22. April 2018

All you need is love

Service Type:

Minister: Revd Dr. Ian Tutton

‘…Do you love Me more than these…’ (John 21, 15)
At the human level, relationships based on love are mutual and reciprocal – established on a ‘one to one’ basis – ‘the lover and the loved’. Yet with God it is altogether different. Yes, there is an intensely personal relationship, but one that is available to everyone; each one of us can have a ‘one to one’ relationship with God. One God, one lover, an infinity of those whom God loves, who are loved by God. But each one loved by God as if they were the ‘only one’. The First letter of John is regarded by scholars as something of a ‘Haynes Manual’ as far as living the Christian life is concerned…
’Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for [God] is not in him ( 1 John 2, 15)…
’By this we know love, that [Jesus] laid down his life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for [one another] (1 John 3, 16)…
’Beloved, let us love one another; for love is of God, and he who loves is born of God and knows God.’ (1 John 4, 7)…
’In this is love, not that we loved God but that God loved us and sent The Son to be an [atoning sacrifice for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No [one] has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and God’s love is perfected in us (1 John 4, 9 – 12)…
’We love because God first loved us. If anyone says, “I love God” and hates his brother [or sister] he is a liar; for the one who does not love their brother [or sister] whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen. (1 John 4, 19 – 21).
It is sentiments such as these that help us to make sense of Jesus’, the risen Christ’s, conversation with Peter that day. Because, though we are loved by God, and as a result feel moved to respond in like manner by loving God; that is not what is required of us. Jesus’ exchange with Peter reminds us that if we are really serious about our love for God, our love for the God whose nature is revealed in Jesus, then we will demonstrate just how serious we are in the way we care for others, provide for others, welcome others, love others – and by others is meant anyone and everyone – who is my neighbour? The one whom, instinctively, you would hate is your neighbour. And don’t forget, as Jesus said Himself, ‘other sheep I have which are not of this fold’ – but if you love me you will tend my sheep, even those sheep which are not of this fold. God’s love for the world as revealed in Jesus is both universal and inclusive; it ill behoves us who would claim to be His followers to compromise such love to the extent that we make it both particular and exclusive. ‘For God so loved the world…’– and Paul came to the realisation that the Gospel, hitherto contained within the Judaism of his day, if it was to be the Gospel had to be Gospel for each and all alike, Jew and Gentile precisely because the Gospel message made no such distinction – slave/free, man/woman, Jew/Gentile – all alike need to hear the Good News, all alike were entitled to hear the Good News, and so Paul was determined to take the Good News to the epicentre of the then Gentile world, to Rome itself, why? Well, as Paul put it himself: ‘The love of Christ gives me no choice…’At the heart of the mission of the Church is a simple imperative, to take the Good News to others, to all others, the Good News that each and all are loved by God and that God requires of us that we love one another – in Jesus’ name, and for God’s sake. But, we need be cautious and humble because we need to be willing to forsake any worldly understanding of what love is, but rather to acknowledge that in Jesus God has revealed love that is unique to God…
“God is love, but He also defines what love is. We don’t have the licence to define love according to our standards.” (Francis Chan, Erasing Hell: What God Said about Eternity, and the Things We’ve Made Up)…
And so the New Testament uses a different word – agape – for God’s love, and for the love with which we are to love the world; tending the sheep and feeding the lambs. The love we have for others as a follower of Jesus is of an altogether different order from the love we have for those with whom we are in love. Indeed, it contains within it an ability to transcend any human feelings, as it must, because otherwise all we would do is love those whom we feel comfortable loving, whom we know will respond to the love we have for them, those who are easy to love. Hence Jesus’ dying on the Cross, a graphic illustration of the nature and extent of agape love; until that moment the world had had no explicit knowledge of such love, even though it has always and forever permeated every aspect of the Creation –‘He had come to His own and His own had [turned their backs] on Him’ –
“the love of God is the kind of love that identifies with the powerless; the kind of love that appeals to nothing but its own integrity, that doesn’t seek to force or batter its way through. It lives, it survives, it ‘wins’ simply by being itself. On the cross, God’s love just is what it is and it’s valid and world-changing and earth-shattering, even though at that moment what it means in the world’s terms is failure, terror and death.”  (Rowan Williams, The Sign and the Sacrifice: The Meaning of the Cross and Resurrection)…
“I experience religious dread whenever I find myself thinking that I know the limits of God’s grace, since I am utterly certain it exceeds any imagination a human being might have of it. God does, after all, so love the world.” (Marilynne Robinson, When I Was a Child I Read Books).

