5-9-21 Sermon

 May 9, 2021

Let us pray: Dear Heavenly Father, through Your free gift of grace, which Your Son, Jesus, revealed to us, we are redeemed from sin and death, made us children of Your eternal kingdom. Please help us to be obedient to Your will and live according to Your command to love—everyone. Please fill us with Your Spirit, so that we might reflect the joy of living in relationship with You. We ask this in Christ’s holy name. Amen.

In these verses from John's Gospel Jesus sums up His ministry and his teaching. He had taught the disciples many things from knowing God to knowing themselves. But all of His teachings are contained in one word, "love."

We know love, or the lack of love, is a powerful force in our lives. Love is vital to our existence. As people we crave love. We also know how fragile love is--how easily it can be ruined by hate, prejudice, judgment, or lack of forgiveness. There are times when it’s almost impossible to love, because we have been wounded so deeply.

Our world is filled with partiality, with favoritism, with division. Pro-choice/pro-life, republican/democrat, black/ white, liberal/conservative, just to name a few. As human beings we look at each other differently - but God does not. He shows no partiality. Because in God’s eyes, no matter on what side of those divisions you find yourself, we’re all sinners.

Love is clearly the focus of our scripture readings for today. The word love is used five times in the Epistle and nine times in the Gospel. Jesus said: “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.”

The question becomes: how can we truly love in the divided and divisive a world in which we live?

In the Epistle reading John tells us the victory that has overcome the world—can overcome the divisions in our world – namely by faith in Jesus. Jesus has overcome all the things of the world and the ruler of this world.

In your mind, run down the checklist of what God has given you—life, food, health, family, income, medical treatment, whatever it is. God’s gifts to us are not because we deserve them, but because He loves us. He loves all people and wants everyone to be saved.

Jesus promised and has provided us with everything we need for this life and the next. The problem is: we really don’t believe Jesus will do what He says He will do. We may make a feeble attempt to believe, but the outcome shows otherwise. For an example:

We take and hoard because we don’t trust God to provide.

We hurt others because we don’t trust Him to protect.

We lust because we love the things of this world.

We rebel because we don’t trust the law that He has given us. So ultimately we think we can do better without God.

But the God continues to provide for us and forgive us even in our disobedience--taking us back as a loving mother does her child. Jesus calls us His friends, He calls us His children, because He laid down His life to make it possible.

Christ’s victory is ours by faith, and faith in Jesus enables us to love.

But do we really know what love is? The world tells us one thing and we all seem to have our own definition of what love is. None of which is the love about which Jesus is talking.

Jesus showed us a love that wasn’t a feeling; a love that wasn’t selfish, but rather an action that does what is best for someone else. Then He spelled out specifically what that looks like in the commandments--which, if you do them, you’ll will gladly lay down your life for others--even those who do not agree with you, because love doesn’t discriminate, divide, or show favoritism. Love is acting like Jesus did. He had no doubts about laying down His life for people like the criminals who hung beside him; for mixed up and messed up people, like you and me--not forcing us to be His servants or even to love Him. Jesus loved enough to do love - even for those who didn’t love Him - all the way to the cross.

Now the question is: what does that look like specifically for you and me? Loving is pretty easy as long as it’s in theory--putting into practice is another story.

Loving someone means being patient with them, teaching them, modeling the Christian life for them. That doesn’t mean we compromise God’s word; it doesn’t mean lowering the standards of being a Christian. It simply means we try to better understand them, to pray for them, to help them. Christian love while offered unconditionally, is not a blanket acceptance of all behavior, but loving someone enough to share God’s word of truth. There is no condemnation for those who are in Jesus.

There is condemnation for those outside of Him. Jesus invites us to abide in Him and His truth – for there is no sin too great, or sinner too far gone, to repent and receive His forgiveness and His life.

Jesus loved even those who wished Him dead and by the power of the Holy Spirit we can too. Risen from the dead, Jesus lives to forgive us as we should live to forgive others.

 
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