As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love.–John 15:9
This week’s song: This is Love For God by The Loverlies
I actually forgot that this was Valentine’s weekend when I chose this sermon. However, I think that simply makes this all the more appropriate to talk about. The love of God, and its outworking in Jesus’ incarnation and atoning work on the cross, is an oft-misunderstood and twisted concept. Love in general is a rather abused concept in modern Western culture. But I don’t really want to spend a lot of time talking about that specifically. Nor do I intend to rehash many of the things you commonly hear in sermons on the subject, including the (actually incorrect) discussion of Greek words like αγάπη and φιλέω.*
No, instead I want to remind you, my listeners, of the importance of reflecting this great love to those around us. I especially want to make this imperative in the face of the changing dynamics of the world right now. As I record this, the news has just broken that Justice Antonin Scalia, who had long been a voice for truth on the US Supreme Court, has passed away suddenly. This has naturally sparked a lot of commentary as well as worry. Add this on top of everything happening in both parties with the upcoming presidential election, growing fears of more economic instability, wars and rumors of wars, and so forth.
There is a tendency, when hearing the news and the state of the world, to feel a sense of dread. There is a thought that we should worry, that something could go wrong and things could turn bad very quickly…and then, who knows what might happen next? But I want to remind you all, those of you listening who are in Christ and believe that He is indeed on the throne, that we have no cause for fear. Our anxiety will not change anything, nor does it serve well to remind us of the truth: that God does love us, that He did send His Son to atone for our sins, and that His will is being accomplished perfectly in all things.
Why should the nations say,
“Where is their God?”
Our God is in the heavens;
he does all that he pleases.–Psalm 115:2-3
This is the God we worship, and we should demonstrate our love for God by obeying His Word, by loving each other well and giving as we can to those who are hurting. Do not mistake me: the opposite of anxiety is not apathy. It is action, driven by the truth of the Gospel: those who are in Christ have been saved from the wrath of God for their sins by the work of Jesus, and therefore we are free to live knowing that He provides perfectly for us! Not in some kind of “name it and claim it,” prosperity gospel nonsense–that is not Christianity. That is idolatry of the worst kind, dishonoring to God and destructive to the body of Christ.
No, I am talking about knowing that I can obey God faithfully, knowing that He provides what I need to do so, even when things seem bleak. I can live in a country and participate in a political process that seems to be heading to a darker and darker place, knowing that no matter who wins an election, God is the one who appoints and casts down kings, all for His purposes and the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.
So let us take this time when love is the word of the day and do exactly what believers should do in all times and all seasons:
Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.
Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.”Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.–Romans 12:9-21
*For a full discussion of these terms and the reality of claims that “this word means unconditional love” and “this word means brotherly love!” as well as a thorough but highly readable discussion of God’s love, I highly recommend D.A. Carson’s book The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God.