Summary: Taking relational risks to love others well results in our having confidence in facing the day of judgment.
An Incarnational, Missional People
“Becoming Fearless & Risky”
Patrick Henry Hughes is 18 years old. He was born without eyes and without the ability to straighten his arms and legs and consequently cannot walk. Despite these circumstances Patrick has overcome these limitations and has been able to excel in music. Patrick began playing the piano at 9 months. Today he even performs in the University of Louisville marching band as a trumpet player. He participates in the band formations and marching routines with the help of his dad, also named Patrick.
Patrick the dad works nights at UPS so that he can spend his daytime hours with Patrick the son, assisting him with college life where he is a straight “A” student and the marching band where dad pushes the son in a wheelchair in order to perform all of the band formations.
I was introduced to the Hughes father and son duo a week ago when I attended a leadership conference where young Patrick played the piano and sang.
Yes, Patrick the younger is unusually gifted in music but he is especially gifted with a loving father and mother. Patrick’s parents have not just loved him with words and encouraging pats on the back. They have worked hard and sacrificed extensively so that Patrick could have a full and meaningful life.
The love of Patrick’s parents has been “fuel” for him overcoming being blind and crippled.
All of us are spiritually blind and crippled and without hope for eternal life except for the sacrificial gift of God’s love. The question is, “Do you know how loved you are?”
Knowing in your head that God loves you doesn’t make much difference. For God’s love to fuel and propel your life you must know it experientially.
The Apostle John reveals to us how central to life and empowering the love of God is to us.
[read 1 John 4:7-21]
This section begins with the salutation, “Dear friends.” Literally the translation from Greek is “Dear ones who are greatly loved.” We have several verses to examine but we could profitably spend all of our time on this opening phrase.
God is a great lover. However, love is a relational experience. If I don’t receive and live in God’s love then its vast power has a diminished impact upon me. It raises the question, “Why would anyone be slow to receive the love of God?”
Perhaps there are many reasons. Allow me to mention 3:
1. Sin. Choosing to sin puts a relational and spiritual distance between me and God. He’s holy and sin free. He abhors sin though He loves me. Now if my heart desires to repent and to be forgiven and free from sin God is faithful to work in me to deliver me from sin. We discovered that in 1:9.
2. Disappointments and wounds. Many of us have experienced hard things in life. Some of you had neglectful homes. Others were abused in some way. A few have had tragic chapters in life. Disappointments and wounds can inhibit or discourage me from trusting God and drawing near to Him. If I’ve been wounded by trusting others in my past then I’m going to be reluctant to trust God and draw near to him.
3. Intellectual bias. In America and particularly the Northwest, some of us have seen Christianity lived out by a few who appear to have “parked” their brain and put their emotions into overdrive. Their emotionalism and lack of asking hard questions about faith can lead to a conclusion that one must take a leap of faith into the unknown and unexamined in order to follow God. In truth, God commands us to experience Him with both our heart (emotions) and mind. I often refer to Lee Strobel around here. He was formerly a reporter and award winning writer for the Chicago Tribune who was an atheist. Through the example of his wife Strobel was challenged to intellectually ask all of the hard questions about Christianity and as a result he not only became a believer in Christ but subsequently wrote several books that engage the intellect for others seeking Christ.
The point is, you are someone who is greatly loved by God. Have you received that love? Is it impacting and changing your life?
John says, “Dear ones who are greatly loved, love one another.”
As we’ve carefully defined love over these weeks you are now well aware that love is not primarily a feeling but primarily a way of behaving and treating others. John is not exhorting us to have warm and fuzzy feelings for others. He is exhorting us to behave around others in loving ways.
If someone is lonely love looks like friendship and companionship.
If someone is needy, love looks like meeting their needs.