A New Love Chapter?

 

In these fifteen verses of the fourth chapter of 1st John the word love is used twenty-five times. That may be cause to challenge the 13th Chapter of 1st Corinthians for the title of the “Love Chapter” of the New Testament.   In these few verses we hear that God is love, that God loves us and that love is from God. We are encouraged, time and again, to love one another. It goes further than that – it is a mandate: “…those who do not love a brother or sister can’t love God –those who love God must love their brothers and sisters…” We learn that the only way we can love at all is because God first loved us.

 

The prepared message was bracketed by the reading of 1 John 4:7-21 by our Worship Leader and three others.

1 John 4:7-21 in four part harmony….

Worship leader:7Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.

Reader 1.    8Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love.

Reader 2.    9God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might live through him.

Reader 3.    10In 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.

Worship leader11Beloved, since God loved us so much, we also ought to love one another.

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

1.    13By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit.

2.    14And we have seen and do testify that the Father has sent his Son as the Savior of the world.

3.    15God abides in those who confess that Jesus is the Son of God, and they abide in God.

 

1.    16So we have known and believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them.

2.    17Love 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.

3.    18There 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.

All 19We love because he first loved us.

 

Worship leader20Those who say, “I love God,” and hate their brothers or 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.

 21The commandment we have from him is this: those who love God must love their brothers and sisters also.

In these fifteen verses of the fourth chapter of 1st John the word love is used twenty-five times. That may be cause to challenge the 13th Chapter of 1st Corinthians for the title of the “Love Chapter” of the New Testament.   In these few verses we hear that God is love, that God loves us and that love is from God. We are encouraged, time and again, to love one another. It goes further than that – it is a mandate: “…those who do not love a brother or sister can’t love God –those who love God must love their brothers and sisters…” We learn that the only way we can love at all is because God first loved us.

 

We learn that perfect love casts out fear. How about that, it is the antidote to a fear driven market place to fear mongering politics. Some of you may recall the Biblical Commentary of 1871 – Jamieson, Fausset and Brown. For this passage the comment reads: “Fear has no place in love. Bold confidence based on love, cannot coexist with fear. Love, which, when perfected, gives bold confidence, casts out fear.” The biblical message of love delivers us from our bondage to fear. And what a fearful place our world has become. Fear is a very powerful tool, because it paralyzes us and consumes us, it twists and distorts our sense of reality, it chips away at our soul, piece by piece, and many there are who purvey fear in our country, wielding it with impunity. Our own United States has become Ground Zero for the fear movement through the panicked headlines that continually greet us, the advertising that saturates our brains each day, and the unverified opinions of talking heads who people our media.

 

It is fascinating how fear marketing has become so much a part of our lives. While we might raise moral questions about its use Martin Lindstrom, in his book ‘Buyology’ says that it is unquestionably effective. One analysis of his book explains “Our primal instinct as human beings is to survive; therefore, fear and sex are key. Fear relates to our survival: Do I have enough to eat? Will I have enough money when I retire? Is that product safe? Lindstrom claims that political fear-based advertising is effective because it taps into our primal concerns of survival.” Fearfulness disables our ability to think clearly. Scientists tell us that is because fear and anxiety change our brain chemistry putting our higher values out of reach.  

 

Verse 10 of this passage insists that when we talk or think about what love is, we must begin with God’s action. The passage tells us that God’s love was revealed in God’s act of sending his only Son into the world to be “a sacrifice” that restores our relationship with God. For good reason such language when taken literally plays havoc with our understanding of God. Arthur Roberts helped us with that in the wonderful way he characterized several classic theories of atonement as word pictures, metaphors, which help us understand how human beings have sought to explain salvation history and how it brings us to righteousness and life. He said we should be wary of this substitutionary view that is so popular among Christians today because it can easily become distorted into what Deitrich Bonhoeffer called cheap grace— he wrote: “we walk away from the consequences of our sins because a heavenly granddaddy pays the fine”. Our singular focus on Jesus’ death makes it difficult to see that God sent his only Son into the world so we might live through him. Love being grounded in God’s sending his Son gives it its particular character quite different from a sentimental or self-serving way of defining love. This is the sense in which we must say that “God is love”. It doesn’t work to reverse that phrase. We can’t get away with saying that “love is God.” God is love because God made God’s self known to us in the act of sending and giving the Son for us. An attitude, an ideal or an emotion can’t act. The author of 1st John is adamant, God acted.

 

The focus of verse 11 should come as no surprise: from the certainty of God’s love for us comes the call to love one another. The incarnation meant that the grace, glory, and love of God had been made visible – palpable. On this side of Easter, this side of Pentecost, the incarnation is no longer visibly available to us.   That to which the author points as the place where God’s own love may be seen is love exhibited by the followers of Christ.  God’s loving intent is completed, or you could say perfected only as that love is lived out in relation to the rest of creation. For those who look for some demonstration of the reality of God and of the gospel, we should be able to point to the mutual love among us and say, “come and see.”

 

The phrase in verse 16 translated “love for us” could just as well be translated as it is in verse 9 -“among us”. The meaning is not primarily that we each believe that God loves us individually. We need to be mindful that we could be singing “Jesus loves me, this I know” with such a self-focus as to become heretical. God’s love reaches its intended goal only when it creates a community of continuing love, when it becomes “God’s love among us.” The love that God shows toward each one of us is may be distinguishable from, but can’t be separated from, the love lived within the church.

 

When our girls were little we drove to Hershey Pennsylvania. As you neared Hershey Park chocolate permeated the air. It was wonderful. And as the day passed in riding the rides and picnicking in the park the aroma of chocolate stayed with you every breath. And by the end of the day the smell of chocolate almost made you nauseous. Is this focus on love just too much or can we ever get told enough that we are loved? We can never get beyond God’s love for us in Christ and how that is lived out in love for one another. We are always drawn back to that central, and centering, claim. We know God’s love, first and foremost, in the Son; we know God’s love for us deep within ourselves and we know God’s love because we have witnessed it in love for one another. This text may serve as a reminder that we never outgrow our need to hear again that we are loved.

 

1 John 4:7-21 in four part harmony….

Worship leader:7Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.

Reader 1.    8Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love.

Reader 2.    9God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might live through him.

Reader 3.    10In 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.

Worship leader11Beloved, since God loved us so much, we also ought to love one another.

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

1.    13By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit.

2.    14And we have seen and do testify that the Father has sent his Son as the Savior of the world.

3.    15God abides in those who confess that Jesus is the Son of God, and they abide in God.

 

1.    16So we have known and believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them.

2.    17Love 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.

3.    18There 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.

All 19We love because he first loved us.

 

Worship leader20Those who say, “I love God,” and hate their brothers or 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.

 21The commandment we have from him is this: those who love God must love their brothers and sisters also.

 

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