This Is Love (Midweek Advent 2)

Pastor Steve Bauer
Pastor Steve Bauer
This Is Love (Midweek Advent 2)

This Is Love

Christmas is love. As someone who has to work with words as a calling and profession, ads have always fascinated me. You only have 30 seconds (or less). And you have to artfully and concisely tell your audience what you have and why they should want to buy it. Lately, as I’ve been listening to internet radio channels, the ads let me know that Christmas is all about love. And, if were in doubt as to what love is, the ad tells me. Love is buying that product for the person in my family. If I buy that item, then I love my family. But it does bring up a good question though, doesn’t it? What is love? This Advent we have as our theme: \textsc{Lord Jesus, Come To Us…in your love.} And this evening we see what true love is. In 1 John 4, we read: 7 Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.” (1 John 4:7–8 NIV11-GKE)

What is love? Here in these words, notice how the sort of love John is speaking about here is a different sort of love than we speak about in english today. We can say, “I love my wife; I love my dog; I love pizza” and use the same word. Here the meaning is much more specific. We are taught at our Seminary to not drag the Greek and Hebrew into our sermons and bludgeon our hearers with those words. Here, however, is a good exception. This is a word worth memorizing. The word is, “agápe”.1 It means, to bring out the best in the one you love. Now, notice how this is a bit different than how we might use the word today. Because if you show this sort of love, you might sometimes even hurt the feelings of the person you are showing love to. A mom with a two-year-old slaps the hand of the child who has just picked up a candy off of the ground. She hurts the child’s feelings. But she does this for his good. She does what is best for him.

That is what love is. But, as John continues with these words, he is very practical. He lets us know that we don’t just have this love as children of God, we also can use this love. We can use this love as a test. How do we know the difference between true preachers of the word and false ones? Do they do what is best? A televangelist asks for your money. But does he visit you in your home and give you the Lord’s Supper when you cannot get to church? It’s a test for those on the outside of these walls. And it’s a test for those on the inside of these walls. Do we love each other enough to speak the truth in love, correcting each other’s sins? Do we love each other enough to speak those precious words of forgiveness even when the hurt is real? What is love? Love has a definition. Love does what is best for that which it loves. But there’s more: 9 This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” (1 John 4:9–10 NIV11-GKE)

This is love. Love has a definition. But, as John travels on, we see that love also has a foundation. If you really want to see what this sort of love looks like, you need to look above to heaven and behind you in time to Christmas. True, “agápe” love is the Father sending his Son to take on human flesh and blood to give us eternal life. The foundation of this love is not us loving God. Instead, the foundation of this love is God showing this sort of love to us. God’s love for us is the foundation of true love because before we can love others we need to know that we, ourselves, are loved—and loved in a specific way. We need to know that our sins are forgiven. The times that we should have corrected our fellow Christian, but found it so much easier to say nothing. The times we should have forgiven our fellow Christian but didn’t. We need forgiveness for those sins. And true love is shown to us in this fact: Jesus is the atoning sacrifice for those sins and all the others. This is love. Love has a foundation. The foundation of love is not what we do for God or others. The foundation of love is what God has done for us in Christ. But John continues: 11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.” (1 John 4:11–12 NIV11-GKE)

This is love. Love has a definition: that which does what is best for the one we love. Love has a foundation: God loved us enough to send and then sacrifice his own Son for our sins. But here in these words we see that love also has an effect. As we ponder his love shown to us, then the Holy Spirit strengthens our new person inside of us to show this Christian love to others. And then that love that we show to others ends up be a proof that we are Christians. Now here is where we need to stop for just a moment. The love that we show to others is not the first or the biggest proof that we are children of God. Proof that we are Children of God starts with our Triune God and what he has done for us. But, as the Holy Spirit changes our hearts through his word day by day, we naturally and spontaneously reach out and stretch out in love toward each other. And there’s nothing wrong with recognizing that this is love. But even this love is a gift from God and it did not start or come from us.

And so, my dear friends in Christ. Love has a definition: doing that which is best for the person we love. It has a foundation: God’s love for us. And it has an effect: the Holy Spirit providing proof that we are his children. Amen.

1 “Ⲁⲅⲁⲡⲱⲙⲉⲛ” (1 John 4:7 GNT-ALEX)

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