Sixth Sunday in Easter
1 John 5:1-8
[5:1] Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whomever has been born of him.  By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments.  For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome.  For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world— our faith.  Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?
 This is he who came by water and blood—Jesus Christ; not by the water only but by the water and the blood. And the Spirit is the one who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth.  For there are three that testify:  the Spirit and the water and the blood; and these three agree. 1 John 5:1-8 (ESV)
Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God and everyone who loves the father loves whoever has been born of him… For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world, and this is the victory that has overcome the world-- our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.
There are a couple things to be inferred here from this, and not a few implications for how we live to be mined here. “Every one who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God.” What comfort, what joy, what relief from existential anxiety comes from these words. I was talking to a man on a plane not to long ago. I think I may even have shared this story with you, once before. He grew up Anglican but for all intents and purposes left the church because he had never had a born again experience. He didn’t think he was saved because he failed to have an emotional liver shiver, as my mentor in college used to call them, these emotional experiences everyone raves about. This poor man didn’t think he believed because he thought faith was an emotion, and the emotion not faith was needed to be saved. “Jesus answered him, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God."  Nicodemus said to him, "How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother's womb and be born?"  Jesus answered, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.  That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” (John 3:3-6 (ESV) He had this idea of being born again mixed up with a feeling, and emotion. Yet we learn here that if we believe that Jesus is the Christ we are born of God, Born of the Spirit, for the Holy Spirit is God.
There is great comfort here. Some of us have been wired differently then others. Some people are all but incapable of emotion. In fact some of us come close to despising emotion, and certainly aren’t about to have our emotions lead us around by the nose. To do so is really in human. To experience emotion is one thing. To let it lead us is quite another. We are not dogs. Animals it seems are led if not by emotion, by instinct. When the cow is in heat the bull really has not choice, and the young bull will fight him for the opportunity, even endangering his life. I don’t know about you, but I don’t find it very self respecting to operate on the level of a dog or a bull that has no self control. Neither do I find any of that to be an act of love. I also find it very effeminate to be led around by your emotions in anything.
Now for women it is a wonderful thing for them to be feminine. God has made us differently, men and women. He has given us different traits and gifts. I don’t really know what an emotional IQ is, but psychologists say women tend to have higher emotional IQ’s than men. I don’t find to many men who care to have a higher emotional IQ. But even so there are some emotions that are inappropriate guides even for women. I tend to believe those Harlequin Romances are every bit as bad for women as playboy and hustler are for men. Neither should a woman anymore than a man be led to trust in a feeling or an emotion over and above that fact that Jesus is the Christ who died that we might have life. Truth is truth, and apart from Christ there is no truth. He is the way, the truth and the life, none come to the Father except by him. And if you believe that, you have been born again, you are born of God. You don’t have to speak in tongues, flop on the floor like a fish, chase after emotional highs, or worry anxiously because last week you didn’t feel happy despite the resurrection.
I don’t know where this thought process comes from. I hear junk all the time like that. I don’t want to dwell on the cross, I just like to believe in the resurrection. Why should I confess I am a poor miserable sinner? I am an Easter Christian. Sorry, It is bad enough that doctrinal divisions have divided us into Lutherans, Catholics, Baptists, and Methodists. Now we are going to separate each other according to seasons of the Church year based on emotions? Have your Easter, I’ll take Advent. I’m an Advent Christian. What does that mean? Oh I know what you mean when you say Easter Christian, you think in light of the resurrection you should be happy all the time and bubbling with joy. Well I’m not buying it. The fact you able to paint a smile on your face most mornings makes you no more righteous than anyone else, the truth is the truth, and here it is. I don’t care if you can bounce around in bubbly joy, your still a poor miserable sinner. Now come talk to me when you mom or dad dies. Come talk to me when your husband or wife dies, and I’ll tell you what an Advent Christian is all about. What it means to live in Pentecost, to be in the world and yet not of it, waiting in hopeful expectation for the one who tasted death and dies no longer, who will return to judge the living and the dead, and bring us home with him. Who unites us even now with our loved ones the saints who have gone before and are yet to come, and who gives us a foretaste of that reunion banquet in the victory feast we celebrate here, the foretaste of the feast to come. Because everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world, and this is the victory that has overcome the world--our faith. Our Faith is the victory that has overcome the world, because our faith is in Jesus Christ the Son of God that has overcome the world.
 I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world." (John 16:33 (ESV)
Yes in the world you will have tribulation. In the world you will not have peace. In the world you will have sadness and despair, and you will feel it. It won’t feel good. And despite that you are not of the world, you are of Christ, and therefore you have peace with God. It doesn’t mean that you are happy all the time. You experience this world for what it is, all the pain and suffering that Jesus experienced, but also the joy that he experienced in this world too, when He went to the wedding at Cana, and made wine for the distraught bride and bridegroom about to be shamed by their inebriated guests. You think Jesus sat in a corner in scornful somberness? No, he enjoyed Himself at the wedding, but he also cried at the death of Lazurus, even knowing that he would raise him from the dead!
