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CHRISTIAN “LIFE” SHOWS IN CHRISTIAN LOVE

Love for our fellow Christians shows that we have received the faith God gave us.

The sermon for the Second Sunday after Trinity, June 13, 2021, Pastor Edward Bryant, Faith & Our Savior Lutheran Churches, Medford & Grants Pass, Oregon.

1 John 3:13–18 (EHV)
13Do not be surprised, brothers, if the world hates you. 14We know that we have crossed over from death to life, because we love our brothers. The one who does not love remains in death. 15Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life remaining in him. 16This is how we have come to know love: Jesus laid down his life for us. And we also should lay down our lives for our brothers. 17Whoever has worldly wealth and sees his brother in need but closes his heart against him—how can God’s love remain in him? 18Dear children, let us love not only with word or with our tongue, but also in action and truth.

Dear fellow redeemed: Last week we read from chapter four of this same letter, learning about the Christian kind of love – love that mirrors the Grace of God, that forgives, that accepts the sinner. Such love is clearly counter-cultural in an unbelieving age. The counter-cultural character of Christian love is the focus of these verses. We live in a culture that worships death, while we bring the message of life, learning from Scripture as John began his Gospel, “In him was life, and the life was the light of mankind. The light is shining in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” (John 1:4–5, EHV)

Love and life go together; hatred and murder, –hatred and death— go together. 14We know that we have crossed over from death to life, because we love our brothers. The one who does not love remains in death.

The Christian Living in the World

à THE LIFE OF THE CHRISTIAN SHOWS IN LOVE

  1. The Christian Life Is Spiritual Life
  2. Worldly Life is Death
  3. Christian Life Shows in the World
  1. The Christian Life Is Spiritual Life

The life of the Christian is the life that crosses over from death to life, it is the new and spiritual life of faith. Such life shows in the love we have for our fellow Christians, particularly. . 14We know that we have crossed over from death to life, because we love our brothers.

To live in faith is to be in harmony with Christ. We talk about faith as trust or confidence in Christ as our Savior, but that is only part of it. It is not an opinion we are convinced of, or an emotion we feel, but a change in the soul from death to life. So you are a Christian, not just when you reflect on or when you feel the assurance that Jesus is your Savior. You live in faith; you live under grace. You are a Christian when asleep, or when living out your vocation. To strengthen our faith we come back again and again to the means  by which the Holy Spirit gives and nourishes this faith: The gospel in word and sacrament.

We know that we have this faith because of our love for one another. What kind of love? Not just affection, or brotherly love, but the love that is gracious and forgiving. We are brothers and sisters in the faith and in the church, and as such we know something of one another’s failings, sins, and shortcomings. We know something of our common penitential spirit. We know one another as objects of God’s grace. It is in this way that we love one another – desiring what is best for one another.

Even if we don’t have similar interests or experiences now, we know that we will spend eternity with one another in innocent glory. So we don’t oppress one another under a cloud of disapproval, or censure, or condemnation. Usually the Greek language uses agape for this unconditional love, this love that, knowing person, still loves. This is the Christian kind of love.

2.   Worldly Life is Death

John contrasts this with the hatred of the world that knows nothing of Grace. The one who does not love remains in death. The spiritual death of unbelief shows in the lack of the Christian kind of love. One who lacks such love shows that he is still dead, without faith, without righteousness. This is what we were once, “remember that at that time you were separated from Christ, excluded from the citizenship of Israel, and foreigners to the covenants of the promise. You were without hope and without God in the world.” (Ephesians 2:12, EHV)

This is the natural condition of the world, which is why as the world turns from the true faith, it is a world that embraces death, whether in the Soviet gulag, the Nazi gas chambers, the massacres of the Red Chinese, the jihads of Islam, or the killing of the unborn, aged and infirm. The world apart from God is not good, and hates what is good, as John actually introduced our text, “This is the message you have heard from the beginning: Love one another. Do not be like Cain, who belonged to the Evil One and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own works were evil, while those of his brother were righteous. Do not be surprised, brothers, if the world hates you.” (1 John 3:11–13, EHV)

The murderous hatred of the world doesn’t show just in killing, for the sin of murder dwells in the soul even without the act, as John says, The one who does not love remains in death. 15Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life remaining in him.

3.   Christian Life Shows in the World

As believers, we do not remain in death, and it shows in the Christian kind of love, as John says, 16This is how we have come to know love: Jesus laid down his life for us.

Paul puts it this way:  “And he died for all, so that those who live would no longer live for themselves but for him, who died in their place and was raised again. As a result, from now on, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we knew Christ according to the flesh, we no longer know him that way. So then, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away. The new has come! And all these things are from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation. That is, God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them. And he has entrusted to us the message of reconciliation.” (2 Corinthians 5:15–19, EHV)

We learn about love the Christian kind of love, gracious love, from Christ Jesus, who laid down His life for us. In doing so, He satisfied God’s justice. He fulfilled the “anyone who sins must die and be cast off forever” demands of God’s law by taking the place of “anyone who sins.” He took your place and mine.

In this and in so much else he personified love, so His life was love, and He was and is the epitome of righteousness. This is the righteousness God gives in word and sacrament. He gives us faith, the spiritual life by which we receive the “righteousness that is from God and is by faith” (Philippians 3:9) So you stand forgiven before God, forgiven also for your less-than-loving moments.

If This is how we have come to know love: Jesus laid down his life for us, then we should dwell often on this gospel, and partake eagerly of the Lord’s supper whereby we “proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.” (1 Corinthians 11:26) It is the life of the Christian to reflect upon this love of Christ for us, and for the whole world

What a different world this would be if everyone we knew thought of themselves, not as a moment in biological evolution, but as a special creation, with an immortal soul, beloved of our creator. What a different world this would be if everyone understood that there are no ordinary people, that everyone we know is destined either to eternal glory, joy, beauty, light, peace and love, or to an eternity of pain, loneliness, despair and hideous regret?

What a different world it would be everyone connected the cross to themselves and the ones beside them, and saw themselves and others as the objects of such gracious and forgiving love. In other words, what a different world it would be if our prayer “Hallowed be Thy Name” were answered in every heart around us. This prayer IS answered among us.

Do you believe that you and those around you are the objects of this love we know? Yes you do, as John says, 16This is how we have come to know love: Jesus laid down his life for us.

The more we know this love, the more it shows. 16This is how we have come to know love: Jesus laid down his life for us. And we also should lay down our lives for our brothers. 17Whoever has worldly wealth and sees his brother in need but closes his heart against him—how can God’s love remain in him? 18Dear children, let us love not only with word or with our tongue, but also in action and truth.

John is speaking here of the love that we have among the family of believers– brothers and sisters. He is assuming something about the church that is easy to lose in this day and age, namely that we are a community. A “church” is an assembly called together out of the world, among whom there are to be no divisions in the faith (in doctrine), and because of grace, no grudges, resentment, or seething hatred. Because of the grace of God, there is love, also for those different from us.

And this love shows in tangible ways. Among us, none should go hungry, nobody be alone, nobody be destitute, nobody unloved, for after all, “We love because he first loved us.” (1 John 4:19, EHV)

AMEN.