Let Love Live – Home text introduction – 5/02/2023

1 John 4:7-18

Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. 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. 12 No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us. 

13 This is how we know that we live in him and he in us: he has given us of his Spirit. 14 And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Saviour of the world. 15 If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God. 16 And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.

God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. 17 This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: in this world we are like Jesus. 18 There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.

Friends, in all the challenges we have faced these last few years, as church and in our own lives, it seems right and good to return to the simple life-giving truth that we are loved by God and called to love each other.  So, we find ourselves dwelling in this word from John’s first letter for 2023.

As a result of dwelling in this word so far, I wonder if it may be appropriate after 20+ years of rallying around our mission statement, which is to;

Share the love hope of Jesus with EVERYONE

That we slightly change the direction of this good mission statement for just one year, to;

Share the love and hope of Jesus with EACH OTHER.

This is not to be selfish or oblivious to others or our calling. This is to strengthen us in our calling.

This is not to stop looking outward. We are compelled to love everyone all the time – friend or foe.

But there is a time for everything. We may find as we focus on God’s love for us and practice love for each other, we become more unified, more visionary, more free, more encouraged to keep on living this mission life in Jesus.

Maybe people around us might ‘know us by our love’ even more, because they more clearly notice the self-giving love between us at work. Is that what Jesus meant when he said;

“By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another”                                                                  (John 13:35.)

To assure us we are indeed loved, John names us, ‘beloved’ all through his letter. Our beginning point for loving each other is not our love for each other or God, but God’s love for us, as shown and given in Jesus.

Because of his great love for us, we are righteous before God. Righteous: being faithful and just. God is faithful to us and just in all his ways. He is righteous.

In Jesus the Father shares that righteous way of being a human being with us. We are righteous. This gift comes from love. Righteousness and love go together for John. We have both in Jesus.

The image of family is strong in John. By this love, we belong to this family of a faithful and just God who loves. His love makes his church as he is – faithful and just.

Like your own family, you are ‘born into’ this family. We don’t choose it, just like you don’t choose your family. You simply belong to it.

You know this for sure because of your baptism. By baptism in water and the Holy Spirit, we are born again, as Jesus told Nicodemus that hidden night.

These gifts of love makes us family – not our family name or history or physical or personality traits or genes or achievement or status in the community etc. We are born again righteous by a holy God by his love.

For John, it is then the most natural thing in the world for people born into this family of God’s love to love each other.

And so he calls you and me, ‘beloved’, because we are and because it is what we do. Everything else he urges us to know and live out comes from this name.

So, please hear that John is not asking you to pass a test of loving enough in order to be loved. He is not urging you to be good to be loved, or stay away from being bad to be loved, or to earn this love, make this love happen, try harder to love.

John is saying you are loved. We are not being asked to do the impossible. We are not being urged to do something foreign or strange or out of whack with who we are.

There is no guilt or shame in this text, no urging to only try harder to be nice more often and chastising ourselves or others when we fail at loving. We are simply called to be and do who we have already been born to be and born to do.

Let this be an affirming gift every time you hear it:

Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 

In other words, beloved of God, “let love live.

How? Well letting love live is when you go to Linke’s bakery in the morning and buy two still warm freshly baked croissants and bringing them home to be enjoyed for breakfast together. The beautiful pastry is already in your bag. It just needs to be taken out and shared! Let the croissant live! Let his love live!

Problem? If loving is so natural for Christians, as John sees, then why don’t we always excel in letting love live? Why do we battle with not wanting to get that croissant out of the bag to share it? Because we also naturally want it them both for ourselves!

We still struggle with another family, says John. It is the ‘old family’ we were naturally born into. It is the family of the anti-God, anti-Jesus, anti-Saviour, anti-Christ, anti-God’s love.

We in the beloved family still bear the scars and feel the pull of the original family.

This family does not acknowledge Jesus as the Saviour of the world. As a result, they cannot ‘know’ God; that is, they can’t have a living close relationship with a loving God who allows them to call on his as Abba, Father’ (1 John 2:22-25)

For John, no one who denies the Son has the Father. There can be no loving relationship with God as Abba, Father, apart from the Son who lived this for us and gave it as his gift to us on that cross.

Members of the other family claim to have God all sorted out and yet don’t ‘keep his commands’ [to trust, obey, love, ask, seek knock, forgive, work for peace, ….]. Whatever love or good work that does get done in this family only confirms their disregard for the fullest, most complete and saving love of the Son and the Father.

But friends, this isn’t us. How can we know for sure, and how do we resist the pull of the old family?

13 This is how we know that we live in him and he in us: he has given us of his Spirit. 

The Spirit of God who has come to dwell in you at your baptism and every day since is the one who keeps you in the family.

We do;

15 … acknowledge that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God. 16 And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.

You can hear it and see it in how we relate, what we say, what we sing, how we pray, where there is baptism, where there is that holy meal of love….

We, the beloved, are being called to let love live even more.

And why let this love live? Because it ends our endless fears.

18 There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.

Punishment is finished. It has been metered out on the Son himself for us on that cross.

In this new family there is no fear of God punishing us for our wrongs. There is no fear in this agape love of God for you.

Surely you and I need this perfect love that drives out my fear of being shamed, being condemned, being damaged, being cancelled, being ugly, being unholy, unaccepted, unloved …

Surely the people around us need this perfect love. There is so much fear that creates so much damage to people bodily, emotionally, relationally. Those fears are ripping our families and communities and countries apart.

So can you get your imagination going? How can I let love live this year for the people of this family?

What things could I take on, do and say that would show this love, let this love live a little more in this Christ-family; this St Petri?

What small thing, what larger thing, what once-off thing or constant thing can I do or say, and to whom and with whom could I let love live a little more.

Would you commit to this family again? Would you take it upon yourself to invest in this church – let Jesus’ love live for someone else a little more?

As we let his love live a little more, I am sure more of our fears will be driven out and we will truly know more and more that we are indeed ‘beloved of God’. We may experience or ‘know’ more freedom, healing, renewal of heart and mind in whatever we have to face as a church or personally.

Dear friends, let us love one another,  for love comes from God.

Friends, how can we let love live as we ‘let love live’?

How can we share the love and hope of Jesus with EACH OTHER?