Emotions are human. You will experience them, Don’t be blindly led by them. For it is also human to think. God gave us a brain, and He expects us to use it. He gave us reason, not just emotion. And so also He gives us faith. Those who believe are born of God. It is His gift, He bears us, gives birth to our faith. And in that faith we learn to love. Yes learn.
Love, the love of faith, doesn’t come naturally. It too is borne of God, and we learn to do it in faith. It is something we are never done learning. Listen to how He describes it here. “For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments, and His commandments are not burdensome.”
Well they are when you break them, but not when you keep them. We often do a poor job of this. Keeping his commandments, maybe not so much in deed, as in thought and word. We never stop being poor miserable sinners, even as we never stop being saints in the forgiveness of Christ, in faith born of God. But love has to do with keeping the commandments. Loving God has to do with keeping his commandments. And not just the first table, the ones dealing with our relationship with God, but also the second table.
You see theologically there is a distinction made here. The first three commandments, “You shall have no other God before me” You shall not use the name of the Lord your God in Vain” “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it Holy” Those are the first table, they deal with our relationship with God. But the second table deals with that too, indirectly maybe, but we love God, by loving our neighbor. We love God, by loving those whom He created, and those for whom He died and gave life, as He did for us. So we love God by honoring our Father and our Mother. We Love God by resisting the urge to bludgeon our neighbor at two o’clock in the morning as they are having a drunken party on the front lawn with no care for anyone, and driving the four wheeler at breakneck speeds up and down the street. And our love of our neighbor at that point might call the police so as to protect him, and others who may not be so loving. We love our neighbor by loving our spouse, and not committing adultery or looking elsewhere to satisfy our desires. We love our neighbor as we love our spouse and don’t abandon them to raise emotionally traumatized fatherless children. This isn’t Christian nonsense either. This is actually common sense. Until Christianity came along, society knew was much more willing to have the children motherless than fatherless. Sometimes I think it is the secularization of a Christian Society, with the bastardized Christian principles that is the cause of much hardship in today’s society. Pacifism, egalitarianism, separation of Church and state, these are all children of Christianity. But divorced from Christianity to be raised on their own in secular society they become illogical monsters, and quite frankly bad for society. Untold harm is done when children are automatically given to the mother with no regard for sanity. Mothers are typically less able to discipline. And most children boys especially need discipline. It’s the reason most of our prisons are over crowded. Women would not have that power in a society that wasn’t deeply influenced by Christianity. Just would not happen. And it only happens in a “Christian” society when the principals are divorced from the Christian roots, when people forget where those principles come from.
Pacifism is the same way. Your just not going to find that thought process in a society that is not heavily influenced by Christianity. Christianity taught the Vikings to respect the lives of others. But when it gets divorced from Christianity this pacifism becomes nothing more than a selfish desire to not want to defend your neighbor, and we become guilty of murder as we standby, watch and do nothing.
You see we love God by loving our neighbor. We love God, when we love that person next to us enough to do the right thing despite the desires in us, the selfish sin that would steal and slander, scheme and take revenge. We love God when we forgive our neighbor rather than take revenge. That doesn’t mean we don’t punish them. Letting murderers walk free is hardly love. We might even execute them. Forgiving doesn’t mean neglecting justice. But Christ forgave them on the cross as He forgave us. He has loved us, and He has loved them. So we love one another and forgive. Love here is not an emotion, it is an action. God isn’t telling us to fall in love with him. To many churches depict it this way. To many Christians think of it this way. It is off putting to guys like me who try not to think of God as my cosmic boyfriend. It’s even more revolting to hear men talk like that. Seriously, loving God is not falling in love with God. It is fearing Him, respecting Him, and following His commandments. It is not whoring after other God’s be they Vishnu, husband or wife. Yes those can become God’s. You shall have no other gods before me He says. Love your husband, love your wife, honor your mother and father, but not above God. Listen to them, but not before God. I mean when I hear of women abandoning Christianity for Islam, because of a boyfriend that is putting husband before God. Or Christian men abandoning Christianity for Mormonism because of some girl. That is just plain stupidity. Giving up salvation, giving up the free gift of heaven, for a family to share hell with you. Think about that. I understand the desire for family, it is a God given desire. But love does not abandon God for anyone. We do not show that other person love when we worship them and not God. We show love for our family, when we love God first, and show them to do the same. For God is the only one truly deserving of our love. He made us. He died for us, and He died for them too. Therefore he forgives them, as he forgives us.
Now the peace of god that surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord Amen.