This post is the message that I gave on Sunday June 24 (I wasn't able to post it last week because I was traveling all week and away from my computer) Over the last 2 months or so we have been looking at the two natures of the church. We spent time looking at the scattered nature of the church in May. The Scattered nature where we are scattered into the world, into our neighborhoods, work, relational circles, etc… to be a blessing and the hands and feet of Christ living out the Kingdom of God. A few weeks ago we had a chance to put this scattered nature into practice (even though we did it together) by having a booth at Rock the Block.
The last few weeks we have been looking at the gathered nature of the church, and in particular what it looks like to be community with each other. In fact we have been looking at the biblical one anothers that are all throughout the Bible. So we looked at the call for us not to neglect meeting together and doing life we each other. Last week a few of us talked about the idea that we are to encourage one another, and believe me, we can all us some more encouragement.
Today we are going to talk about, what I believe, lies at the core of our life together as followers of Jesus, the idea and practice of love. We are going to talk about the biblical one another of loving one another, which I believe not only builds up the Christian community, but can show the entire world that we practice what we preach. I mean didn’t Jesus even say, “They will know you are my disciples if you love one another”? So as we look at the church around the world, how would you say we are doing at loving one another, within the family of God, the body of Christ? I believe we have a very long way to go. So let’s look together at 1 John 4:7-21 which is all about the idea of loving one another and giving us some grounding where our love is supposed to flow from. The Apostle John writes, “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. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us. This is how we know that we live in him and he in us: He has given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God. 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. 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. 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. We love because he first loved us. Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.” This passage is so packed with some amazing things, that there is no way in 10 minutes we’ll be able to cover. But let’s jump into it and see what we might learn about loving one another and why we, as followers of Jesus, should be loving one another.
But before we jump into it, I want to share about how important loving one another truly is, and why John wrote about it. In fact, I would say it defined him. You see there is a church tradition, which says, that when John was evidently an old man in Ephesus, he had to be carried to the church in the arms of his disciples. At these meetings, he was accustomed to say no more than, "Little children, love one another!" After a time, the disciples wearied at always hearing the same words, asked, "Master, why do you always say this?" "It is the Lord's command," was his reply. "And if this alone be done, it is enough!" Just think what would happen if the church of Jesus Christ truly lived out this calling to really love one another. I believe not only would it change the church but it would flow out from us into the world, and I believe literally change the world. The beginning of our text this morning centers John’s hearers on the fact that love doesn’t come from our will, our desire, or our human efforts. Love comes from God because God is, in fact love. The old saying if you looked up love in the dictionary, God’s picture would be there. The Greek in this sentence actually says “those who are loved, let us love.” We are not commanded to love one another to earn or become worthy of God’s love. We love one another because we are loved by God and have received that love and seek to live in light of it. Think of it this way, if love is of God, then we who claim to be born of God and claim to know God, must be able to love one another in the body of Christ.
At the end of the text John puts it this way, “Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar.” If we claim to know God, than it should be shown in our relationships with each other. In fact the word know in the text is a specific word which means a knowledge based on experience. John is saying that when we really experience God it will show in our love for one another. You can’t grow in your experience and knowledge of God without also growing in love for one another. To put it bluntly, if there isn’t real love for God’s people in your life then your claim to know God and experience God, simply isn’t true. If you look at a lot of the church today, I would say that our claim to know God, isn’t true. I don’t mean to judge, but a lot of the problems that we are having is that we don’t love like Jesus loved, a self-giving, self-sacrificing, kind of love that led Jesus to the cross, as John states in 1 John. What would happen if we lived this cross/crucified life and how it would flow out from us, into our faith communities, and then into the world around us. Lesslie Newbigin, a missionary in India, and a man ahead of his time, put it this way, “The greatest hermeneutic of the gospel is a community that seeks to live by it.” People can see God through the life of the community of Christ followers if we truly love one another.
But how can we, as a community, actually live out this kind of gospel love for one another, following in the footsteps of Jesus? We can’t do it by our own will, our own strength, or our own sheer determinism. We need to realize, as John did, that love is of God. That this kind of love, which is the Greek word Agape, come into our life through our relationship with Him. If we want to love one another more, we need to draw closer to God, the source of all love.
Think of it like this, using an illustration that should be familiar to us at Veritas. Every human relationship is like a triangle. The two people in the relationship are on the base of the triangle and God is at the top. As the 2 people draw closer to the top of the triangle, closer to God, they will also draw closer to one another. John knew it and let us in on the secret that love starts with God, and our acceptance of that love, and then our living into God’s love for us. You see, John was right, God went first, he loved us, and then he calls us to follow in his footsteps and love one another. But what does it look like on the street? When the rubber hits the road? What does it mean to truly love one another, as God has loved us? For the next few weeks we are going to unpack these questions together.
Discussion Questions: 1. What thoughts, comments, insights, questions, push back, etc.. do you have regarding the message and the Scripture? 2. What is God saying to you? What is God saying to us as a community? 3. What are you going to do about it? What should we do about it?