16In this we know love, that this one,[Jesus Christ,] for our sake laid down his life. And we ourselves ought for the sake of the brothers lay down [our] lives. 17But if the one who might have the world’s goods and might see his brother who has a need and might shut his compassion from him, then how does God’s love remain in him?
Children, let us not love in word nor tongue but in work and in truth. 19And in this, we’ll know that from the truth we are, and in his presence we’ll persuade our hearts, 20because if the heart might condemn us, then greater is God then our hearts and he knows everything. 21Beloved, if hearts might not condemn us, then we have complete confidence from God 22and whatever we might ask, then we receive from him, because his commandments we keep and things that are pleasing in his sight, we do. 23And this is his commandment, that we might believe in the name of his son Jesus Christ and we might love one another, just as he gave the command to us. 24And the one who keeps his commands, in him, remains and he in them. And in this, we know that he remains in us, from the spirit which to us he sends.
You know, it’s funny. Love can cause us to do some mighty stupid things. Take for instance, good old King Kong. When I was a kid, they had on one of the stations a show called "Chiller Theater" that used to show old monster movies. And I remember, my dad and I would watch it every week. I think it came on right after Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling. Any way, one of the best was of course King Kong, the story of the big gorilla that went ape over Fay Wray. (Get it, "ape over Fay Wray." And Debbie says I’m not as funny as I think I am.)
Of course, we all know the story. King Kong falls in love with Fay. And after they capture him and put him on stage in New York, he escapes, grabs Fay and climbs to the top of the Empire State Building. And I think we’ve all seen that scene where he’s kind of grabbing the top of the building with one hand and fighting off a bunch of bi-planes with the other. And the planes are shooting him, and he’s swatting them. And eventually, well, you know, the planes win. They get Kong, who falls off the building, slat onto the pavement below. But you know, instead of having monkey all over the Big Apple, King Kong keeps it together. And as they’re looking at his lifeless body, the police chef says something like, "We got him." And Carl Denham, the guy who captured Kong, and who shot a stegosaurus by the way, sort of shakes his head and says, "We didn’t get him. ‘Twas beauty killed the beast." Like I said, love can make us do some really dumb things.
And even though I’ve never known it drive anybody to the top of the Empire State Building, I do know a person who love caused to leave the city where she’d lived for forty years, I’m talking about the only place she ever knew, to move to a little, bitty town in Virginia because her husband got a job teaching in rural Buckingham County. And love caused this same person to pack up again, five years later, and say good-bye to her friends and head up to the northern panhandle of West Virginia. It was all because of love. And of course, I’m talking about Debbie. But I can tell you, I’m no stranger to the power of love myself. I know for me, love, and I’m talking about true love caused me to follow a team that just had two wins last year. Now that’s what I mean by love. And since I’m still in love, I’ll probably cheer for the Bronchos on opening day in spite of the abuse I know I’ll take. All because of love.
And since love can get us to do all kinds of things, I think it’s kind of interesting that that often doesn’t apply to God’s love for us. Of course it’s really not rocket science, and I’m talking about why people often don’t seem moved by God’s love for them. Now frankly, I think this is a little nuts, but I really understand the reason. I mean, as odd as it sounds, at least to me, I honestly believe that a lot of Christians don’t feel loved by God at all. For them, he’s nothing more than this task master, who’s almost looking for a excuse to drop folks into hell. And others, well, they’ve been taught that God loves only when we do something to deserve it, turning love into almost a wage that has to be earned. And still others, I guess you could say that for them it’s just not a big deal, one way or another. For some of them, I think they’d rather have a new television than the assurance of divine love. But you know, the reason doesn’t really matter. For some believers, the idea that they’re loved by the creator of the universe, well, it just doesn’t have much impact on their relationship with others, including other folks within the faith. And it doesn’t even shape their relationship with God.
And I’ve got to tell you, I think that’s a real shame, and not just because of how it affects others but also what it does to them. But you know, what’s saddest of all is that it’s so unnecessary, because the love of God can have an enormous impact on us, on how we relate to others and even how we relate to God. And this is something that I think we can see in the verses we just read, a passage in which John really dealt with love. But let me tell you what I’m talking about.
