Dear friends, let us love one another, because love is from God, and everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, because God is love. Godâ€™s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent His One and Only Son into the world so that we might live through Him. Love consists in this: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Dear friends, if God loved us in this way, we also must love one another. No one has ever seen God. If we love one another, God remains in us and His love is perfected in us. Â Â Â Â Â Â 1 John 4:7-12 (HCSB)
Lectionary texts: Acts 8:26-40, Psalm 22:25-31, 1 John 4:7-21, John 15:1-8
Mark Twain is credited with saying, â€œIt ain’t those parts of the Bible that I can’t understand that bother me, it is the parts that I do understand.â€ The Scriptures in the lectionary this week fall into Twain’s category.
The passage in 1 John brings a scene to my mind where the writer, John, sits me down, looks me straight in the eye, and begins speaking these words. I am pinned to my seat with the unvarnished truth of what he is saying, so wishing that I could somehow tell him, â€œIt isn’t so!â€.
On the one hand it is easy to shrug and think that the words are so simple and easy. I can dismiss the words with â€œSome people are just impossible to love!â€. None of those excuses work.
I have a real example. God knew that this â€œlove thingâ€ wouldn’t be easy for me. He knew that I need a standard that would be the perfect example. Jesus showed me that loving others was about making a choice. Jesus certainly didn’t live with perfect, easy-to-love people! And besides the 12 (like they weren’t bad enough!) Jesus also had the Pharisees. There isn’t any single group of people harder to love than hypocritical, judgmental â€œchurch peopleâ€! Jesus showed me how to love and how to â€œdraw the lineâ€. There weren’t many on the â€œunlovableâ€ side of Jesus’ line!
Look at all of those one syllable words. Love. Love. Love. If we stumble a bit on â€œpropitiationâ€ that just means that Jesus was the perfect sacrifice that brought us together with God.
If we love, looks what happens. God is in me. That’s what happens when I love. God lives in me. Do you struggle with wrapping your brain around the â€œwhyâ€ and â€œhowâ€ GOD can live in me? I don’t know why He would want to do that. I don’t understand how it happens I just know that it does. God lives inside of me. I know this because I can do things â€“ like love un-lovable people â€“ because of God. With God I have a tenderness and graciousness that is not part of my core nature. It wells up in me and just overflows out of me. It is God.
Philip shows me how God’s love will take me to meet with people who are not in my â€œcomfort zoneâ€ because of the passion that God has for each one of His children. Am I willing to go where He sends me and to whomever He sends me? If I am willing, then God is faithful to bless the receiver and the giver. It just doesn’t get better than that! There are so many who do not know Jesus and if they do, they are not living in the assurance of His love. I don’t have even an enemy that I want to live with that emptiness. God loves. How extraordinary.
Amazing Grace (My Chains are Gone) contemporary version by Chris Tomlin
If you have not seen the movie, Amazing Grace, based on the life of antislavery pioneer William Wilberforce it is a movie worth seeing.Â