Summary: God’s love shown to us in Christ is all we need to soothe our guilty conscience and in turn to find the freedom to forgive others.
The Fab Four sang about it. In fact their words and music are immortalized on Oldies radio. And rightly so. The Beatles seemed to be on to something. “All you need is love,” they sang. And that appeared to be the right message for a hurt and frightened world. Love is all you need. It’s all we need right here. And God agrees.
How do we define love? Some see it as sentimental syrup – cupids and fluttering hearts. Love is also defined as physical attraction – how one responds to the form of another’s body. A lot of people see love as an emotion bound by stipulations and conditions – something that is not freely given, but tirelessly earned. God does not deny the necessity of love, but he has a different idea about love altogether. We will discuss this truth today: ALL YOU NEED IS LOVE. 1) Love for the Truth, and 2) Love Expressed in Forgiveness.
1) Love for the Truth
At the turn of the century the world’s most distinguished astronomer was Sir Percival Lowell. He was esteemed for his study of the solar system and had a particular fascination with Mars. He was certain that there were canals on the surface of the Red Planet and that these canals were proof of intelligent life there. The rest of his life was spent squinting though a giant telescope in Arizona mapping the channels and canals he saw. He was so highly regarded that his teachings gained wide acceptance.
Since that time our space probes have orbited mars and even landed on its surface. The entire planet has been mapped and no one has seen even one canal. It is now believed that Percival Lowell had a rare eye disease, which is now called ‘Lowell’s syndrome’ and it causes a person to see the bulging blood vessels in their own eyeballs.
Humankind, from its limited perspective, has offered many error-filled ideas. This applies to our sensibility that we need love. Love is all we need. And God agrees, but he wants us to be careful where we place our focus. This applies to our Christian lives. St. John urges us in this matter: “Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.” We need more than a vague burning in the cockles of our hearts. We need to have a love for the truth. The Bible reveals God’s truth to us concerning our Savior Jesus Christ.
How do we perceive Christ? Do we see him as he truly is, or do we only perceive him the way we want to? There is a great temptation for us to view Jesus the way our own sinful eyes would like. To be honest, our eyes have grown weary of viewing Jesus as the Son of God, the Savior of the world. Instead, these eyes long to dismantle the historical doctrines of the faith. Jesus is no longer viewed as divine God but as superstitious folk hero. Our eyes grow tired of looking to Jesus as the Savior-God willing to lay down his very life for you and me. Instead we grow sleepy and bored of viewing Jesus’ death as the ultimate sacrifice for sin and we’re tempted to view as nothing more than last heroic effort of a misguided revolutionary.
John writes to the Church and warns them to refuse to believe every spirit, every teaching, that comes their way. As you scan the horizon in search of love and acceptance be careful where your focus lands. “Test the spirits,” the apostle says. What he means is that we need to look beneath the surface to find the source of what is being said. Don’t judge a book by its cover. Don’t judge an idea by how logical it sounds, how fascinating it seems, or how it is presented with charisma and power - look beneath the surface. What is the spirit behind the words? What motivates that person to teach or confess the things he does? This is important for us to understand as Christians who profess faith in Christ.
John gives us a litmus test of sorts that we can perform, “This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God.” We cannot dare to know true love without Christ. And so each week at church, men and women gather, sit quietly and hope for release from the guilt that gnaws at their soul. Each week, young people come to church looking for hope to hang onto in the midst of their struggles to stay away from the temptations that lay waiting for them around every corner. Each week, husbands and wives come looking for ways to reconcile. Each week, broken people come looking for strength to make it through another day since the death of their loved one.