“This is Love”

March 9 (Week after Lent 1)

Opening: 454 “Sing, My Tongue”

Psalm: 25

Office: 544 “O Love, How Deep”

Reading: 1 John 4:1–6

Closing: 422 “On My Heart Imprint Your Image”

 

+ In Nomine Jesu +

 

Grace and peace to you, from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

 

The theme of the midweek services for this Lenten season is “This is Love.” Needless to say, it’s a broad topic. Our reflections over the course of these Wednesday though are going to be focused, in that they will all be based on one book of the Bible, that being the Apostle John’s first epistle. In fact, the messages will all come from the 4th & 5th chapters of 1 John. We begin tonight with verses 1-6 of chapter 4. It’s the passage you heard read just a few moments ago. 

 

While 1 John has a lot to say about love, this is, after all, the book that proclaims to us that “God is Love,” you may have noticed that the reading you heard a bit ago didn’t mention the word “love” at all. The passage was more about discernment and the need for Christians to be able to discern right from wrong, truth from error, or more broadly speaking, to be able to discern Biblical norms from cultural, or social norms. Hopefully, the importance of our ability to discern truth from error, especially as it relates to love, will become evident as we consider these words from John’s letter. The Bible, as you’ll see, has a very specific way of speaking of love, unlike our culture, where one can speak of his love for anything from a baloney sandwich to his spouse, or his children, or even to God. 

 

For John, and therefore, for us as children of God, the love of God is not an emotion, or a feeling. It’s not an abstract concept either, rather it is something that has been revealed to us in Christ, the One who came into the world in the flesh. Which is to say, to exercise love, as it is revealed in the Scriptures, is simply not possible without a proper confession of Jesus. This is part of what makes God’s commandments impossible for us to fulfill apart from Jesus, for, as He Himself has said, “Love is the fulfillment of the commandments.” So, there is love, as we understand it and define it in our world and culture, and then there is love, as it is defined in the Scriptures, which is a fruit of God’s Spirit, which exists in those whose faith and hope are in Christ. It’s in this sense the Scriptures say elsewhere that, “we love because He first loved us.” 

 

In the first part of chapter 4 of John’s letter, the reading before us this evening, John emphasizes the importance of a true and proper confession of Jesus and of the Holy Spirit’s work in that confession. In fact, he goes so far as to say that if a person does not confess that Jesus has come in the flesh, he is of the antichrist. As such, what he or she speaks is false, even if it is draped, or adorned in the language of love and of compassion. 

 

Again, it is the Holy Spirit who produces in us the fruits of Christ’s love, while false spirits talk of a false “love.” Perhaps is would be good then, for this section of John’s letter to ring in our ears, when “love” has lost its biblical definition. The Scriptures teach what love is, first in Christ Jesus and, as a result, what that love looks like in His people and it begins with a true and proper of confession of His holy name. Indeed, “every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already.”

 

I think one of the areas where this understanding of love meets the road in the church, is when we have these discussions, and here I’m speaking broadly as a church body, when we have these discussions that seem to pit love for our fellow man against the need to maintain and hold firm to the truth of God’s word, as if our Lord’s call to love others as He has loved us could be accomplished without His word. If I endeavor to love my neighbor with that which is false, then I haven’t truly loved and served my neighbor. At the same time, if I have and maintain the true word of God only to shelter it and to hoard and revere it, I have denied the very love of God, which brought His word, His Word made flesh, into the world. 

 

Simon Peter failed miserably at one point in Jesus’ call to love others by proclaiming to them the word of the Gospel, the forgiveness of sins in Christ Jesus. In response to a servant girl’s question of whether or not he was a disciple of Jesus, Peter said, “I don’t know the man.” As you know, he made that claim three times.

 

After Jesus had died and risen again, He met up with Peter on the shore of the Sea of Galilee. Peter, no doubt, was still ashamed of what he had done, how he had denied that he knew Jesus. Jesus came to him and said, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me more than these?” Three times Jesus asked Him the question. And three times Peter confessed his love for Jesus. And each time he did so, Jesus said, “Feed My Lambs, Tend My Sheep, Feed My Sheep.” Peter’s love for Jesus would be demonstrated in His preaching of the word, in his caring enough about people to say to them, “Jesus has loved you unto death, even death on a cross.”

 

Love is inseparably bound up with the truth, with God’s word, and most especially with the confession of Jesus as the Christ, the Son of the Living God. “Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already.”

 

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

 

The peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus unto life everlasting. Amen.

 

+ Soli Deo Gloria +