a laying down our life for the good of another.
Who do I love?
And so let’s transition from what is love and now think about who.Who are we called to love?
Truth is, this one’s pretty simple. At least simple to understand, although not so simple to live out.
John says, 7 Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God.
21 The commandment we have from him is this: those who love God must love their brothers and sisters also.
So, there you have it. Pretty simple, right? We’re called to love one another. And as John uses the language of brothers and sisters, he’s using distinct church family language, which tells us that the primary focus here is on loving our church family, our brothers and sisters in Christ, yet of course we know from other scriptures that we are called to love everyone.
So there you go, love one another. But yet here’s the thing. I so badly wish there was a loophole in this one, or some kind of caveat or exception.
Something like “Love one another, except for the ones you don’t get along with. Or love one another, but only when you feel like it.”
Truth is, we all have someone in our life who is tough to love, in fact, you might be sitting right next to them. (But yet don’t laugh at that – that won’t go well). Everybody has someone. Everybody has somebody in their life who is tough to love. In fact, don’t tell anyone, but you probably feel that way about someone here at church.
And yet, we’re called to love them anyway. John says, “those who love God mustlove their brothers and sisters also.” For whatever reason, John threw that little, pesky word must in there. Not could or should, or maybe or sometimes, but must. A little reminder that, love is, to quote the old Journey song, is more than a feeling, it’s a choice, a resolution, an action too.
So how can you love the ones in your life that are tough to love?
Maybe it could be as simple as learning their story and listening well. Learning about their family background or previous work experiences. I know sometimes for me, one of the ways I grow in loving the tough to love and growing in compassion is through learning more about someone’s back story.
Maybe it’s through seeking reconciliation with that person and asking for forgiveness for any wrongs that have been done. John talks about how Jesus was not simply a sacrifice, but an atoning sacrifice for our sins, which reminds us that as people who rebelled against God, Jesus paid the penalty for our sins, so that we might be reconciled to God. And so reconciliation is another way we love the tough to love.
Maybe another way would be to reflect on God’s love for us and being honest with ourselves in acknowledging that sometimes you and I are tough to love as well.
Which brings us to the last question we need to address this morning, and that is,
Why do we love? We addressed the what, then the who, now let’s talk about the why.
Why do we love? And what ought to motivate or fuel our sacrificial love for one another?
Well you probably know the answer. It’s the note that John keeps playing throughout this passage, and throughout the entire book for that matter.
As Paul says, 19 We love because he first loved us.
11 Beloved, since God loved us so much, we also ought to love one another.
And it actually runs deeper than that even. God not only loves us through his actions, he’s the source of love itself. As John says, ‘God islove.’ And even more, because we worship a triune God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, we know that love has existed before the world was even created. God didn’t have to create us in order to have someone to love. Rather, God, three in one, has had this relationship of love from and for all eternity.
And you and I are invited and welcomed into this relationship of love because of the love that God poured out for us, by giving and sending his Son on our behalf.
We love because God loved us.
And truth is, the whyis also the how.
We not only love others because God loves us, we find the ability and motivation to love others through experiencing God’s love for us.
Friends, are you finding yourself lacking and struggling in love this morning? Do you feel like you’ve got no more love to give? Well, take a deep breath, and reflect on the Father’s love for you. Pray that God would allow his love to take a firm hold of you.
I’ll finish with this. We started with a eulogy of sorts, so I’ll finish with a eulogy of sorts as well. Really I want to share with you about is the life of a woman by the name of Cyd Li. I think I’ve shared her story before but yet it seems like now might be a good time to share about her again.
Roughly 25 years ago, Cyd and her husband Skip, were living in a wealthy suburb outside of Seattle and felt called to move to the University District, which was and is a rougher part of town and as the name suggests, right next to the University of Washington, where they could spend more time serving college students. Everybody thought they were crazy, but they packed up their bags and moved anyway.
A few years later the Li’s and a group of friends starting purchasing houses in that area and started Vision 16 – a housing organization that sought to build community centered around Jesus. It’s where I lived in college and those years were instrumental in my faith.
As for Cyd herself – she had the gift of hospitality and made some of the best meals I’ve ever had. She created a sense of home and belonging for college students desperate for it.
She had a sharp mind and was well-read, she had beauty and wealth and influence, but she never used those things in a way that made others feel inferior. She simply looked at what she had and shared it with others.
And above all, she loved Jesus dearly. She’d read the bible cover to cover every year and kept a prayer journal filled with names and names and more names – names of people she was praying for.
And after a year long struggle with cancer, Cyd passed away. And at her memorial service were college students and people in their 20’s and 30’s, people she had touched along the way.
And during one of the eulogies, one of the speakers shared a line that Cyd would often say –
“My life for yours”
“My life for yours in all things”
And that, my friends, is what we call love. That is a life that is marked by love. Love is sacrificial. It’s a giving and dying of ourselves in a way that gives life to those around us.
And those words, that sentiment, “My life for yours” - It wasn’t a line Cyd coined herself.
Rather, that’s what Jesus said and that’s what Jesus did for us.
“Beloved, since God loved us so much, we also ought to love one another.”