What can I say? This sermon is about love.
Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and His love is made complete in us. We know that we live in Him and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent His Son to be the Savior of the world. If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in Him and he in God. And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in Him. In this way, love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment, because in this world we are like Him. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. We love because He first loved us.
Our topic this morning will be:
In our modern society, we often try to seek out the answer to the question, "What is Love?" We look all over the place for it. We look to poems and poets for their eloquent descriptions of love. We look to musicians and songwriters for their lyrical and harmonious explanations of love. We look to books for the literary dissections of love. We read the popular magazines, thinking that they can tell us how to love. We look to friends and relatives, possibly try to gauge our own definition of love based on how we are loved.
But we also look in other places. We look to causes and issues to prove our love to ourselves. We think that if we just give our all to this one cause or one quest, then somehow the true meaning of love will be revealed to us.
In the last week, I have been bombarded with people's problems with love. I have seen a friend have marital problems with his wife, another friend break up with her boyfriend, a mother kick her son out of the house, another woman ask her husband for a divorce, and a family in mourning over the passing of a loved one. I have also witnessed those who work for nothing for a cause that they love. I have watched parents and grandparents as they look upon the newly born object of a new love. I have heard people describe meeting a new love, and others realizing that the person they romantically love, they wish to marry.
In all of this, love was the central driving factor with these people. Even though they all have the same emotion, that which we call love, each person used it in a different form and fashion.
Last week I was chatting on the Internet and the topic of love came up. And in a usual expression of sexism, the women were talking about how wonderful love was and the men were talking about how bad love was. Then one person said, quoting a song I was not familiar with, "Love is God's mistake." Then I, feeling rather flippant, said, "Love is God's greatest gift, and the Devil's biggest joke."
And while I was joking, I realized that there was some truth to what I said. If we went around this congregation right now, all of us would have a very different definition of love. Everyone's description of this powerful emotion would be tainted or affected by their own set of experiences.
And this is an especially interesting month in which to explore that feeling. After all, in the same month that we celebrate Black History Month, we also celebrate a day which is devoted to the feeling of love. While we go over and reaffirm the contributions of black Americans to this country, we also are supposed to take this time to reaffirm our own love for our spouses, mates, family and friends.
And yet again, during this month, we turn to popular culture to express our feelings regarding love. However, we have a whole book which was given to us out of love which helps us to understand this tricky emotion that we have been blessed with.
The author, the Apostle John, appears to have written this letter to two groups of people. The first, in response to those who doubted the identity and reality of Christ. And the second, to new Christians who had just come to believe that Jesus was indeed the Christ and that he did indeed live. John uses very colorful and direct language and uses a series of opposing words in order to drive his point home. The word "love" is used in this short letter more than 30 times. But what we have in this letter is an apostle of Jesus Christ, who testifies to the authority that Christ was given, so that new Christians would have a guide in which to handle themselves.
But the central theme of this letter seems to be about love. About the love of the Father, about the love of Christ, about the love of each other. Twice in this letter, the first time in the 3rd Chapter and the 11th verse, and the second time here at the 4th chapter and the 11th verse, John tells us quite plainly that we are to love on another. John compares love and hate, always casting love as the victor. John compares love and fear, again, casting love as the victor. John, reinforcing the words of Christ found in John 15:13, in this letter at the 17th verse of the 3rd chapter, tells us that out of love, we should be willing lay down our lives for our friends and brothers.
But John also goes on to tell us that even though none of us have seen God, that God does indeed live within us, and His love is made complete with us. The scripture also tells us quite plainly that God is love. And that whoever lives in love, lives within God. John also gives us a bit of reassurance, telling us that if we live in love, and when that love is made complete, we will have confidence on Judgment Day, because we acted in this world of God.
Then, one of the parts that I really like, John tells us that there is no fear in love, because perfect love drives out fear. Let me say that again. Perfect love drives out fear. Fear, we are told, has to do with punishment, and those who fear are not in perfect love. And lastly, we are told that we love because God loved us first.
So we have some very clear direction on how we should treat love and how we should internalize it. We are directed to let God's love rest within us, so that we might have that confidence on Judgment Day. We are told to love one another. We are told that God loves us. And we are told that God is love.
With all of that said, keeping in mind the commandments that we were given by God, written by Moses and reinforced by Jesus Christ, keeping in mind all of the Psalms, the Proverbs, the words of the prophets and apostles, why, in our day and age, with so much instruction, why is love so hard?
You know, one of the easiest things to say is that you love someone. Men for years who beat their wives do so, because as they say, "they love their wives too much." I think O.J. said that at his dead wife's funeral. "I loved her too much." How many people have committed untold atrocities in the name of love? How many people have given their lives because their understanding of love was altered or skewered due to their own experiences? How many people have lived an entire life without someone telling them they love them? How many children have been beaten to death because their parents couldn't handle, as one news report said, "that much love"? How many young teenage women hop into bed with the first boy or man that they meet, only because he said "I love you."
