Rev. Katherine Todd
John 13:31a, 33-35
1 Peter 1:17-23
John 13:31a, 33-35
When he had gone out, Jesus said, “Little children, I am with you only a little longer. You will look for me; and as I said to the Jews so now I say to you, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come.’ I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
1 Peter 1:17-23
If you invoke as Father the one who judges all people impartially according to their deeds, live in reverent fear during the time of your exile. You know that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your ancestors, not with perishable things like silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without defect or blemish. He was destined before the foundation of the world, but was revealed at the end of the ages for your sake. Through him you have come to trust in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are set on God.
Now that you have purified your souls by your obedience to the truth so that you have genuine mutual love, love one another deeply from the heart. You have been born anew, not of perishable but of imperishable seed, through the living and enduring word of God.
I am struck by the words of 1 Peter. In the second section, he says that now that the believers are being purified by obedience to the truth and have been given a genuine, mutual, brotherly and sisterly love, they are to love one another deeply, from the heart.
In obeying God, following the Truth, these disciples have been given God’s love for one another. Given. Somehow in their obedience and following, God has bestowed on them God’s love for one another. And this is huge, because how often to we struggle to love. Is it possible that it is in our obedience to God’s leading, that we will find God’s strength to love?
This seems to be how Peter is laying it out for them. Their obedience to God has lead to their being filled with God’s love.
And now they have a responsibility. They are not simply to go along, come what may. No, they are to actively and intentionally love. They are to love deeply, fervently, sincerely…from the heart.
Interesting, is it not? I would have thought, that as far as God is concerned, loving actions would be enough. After all, it is often our loving actions that precede our sincere feelings of love. And doesn’t God care more about our actions?
I believe God does care more about our actions – certainly more about our actions than our words, our promises, our acclamations, or ascent. Actions speak louder. However, it would seem that God’s love does not stop there. God’s love goes beyond action and into our hearts. God’s love, when truly active and manifested, is active. God’s love is intentional. God’s love is fervent and deep. God’s love is wider and more enduring that we can begin to imagine. So our love does not even come close to the love of God until our actions of obedience and love are met with heart.
Our God is not interested in mere money. God owns all that is.
Our God is not interested in mere puppetry. We are more to God than vehicles of God’s will. After all God made us and delights in us. And God can accomplish whatever God wills – whether or not we ever follow, obey, and join in.
Our God is not interested in pageantry and appearances. God is interested in the substance behind an action, a gift, a smile, or a sacrifice. God has no one to fool or impress.
Our God came and went all in. Our God was born into our midst as a helpless child, dependent, hunted, a refugee.
Christ gave of himself, healing the sick, seeking out the lost, feeding the hungry, raising the dead.
And when the time came, Jesus Christ walked that long road to Golgotha, allowing his blood to be spilled, his lungs to collapse, and the life-breath to leave his body.
Our God went all in.
And this God calls us to bring our all.
Obedience alone is not complete. Love makes our actions complete. Perhaps this is why we are encouraged to speak the truth in love. Truth alone is incomplete. Perhaps this is why Paul speaks about faith, hope and love: that faith, hope, and love abide but that the greatest of these is love. Perhaps this is why Paul waxes about the gifts of the Spirit, making the point that without love, all the gifts are sounding gongs or clanging symbols – mere noise, obnoxious clutter, impediments.
And isn’t this our experience. It does not matter how much we know; no one cares until they know how much we care.
Skill, talent, resource,
Wisdom, insight, knowledge…
None of it matters unless we employ them with love. In fact, our failure to love as we serve, is actually an impediment to others, an obstacle, an annoyance.
Love completes our obedience.
Love completes our gifts.
Love completes our knowledge.
Love completes our wisdom.
Love completes our helping.
Love completes our serving…
God has called us to love deeply. The Greek word also means fervently, sincerely, and out of purity of heart.
We are called to a higher standard of living.
God has given us the gift of the Holy Spirit, filling us with God’s love.
And God then calls us to love on purpose, love in all sincerity, love one another deeply.
It matters…what dwells in the depths of our hearts.
And so as we seek to know God’s will,
As we seek to be faithful, following God in trust and obedience,
As we live and work,
May we bring it all: our whole self, our whole life, our whole heart.
God is glorified in our gifts and talents.
God is glorified in our obedience and service.
And all these things are made complete,
As we love one another truly, from the depths of our hearts.
THIS is how everyone will know we are Christ’s disciples.