All you need is love

‘…Do you love Me more than these…’ (John 21, 15)

At the human level, relationships based on love are mutual and reciprocal – established on a ‘one to one’ basis – ‘the lover and the loved’. Yet with God it is altogether different. Yes, there is an intensely personal relationship, but one that is available to everyone; each one of us can have a ‘one to one’ relationship with God. One God, one lover, an infinity of those whom God loves, who are loved by God. But each one loved by God as if they were the ‘only one’. The First letter of John is regarded by scholars as something of a ‘Haynes Manual’ as far as living the Christian life is concerned…

’Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for [God] is not in him ( 1 John 2, 15)…

’By this we know love, that [Jesus] laid down his life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for [one another] (1 John 3, 16)…

Beloved, let us love one another; for love is of God, and he who loves is born of God and knows God.’ (1 John 4, 7)…

’In this is love, not that we loved God but that God loved us and sent The Son to be an [atoning sacrifice for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No [one] has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and God’s love is perfected in us (1 John 4, 9 – 12)…

’We love because God first loved us. If anyone says, “I love God” and hates his brother [or sister] he is a liar; for the one who does not love their brother [or sister] whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen. (1 John 4, 19 – 21).

It is sentiments such as these that help us to make sense of Jesus’, the risen Christ’s, conversation with Peter that day. Because, though we are loved by God, and as a result feel moved to respond in like manner by loving God; that is not what is required of us. Jesus’ exchange with Peter reminds us that if we are really serious about our love for God, our love for the God whose nature is revealed in Jesus, then we will demonstrate just how serious we are in the way we care for others, provide for others, welcome others, love others – and by others is meant anyone and everyone – who is my neighbour? The one whom, instinctively, you would hate is your neighbour. And don’t forget, as Jesus said Himself, ‘other sheep I have which are not of this fold’ – but if you love me you will tend my sheep, even those sheep which are not of this fold. God’s love for the world as revealed in Jesus is both universal and inclusive; it ill behoves us who would claim to be His followers to compromise such love to the extent that we make it both particular and exclusive. ‘For God so loved the world…’– and Paul came to the realisation that the Gospel, hitherto contained within the Judaism of his day, if it was to be the Gospel had to be Gospel for each and all alike, Jew and Gentile precisely because the Gospel message made no such distinction – slave/free, man/woman, Jew/Gentile – all alike need to hear the Good News, all alike were entitled to hear the Good News, and so Paul was determined to take the Good News to the epicentre of the then Gentile world, to Rome itself, why? Well, as Paul put it himself: ‘The love of Christ gives me no choice…’At the heart of the mission of the Church is a simple imperative, to take the Good News to others, to all others, the Good News that each and all are loved by God and that God requires of us that we love one another – in Jesus’ name, and for God’s sake. But, we need be cautious and humble because we need to be willing to forsake any worldly understanding of what love is, but rather to acknowledge that in Jesus God has revealed love that is unique to God…

“God is love, but He also defines what love is. We don't have the licence to define love according to our standards.” (Francis Chan, Erasing Hell: What God Said about Eternity, and the Things We've Made Up)…

And so the New Testament uses a different word – agape – for God’s love, and for the love with which we are to love the world; tending the sheep and feeding the lambs. The love we have for others as a follower of Jesus is of an altogether different order from the love we have for those with whom we are in love. Indeed, it contains within it an ability to transcend any human feelings, as it must, because otherwise all we would do is love those whom we feel comfortable loving, whom we know will respond to the love we have for them, those who are easy to love. Hence Jesus’ dying on the Cross, a graphic illustration of the nature and extent of agape love; until that moment the world had had no explicit knowledge of such love, even though it has always and forever permeated every aspect of the Creation –He had come to His own and His own had [turned their backs] on Him’ -

“the love of God is the kind of love that identifies with the powerless; the kind of love that appeals to nothing but its own integrity, that doesn’t seek to force or batter its way through. It lives, it survives, it ‘wins’ simply by being itself. On the cross, God’s love just is what it is and it’s valid and world-changing and earth-shattering, even though at that moment what it means in the world’s terms is failure, terror and death.”  (Rowan Williams, The Sign and the Sacrifice: The Meaning of the Cross and Resurrection)…

“I experience religious dread whenever I find myself thinking that I know the limits of God’s grace, since I am utterly certain it exceeds any imagination a human being might have of it. God does, after all, so love the world.” (Marilynne Robinson, When I Was a Child I Read Books).