“This is Love”

March 23 (Week after Lent 3)

Opening: 430 “My Song Is Love Unknown”

Psalm: 25

Office: 421 “Jesus, Grant That Balm and Healing”

Reading: 1 John 4:11–16

Closing: 434 “Lamb of God, Pure and Holy”

 

+ In Nomine Jesu +

 

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

 

“In this is love, not that we have loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sin.” The point was made last week that any discussion of love, or any attempt to understand love, as the Scriptures speak of it, must begin with God and not with us. And nowhere else is the phrase we are considering during Lent, namely, “This is Love,” most fully and properly completed than in Jesus’ death on the cross for the sins of the world. This is love, the Son of God bleeding and dying, suffering, having become the sin of the world, to save sinners from sin, death and destruction.

 

This is not, however, to say that the love of God for the world and for you ends at the cross. To the contrary, as the apostle says, there isn’t anything that will separate you from the love of God in Christ Jesus in the here and now. “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ (he asks)? Shall  tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” In other words, God’s love for you is never ending. There isn’t anything that can cause Him to stop loving you.

 

In tonight’s reading from 1 John, we shift gears a bit. With God’s love for us, there is an expected, or an assumed response on our part. As John says, “Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” I suppose what John says might cause us to pause for a moment in that there seems to be a bit of disconnect. I mean, we might have expected him to say, “beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love Him.” Instead, he says, “we ought to love one another.” 

 

Now, I don’t know about you, but it seems to me that it would be easier to love God than it would be to love other people. God, after all, is holy, and perfect, and good. He’s self-sacrificing and forgiving. People, on the other hand, are unholy, imperfect and sometimes just plain bad. They’re self-serving and unforgiving too. So, how is it that we are called to love one another as a result of God having first loved us? 

 

Well, I think there are two things to keep in mind in this regard. First, is the fact that every person you see or come into contact with is loved and treasured by God. There is a parable that Jesus once told about the pearl of great price. Do you remember that one? He said, “the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it.” Now, sometimes this parable is mistakenly understood to refer to the Gospel. Some would say, people are the merchants and the Gospel is the pearl of great value. So great, in fact, that people are, or at least should be, willing to sell everything they have to possess it. 

 

But it seems more likely that the merchant is God and the pearl of great value is you. And so, He came and bought you, not with gold or silver, but with His holy, innocent, precious blood. Indeed, as the apostle says, “He was rich, but for your sake He became poor that you, through His poverty might be made rich.” Your call to love one another as an expression of your love and thankfulness to God recognizes that every person you see and come into contact with is a pearl of great value to God.

 

The second thing to keep in mind in terms of your call to love one another, is that the only way you can truly love God, the only way you can demonstrate your love for Him is by loving one another. How else, after all, would you love God, by praying more, or by reading His word more, or by giving more? While those are all fine things to do, your love for Him is most clearly demonstrated, as He says, in you loving the people He loves, which is to say, one another.

 

Frankly, this is where good works enter into the picture in the Christians life. The fact is, “God doesn’t need your good works, but your neighbor does.” We collected some additional funds as a door offering over the last couple of weeks, not because God needed us to collect money, but because the people in Ukraine are in desperate of help, even our help. It’s a simple thing, but it’s an expression of our love for them which began in us when God so loved us.  

 

So, (as John says) we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.” It all starts with God’s love for us, but it carries over into our love for one another. 

 

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 +