Summary: A sermon about God's agape love and our call to live it.
“What God Is and What God Is Not”
I served an extremely diverse and great congregation for 6 years in Newport News, Virginia.
We came from just about every ethnic group and socio-economic background.
One day I was visiting with a young, single mother who was active in the church.
Latisha had no job, was living with her boyfriend who had no job, she had 2 small children from 2 different men and was now pregnant with a third.
Knowing that I wouldn’t even think about having a child if I weren’t somewhat financially stable and at an age where I thought I could provide a somewhat stable home, I asked Latisha: “Why do so many young women in your situation keep having so many babies?”
We had a close enough relationship so that I could ask her such intimate questions.
Latisha’s answer broke my heart: “Because we want somebody who will love us.”
There can be no doubt that love is the universal hunger in our human hearts, but our world is terribly confused about love.
Someone wrote about this graffiti on a restroom wall…
…it read, “Love is all I want.”
Underneath it someone else had scribbled, “Sex is all you get.”
The love that is talked about in our Scripture Lesson for this morning is so unique that the early Christians had to take an old colorless Greek word that was barely used and adopt it for their own purposes.
That word is agape.
Agape is love that gives without expecting a return.
It gives sacrificially and unconditionally.
God is love, agape love.
And Jesus died for us as the supreme example of agape love.
And we are called to agape love one another because of this.
1 John 4:19 tells us, “We love because God first loved us,” and verse 10 says, “This is love: it is not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son as the sacrifice that deals with our sins.”
In other words, our human, finite and often very self-centered concept of love does not define Who God is.
Rather, God in God’s love defines us!!!
“God is love,” and we see this love in action by what God has done on our behalf!!!
“God is love.”
John tells it like it is!!!
John might have said that God is power or order or goodness.
In our insecurity and longing for protection, we often yearn for a God Who will protect us from all harm.
In a world of moral confusion, we might wish for a God Who lays down the Law with complete clarity and holds everyone accountable, catching the cheaters and rewarding the faithful.
In our hunger to possess things, we might even want a God of prosperity, a God Who promises to make us rich if we obey a few principles.
But whatever may be true about God’s power or God’s moral order or generosity…
…John avoids all these descriptions in favor of the simple word agape or love.
It’s not power or law or prosperity, but instead, self-sacrificing love that is at the heart of the truth about Who God is!!!
And what could be better than this?
This passage of Scripture sheds light on the false theology of those who try and steal the Church or hijack Christianity for their own purposes…
…whether it be politics or corrupt systems or false preachers.
In 1 John Chapter 4 we are able to see Who God is, how God chooses to reveal God’s self, how we are strengthened and empowered to do God’s work, and what God’s work is for us!!!
And that is a big reason why, as Christians we need to know the Scriptures—especially the New Testament.
Because God is Love.
And God’s love isn’t just some abstract idea.
We come to know God’s love only when the love of God flows through us.
Verse 8 tells us, “The person who doesn’t love does not know God, because God is love.”
Love is action.
Love is lived.
It’s not enough just to know about Jesus’ self-sacrifice.
We must live it.
Because to know the God of love is to live the love of God!!!
A wealthy woman visited Mother Terasa in Calcutta and offered to write a check to support the work of the Sisters of Charity.
Mother Teresa declined: “I won’t take your money.”
The woman insisted, reminding her that she had tons of money to donate.
But Mother Teresa still said, “No money.”
Exasperated, the woman stammered, “Well, what can I do?”
Mother Teresa said, “Come and see.”
She led the woman by the hand down into a horrible part of town, found a desperately dirty, hungry child, and asked the woman to take care of him.