Summary: A sermon about loving others as Christ calls us to love.
“Love Is Known in Action”
“This is how we know love: Jesus laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.”
Lay down our lives?
What in the world does that mean?
For Jesus it ultimately meant death on a Cross.
And sometimes, for us, self-sacrifice can mean physical death, but more often, the stakes are lower.
But the principal is the same.
We lay down our hold on our lives when we put others first.
We lay down our lives when we live for the good of others.
We lay down our lives when we take time for others.
To love others is to lay down our lives for them.
When we lay down our completely normal human desire to live for ourselves, and when we instead allow the love of God to reorient us toward the needs of others, we are laying down our lives.
And there is nothing more beautiful in all the world!!!
In our Scripture Lesson for this morning we can see that John was pretty hard on Christians who say they have the love of Jesus in their hearts but don’t share their material goods with those in need.
What would he say to you; what would he say to me?
John goes on to write, “let’s not love with words or speech but with action and truth.”
In other words, love is not only a word—it’s an action.
And laying down one’s life, in this passage, is responding to people in need.
In Matthew 21:28-32 Jesus tells a Parable of Two Sons.
In it a man asks each of his sons to go into the vineyard to work.
The first son answers that he will not go, but later he repents and goes into the vineyard to work.
The second son answers that he will go to work, but he does not go into the vineyard.
The second son responds to his father’s request in word only.
The first son loves his father by his actions.
When it comes to love, Jesus is never just talk.
He is first and always a doer, Someone Who actually serves.
“How can you claim to receive the love of God in your life,” John asks, “if you do not show love in your actions?”
It has been said that “many Christians today claim they believe in Jesus Christ.
By that, they mean they assent to the truth of the Gospel.
But what is the truth of the Gospel, if [you don’t believe] that living a life of sacrificial love is the starting point of our new life in Christ?
Believing in Christ means believing that Christ saves us by making us like Himself.”
Faith and love are bound together in one package, are they not?
You can’t have one without the other.
In Mother Teresa’s biblical mindset, when we love others, we love Jesus.
She said, “At the end of life we will not be judged by how many diplomas we have received, how much money we have made, how many great things we have done.
We will be judged by: I was hungry and you gave me [something] to eat.
I was naked and you clothed me.
I was homeless and you took me in.”
Now there is no doubt that we will falter.
We won’t get it right every time.
But loving and serving is a natural reflex of the love of God living in us, working through us.
In his book, Run with the Horses, Eugene Peterson tells how he saw a family of birds teaching their young to fly.
Three birds were perched on a dead branch that stretched out over a lake.
“One adult [bird] got alongside the chicks and started shoving them out toward the end of the branch—pushing, pushing, pushing.
Till the end one fell off.
Somewhere between the branch and the water four feet below, the wings started working, and the fledgling was off on his own.”
Peterson writes, “Birds have feet and can walk. Birds have talons and can grasp a branch securely.
They can walk and cling.
But flying is their characteristic action, and not until they fly are they living at their best, gracefully and beautifully.”
It’s similar with a person.
Giving and loving is what we do best.
It’s the air into which we are born.
It is the action that was designed into us before we were born.
Some of us try desperately to hold on to ourselves, to live for ourselves.
We look so bedraggled and pathetic doing it, hanging on to the dead branch of a bank account for dear life, afraid to risk ourselves on the untried wings of giving.
We don’t think we can live generously because we have never tried.