Love Alone is Credible
Notes from the pastor

 "The person who does not love remains in death.” John offers this challenge to his community of believers as they struggle to care for one another and stick together.  If you read the letter we call 1 John at length, you pick up on the fact that he’s writing to a church he deeply cares about, but that is also deeply flawed.  The language John uses throughout the letter always circles back to God’s love and our living or not living in that love.

Love as a word and as a concept is something we use loosely to mean many different things.  But when we think “love,” it’s usually of the romantic variety.  Portrayals of love come to us in the form of movies, television, internet, and real life experiences, and most of the time those portrayals teach us to see love in a very particular way.  Love, however, encompasses a much broader reality than any of these.

What we call love is but an incomplete reflection of the love God offers without pretense and condition.  Henri Nouwen once said, “Jesus’s heart is the incarnation of the shadow-free first love of God.”  In Jesus we see the inclusion of unsavory and unloved people in God’s salvation.  We see enemy love as he forgives those who condemn him and nail him to a Roman cross.  We see the lengths and depths to which God is willing to go so that love will prevail, even over death.  Shadow-free, unconditional love.

Tertullian, an important figure in the early church, notes the way that critics of Christian faith recognized the difference Jesus made in the way they lived.  He quotes these critics as saying, “See how they love one another. … See how they are ready even to die for one another.”  What if that was what we were known for?

John casts this exact vision of how God’s love grows in us, in our communities, in God’s world first: “Little children, let’s not love with words or speech but with action and truth.  This is how we will know that we belong to the truth and reassure our hearts in God’s presence.”  John’s pleas for Christians to love each other with action and truth means to love one another silently and spiritually, but actively as the Spirit puts us in contact with other people.

Active love: I think that’s John’s point to a fractured church filled with broken people taken in by Jesus’s love. Love alone is credible, my friends.  And love is God’s only, ongoing mission.  Not many people know that they are loved without any conditions or limits.  That should trouble us because some of those people are among us — they are us. They are also the people we would call other, those outside our circles of trust.  They are those who think, look, vote, and believe differently from us.  They are those who would be our enemies. And who needs love more than an enemy?

The eyes required to see the people around us lovingly are only given through the faith of Jesus Christ at work in us. We stand at a crossroads in our country and in our church. That’s why this one-and-only mission is so urgent.  May we choose to love?


Pastor Patrick
Last Published: October 3, 2018 3:40 PM
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