I mean, according to what he wrote here, this love business can sure influence our relationship with one another, and I’ll tell you why. You see, because we’re loved, we have an example of love to follow. And I’ll tell you, that’s what I think he was getting at when he wrote, "In this we know love, that this one,[Jesus Christ,] for our sake laid down his life. And we ourselves ought for the sake of the brothers lay down [our] lives. But if the one who might have the world’s goods and might see his brother who has a need and might shut his compassion from him, then how does God’s love remain in him?"
Now, to me, I think this is really cool. You see, we can look at how Christ ultimately showed love to us. Remember, Jesus himself said, "No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends." And you know, isn’t that exactly what he did. He laid down his life for his friends, for us. And you know, that’s the example I was talking about. That’s the example of love that we can follow.
Of course, let’s face it, if this is the standard, we’re probably not going to do it. I mean, give me a break. We may talk on and on about how we’ve given our life to Jesus, but let’s face, we can only say it because we’ve really never been asked to do it, not physically at least. We’ve never been forced to stop living because of Jesus Christ. And I’ve got to be honest, I don’t think I’d do it, not if a gun were up against my head or maybe worst, against Maggie’s. Giving your life is a mighty hard demand.
And maybe that’s why, in this passage, John softens it a little, by talking about giving your likelihood. In other words, although we may not be willing actually to give our lives, we sure can write a check when someone is in need. And we can sure take time out of our day when someone could use a visit. And we can sure show some kindness to a person whom we may not even know because it just might brighten their day. And although this may not be on the level of giving your life, it’s something that we might actually do. You see, because we’re loved by God, we have a perfect example of love that we can follow, one that can change our relationship with others. That’s the first thing this passage shows.
And second, we can also do something that will change our relationship with God. You see, because we’re loved, we have a reason to love others. Again, this is what John wrote, "Children, let us not love in word nor tongue but in work and in truth. And in this, we’ll know that from the truth we are, and in his presence we’ll persuade our hearts, because if the heart might condemn us, than greater is God then our hearts and he knows everything. Beloved, if hearts might not condemn us, then we have complete confidence from God and whatever we might ask, then we receive from him, because his commandments we keep and things that are pleasing in his sight, we do. And this is his commandment, that we might believe in the name of his son Jesus Christ and we might love one another, just as he gave the command to us. And the one who keeps his commands, in him, remains and he in them. And in this, we know that he remains in us, from the spirit which to us he sends." Now that’s what John wrote.
And I’ll tell you, it’s almost embarrassingly simple. We know that Christ loves us, right? We know it by what he said, and maybe more importantly, we know it by what he did. As a minister once told me, we’re going to have to live with the fact that God loves us. And you know, if this is something we know, I mean if this is something we believe right to the core of our being, then we’re going to want to respond. My goodness, unless we’re sort of deadbeats and don’t mind sponging off God, then we’re going to want to do something to express our thanks, right? I don’t know about you, but when I receive something that I haven’t worked for, something I didn’t earn, something I don’t even deserve, when I get a gift like that, I’m sure going to do something to say "thank you." And that’s exactly where we stand with God. And you know, if we want to know what to do, John tells us right here. He gives us the two-part command of Christ. One, if we want to say thanks, we can sure believe, in other words, we can sure trust that Christ is exactly who he said he was. And two, we can certainly love one another. And you know, not only will this be the perfect way to say think you, it will also show both the world and ourselves that Christ is in us and we’re in Christ. Remember, John wrote, "And the one who keeps his commands, in him, remains and he in them." You see, because we’re loved by God, we have a perfect reason to love others, one that reflects our relationship with God. That’s something else this passage shows.
Because he loved, King Kong was knocked off the Empire State Building. Because she loved, Debbie went with me to Virginia and then north of the Mason Dixon line, or as my mother calls it, the mission field. And for me, well, because I love, I’ll continue to bleed royal blue. Yes sir, love can cause us to do some pretty interesting things. And as it relates to the folks around us, our relationship with others can change when we follow the example of love left by Jesus. And as it relates to God, our relationship with him can be reflected when we claim the reason we have to love one another. And why are these possible? Simple, it’s all because we’re loved.