“Beloved, let us love one another; for love is of God,
and he who loves is born of God and knows God.
He who does not love does not know God; for God is love.
In this the love of God was made manifest among us,
that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him.
In this is love, not that we loved God but that [God] loved us and sent
his Son to be the expiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us,
we also ought to love one another. No man has ever seen God; if we love one another,
God abides in us and his loved is perfected in us.” (I John 4:7-12; RSV)
The letter of I John reads like a Christian midrash (interpretation or commentary) upon the Gospel of St. John. What do I mean by this? Look with me for example at I John 4:9: “In this the love of God was manifest among us, that God has sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him.” Sound familiar?! Yes! It’s John 3:16. Basically stated, I John 4 offers us ethical imperatives based on the theological indicatives of St. John’s Gospel. Look with me at all the ethical imperatives: “Beloved, let us love one another” (v.7, 11). “Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God” (v. 15). “He [or she] who loves God should love [one’s] brother [or sister] also” (v.21). All of this because, why? … Look at the “heart of it all” in I John 4:16. For here’s the foundational, theological indicative: “God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him” (cf. also v.9-10)
So, the question prompted for us by our Gospel (i.e. John 15:1-8) and Epistle (i.e. I John 4:7-21) texts is this: “As Christ is the vine and we are the branches (John 15:5) … how can we use this fruit or these gifts of love that God has given us … to better care for and be with those people in our lives who are suffering … who are lonely … who are broken and grieving … who are dying?” That is, “How can we, even little ol’ us, be used by our Lord Jesus Christ to touch such lives with God’s love – to serve in Jesus’ image: ‘abiding branches’ (narly as we might be) to reach out from God’s first love, for us in Christ, into a 2nd … 3rd … 4th and 5th gift of love … for our neighbor?” Life changing gifts of Christ’s Spirit through simply Listening, Being Present, or Speaking a Word of Forgiveness or Affirmation.
“Beloved, since God so loved us, let us so love one another” (I John 4:11).
I hope to see you this weekend at either the Saturday Vespers or Sunday morning …