It simply not enough to say we will love one another. We are called to practice what we preach, practice the example given to us by Our Creator which is one of surrender, of humility, of grace, and of connection.
September 24, 2023
“Sacred Earth, Sacred Worth”
Part 6: Healing Relationships”
1 John 4: 7-21
Rev. Dr. Heather W. McColl
1 John 4: 7-21
Dear friends, let’s love each other, because love is from God, and everyone who loves is born from God and knows God. The person who doesn’t love does not know God, because God is love. This is how the love of God is revealed to us: God has sent his only Son into the world so that we can live through him. This is love: it is not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son as the sacrifice that deals with our sins.
Dear friends, if God loved us this way, we also ought to love each other. No one has ever seen God. If we love each other, God remains in us and his love is made perfect in us. This is how we know we remain in him and he remains in us, because he has given us a measure of his Spirit. We have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son to be the savior of the world. If any of us confess that Jesus is God’s Son, God remains in us and we remain in God. We have known and have believed the love that God has for us.
God is love, and those who remain in love remain in God and God remains in them. This is how love has been perfected in us, so that we can have confidence on the Judgment Day, because we are exactly the same as God is in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear, because fear expects punishment. The person who is afraid has not been made perfect in love. We love because God first loved us. Those who say, “I love God” and hate their brothers or sisters are liars. After all, those who don’t love their brothers or sisters whom they have seen can hardly love God whom they have not seen! This commandment we have from him: Those who claim to love God ought to love their brother and sister also.
Healing Relationships 1 John 4: 7-21
I am having a déjà vu sort of week. I feel like I have been in this place before. I’m not talking about being in this sanctuary on a Sunday morning for worship. I’m talking about standing behind this pulpit saying these words, over and over again, time after time: “Love one another.” I feel like this is what I say each and every week. And yes, I know I am probably preaching to the choir. I have seen this congregation time and time again live out this commandment, sharing God’s love for all of God’s people.
But like I said, it has been one of those déjà vu sort of weeks. Could it be that I feel like I say these words over and over again each and every week because somehow each week, these words are shared over and over again in the Scriptures we read, in the Scriptures which we say are the Word of God for the people of God? Sure, maybe not these exact words but when we read the Gospel words, whether they come from the Old Testament or New Testament, in some shape, in some form, it all boils down to: Love one another because love is from God.
Why is it so hard? We can’t misinterpret it. We can’t pretend we don’t understand. We know what John is talking about in this passage. He tells us plain and simple. “Love one another because love is from God.” And just in case we miss it the first time, John goes on to say…The person who doesn’t love does not know God, because God is love. 9 This is how the love of God is revealed to us: God has sent his only Son into the world so that we can live through him. 10 This is love: it is not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son as the sacrifice that deals with our sins. 11 Dear friends, if God loved us this way, we also ought to love each other.”
How are we not getting this? Everything Jesus did, everything he taught, everything he preached, every act of ministry Jesus did while here on earth, was an embodiment of these words. During his time here on earth, Jesus showed love to all. Jesus showed grace to all. Jesus even went as far as showing us how to live out this greater love to all by laying down his life for his friends, for his disciples, for us, the ones who claim him as our Lord and Savior.
As I continue to hear all the stories of hate and hurt which fill our world, I just want to shout: “People, how are we not getting this? In our sacred text, over and over again, time and after time, in some way, in some form, we are told, we are shown, we are given the example of loving one another because love is from God. How are we not getting this?
Maybe we aren’t getting it because it has become so ingrained in us that for us to function as a society there has to be insiders and outsiders, that there has to be people we love and people we don’t love, that there has to be people we accept and people we don’t accept.
Or maybe we are not getting this whole Love one another because we think love is a limited resource. Maybe we have tricked ourselves into believing that if we share it with others, there won’t be enough for us.
Or maybe the reality of it is why we aren’t getting this whole love one another thing is because it is simply too hard. It requires too much from us. It requires too much of us. It requires that we tear down the walls which separate and divide our communities. It means that we would have to start seeing each other as made in the image of God. It means recognizing that we don’t get to pick and choose who is worthy of God’s love.
Maybe that’s the real reason why we really don’t want to start loving as one another.. Because if we love one another with the love which was revealed to us by our God, then that means we aren’t in control. It means we don’t have a say of who is in and who is out. If we really started loving as God loves, then that would mean we don’t get to choose who we will love just because they happen to think, act, or look like us. And I mean who wants that, right? Please hear the sarcasm in my voice because I think we would rather hold on to our control of who is in and who is out rather than let the Spirit of God come in and start meddling…Except ….except here is the thing we tend to ignore when it comes to this call to love one another. We tend to ignore the fact that “when we invited Christ into our lives, he insisted that we let him bring his friends along with him.” Let me say that again. “When we invited Christ into our lives, he insisted that we let him bring his friends along with him.”
And we all know who Jesus claimed as his friends right? Sinners, Tax collectors, Prostitutes, Lepers, and oh, yea…us.
Wait, what? You mean, Jesus lumps us, the people who are his followers, the people who claim him as our Lord and Savior, Jesus lumps us, his friends, together with all those other people. You mean, Jesus claims all of us, from his followers right down to those sinners he broke bread with, you mean Jesus claims all of us as his friends. No divisions, no special treatment, no extra perks?
I’m going to let that sink in for a moment. As Jesus’ disciples, the ones who have embraced the call to abide in Jesus, the ones who have embraced the call to abide in Jesus’ love, as his disciples, we cannot love Jesus and not also love those whom he loves as well. Jesus claims us all as his friends. Jesus invites all to come and be welcomed as a Beloved Child of God.
You see when it comes to God’s love, we don’t get to decide who is worthy or not. God does. And God decided a long time ago that all are chosen to be named and claimed as God’s beloved children. God decided a long time to show how much God loves this world by sending God’s only son so that we might live. God decided a long time ago that all are to abide in God’s love.
Unfortunately, as people of faith, we all like to think there was a divide between the church world and the real world. And we tend to fool ourselves into believing that As long as we love this person, in the church world, it doesn’t really matter what we say or do towards that person in the real world.
However There is only one world…one world in which we are called to live in as people of faith. It is in this one world we are called to reflect God’s love in all that we do and say. We can’t divide God’s love to fit our needs, to fit our wants. We don’t get to choose who is in and who is out. God’s love just doesn’t work that way. God loves us: the good, the bad, the ugly, the successful, the poor, the young, the old and all those in between. God loves us all! God commands us to love as God has loved.
We are called to love all as God loves us, no ifs, ands or buts. We are called to show this love, share this love in this world with all of God’s creation and by doing so build up the Body of Christ, bring healing and wholeness to all.
People of God, how are we not getting this? Especially now when our world is so in need of understanding, is so in need of healing, especially now when our world is so in need of experiencing the life transforming reality that love is not a limited quantity resource.
Perhaps starting today, we can celebrate the amazing gift of God’s love and truly begin to love one another, knowing that love is from God. Perhaps starting today, we can embrace the connection we have with all of God’s children and begin healing relationships. Perhaps, starting today, we can all begin to live out the vision of perfect love driving out all fear, moving us toward sustainability for the future, and embracing a harmony, a unity which offers a life giving coexistence for all of God’s creation. May it be so.
See also: Theology Tuesday for Sunday, September 24, 2023 – Healing Relationships 1 John 4: 7-21.