First Sunday after Trinity – Readings – 1 Jn. 4:7-end; Lk 16:19-end.
The epistle reading today could not have a clearer theme running throughout, love is entirely present and obvious in our reading of 1 John 4. Every action described in this passage is used as a way of describing and evidencing the nature and activity of love. It is from this that we will briefly explore the epistle today.
This portion of the epistle is likely to be familiar with most, if not all, of us present today. It contains the familiar and well known phrasing: ’God is love’.
The reading of the epistle clearly tells us that love comes from God and those that love are those that are born of and know God. It is from this that the precursor to the revelation of God is love comes — it comes as a revelation in response to the statement that those who do not love do not know God.
To love is to know God for God is love. To know God is love is dependant on ones ability to love but also ones ability to truly love is also dependant upon the knowledge that God is love.
God has offered us the perfect demonstration of love and revealed his love for us through the incarnation. Verse 9 tells us this, God’s love for us was revealed through the sending of the Son to make a way for us to live.
God loved us before we could love him.
This ultimate sending and sacrifice is what made a way for us to have the ability to be able to love God. But is not the end of love, it is the demonstration. The passage goes on to tell us that because of this love, we should love one another — this love of one another, we are told, that this love for one another is what allows for God’s love to be in us and be made complete in us.
It is this love for one another than is what makes a way for God to live in us, and for us to live in God — today’s epistle makes that known to us in verse 16.
There needs to be an outworking of the love God has for us, we should be the ones demonstrating and outworking that love to those around us.
‘Whatever a person may be like, we must still love them because we love God.’ ~ John Calvin
Calvin, here, is echoing the clear commands of both this passage and wider scriptural teachings.
The character of another person does not matter when it comes to the expressing of love, we are commanded to love. God loves us regardless of who we are, without God’s grace and the work of the Cross we are not worthy of his love. We are sinners redeemed by grace through the Cross because of God’s love for us.
As such, we need to put aside our own judgments and thoughts about the character of others and love them regardless. God is our example, his love does not discriminate. We should be following this example. We are his witnesses. Our love should testify to who God is.
The commandment of scripture is to love our neighbour, not to just love our friends. Scripture does not set before us an easy path as disciples and followers of Christ but Scripture demonstrates the way in which we should be living our lives.
Todays epistle uses strong language to emphasise the importance of loving brother, sister and neighbour. It tells us that we cannot truly love God while we are hating a brother or sister. It calls those that do this, liars. The epistle states that those who do not love their brother/sister whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen.
To love that which you cannot see requires more love and certainty than to love those whom you can see. To love God requires the certainty of faith in God’s existence before the love is able to be present. The problem pointed out in our epistle today is with those who cannot love those who are seen but claim to love the invisible God.
The starting point of the love is God. We love because God first loved us. When we cannot think for ourselves of a reason to love one another, we should remember that God first loved us while we were still sinners and unworthy. We should, therefore, love those whom we, incorrectly, sometimes deem unworthy of our love — even if we are doing so unintentionally. It is a challenge for us to do this. It often difficult to forgive or love those who we deem unlovable, or those who have wronged us.
In 1 Corinthians 11, we are warned against eating the bread or drinking the cup in communion in an unworthy manner for doing so would be ‘guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord’.
To withhold love goes against the commandments of scripture, Jesus said the second greatest commandment was to love your neighbour as you love yourself.
We should not be approaching the altar as those unworthy because we have withheld love or done other things that makes us unworthy for doing so would bring judgment upon ourselves.
We need to be obedient to what scripture teaches us, follow the examples it provides. Where it teaches us to love, we should love in the manner and capacity in which scripture lays before us.
This is one of the reasons why it is important to have the peace before taking the eucharist. It allows for an opportunity to reconcile and make right those things which need reconciling.
The love of God made a way to reconciliation possible. The incarnate Christ, lived, was crucified and rose again in order to make reconciliation between man and God possible. This ultimate act of love was performed while we were still sinners and unworthy of the love of God, yet God still loved us.
We need to let our prayer follow that of Saint Francis of Assisi —
‘Lord, grant that I might not so much seek to be loved as to love.’ – Francis of Assisi
We are loved. The fact that we can gather together for a service of Eucharist reminds us of that. What we need to pray is that we seek to love others as much as we are loved. That we can demonstrate this love for others. That we can be the outworking of the fact ‘God is love’.
Let us remember perfect love as we are lead to Eucharist and may love outwork through us in the coming week and thereafter.