Monday, January 25, 2010

Johnny Poppin' 11; God is love

 7Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 8Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 10This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.

 13We know that we live in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. 14And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. 15If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in him and he in God. 16And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. ~1 John 4:7-16
Someone, either Martin Luther or Ben Franklin once said that "beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy." When I look at my wife and children, I see proof that God must love me. Let's face it, the best proof is that He sent His only begotten Son as a sacrifice so that we could have a relationship with Him.  Is 1 John 4:7-16 harder to understand than John 3:16? He doesn't want any of us to go to Hell and He doesn't want any of us do die alone. What comfort? What a blessing? It's like a hug on paper.

Verses 13-16 remind me of John 17 at the last supper when Jesus prays for Himself, for his original disciples, and for all of us in the body-of-Christ. In that chapter, Jesus talks a lot about unity, if God is in us, we are in Him. It also reminds me of John 15:1-17 when Jesus calls Himself the vine and calls us the branches.

I'm not sure which is really the opposite of love, hate or indifference, but when I think about hate, I think about anger and violence and insecurity. When I think about love, I think about peace and confidence and altruism. Anger and hate are jealous and suspicious. Altruism has concern and compassion for others, even enemies.

I'm reminded of this whenever I think about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Other civil rights leaders like Macom X and Elijah Muhammad cared about the African American community, but it seems to me that part of what made MLK great is that he cared about America, all Americans, and about all Christians, indeed, about all peoples- no doubt because besides Henry David Thoreau and Mohandas Gandhi, his greatest hero was Jesus. Violence is eye-for-an-eye, but nonviolence attacks the conscience, not the body. His goal was not only to secure rights for his people promised in our Constitution legally, but to secure respect for all people intellectually and emotionally. Rocks and Molotov cocktails are impotent weapons for hearts and minds, love is the only weapon strong enough to conquer thoughts and prejudices.

A pastor or teacher once told me that it's important to understand that John isn't literally saying that God is love, but more like God's love is the standard by which all other love should be measured by. After all, God isn't just a feeling. He's a real person, a spiritual being. Granted. But I think it's just as important to remember that love is not just some feeling. If you think that love is an emotion, then you won't have many successful relationships that will last very long. Family therapist Gary Smalley once wrote a book called "Love is a Decision," in which he suggests that strong marriages require constant commitment, honoring and respecting one another and forgiving one another, among other things.

A great exercise is to read 1 Corinthians 13 and substitute the word "Love" for "God," or "Jesus." If you do that, you'll get a great idea of who God is and what John meant when he said that "God IS love." Likewise, if you try reading it substituting your own name for the word "Love," your conscience will probably make you feel pretty embarrassed or even ashamed because of how unlike God and unloving you can be. I know mine did.

Our pastor recently gave a sermon on speaking the truth in love. I have to admit that it was pretty convicting. I get really bent out of shape when I sense that people are using religious issues to score political points. Words like "truth" and concepts like right-and-wrong can sometimes be used to bludgeon us over the head until we give in and accept that someone's opinion or agenda are right and if we don't whole-heartedly agree with them and pursue their agenda as zealously as they do, we aren't good enough Christians.

There are Christians who believe that they have an absolute monopoly on absolute truth and they become so passionate about it that they're willing to use "any means necessary" to be heard. What they don't realize is that people won't listen if they're banged on the head or have something shoved down their throat.

I realized that I don't always speak the truth in love either. Speaking in love means speaking with patience and kindness, not boasting or gloating, it means being polite and not being jealous or self-seeking or insecure or angry. It means letting the truth itself do most of the talking. It means that it's not even the truth that is your primary concern, but rather, the well being of the listener.


Help us to love one another as You have loved us.
You put us before yourself. Teach us to put others before ourselves,
even when we are most convinced that they are wrong and we are right.

In Jesus name we pray,

"All You Need is Love"

by Lennon & McCartney from 'The Blue Album'

Love, love, love, love, love, love, love, love, love.
There's nothing you can do that can't be done.
Nothing you can sing that can't be sung.
Nothing you can say but you can learn how to play the game
It's easy.
There's nothing you can make that can't be made.
No one you can save that can't be saved.
Nothing you can do but you can learn how to be you
in time - It's easy.
Ted's paraphrase (in the spirit of 1 John 4:7-16)

All you need is God, God, God is all you need. 
There's nothing you can know that isn't known. 
Nothing you can see that isn't shown. 
Nowhere you can be that isn't where you're meant to be. 
It's easy. All you need is God, all you need is God

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