The Second Sunday after Trinity
ďAll You Need is LoveĒ
June 5, 2005
1 John 3:13-18
Faith, hope, and love endure. Love is greater than faith or hope because love lasts forever
while faith and hope will give way to sight on the last day.
We sing in the words of the Christmas hymn, ďOf the Fatherís
love begotten, eíer the worlds began to be.Ē
The eternal Son was begotten in love of the eternal Father in
eternity. The Father loved
the Son before there was a world, before there was a single human being
to inhabit the world, before there was a man or a woman for God to love.
Before time began there was love.
There never was a time when the Father did not love His only
begotten Son. God is love.
Our communion with God is communion in love.
To know love is to know God. To know God is to know love.
But what is love? St.
John tells us that we know we have passed from death to life because we
love our Christian brothers and sisters.
But he doesnít tell us that we know what love is by looking at
our love, whether for God or for one another.
No, if we want to know what love is we must look to Christ.
John writes, ďBy this we know love, because He laid down His
life for us.Ē Thatís
how we know love. We know
love only in knowing Christ crucified for us.
You canít find this love anywhere else and you canít produce
it apart from communion with God through faith in Jesus.
Years ago when I was in high
school a girl in my class came to me one day to complain about our
pastor because while he had agreed to let the kids have a so called
ďYouth ServiceĒ he had vetoed a song she really wanted to sing.
I think it was the number one pop song at the time, sung by a
group called the Youngbloods. She
thought he was being very closed minded because the song was about love
and arenít Christians in favor of love?
What could be wrong with singing about love?
Hereís the refrain of that song.
Perhaps you are familiar with it:
Try and love.
But thatís the whole problem.
We try. And we fail. But we donít like admitting our failure.
So we blame the one we refuse to love.
We find in him some fault that makes him unlovable.
In this way we excuse our hatred.
But we donít call it hatred.
We call it something else. We
define hatred in terms that apply to others so that we wonít have to
face the fact that deep within our hearts is an evil that we cannot
overcome. It is a hatred
that spawns death. ďWhoever
hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has
eternal life abiding in him.Ē
The sad fact of human existence
is that weíre not all brothers and sisters as the writers of songs
imagine us to be. The world is not a family.
We are separated by hatred and that hatred brings death, not
life. The only way we can
become brothers and sisters is by passing out of death into life.
This can only happen when our hatred is swallowed up in love.
When He who was begotten of the Fatherís love from eternity and
became our flesh and blood brother in time was nailed to the cross, it
was then that love confronted hatred in the battle of the ages.
Love defeated hatred. Love
did not give way to hatred.
When Jesus laid down His life
for us He bore our sin. He
bore our hatred. He bore
the hatred of the whole world. I
cannot understand it, but I know it is true because the Bible says so.
St. Paul says that He was made to be sin.
But that was not by committing a sin for He never did that.
It was by having sin reckoned or imputed to Him.
In that imputation of sin He who was love begotten and love
incarnate overcame all hatred. He
overcame it by love. He
loved when all the hatred of the world was laid upon Him.
What a battle this was!
The purest of pure love that could not give way to hatred
nevertheless suffered every effect of pain and guilt and judgment and
punishment that hatred brings. In
His laying down His life for us all Jesus destroyed the power of hatred
with the power of His own pure and eternal love.
This is the love in which we
trust. This is the love
that overcomes the world. This
is not only the motive and the power for our love; it is the very love
with which we love one another. That
is to say, when we love one another as Christians we are simply saying
ďAmenĒ to the love that God has for each one of us.
We are agreeing with Jesus.
We are saying ďyesĒ to His laying down His life for our
brothers and sisters. Thatís what love is. It
is not a human thing. It is
divine. It is from God.
It is from God to us. And
it is from God through us to one another.
It is eternal but we canít leap up out of our time and space to
catch it, as if it is floating up in heaven somewhere and we must find
our way to it. It comes to us here and now where we live whenever God speaks
His gospel to us. The
gospel is always the word of God forgiving us our sins, setting us free
from guilt, bringing peace to us, and rescuing us from death and
punishment all for the sake of Jesus laying down His life for us all.
This is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and
sent His Son to suffer on the cross to take away our sins and set aside
His judgment against us.
So donít talk about love as if
it originates in the efforts of humanity.
Love is of God and He who loves is born of God.
We ought not to be surprised if
the world hates us. The
world loves its own. Christians
are those who, in looking within themselves, see nothing but sin and
death. Christians are those
who have found in Christ alone the love to replace hatred.
And so, Christians do not respect the religiosity of this world.
If the love of which we are capable were sufficient then Jesus
died for no purpose. If
human efforts could prevail then Jesus has done no more than to provide
us with a moral example. But
if every form of love that has its origin within the human heart is
inadequate to bring us true and lasting life, why then every human
effort to overcome hatred must fail.
The unbelieving world does not want to admit this. This is why people reject the Christian gospel and its doctrine of love. They want to believe in their own love and they donít want to admit that their love fails. Songs will be sung about it and dreams will be dreamed, but the human race will never learn how to do what the Youngbloods so plaintively urged us all to do. The final verse of that popular song went like this:
But itís not there at your
command. No, the key to
love is in Christ laying down His life for us.
Itís not there at our command.
Itís there in Christís blood.
It doesnít originate in the human heart as it tries to love.
It originates in our Fatherís heart as He does what love
requires for us all.
A sentimental and humanistic
notion of love often parades itself as being Christian, deceiving
Christians. In one of Ibsenís plays the main character is an
uncompromising pastor by the name of Brand whose wife chided him one day
for his failure to love. To
which he replied:
Godís love for us is not mild
or weak. And neither is the
love God expresses through us to one another.
If a brother or sister in Christ needs what we can give we give
because this is what love requires.
This isnít simply a matter of giving to charity.
Thatís just an obvious example.
Itís a matter of doing whatever it is that love requires at the
moment that love requires it. Love
doesnít need a rulebook. It
needs only an opportunity. But
what does it do? What do
the Commandments say? Love
honors father and mother. Love
respects human life and helps those in physical need.
Love honors the marriage vow and avoids sexual sins.
Love respects private property.
Love protects the reputation of others.
Love is content with what God provides, not seeking to take
advantage of others in getting more.
Love does whatever is to the benefit of others without asking for
anything in return. Love
keeps no record of wrongs. Love forgives even when the one who has
sinned repeats the sin again and again.
Love lays down its life for the brothers and the sisters.
Love never fails.
But you fail.
I fail. Every single
Christian in this world fails. We fail every day.
And when hatred bubbles up within us and the accuser and
slanderer of Godís children would convince us that Godís love for us
has been exhausted by our repeated failures, our God silences the
devilís lies with the gospel. That
gospel reveals to our penitent hearts the unfailing love of Christ who
laid down His life for us. That
holy death, wherein love conquered hate once and for all, remains the
source of Godís forgiveness of all our sins.
Christ invites us to His supper, and we come as we are.
He feeds us with His grace.
He forgives us all our sin, cleanses our guilty conscience, and
delivers us from the devilís power.
This is what His love does and will continue to do for us all the
days of our lives. We know
this is true because Jesus laid down His life for us.
And that, dear brothers and sisters in Christ, is the source and
strength of every act of love we will ever do.
Rev. Rolf D. Preus