I am writing to you, dear children,
because your sins have been forgiven on account of his name.
I am writing to you, fathers,
because you know him who is from the beginning.
I am writing to you, young men,
because you have overcome the evil one.
I write to you, dear children,
because you know the Father.
I write to you, fathers,
because you know him who is from the beginning.
I write to you, young men,
because you are strong,
and the word of God lives in you,
and you have overcome the evil one.
Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever. (New International Version)
The true measure of one’s Christian belief and commitment is the direction of their love.
We all love. Its part of being a human. Where our love is oriented is the real issue. The trajectory of love is the best measurement of faith and belief.
To love our fellow humanity, our brothers and sisters in Christ, and the neighbors around us, is to live in the light. It is the distinguishing mark of following Jesus. To hate humanity, to downplay love and dismiss it amongst believers, and to ignore the neighbors God placed us around, is to live in darkness.
A Christian is one who has received the love of God in Christ. Because of Divine Love, they know they are forgiven and have eternal life. They know, experience, and feel the permanence of godly love flowing powerfully in and through them to the glory of God.
Christians trust their gut, informed by the conscience testifying to the importance of love, and the Spirit sanctifying them with the primary tool of love.
So, when some folks come along and place a heavy emphasis on cognitive belief, eschewing the heart and the gut, it ought to raise some saved and sanctified eyebrows. To merely affirm a doctrinal statement, then turn around and aim love in the wrong direction, is to affirm a wrong belief. To hate people and love the world is just plain heretical.
The term “world” in the New Testament has differing meanings according to the context. Jesus stated that God so loved the “world” that he gave his only Son. That’s a reference to people, the entire mass of humanity on this planet. John, however, typically uses “world” as the antonym to the church, as if it were an evil opposite.
In our New Testament lesson for today, the term “world” are the patterns, systems, and operations of the world which are in direct contrast to how God operates and how the church ought to function. To love humanity is to hate the world and do God’s will. To love the world is to hate others and adopt a devilish agenda. For example:
- The world engages in revenge and payback when wronged, whereas the Christian learns to believe God as the Judge, loves the person who has offended them through prayer for their enemy, and obeys God through good works that seeks the welfare of the other.
- The world uses other people as either objects of their pleasure or to get ahead in life, whereas the Christian believes God will take care of their needs, will seek to love the other person instead of use them, and would rather obey God than be selfish.
- The world thinks nothing of lying, cheating, and stealing, if they can get away with it, whereas the Christian believes Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life, loves being a person of integrity, and obeys God even when it hurts.
Love in the Bible always begins with God’s love for people. This is the fundamental starting point for love because without God’s love, our love doesn’t get very far.
The world hates. God loves. Many people in this cruel and calloused world are unloving and unkind because they lack knowing that God loves them. If we do not believe or know that God infinitely loves us, then our words and our actions will reflect more hate than love.
The Lord your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing.” (Zephaniah 3:17, NIV)
Christianity does not come into existence by knowing some belief statements about Jesus. Rather, Christianity exists when individuals experience the white-hot burning love of God in Jesus Christ. Jesus came not only for those who skip church and only occasionally read their Bibles, but also came for the hard-hearted prick, the immoral adulterer, the strung-out addict, the terrorist, the murderer, and for all those caught up in bad choices and failed relationships.
God’s love is not based on our performance, how good we look to others, nor conditioned by our moods. The love of God only looks longingly at you and me with the potential of what we can become in Christ and cares for us as we are.
God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8, NIV)
Christianity never begins with what we do for God to make ourselves lovely for him. Instead, Christianity always starts with what God has done for us, the great and wonderful love that exists for us in Christ Jesus.
But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. (Titus 3:4, NIV)
All the wrong turns in the past, the mistakes and the moral lapses, everything that is ugly or painful all melts in the light of God’s acceptance and love for us. It makes loving the world seem distasteful, like trying to eat sand. Love for God and neighbor is the true source of doing God’s will and the true measure of Christian belief.
In what direction is your love aimed today?
O Lord, you have taught us that without love, whatever we do is worth nothing. Send your Holy Spirit and pour into my heart your greatest gift, which is love, the true bond of peace and of all virtue, without which whoever lives is accounted dead before you. Grant this for the sake of your only Son Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.