More Love

I John 3:23-24 (Read: I John 3:16-24)
And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us. 24 The one who keeps God’s commands lives in him, and he in them. And this is how we know that he lives in us: We know it by the Spirit he gave us.
Isn’t it amazing that the word that personifies who we are as Christians, LOVE is used so freely? It would not be unusual, for instance, to hear someone say one moment “I love my children” and 10 minutes later declare, “Oh my, I just love pizza!” Really? Same word for your kids as for a slice with pepperoni and sausage?  Or is it that LOVE is so huge that it encompasses who we are no matter what we are talking about, children or pizza, as long as we LOVE together. It is just so like God to want to create, to want to share the LOVE.

Like most rivers, LOVE follows a downward movement. LOVE is always looking for how it can help! It is never satisfied with words, ideas or feelings. It is touched by the very real misery it sees, which disturbs it. (I love that!)  It seeks ways of dealing with this; it gives itself tirelessly and never shrinks from difficult circumstances.

And what does John call this LOVE? In verse 18, he calls this acting in LOVE living in truth. The word truth is what God has shown in Jesus. Jesus is Truth! The True LOVE that we are to seek! No congregation can stay together, no marriage can survive, no family can be even remotely happy without love: forgiving love, understanding love, compassionate love, patient love, faithful love, gentle love. Love nearly unconditional!

In February of 1993, Mary Johnson’s 20-year-old son was shot in the head by Oshea Israel, a 16 year old, after an argument at a party in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Oshea had a 25 year sentence. For 15 years, Mary’s anger seethed (and why not). But then LOVE seeped into Mary. LOVE prevailed! She turned her anger into compassion and visited Oshea 15 years later. Soon he had an early release. Now 30 years later, she and Israel are next-door neighbors. Today, she counsels mothers of murdered children while he visits prisons and churches. He shares about forgiveness and reconciliation through the organization called the Forgiveness Project. What could possibly compel such an act of LOVE in one of the most unimaginable circumstances? A mother mourning the loss of her son embraces the one who caused her pain. You see, Mary came to understand what I John was talking about: Hatred seeks to conquer. Hate, John writes, makes you like Cain the murderer. Mary would not submit. Oshea writes one thing that Mary taught: I have learnt that if you hold on to pain it grows and grows but if you forgive you start to starve that pain and it dies.
How about you? What does LOVE look like in your life? What about those who have harmed your name? Or have contentious opinions? Or have a different verdict in mind or think differently than you? LOVE closer to home with people in this congregation or family members is more challenging! To fail at this point is more than devastating. It is to shut off compassion from our brother or sister in need. Failing to LOVE always makes your opinion right! And it seeps the worst of life onto others! Where is God in this kind of life?
The world tells us to hate those who offend us and to desire the worse for those who harm us; God's love, however, is the complete opposite. And so we have a choice to either LOVE as God requires or not to. To do the hard work that is contrary to the world and to daily seek a higher and deeper love through the power of the Holy Spirit is not for sissies!

In The Screwtape Letters C.S. Lewis imagines the demon Screwtape writing to his nephew Wormwood: God really does want to fill the universe with little replicas of Himself. We want cattle who can finally become food; He wants servants who can finally become sons. We want to suck in, He wants to give out. We are empty and would be filled; He is full and flows over. Our Father below [the Devil] has drawn all other beings into himself, [God] wants a world full of beings united to him but still distinct.

God's love reaches far beyond the depths of human emotions and demands a deeper effort of placing one's self aside for a greater message. How can we do this?  This level of compassion is unattainable on our own!  God gives us the Holy Spirit's power in order to get over ourselves and to love deeply, even the unlovable! Through the Spirit's guidance, we are able to give incredible doses of love!

Verse 16: This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters…

 Verse 18: Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth. When John talks about Jesus laying down His for us. This is Jesus’ deepest meaning of LOVE.
What if you were to give up your own way, your opinion, your anger and revenge in order to imitate Jesus’ own LOVE?  Think of the life you could give others. Think of the sign of God’s LOVE present and in action that would surface in you and influence others! And thus, Jesus Himself defines the character of the church’s life. To LOVE means to live and to cause to live. In verse 24 John asks the vital question: How do we know if God really lives in us? John’s answer: … keep on believing what you have been taught from the beginning. God is doing divine work in us! Will you choose LOVE?
With more love for you than you know…
Joy, Joy – Pastor Alexis  

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