Monday, June 27, 2011

Second Sunday of Trinity

Second Sunday of Trinity
1 John 4:1-21
Bror Erickson

[16] 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. [17] By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world. [18] There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. [19] We love because he first loved us. [20] If anyone says, "I love God," and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. [21] And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother. 1 John 4:16-21 (ESV)

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. John spells out the implications of Christ’s Death and Resurrection in no uncertain terms. This is love, that Christ died for you. It is in Christ’s life, death, and resurrection that we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. It is in salvation, that God has shown love. And because he first loved us, so then we love. John, almost in tongue and cheek then says that this is the commandment, whoever loves God, must also love his brother. But it is more like a law of nature than a commandment. When you love God you will naturally love those whom God loves, and these are your brothers and sisters. This is at the heart of the Christian ethics. It is not the external law that we care about, but the motive.
This is the problem I have with most forms of Christianity, that seem to set a person out with rules and regulations through which they are supposed to earn salvation in one way or another, whether they say it is justification or sanctification. Whether they say it is something you have to earn, or something you have to keep. They absolutely fail to take into account love. What they rely on for motivating good behavior is selfishness. What results is not good, because the motivation is bad. But love is a tricky motivator. You can’t make someone love, you can only love.
People do it all the time. Try to make someone else love. Ultimatums in marriages, “if you don’t… I’m leaving!” If you have to result to that in the engagement process, move on. When love isn’t there it isn’t there. But the best way to get love is to give love. That’s a hard one though, because there is no guarantee that you will be loved back.
See this is why I’m tempted to say John is being tongue in cheek here when he makes love a commandment. But he isn’t. It is nothing new that is commanded here. It is that very thing God, who is love, has always demanded of us his creation. And it is the one thing that we have always failed to do. Finally he just gives us love, it is all he can do. Love in his blood, love in his life given for you. His love is finally his forgiveness no strings attached, there can’t be any, the forgiveness is a result of his love. He loves us, whether or not we love him back.
Oh you hear so much about love these days. Sickening saccharine monologues on “love.” I hesitate to even use the word, thinking it will be confused for other notions of what love is. Don’t get it confused with hippy talk.
People somehow get it in their heads that love is the new commandment and somehow this replaces the ten commandments, theology, hard thinking concerning politics, and religion. The world wants “love”. But the world is to often satisfied and satiated with substitutes. We don’t need marriage, we have love. I get sick to my stomach, literally when I hear the world talk about love. I’m repulsed. It becomes clear to me, that the world knows not what is love. For instance, there are reasons to go to war, and not to go to war. Of all the Sunday school lessons I had to endure as a kid, and some of them were awful moralistic garbage. The one that sticks out to me was a vet, with a classroom full of little Rambo wannabe’s explaining that the only good reason to go to war was love. That sometimes you have to defend, and protect the people and things you love. Sometimes it is the opposite of love to abstain from killing. See love is tricky. It isn’t always what the world makes of it. The world confuses selfishness with love.
This is why we so often fail to love. Love, it is there in the ten commandments. It doesn’t replace the ten commandments. God gave us the ten commandments so we would know what love looks like! Love doesn’t covet. Love doesn’t steal. Love doesn’t gossip. Love doesn’t fornicate or murder. Love honors Mother and Father. Love doesn’t get in the way of God. Love devotes itself to its source that is Love itself, God is Love. Love can’t get enough of love. And this is why it returns to church Sunday after Sunday, to be loved, because it is in the divine service, where love is replenished with the forgiveness of sins, to once again go out into the world and love the world with God’s love.
Only being forgiven ourselves, being loved ourselves will we have the strength to love our brother and forgive him. It is sometimes a painful process though, loving and being loved even when it comes to God. It is here we have to reconcile ourselves with God’s love. Come to terms with ourselves, and how we have failed. Week in and week out, we are called to examine ourselves. Week in and week out, we essentially beat ourselves confessing that we are sinners. Looking at our lives, and not the ones we put on for show, but the painful lives we live inside, the failures only we know, the ones we would like to hide from God if we could, perhaps with fig leaves. But God sees our shame, and loves us anyway. And really it is only then, that we truly know the love of God. I think this is why Luther was such a fan of Private Confession and absolution. It can be so painful, it can be so fearful to work up the courage to tell another living being your darkest secrets. Those things you don’t want anyone to know. But when you finally work up the courage to remove the fig leaves, and hear the sweet words of Jesus spoken audibly by another person called to thus speak, when you hear, your sins, even those you now confess. Those sins are forgiven, then you know love. Then you know believe love. It gives you strength to love.
And love is why it all matters. Love is why. This is why theology matters. Seriously, this is why we don’t just all join hands and sing kumbyah my Lord with every other denomination out there. Because bad theology doesn’t serve love, but undermines it. When God is not allowed to love unconditionally, and save us from our sins unconditionally despite our sins, while we are yet sinners, then finally we are not allowed to love either. We can’t love if all we are trying to do is earn love. But being loved, we love, and in this is love, not that we have loved God, but that he has loved us, and sent his son to be a propitiation for our sins.
Now the peace of God that surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord, Amen.

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