The Fifth Sunday of Easter – Learning how to love (The Epistle Passage)

Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love.” (I John 4:7&8)

There is a praise chorus that uses these verses as the lyrics. It is a very short refrain song, and very easy to sing/repeat over and over again. I say it so much that whenever I read these two verses the song echoes and echoes in my mind – as does the sentiment. The writer of I John goes on to explain the rationale behind these two sing-song verses.

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. 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. Beloved, since God loved us so much, we also ought to love one another.” (Verses 9 – 11)

It reminds on of John 3:16, “God so loved the world . . . “ The writer of I John says further . . .

No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God lives in us, and his love is perfected in us.” (Verse 12)

Think on this, beloved reader. No one can really give us a reliable description of what God looks like; if they think they can, it is more likely that it was an “aspect” or limited view of the God-self. So the best we can do is love the “spark” of God that is in each person, and by doing that we are showing our love for God. The writer of I John says furthermore . . .

By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and do testify that the Father has sent his Son as the Savior of the world. God abides in those who confess that Jesus is the Son of God, and they abide in God. So we have known and believe the love that God has for us.” (Verses 13-16a)

So if our fellow believers love God, then God is within them, and by loving them we are also love God.

God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them. 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.” (Verses 16b-17)

Our love of our fellow believer, and our love of God will save us on the Day of Judgment. So let us boldly love the followers of God.

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. We love because he first loved us.” (Verses 18 & 19)

I pause here again, beloved reader, for I wish to add something. When God first loved us, we were sinners and non-believers. I say this boldly because each of us who now believes at one time did not; no matter our faith story and journey, there was a time that we can to faith. And if we came to faith, we came out of non-faith. We must love not only our fellow believers, but those who do not yet believe because once we were as they are. And God loved us then, as God loves us now.

Those who say, “I love God,” and hate their brothers or sisters, [again, our believing and non-believing brothers and 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. The commandment we have from him is this: those who love God must love their brothers and sisters also.” (Verses 20 -21)

Beloved reader, I have not seen most of you, nor is it likely I will ever see most of you; but I do love you! Shalom!

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The Fourth Sunday of Easter – Real Love; it is expected (The Epistles Passage)

We know love by this, that he laid down his life for us—and we ought to lay down our lives for one another. (I John 3:16)

The theme for the rest of the week, beloved reader, is what God and Jesus Christ have done for us. And knowing what the Divine has done, what we should do for one another. However, I am stating my case a little backwards. I am first, through the scripture passage, asserting what we should do for one another.

How does God’s love abide in anyone who has the world’s goods and sees a brother or sister[a] in need and yet refuses help?” (Verse 17)

And then, as the week goes on, I am going to show the depth and breadth of God’s love. And if someone has NOT responded to their fellow member of humanity in a kind and compassionate way, then the guilt and shame should be theirs.

Little children, let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action. And by this we will know that we are from the truth and will reassure our hearts before him whenever our hearts condemn us; for God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything.” (Verses 18 – 20)

We can never, however, show as much and compassion as the Divine can. That is because we are not pure love, as God is. And we have not the purity of the power of love that God has. But if we are determined to love and show love to the best of our human ability, we will satisfy the will of God. And the Divine knows this. As the writer of I John said,

Beloved, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have boldness before God; and we receive from him whatever we ask, because we obey his commandments and do what pleases him. And this is his commandment, that we should believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us. All who obey his commandments abide in him, and he abides in them. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit that he has given us.” ( Verses 21-2)

Love and showing love is a planned deliberate act. We talk about “falling” in love. What we really mean is that our hormones and emotions get charged up and, as they say, romance is in the air. But true love is hard work; it is putting the other first. It is laying down and laying aside our agenda. But love is tough. It seeks the good for the other, no matter the cost. God showed that kind of love. Christ showed that kind of love. And the Spirit promotes that kind of love. It is this love that we are called to and to show for one another. It is not easy. No wonder we can’t consistently get it right. But we can try, and trying with all of our body, soul and spirit will satisfy our Lord. May you do so! Selah!

LOVE . . . Reflecting back on its self

The goal of this command is love, which comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. “ (Reference: 1 Timothy 1:5 )

What does it mean to have a “pure heart”? What does it mean to have a “good conscience”? And how can one be sure one’s faith is “sincere”? How can we judge these things?

Unfortunately in Paul’s first letter to Timothy he does not explain this but goes on to talk about laws, and who needs them and who doesn’t. And our historic Anabaptist believer who is quoted for this date and text does not seem to give much direction on this either. He, Pilgram Marpeck, says, “All law, in both the Old and New Testaments, consists in love from a pure heart. For all the vices about which the prophets, Moses, Christ, and the apostles speak are offenses against the command to love. There is only one sin from which all the fruit of wickedness begins, namely, disobedience to God’s Word.”

It is interesting that Marpeck seems to equate “offenses against the command to love” and “disobedience to God’s Word.” Now please note that “word” in “God’s Word” is capitalized, so it would behoove us to pay attention to how Marpeck is using and defining this. So, might failure to show love be disobeying God’s most strongest command? I would imagine that if someone obeyed God’s commands, their faith would be sincere. And a sincere faith would give one a good conscience. And a good conscience would be an attribute of a pure heart. And if all these conditions were met, then one is sure to have show love, act out love, and have love in their being. Thus obeying God’s Word and command!

It is one of those paradoxes, beloved, that does not have to make sense – because love, God’s love, often does not make sense. May you beloved follow not human logic, but God’s love so that you might be pure, good, and sincere. Selah!

