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  • Writer's pictureRev. Gerald (Jerry) Reiter, Emeritus

Abide In Jesus’ Love

Sixth Sunday of Easter


Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves the father loves his child as well. This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out his commands. In fact, this is love for God: to keep his commands. And his commands are not burdensome, for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world? Only the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.


This is the one who came by water and blood—Jesus Christ. He did not come by water only, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth. For there are three that testify: the Spirit, the water and the blood; and the three are in agreement.

I John 5:1-8


“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. This is my command: Love each other.

John 15:9-17


Today is Mother’s Day. And today both our Epistle lesson and our Gospel lesson spoke about love. I think that’s pretty fitting, for when I think of my mother, I think of love. And when I think of love, I think of my mother.


So, thinking about love on Mother’s Day makes sense to me. I hope it does to you too!


Last Sunday, in our Epistle lesson we read, “Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.” God is love. That’s an easy statement for a young boy or girl to memorize – but I think it might be difficult for even an adult to understand. “God is love.” It speaks of God and it speaks of love, but just who is God, anyway? And what is meant by “love”? And what does it mean to you and me?


Who is God? Well, the Bible never tells us exactly who God is. Our vocabulary couldn’t exactly define Him, nor could our minds fully understand Him. But the Bible does tell us some things about God, and about His nature, and by putting them together we can come close to a workable understanding of Him. We can learn what God is like.


The Bible presents God in many roles: He is the holy, almighty, unchanging, infinite one, who is judge, creator, wisdom, spirit, king, jealous lover, owner of all that is, the all-knowing, all-wise, all-powerful governor of the universe.


So many words are used to describe Him in Scripture, or by the Church, that His essence gets lost in our language. But if we really want to know about God, is there any way to be sure of what God is like?


Sure, there is! We can accept what the Bible tells us: that God is like Jesus! If we really want to know God, we must know Jesus! For Jesus is all of God that our minds can comprehend. We may not be able to understand everything about God, but we can know Jesus, and He’s enough. Since “God was pleased to have all His fullness dwell in Jesus,” (Col. 1:19) to know Jesus is to know God.


So, whoever has listened to Jesus has listened to His Father as well, for Jesus said, “The Father is in me, and I am in the Father” (John 10:38), and “Whatever I say is just what the Father has told me to say.” (John 12:50) So, “What is God like?” He’s like Jesus!


And then we ask, “What is love like?” And if it’s true that when we look at Jesus, we see His Father living in flesh among us – then it’s equally true that in the Son, we see the Father’s love.


The Greeks had several words that are translated by our one word, “love.” The Greeks adored “Eros,” which is physical attraction, bodily love, that love if its love is returned. They also enjoyed “Phileo,” the love of brother for brother. But the highest form in the Bible is “Agape,” which is love like God’s love.


The power of “agape” is in the fact that it can be commanded by our wills rather than dictated by our feelings. It’s subject to our control, so we can hold on to it in spite of what happens to us. This love keeps on hanging on – it’s eternal.


God seems to be like the mother of twelve children in an old story. When she was asked, “Which one of your children do you love the most?” She answered, “The one who is sick until he gets well; the one who is away until he comes home; the one who is in trouble until he is safe.”


As a caring parent, God also takes care of His rebellious, troubled, wandering children. The Divine Parent becomes the Loving Savior in Jesus. So if we really wish to understand the love of God, we must study the life of Christ. He is the love of God in action. In Jesus, God gives Himself for our sakes. This isn’t a bad definition, by the way, “Love is self-giving.”


God’s love, then, is Christ-like. What is God like? God is like Jesus. What is love like? Love is like Jesus. So, to know what “God is love” means, we need to look at Jesus.


But love doesn’t end there, does it? Jesus said, “If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in His love… This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.”


The Lord loves us as we are, but He doesn’t expect us to stay as we are! He wants His love in us to change us, and He says, “Love one another as I have loved you.” And if we aren’t sure about how much He loves us, and about how much He expects us to love one another, He explains it: “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lays down his life for his friends.”


We find the love of God at Calvary. God in Christ proved His love when He laid down His life for us. Paul wrote, “Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die.” (Romans 5:7)


I don’t know if you could get anyone to lay down his life for you; I think I’d have a problem finding someone myself! :)


But God has proven His love. He gave His Son to die for us, not after we’d won a five-year Sunday School attendance pin, but “While we were yet sinners Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)


The explanation of this love is found in Him, and not in us! Because we aren’t so loveable – and some people don’t ever seem to become very loveable.


But Jesus loved us, loveable or not, and in His love for us, He allowed Himself to be killed. He laid down His life for his friends. And He said, “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.” How about it? Can we say that we hate people down here, and still love God? Like the little poem says:

“To live above, with the saints in love,

That will be such glory;

But to live here below,

With the saints I know,

That’s another story!” :)


The Lord Jesus could say, even as he hung in torment on the cross, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t not know what they’re doing.” And Stephen, the first martyr of the Church, as he was being stoned to death, said, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.”


Are you able to forgive those who have hurt you, and harmed you, and yet profess to be children of God? That’s the real test – the acid test – and it hurts, doesn’t it? I know it hurts me!


But I also know that love – agape love – can change things. And it can change people – and it can change you and me. That’s the power of love.


So here’s how it works:


First, God loves us. “This is love; not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” (1 John 4:19)


Second, we love God. “We love because He first loved us.” (1 John 4:19)


Third, we love Him by obeying Him. “My command is this: love each other as I have loved you.” (John 15:12)


Fourth, we love Him through obedience by loving each other. “Dear friends, since God so love us, we also ought to love one another. (1 John 4:11)


Fifth, when we love as He loves and whom He loves, we cease to be just His children, and become more like His friends. “You are my friends if you do what I command.” (John 15:14)


As His friends, we can know what God is like – He’s like Jesus.


As his friends, we can know what love is like – it’s like Jesus.


And as His friends, we can become more and more like Jesus, by loving as He does! By loving so that others may see in us that “God is love.”


Amen

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