Preached by Deacon Joshua Schroeder
“God is love,” writes St. John of old. “God is love.” Aye, that is true. But what a mischievous devil love is! The ancient Greeks said that it is impossible for a god to love and be wise! So, it would seem to be. Religion is taking a dark turn these days! The fiction of The DaVinci Code is proving to be more true now than when the book came out, because, like the movie, we Christians seem to be taking our cues from Machiavelli’s Prince. As Machiavelli wrote, “Since love and fear can hardly exist together, if we must choose between them, it is far safer to be feared than loved.”
Love easily turns to lust, turns in upon itself and is consumed. Ah, but Jesus does not sound very Machiavellian when He speaks: “As the Father has loved Me, so I have loved you…love one another.” This defies the ancients’ wisdom. For the loving of one another cannot exist without Jesus’ love for us. And even Jesus’ love for us cannot exist without that mysterious love of the divine Father of His only-begotten Son.
And that love is a far more splendored thing than the clichéd language about personal relationships with Jesus! “Relationship” has become such a thought-cliché, a word devoid of meaning because of its casual overuse. Listening to that kind of personal relationship talk sounds more like some kind of a childhood crush on Jesus, than anything like the maturity of love the Bible talks about!
St. Paul writes famously, “Love is patient and kind, it does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. Love is not rude, not self-seeking, not easily angered, keeps no record of wrongs…” Now that doesn’t mean that love’s patience is never tried! It doesn’t mean that love never faces the unkind, the rude, the anger of the self-seeking. Rather, in the face of such thing, love bears, believes, hopes and endures. Love, Jesus says, bears much fruit!
Ah…but here is where the ancients haunt us! If it is love to keep no record of wrongs, is it not love to go to your offending brother and show him his faults just between the two of you? If it is love to bear all things, is it not love to say clearly, “This is wrong and we cannot bear it anymore!” If love covers a multitude of sins is it not love to call those covered sins sin?
And…if it is love to lay down one’s life for another…can it ever be love to make another lay down his life by taking it? …as is done in war? …as happened on Good Friday? Ah…it’s no wonder we think it wise to stick with thought-clichés and speak in pious platitudes about love. Because love, as the Scriptures reveal it, is far more fearful and wonderful than we are entirely comfortable with!
The challenge for us is not really that love is such a mischievous devil. The challenge is to recognize which Love, whose Love defies the poets’ art and the schemers’ fears. Jesus shows that love which loves completely, full-circle. “As the Father has loved Me, I have loved you. Now remain in My love.” OK, so far so good, but what does it mean to remain in His love?
Jesus says, “If you obey My commands, if you do the things I have taught you, you will remain in My love. Just as I have done the things My Father has taught Me.” So that’s it? Just get out there and imitate Jesus? Obey! Obey! Obey! No. We love one another, because that’s what Jesus has done. He has loved us, because that’s what the Father does. The Father loves His Son, who loves us, who love one another. It’s not an imitation of Jesus’ love. It is Jesus’ love. It’s God’s! It’s ours too. All together as one!
You see, that’s what the thought-clichés and pious platitudes about love fail to grasp. We cannot love one another unless we remain in Jesus’ love. We cannot bear all things, believe all things, hope all things, endure all things unless we remain in the love of Him who has done all things in the laying down of His life and taking it up again.
Ah…but to remain in His love means that we will also see our own lovelessness. We will also see our own records of wrong, our impatiences, our unkindnesses, our rudeness, our boasting, our easy anger, our delight in evil. We see these things we because we see why the Son has laid down His life in love, why the Father’s love has laid down the life of His Son, has cut Him to bleed…for us. To remain in His love is to see our lovelessness.
And yet, at the same time, it is also to see all of this embraced in His love. Our record of wrongs erased, our easy angers soothed, our impatiences and unkindnesses assuaged, our lovelessness loved. Our dying lives lifted up. In His love we love, as St. John reminds us today. In His love there is a wisdom which the ancients could not fathom, an art which the poets cannot tell.
And every day we live in that love. We remain in Him, in His love, because in love He has laid down His life for us. It’s not a feeling, it’s a promise. It’s not a cliché, it’s a new every morning merciful faith. His life for us, our lives for him. His love in us our love in Him. And out of that comes the fruit, fruit that will last: the love for one another.
Now that is a many-splendored love. It is a love that can be fearful and wonderful, because we see that it’s not just them out there who present the challenges to love. It’s not just them who are impatient and proud, who keep records of wrongs. It’s not just out there and them, but we too who do not always protect, always hope, always trust, always persevere.
This is the love of God, the love that pierced the Son and made Him bleed, the love that pierces our sinfulness and makes it plain…this is the love which at the same time lays down its life for our sin, as in this same love we lay down ours for others. Neither denying the pain nor the purpose, yet doing so in love, as we are loved in Christ, as He is loved in the Father.
To love and be wise. So many things to ponder. So many reasons to do so. But then isn’t love the most excellent way? His most excellent way?