How do we define love? Some say it is a feeling or an emotion that we have very little control over. Others say love is an action and we have control of how we act and do love. So, is love a noun – speaking about our emotions and affections, or is love a verb – showing our action and reactions as we do love. Well it is both a noun and a verb.
Love is such an all-encompassing word for it covers a very board area in life. When someone says “I love you”, what do they mean? In the New Testament the word “love” is translated from 4 different Greek words which have different meaning yet we use only one word, love, to describe the 4 Greek words. This is why we have difficulty understanding the word love.
The four Greek words found in the original Greek text are storge, phileo, eros and agape. Storge is a family love that we have for brothers, sisters and parents. Phileo love is the type of love friends have for one another. It is a deep, abiding friendship and is the type of love that exists between church members. Eros love is the intimate love that husband and wife share in marriage. These three loves can be considered as nouns and are emotional and affectionate. The last of the four is agape love. It is God’s love, the love that God has for each of us. I like to think of this love as a verb because there is a lot of action, a lot of doing in this kind of love.
The two scriptural texts that were read for us, 1 John 4:7-21 and John 14:15-24 speak about the agape love of God and I like to think of these texts as talking about love in its verb form – which is love in action, love coming from God and we heard the scriptural text say “God is love”.
In the 1 John 4 passage it starts out with a call to action. John addresses us as friends and says: “Let us love one another”. Whoa! Pastor, you don’t know what you’re saying. You want me to love that neighbor who hates me and piles his trash on part of my property, who blows his leaves into my back yard and who ridicules me for going to church and believing in Jesus as my Lord and Savior? Pastor, he is not a believer! Yes, Jesus said we are to love our neighbor as we love ourself. God’s way isn’t the easiest, but it is the best way to live. Showing love in a godly manner will result in a better relationship then showing distain or revenge upon your neighbor. In fact, your love for him may cause him to become a believer. So how do we love those whom we may deem as not lovable? John gives us some insight. He says, “Love comes from God”. If you try and love them with your emotions you will fail and probably end up just like your neighbor. John continues, “Everyone who loves (agape) has been born of God and knows God – because God is love”. We are to love others with God’s love, the love that God give to us.
The Apostle John tells us God has shown his love to us by sending his one and only Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. He goes on to say, “Dear Friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another”. Pastor, you’re right. We ought to love others, but I still have a problem doing that in some cases. And you’re right in thinking this, but that’s because you’re trying to love the unlovable by your own emotion and your being. John reveals how to accomplish this. As believers in Christ, God has given us his Spirit, the Holy Spirit. In the Gospel text Jesus is speaking and says, “If you love me, keep my commands. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever —the Spirit of truth.” The love that we have for others will become the love that God has for us, because as believers in Jesus, His Spirit will be living in us and guiding us into true love. This is agape love, spiritual love, not physical or emotional love.
Jesus tells us to love him and keep his commandments. He sums up his commands when he responds to a question by a Pharisee. In Matthew 22:36-40, the Pharisee asks Jesus, “Teacher which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment.” But Jesus didn’t stop there with that commandment but he continued and said, “And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the law and Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
So to help us keep his commandments, Jesus has asked the Father to send us the Holy Spirit. (Here is the Holy Trinity in action). Jesus’ commandments and our love for God and our love for others go hand in hand. They form a bond within our life, a bond that the world does not know, because they do not know Jesus, nor do they have the presence of the Holy Spirit.
The result of having this bond with Jesus is this promise he makes to us in John’s gospel. Jesus says, “The one who loves me will be loved by my Father and I too will love them and show myself to them.” What a promise to be loved by the Father and the Son and to experience the presence of Jesus via the Holy Spirit.
Last week I had the joy of preaching at Cochranville UMC and as I began my sermon, entitled, “The Holiness of God”, I asked them to close their eyes and to ponder this statement: “How have I experienced the presence of God in my life?” Perhaps you also should ponder that statement. Jesus just told us that he will show himself to us who love him. At the end of the sermon I re-opened the question I had asked and said we all need to be alert, and aware of God’s presence for he is at work in our daily lives. Our problem is we don’t recognize his presence and the things he does for us because we believe they are just everyday facts of life. But if we take a deeper look at what transpires we may see God’s presence working in our daily life.
Jesus confirms this in John’s gospel saying, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them and we (Father, Son and Holy Spirit, my addition) will come to them and make our home with them.” As believers in Jesus and having accepted him as our Lord and Savior, we have the Trinity as part of our lives and will make a home within us. We all need to be aware that we experience God in our life each and every day. So you ask, how can we love others? We do so because God’s love is active and working within us and this gives us the incentive to love others, no matter who they are.
Don’t be afraid to love God and to love others for we are told in our 1 John text, “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. We love because he (God) first loved us.” His love is the incentive, the motive and the moral cause for us to love him in return and to also love others.
We have looked at two wonderful passages of scripture and if there is a key verse or so it would be these verses taken from the 1 John passage which says: “Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us. This is how we know that we live in him and he in us: He has given us of his Spirit.” Amen.
Please join me in prayer. Loving God, we thank you for first loving us. Your essence is love, for God is love. Thank you for reassuring us of your love so that we may love you in return and to love others. Amen.
New Testament Lesson: 1 John 4:7-21
Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us. This is how we know that we live in him and he in us: He has given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God. And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. We love because he first loved us. Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.
Gospel Lesson: John 14:15-24
“If you love me, keep my commands. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever—the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them.” Then Judas (not Judas Iscariot) said, “But, Lord, why do you intend to show yourself to us and not to the world?” Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. Anyone who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me.
Meditations For Your Week
Sunday, August 5 ~ Saturday, August 12
Sunday: “Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God” 1 John 4: 7. Who have you shared the good news of God’s love with today?
Monday: “Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” 1 John 4:11. Pray for those who are hardest to love.
Tuesday: “If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God.” 1 John 4:15. Consider how your life is acknowledging Jesus out loud!
Wednesday: “And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.” 1 John 4:21. Who is passing your path today that you can show love towards?
Thursday: “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever— the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him.” John 14: 16-17. Pray for the Holy Spirit to give guidance and truth.
Friday: “Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them.” John 14: 21. Consider how you are loving Jesus. If keeping the commandment to love your neighbor is loving God, consider how you are loving Jesus.
Saturday: “Anyone who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me.” John 14: 24. Our actions always point towards the God we speak of. How are your actions telling the story of God?