Love alone is credible
Love alone is credible


Read 1 John 3:1–24 

  “The person who does not love remains in death.”  These words mean exactly what they say: whoever does not love stays dead.  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 or concept is something we use loosely to mean many things.  When we think “love,” usually we mean love 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 the practice of our sexuality or the sentimentality we feel in our emotional capacities.  John wants us to understand that love as God means it encompasses a much more robust reality.

Yet so many good and so many really bad things are done in the name of love, and that begs the question of how can we trust the efforts of love we put forward? 

One of the earliest theologians of the church, a North African named Tertullian, notes the way that critics of Christian faith recognized the difference Jesus made in the way they lived.  He quotes them as saying, “See how they love one another.  See how they are ready even to die for one another.” Another ancient voice, a Roman Emperor named Julian, wrote roughly a century later about how Christians were taking better care of the poor than his government and pagan priests were sharing meals and resources and medical care with those in need.  Amazing!  I think it’s wonderful for us to stand in awe of these ancient witnesses so long as we don’t romanticize them.  It would be a mistake to think that same love doesn’t also belong to us now since we belong to Christ just as they do.

John casts this same vision of how God’s love grows in us, in our communities, in God’s world: “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.”  Christians are to love each other with action and truth, each other meaning anyone whom God places in our path, friend or foe.  A serious challenge for sure, but the deeper challenge of this Scripture is that we learn first how to rest in God’s first love for us, so that our very imperfect lives might become channels of God’s very perfect love for others.  God’s love invites us to slow down and learn first who we are before we learn what we are to do. 

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 encounter every day, as well as those suffering whom we ignore.  Without God’s shadow-less love leading me, no matter what I say, what I do, or what I believe, I’m bankrupt. Love alone is credible my friends. 

- Pastor Patrick 

Last Published: May 1, 2019 1:30 PM
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