11 February 2011

Love Lifted Me

"In this is love, not that we loved God, but that [God] loved us..." (1 John 4:10).

Have you ever wondered where the capacity to love comes from?  I'll give you a hint: it's not from Hallmark of the flower shop or the candy store.  Love is from God-- the motivation behind God's creative activity.  It was out of love that God created the universe and all that is within it.  It was out of love that God created you and me.  It was out of love that Jesus went to the cross.  It was out of love that Jesus was raised from the dead.  It is out of love that God calls us to the community of believers, the church.  It is out of love that God gives us the things we have: a home, fulfilling work, family, income, and everything else.  The perfect love of God-- offered to us with no strings attached.

Every year at this weekend I rail against Valentine's Day, but I am not going to this year.  Maybe it is because we've had five snow/ice days this month and I have been overly surrounded at home by the love of three restless boys!  Maybe it's the love and pride for the church I have felt recently with the huge numbers of guests we've seen in worship this year, many of whom are considering becoming members of the community.  Maybe it's been the outpouring of love from my birthday last week-- what says, "We love you" more than feet-in pj's for a 40 year old guy?  (Thanks, Mom!).

Whatever the reason is, let's stop to consider the gift of God's love for us.  God has been especially good to and for us.  There are countless stories in the scriptures of God acting out of love-- even after sin had corrupted people, God still showed them love. Adam and Eve were expelled from Eden but God clothed them on the way out-- LOVE.  Cain murdered his brother but God marked him so everyone knew his life belonged to God-- LOVE.  Jesus said, "No one has greater love than this, to lay down one's life for one's friends" (John 15:13).  That thread is picked up in 1 John (the epistle, not to be confused with the gospel):
  • "See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and that is what we are" (3:1).
  • "Little children, let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action" (3:18).
  • "Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.  Whoever does not love does now know God, for God is love" (4:7-8).
  • Then here is the kicker: "God's love was revealed among us in this way: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might live through him.  In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be an atoning sacrifice for our sins" (4:9-10).
  • Now check this out, going back to the original question about the source of love: "Beloved, since God loved us so much, we also ought to love one another.  No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God lives in us, and his love is perfected in us."  A little later: "God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them" (4:12, 16).
So: this weekend-- How will you express love?  Sometimes we limit love to romantic love-- obviously that is what Valentine's Day is all about.  But romantic love is only one aspect of love.  There is love of neighbor.  There is love of justice and mercy.  There is love of the poor and hungry.  There is love for the oppressed.  There is love for enemies.   How is this love possible?  Where does it come from?  How do spell love?  G-O-D.  However we express love this weekend-- or anytime-- let's stop for a second and remember its source.  And be thankful.  Now, please pass the chocolate!