LOVE . . . The Ultimate Fashion Statement

And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.” (Reference: Colossians 3:14 )

I put forth a slightly different metaphor than putting love all other virtues – one that still alludes to clothing. Put love on first. Before you “put on” any other virtue, put on love. Think of it as the ultimate under garment that smooths out all the puffy parts of your body, and enhances any physique. Put love in first before anything else, and everything else will go on more smoothly. You can even wear love alone as a single all encompassing garment, and look chic in any setting. It fits all occasions. Put on love first beloved, and be clothed by God.

LOVE . . . IS

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.” (Reference: 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 )

Whenever I read this passage from I Corinthians my pace of life and my whole thought process slows down. I think it stems back to my adolescence; somehow I instinctively felt that this was a portion of scripture that was extremely important and I want to catch every nuance. From the first three words, “love is patient”, I pause so I can take in the action and emotion of patience. “Love is kind” – you can’t do kindness in a hurry; you have to take the time to know what is needed. From there the slower pace just seems natural; to not “envy” you have to take account of what you have and appreciate that. Then you can rejoice with the other concerning what they have but yet feel contentment within yourself.

The beginning structure of the passage also slows the reader down. The sentences are are composed of phrases that are short and separated by commas. It is a simple basic composition that does not depend on a lot of complex adjectives or adverbs. As the verses continue from verse eight onward and to the end of the passage, the sentences become longer and more involved. This makes the simple definitions of love stand out all the more clearly.

Peter Riedeman wrote about this passage saying, “Since so much has been said about love so far, we must show what it is like in orderthat it is better understood, that one may not think they have love when it is only an illusion. Love cannot hide itself because its nature is light. It must shine and show itself in active work, serving all people and doing good. For love does everyone good. It is ready to serve; it is kind, gentle, mild, patient, humble, pure, temperate, modest, sympathetic, brotherly, warmhearted, good, compassionate, gracious, lowly, forbearing, loyal, and peaceable. Love is not repulsive; it is not proud, puffed up, boastful, envious, or drunken; it is not self-willed, disobedient, deceitful, quarrelsome, or thieving. Love does not gossip; it is not jealous, irate, or spiteful, it despises no one, but bears all things and suffers all things; it is not revengeful; it does not repay evil with evil; it does not rejoice in what is wrong, but rejoices in truth. Only love does God’s work, 1 Cor. 13:4ff.”

Compare what he said beloved (which is all true and applicable) to the simple verses 4 to 7. Riedeman’s is an excellent discussion on the merits of love and how it should be used and applied. But if you are like me, in his discussion you are thinking not of love as an action but love as an attribute. It is both, of course. His last excerpted statement, “Only love does God’s work” is by grammatical and philosophical necessity a statement about the action of love. Because God’s work is action, and not just a passive wish.
May you beloved actively show the love as the writer of I Corinthians defines it, and may you do God’s work. Selah!

LOVE . . . A Place to Abide In

“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for one’s friends.” (Reference: John 15: 9-13 )

How do we remain in God’s love? The historic Anabaptists believed that by keeping God’s commandments and caring about our brothers and sisters – both their physical and spiritual well being – to the point of self sacrifice is the way to remain in God’s love, and I would not speak against this. Dirk Philips wrote, “Therefore we must love him in turn above all that is in heaven and on earth. And we must show this love with eager keeping of all his commands, as Christ himself has taught us with clear words. Otherwise, there is not love, but a false boasting of love. Thereafter, we must love the brethren, and the Scripture. Christ and his apostles have taught us so abundantly about this brotherly love, John 13:34; 15:12 . . . so we do not need to write more about it. But this love is not only found in supplying the bodily needs of our poor brothers, but one remembers the brothers and sisters in every prayer, prays to the Lord for them, cares for their souls, and if one sees anyone falling from the way of truth, we should instruct him with God’s Word and with a gentle spirit, so that we may uphold his soul and win it from destruction. . . .”

But do not think believed that God’s love is only for those who love God. For it is made clear in other portions of scripture that God loves everyone. A person may not live according to God’s commandments, and may care nor for the brother or sister. But that does not mean this person is outside of God’s love; merely that they are not living according to God’s plan of love. But no one is outside of God’s love. God may love the one who is not showing love, and if that person does not show God’s love their joy “is not complete.” And it may very well be that they do not have joy in their life, or that the joy they do have is brief and rests on temporary things.

To abide in God’s love means to be in safety and security, with joy that lasts any temporary sadness that there might be. Abide in God’s love, beloved, by showing God’s love. And may the love that is God’s love be shown to you by your brothers and sisters in Christ. Selah!

This is the fifth Sunday of Lent, and we are drawing closer to the gates of Jerusalem where Christ will display for us the greatest act of love the world has ever known. Shalom beloved, and God’s love from me to you.

LOVE . . . Spirit Filled

“If you love me, you will obey what I command. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever–the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. “ (Reference: John 14:15-17 )

Menno Simons said, “[True Christians] acknowledge the abundant grace, favor, and love of God toward us as shown in Christ Jesus, and therefore they love their God in return, for He first loved us as John says. And they are ready by this love to obey in their weakness His
holy Word, will, commandments, counsel, doctrine, and ordinances, according to the talent received. . . .They walk in all love and mercy and serve their neighbors.” He goes to say that Christians follow and emulate Christ as well as they are able within the confines and realities of human weakness. Historic Anabaptists never let themselves or other forget that they are weak and fallible humans. In fact modern Anabaptists/Mennonites do the same thing – tinged everything with the confession that humanity is weak. But that is why we so readily accept and desire the Spirit of Truth – because we need someone on our side, a Counselor who will help us through the tough times and rejoice with us in the good times. Part of accepting Christ for modern Anabaptists/Mennonites is inviting and accepting the Spirit to be a vital and integral part of our lives.

May you beloved make room for the Spirit of Truth in your life, in time turning your life over complete to the Holy Spirit. Selah!