It’s About Love (1 Peter 1:17-23)

Statue of Christ the Redeemer, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Since you call on a Father who judges each person’s work impartially, live out your time as foreigners here in reverent fear. For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake. Through him you believe in God, who raised him from the dead and glorified him, and so your faith and hope are in God.

Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for each other, love one another deeply, from the heart. For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God. (New International Version)

Love makes the world go round. The cycle of life brings an end to all things. Yet, the permanence of love has always existed, and will never cease to exist. (1 Corinthians 13:8-13)

Biblical godly love comes not because we first loved God, but because God first loved us and gave his Son, Jesus Christ, as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. (1 John 4:7-12)

So, the Christian’s faith and hope are completely grounded in the person and finished work of Jesus. People are so valuable to God that we were purchased from the slavery auction block with the costliest price ever: the precious blood of Jesus. 

To know this love of God in Christ, to be thoroughly captured and enraptured by it, results in a profound and deep love for others. And I’m not only referring to a nice touchy-feely love, but also a steadfast love which is committed to love regardless of what another person says or does.

Love is wonderful. But that doesn’t mean it’s easy. Being on the receiving end of love is a beautiful thing. Giving love, however, can sometimes get dicey.

Although we Christians really do believe that everything in life and ministry centers around the grace and love of God in Christ, our boots-on-the-ground loving sometimes seems compromised and conditional. That’s because it’s easy to love those who love us back. Yet, what if our love is not reciprocated or requited?

This situation brings us face-to-face with our own selves. The painful reality is that we all discover that our love is sometimes, maybe oftentimes, dependent on an assurance that we will be loved in return.

Mutual love is a beautiful thing, but what happens when only one of the persons is able to give love?

What do we do when grace is our only option, when we must choose to love, knowing that love won’t have a response?   

Christians are supposed to give the same kind of love that God shows to us in Christ – which means we need to decide that grace is going to be our lifestyle. It comes down to this: It simply doesn’t matter what condition the other person is in. It doesn’t matter what another is going to say, or not say. Nothing on the other party’s side matters. It…just… doesn’t… matter.

What really matters is our own loving another person deeply from the heart, regardless and in spite of everything else. That, my friends, is real Christian love.         

Since we are redeemed people; have acknowledged the truth of Christ’s redemptive events of crucifixion and resurrection; are recipients of God’s great love to us in Jesus; we must choose to live our lives full of grace and love, no matter what. 

As God’s redeemed people, purchased by the precious blood of Christ, our default response to others is to be this: We will love one another unconditionally.

Unfortunately, over time, many Christians slowly become disconnected from this fountain of grace and love. It is likely that, at some past point, they were deeply touched by a gracious encounter with Jesus Christ. They found peace, love, and joy. Minds were swept up in the awe and wonder of God. Hearts were deeply moved for a few hours, days, or weeks. 

But then, there was a return to the routine grind of daily existence. Gradually, the demands of life took over. Jesus began to be treated like an old friend from another town whom we dearly loved in years past, but have just lost track of. 

Of course, it was unintentional. We simply allowed circumstances to drift us apart. We became preoccupied with something else. Now, we find ourselves with a low level of irritation, frustrated with others and unable to love as we ought. We become what the late author Brennan Manning called “Christian agnostics,” that is, people who do not deny Jesus, but just ignore him.

If your days are trivial and/or hectic…

If the clock determines what you do…

If you are numb to the news and headlines around you…

If you are all jangled and jittered by life’s circumstances…

If phones and computers and gadgets rule your day…

If there is little room for responding to humanity humanely…

If you have settled into a comfortable piety and a well-fed virtue…

If you have grown complacent and lead a practical life…

Then you need to be touched again by the grace and love of God in Christ by treating Jesus as if he were your very best friend as well as the awesome Son of God. 

We are all still here walking on this earth because none of our failures and lack of faith have proved terminal; we are here today because of grace and love. 

The forgiveness of God is a liberation from guilt and regret. It is an extreme amnesty. Through looking in the mirror, and seeing personal sinfulness, we amazingly end up encountering the merciful love of the redeeming God. 

The grace of God says to us, “Hush, child, I don’t need to know where you’ve been or what you’ve been up to; just let me love you.” 

When we have experienced that kind of love, we are then finally able to love one another deeply from the heart. It’s a new life of love, the kind that comes from God – an unconditional love that’s permanent and will never go away.

Therefore, as Christians loved by Christ and belonging to God, we make the following affirmations of love:

  • We will love, no matter whether we are loved in return.
  • We will take the initiative to love, not just waiting for others to love first.
  • We will love, even when we are imperfect and feel unworthy to do so.
  • We will give love with the love we received from Jesus.
  • We will love with a gracious, sacrificial, vulnerable, and desperate kind of love. 

Many years ago, I spent some time with someone in a hospital waiting room after her brother had been severely burned in a farm accident. In that place, we were all strangers. Yet, there was a loving vulnerability to our being together. I sat watching and waiting with anguished people, listening to their urgent questions: Will my husband make it? Will my child walk again, even if she survives? How do you live without your companion of thirty years? 

Burn unit and intensive care unit waiting rooms are places. And the people who wait are different. They can’t do enough for each other. No one is rude. The distinctions of race and class melt away. Each person pulls for everyone else. Vanity and pretense vanish. No one is embarrassed about crying or asking tough questions. In that moment their whole world is focused on the doctor’s next report. If only it will show improvement.

Everyone intuitively knows that loving someone else is what life is all about. By God’s amazing grace we will all learn to live like that without having to learn it the hard way in a place of intense anxiety and suffering.

Christ’s resurrection is not some flash-in-a-pan – it has staying power – it is real and permanent. Christ is the Christian’s hope of living a new life of gracious unconditional love. 

Jesus actually expects more failure from you than you expect from yourself. And he gives grace. So, all of our failures to love as we ought can be laid before Jesus because there is grace that covers it all – a deep love that forgives, redeems, and makes new.

God of goodness and grace, we your people are aware of our human frailties and foibles, and yet are overwhelmed by your love for us. We give you praise that there is no human experience we might walk through where your love cannot reach us. If we climb the highest mountain you are there, and if we find ourselves in the darkest valley, you are there. Continually teach us to love you and others, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

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