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1 John 4:1-16


 

Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already. Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. They are from the world; therefore they speak from the world, and the world listens to them. We are from God. Whoever knows God listens to us; whoever is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the Spirit of truth and the spirit of error.

 

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.

 

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 testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. (ESV)

Love, Love, Love

Monday of Holy Week

30 March 2015

The other evening at a social event supporting a pro-life law firm in Austin, Texas, I met a Roman Catholic lay woman from Mexico, who had lived in a Roman Catholic community dedicated to getting Christians all to "love one another." It occurred to me that the differences among denominations is not about our inability to love one another, but in our inability to confess the same faith. Faith and love are different. You need more than love. The Beatles crooned, "Love is all you need." This is so wrong and so right all at the same time. It is so wrong in the way that the Fab Four intended it. Like many children of the late twentieth century they thought that everything could be reduced to our love. Great plan. Not so good on the execution. In fact, in the reductionistic air of the time, love became merely sexual, so that self satisfaction and love were equated. We now live with the deadly and depraved results of that reductionism. Christianity battles against this simplistic reduction and pleads for the fullness of love and its beauty.

 

Unfortunately, much of Christianity has permitted this reduction to affect the content of the proclamation in the churches. The teaching and preaching have often been reduced to "Love one another." What religion does not enjoin love, and yet such an injunction does not make it Christianity. As pivotal as that injunction from our Lord might be, it orbits within a whole universe of divine meaning and teaching about God, who He is and what He does in Christ, His only Son. You cannot merely require love of people as a way of making them Christians. Love, Christ, and His teaching all belong inseparably together. That is why the love/doctrine dichotomy is a false one; another dubious gift of the late twentieth century. The truthful teaching of Jesus entails love and truthful love entails Jesus' teaching. The crowbar used to separate them will kill both.

 

Our love for God is preceded and embraced by the love of God toward sinners in Christ Jesus. "We love because he first loved us" (1Jn 4:19). All our love and all descriptions of it must arise from the person of God's eternal Son, Jesus. So 1 Corinthians 13, the great love chapter, is not so much a check-off list of things you have to do to be fully loving, but a description of the person and work of Christ. He is the agape love described in it. You can easily substitute Christ for "love" in the text and come out right every time. God is love (1Jn 4:16). Christ is love. His work is love. What He teaches is love. There is a fullness here not ever understood or even hinted at by the world. Our loving is nothing other than Christ's working in the world, for our love is comprehended in Him and in His love; and since He is love there is no difference between them. In Christ, then there is a harmony between the lover and the beloved, so that we are able to reflect Him to the world in our love. What is His is ours in the blessed exchange of righteousness; ours to give away as generously as He has given it to us. We are never cast upon our own meager resources when it comes to love.

 

John Chrysostom

 

"When in weakness and pain, how will you be able to feel grateful to the Lord? You will if you sincerely love Him. For if the Three Children who were thrown into the furnace (Dan 3), and others who were in prisons, and in countless other evils, did not stop giving thanks, how much more will those who are suffering disease be able to do this. For assuredly there is not, anything which strong desire will not get the better of. But when the desire is that of God, it is higher than anything. Fire, sword, poverty, infirmity, death, nor anything else of the kind will appear dreadful to one who has gotten this love. He will scorn them all, flying to heaven, and have affections in no way inferior to its inhabitants, and seeing nothing else, not heaven, earth, nor sea, will look only upon Him who is the Beauty of that glory. The vexations of this life present will not depress him, nor the things which are goodly and experienced with pleasure, exalt him or puff him up.

 

"Let us then love with this love (for there is not anything equal unto it) both for the sake of things present and for the sake of things to come. Or rather, more than for these, for the nature of the love itself. For we will be set free both from the punishments of this life and of the one to come, and we will enjoy the kingdom. However, even escape from hell and the fruition of the kingdom, are nothing great in comparison to what is yet to be said. For greater than all these things is to have Christ as our beloved and our lover. For when this happens among humans it is above all pleasure; but when both happen from God, what language or what thought is able to express the blessedness of this soul? There is none that can, save only the experience of it. That then we may by experience come to know this spiritual joy, life of blessedness, and untold treasure of good things, let us leave everything to cling to that love, with a view as well to our own joy as to the glory of God. For unto Him is the glory and power, with His Only-begotten and the Holy Spirit, now and forever. Amen." 

 

John Chrysostom, Homilies on Romans, 9 

 

Prayer

Eternal Father, You have sent Your Christ among us as the personification of Your love for us. Grant that we might receive in faith that love unknown to the loveless shown. Help us to confess the fullness of beauty in Christ's love unto Your glory and power, with Your Only-begotten and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

 

For Dave De Young, that the Lord would grant him strength and healing as he recovers from an infection

 

For Vice President Herb Mueller of the LCMS, that he would be kept safe and have joy in his labors

 

For the catechumens of the church, that they would grow in faith and knowledge until knowing will be seeing 

Art: GRÜNEWALD, Matthias Isenheim Altarpiece (1515)

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