It seems that the problem is that people are not taught to love, despite what is written in scripture. We grow up looking at how love is expressed on television on how someone portrays it in a song. If I hear one more idiotic, simplistic, perverted song on the radio where some man or woman talks about how much they can love someone based on what they can do with their genitalia, I will scream. Which is probably why I don't listen to the radio much. But this is what the current and coming generations have to look forward to. Love based solely on sex.
But the fact remains that in our society, and in the black community in particular, we have a very perverted concept of love. Our history shows that we are willing to fight the white man for calling us a nigger because we love ourselves too much to withstand that type of abuse, but yet, we will go out and kill our own people because they looked at us wrong. We will ignore homeless people because we don't have time to be bothered. Or we will walk in God's house, a place of love, and not speak to someone because they bruised our own fragile ego.
Even though love is a gift from God, it causes a myriad of problems. Problems created by man. The Civil Rights Movement, among other things was about love. It was about the love that our people had for themselves and they were no longer willing to put up with the injustices of the time. Today, our own community is divided over things such as Ebonics, affirmative action, welfare, drugs, politics, rap music, religion or a host of other problems, both major and trivial. But yet, we are quick to proclaim that we love our black brothers and sisters, even thought the evidence of that love is nowhere to be seen.
So many of us haven't the foggiest clue what love is. Some of us value love based on what people give us or what they can do for us. We think love can be measured in words or trite expressions. We think love is something that we can put on or take off like a sweater. We take love for granted, thinking that if someone loves us, they will do whatever we say. We think love entitles us to be rude to those whom we claim we love.
We think that love will buy us that diamond ring, or fur coat or new car or new house. We think that love can be bought if we hit the lottery or if that rich uncle leave us an inheritance. We think so many things about love, but rarely do we think with love.
For as it says in 1st Corinthians "Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails."
Once we realize that love cannot be found in a bottle or a needle, or in the bed of a stranger, or in the amount of money in your bank account, then we will begin to strive towards that perfect love John talks about. Once we realize that perfect love is a God love, a love that has no conditions placed on it, that has no strings attached, that perfect love is love you give and expect nothing in return, then we will draw closer to a more accurate definition.
You see, we will love many people in our lives, and many people will love us. But those people will come and go like rain. We will encounter more people who are willing to share with us their expressions and definitions of love, but those people will also go away. But the pure, perfect God love, will be with us until the end of time.
And it is that God love that enables us to treat people better, to better understand people, to get to know ourselves. One of the reasons I think we as a black people keep changing our names, and embrace different ideologies and different practices is because we don't truly know ourselves and we don't truly know ourselves because we don't truly love ourselves. We have not gotten in touch with that God love, that perfect love, that asks for nothing, but gives us everything.
Not too long ago, again on the Internet, I got into a discussion with a gentleman who said that the main problem with Christianity is that we, as Christians, focus too much on love. That we tend to focus too much on the positive and not enough on the hell and fire and brimstone. He said that Christian ministers ignore the wrath and fury of God in the Old Testament, and instead focus on, as he said "the fluffy and pie-in-the-sky notions of love that Jesus gave."
Well, my response to him is what I say to you. If I am comfortable and secure in the love that God has for me, why should I worry about going to hell? If I love God and I know that He abides in me, why should I worry about losing my soul to the devil? If I love God and let His love work in and through me, why should I not express that love with those around me? If I am following the words and commandments of Christ, what else is there to worry about? Who wants to hear a testimony about the bad things that happen to me when I can testify about all of the wonderful things that my God, who loves me, has done for me? There is a man named Jesus who loved me so much that He was willing to be sacrificed for something He did not do, so that I might live a better life and experience that perfect love that John talks about. To me, this is not fluff. This is not pie-in-the-sky religion. It is real. Love is real. Life is real. God is real. And it is the life that God has given me, coupled with the perfect love that he has for me, that has enabled me to make it this far, despite my sinful nature.
None of us are perfect. But John tells us that God's love for us is. John tells us that there is nothing to fear if we have prefect love in our lives. John tells us that God is love. John tells us in scripture that if we acknowledge that Jesus is the Son of God, that God will live in us and that we will live in God. That to me, is not a lot to ask.
So if we are looking for a perfect love, all we need to do is look to the Bible, look to God and look to Jesus. We need to heed the words that are written throughout the Bible about God's love for us. Then we pray. We talk to God, we talk to Jesus. We tell about our concerns and our fears. We share the obstacles that our in our way. We share our desires to get to know ourselves better. We share our desire to love ourselves so that we will not have to worry about what our name is, what fad we are going to follow. We ask to be given the tools so that we will be able to love others with that perfect love. We ask God to invest within us that perfect love. That perfect love that was present when Jesus got on the cross. That perfect love I saw when my son was born. That perfect love we can experience each and every day with Jesus. As we have said before, it is not easy. But there is no better place to start than with God. There is no better place to start than with Jesus. And there is no better place to start than with love.
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