Scripture: 1 John 4:7-21
Love, exciting and new
Come Aboard. We’re expecting you.
And Love, life’s sweetest reward.
Let it flow, it floats back to you.
Love Boat soon will be making another run (https://www.lyricsondemand.com/tvthemes/theloveboatlyrics.html)
Remember some of these old shows? Shows like The Love Boat and Fantasy Island where people would come to explore new relationships or to fall in love all over again?
The concept has not gone away. People still look for love in all sorts of places. Couples like to get away together, without the kids, to remember their love for each other. And there is nothing wrong with that at all. Bev and I try to take advantage of such opportunities whenever we can.
Love is a very powerful emotion. Just think of all the things it makes us do. It makes us commit ourselves to one other person for our entire lives in this thing we call marriage! It makes us feel other emotions like jealousy. It makes us do crazy things like move to another country. It can also make us feel like our world is shattered if the relationship breaks down. Love is incredibly powerful. And it can also make us change in ways we would have never expected.
I watched a documentary this week called Accidental Courtesy. It tells the story of Daryl Davis who hung out with members of the Klu Klux Clan. The only thing is, Daryl Davis is a black man.
Why would Daryl do this? He did it so members of the klan would get to know him, and eventually change their ways. In a closet in his home, he has dozens of gowns worn by klan members who changed their ways of thinking and left the klan behind. Including high ranking members within the movement, leaders of states and counties even.
Daryl reached out to these men and women in friendship, and eventually they learned to love one another as equals within the human race, and their lives were forever changed, including Daryl Davis.
Imagine, a black man stepping out into a society known for its violence against people like himself, and offering the hand of friendship instead of hatred. His philosophy was simple, “How can someone hate me if they don’t know me?” Simple, yet very powerful.
This week, Remembrance Day celebrations are happening all over the place. In my role as Legion chaplain, I will be visiting schools, hospitals, and of course the cenotaph to remember the sacrifices of those who served in various wars fought around the world, and in some places are still being fought. So often these wars are fought because of a misunderstanding.
Imagine if Hitler had taken time to sit down and get to know the Jews of Germany. Imagine if Japan had sat down with Americans. Imagine if all the world leaders sat down and instead of discussing trade and bureaucracy and warheads, they sat down and got to know one another. “How can someone hate me if they don’t know me?”
How can war happen, how can you hate someone, how can you want them wiped off the face of the earth if you are a friend?
Sure I may be simplifying things a bit, but the core of the message, I believe, is true. Peace will only come if we learn to sit down with each other and learn to love one another.
Are there exceptions? Absolutely, maybe not everyone can change. I say maybe, because God isn’t done yet, he’s still in control, and we haven’t seen all that he can do. Many can, and will change when love is our first action. If someone can leave the Klu Klux Clan and see Daryl Davis as one of their most trusted friends, believe me, people can change.
In case you didn’t notice, love is a big focus for our reading this morning, and it has been for the last couple of weeks as we’ve been going through John’s letter to the church. And he writes these things with good authority, because love was a huge part of what Jesus did during his time here on this earth.
Love is also a big theme throughout the entire Bible. Yes there’s lots of war and death in the Old Testament, and a lot of it is attributed to God. But, love is the overarching theme. Read the Bible closely, even in times of war you will see messengers from God, prophets, who are calling us to love. Love God first, and love your neighbour as yourself.
Jesus teaches us in his sermon on the mount in Matthew 5 about the importance of love and how it relates to God. He says,
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. (Matthew 5:43-48)
We must be perfect as our heavenly Father his perfect. How is our heavenly Father perfect? He. Loves. Everyone.
Our heavenly Father loves me. He loves you. He loves drug addicts. He loves their children. He even loves the drug dealers. He loves all!
And he sent Jesus to show us this important fact: He loves all!
Psalm 119 says this in response to worshiping God, “Great peace have those who love your law; nothing can make them stumble.” (Psalm 119:165)
When we love God, we find peace, we find strength to resist temptation, we will not stumble if we love God first and foremost in our lives. God’s love sustains us more than we really ever know.
John tells us in our reading today in chapter 4,
Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. (1 John 4:7-8)
My brothers and sisters we need the love of God in our lives. The world needs the love of God in our churches so we can share this incredible love with our neighbours, our communities, our country. We, as a society have long forgotten about this love so freely offered. A love which offers healing to our troubled souls and brings peace.
John makes a connection with the sermon on the mount, as we seek to be perfect children of God, just as God is perfect. John says, “Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.” (1 John 4:11-12)
Love is the under-riding theme in a life of faith. When you think about it, it makes perfect sense. If God is willing to pour out his love for us on the cross, as his Son hung there to die for our sins, then shouldn’t we be willing to pour our love out for him and share it with those who travel with us?
Instead we turn to the news and we read of the threat of global war, to an extent of which we haven’t heard in almost 30 years. Instead we read of people who are so upset with western culture they’ll drive a truck into a crowd of people and start shooting. The world is broken right now, really broken, and it needs the healing love of God to help mend it.
This is where the church needs to step in. Our current government seems to be quite happy to dismiss, and even ridicule, issues which are considered matters of faith. They refuse to speak against Bill C62 in Quebec, which outlaws religious headdress. It wholeheartedly supports our new Governor General when she derides people of faith as lower class citizens who are some how less enlightened than people of science.
Well, I’m sorry, but I am a man of science, married to a woman of science, and we believe in a God of love who has created this universe and everything in it, and we will seek to love to the best of our abilities, even those who disagree with us, because our God has commanded it. In fact Jesus tells us, as I have read earlier, we are called to love even those who oppose us.
We must speak in tones of love, and it’s not always easy. I’ve found myself biting my tongue a number of times, even this past week, as I try to be loving when my belief system and the beliefs of others, comes under attack.
If we cannot love, then we are of no help to the coming kingdom of God.
Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 13,
If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.
Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love. (1 Corinthians 13:1-7,13)
Paul, once a man who spent his life hunting down the people of God to arrest and even kill them, realizes the importance of love. He himself was the recipient of such love from the church when we converted to a follower of Jesus. Had the church chosen to punish him for all he had done to their friends, well… Paul certainly would have been a very different man than what we read about in the Bible.
Love changes things. It changes lives. It changes families. It changes neighbourhoods, communities, towns. Love changes the world.
How do I know this? Because love found me. Yes I was loved growing up. Yes I found love when I met Bev. But no other love came close to the love I found when I gave my life to God. And this love continues to change me.
I hope that you too have found this love in your own life. The love of our perfect Father in heaven, given to this world through the life of his Son, who died to our imperfections so that we may be perfect children of our God.
Would you pray with me?
We love love. We thank you for this wonderful emotion. We thank you that you love us more than we can ever know.
But we also need your help to show love. The world is a difficult place right now, a place where love can be very hard to find. So help us to be examples of love, help us sow seeds of love, help to love those who are hard to love.
And help us to realize the depth of your love for us, as you showed it on the cross of calvary.
We love you Lord, we need you, so may we know your loving presence here today, and every day, as we seek to live out the lives of love you call us to live.
We ask this in the precious name of your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen and amen.