1 John 3:13 “Don’t be surprised if people in opposition to gospel hate you.”
Why would people hate you for being a Christian?
“Obviously, because you are judgmental, mean, unloving, hypocritical, narrow minded, and just generally, jerks.”
I suppose that is true on occasion, but most people would prefer a consistent, practicing, Christian as a neighbor than a consistent, practicing, atheist.
“I think that the most practical and important thing about a person is his view of the universe. For a landlady considering a lodger, it is important to know his income, but still more important to know his philosophy (worldview). I think the question is not whether the theory of the cosmos affects them, but whether, in the long run, anything else affects them.”
A worldview is not what you look at, but what you look through.
How you actually see the world is how you practically live in the world.
If the world were coming to an end, if some dystopian sci fi scenario actually came to life in Wichita…you would certainly prefer to have a practicing Christian as a neighbor, then, than someone with an alternative worldview.
What is important is that qualifier, practicing Christian.
1 Peter 4:12 Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler (busy body, an annoying, divisive person). However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name.
Peter goes from one extreme to the other…to cover all possibilities…from murderer to meddler.
If you suffer because of your own foolish or sinful choices (whatever they are)…that’s on you.
If you suffer because of the name of Christ…well, good for you.
Literally, it is good for you, you are blessed, Peter wrote…and by the way, it’s good for everyone around you who are experiencing the love, and grace, and forgiveness that you extend to them.
So, if practicing Christians make the best neighbors, why would anyone hate them?
Good question…look at John 10 for a clue.
John 10:31 The Jews picked up stones again to stone him. Jesus answered them, “I have shown you many good works from the Father; for which of them are you going to stone me?” The Jews answered him, “It is not for a good work that we are going to stone you but for blasphemy, because you, being a man, make yourself God.”
There it is…we are okay with the good works of Jesus, just not the reason behind the good works…they point to his divinity.
He does what he does, because of who he is.
That’s why we might be hated…
When we seek to include all people in our lives, when we seek to love others regardless of who they are…that is fine as far as it goes.
But if we confess the exclusive claims of Christ…that he is Lord of heaven, earth, and humans.
That his will, alone, brings human good and to live otherwise is to sin, it is to walk away from God and from life itself.
Then we will not be hated because of the results of making Jesus Lord of our lives but because of the implications of that life.
Jesus is Lord…anyone who does not submit to his Lordship is on a dead end, literally, path.
Let’s learn from Jesus again, John 8
John 8:1 Then the scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman caught in adultery, making her stand in the center. “Teacher,” they said to him, “this woman was caught in the act of committing adultery. In the law Moses commanded us to stone such women. So, what do you say?” They asked this to trap him, in order that they might have evidence to accuse him. Jesus stooped down and started writing on the ground with his finger. (you don’t get to frame this argument) When they persisted in questioning him, he stood up and said to them, (he took control of the narrative) “The one without sin among you should be the first to throw a stone at her.” 8 Then he stooped down again and continued writing on the ground. 9 When they heard this, they left one by one, starting with the older men. Only he was left, with the woman in the center. 10 When Jesus stood up, he said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”
11 “No one, Lord,” she answered. “Neither do I condemn you,” said Jesus. “Go, and from now on do not sin anymore.
What do you see here in the Lord Jesus?
Not blanket acceptance of a sinful women’s sin…but forgiveness (and what she needed most was forgiveness)
Her largest problem was not that she was being publicly shamed, or that she was not accepted…(as wrong and as hard as those were).
He largest problem was her sin.
It didn’t matter at that moment what had happened in her past to bring her to this point, or what someone might have done to her that wasn’t her fault.
At that point, Jesus knew that her sin, was her biggest problem.
She didn’t MOST need him to affirm her, she MOST needed him to forgive her.
That’s what the words, “Neither do I condemn you.” means.
It didn’t mean, I don’t condemn your lifestyle…he did condemn it.
He said, “Go and stop sinning.”
This was what love for this woman looked like, as revealed by the Lord himself.
Forgiveness leading to acceptance and a call to stop sinning…to change.
Many in the world will find this KIND of acceptance, unacceptable.
But anything else is not really love at all.
John’s letter repeats the three tests of certainty over and over in his letter:
These are how we know we are his, these are how we grow in certainty of the gospel.
In chapter 4, verses 7-21, he will combine the doctrinal/truth and the love test to show how they work in symbiotic relationship…and how they impact our confidence, our certainty.
7 Dear friends, let us love one another, because love is from God, and everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 The one who does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9 God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent his one and only Son into the world so that we might live through him. 10 Love consists in this: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice, for our sins. 11 Dear friends, if God loved us in this way, we also must love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God. If we love one another, God remains in us and his love is made complete in us.
God is love.
God’s love was revealed in the coming of Christ, while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Since God loved us this way, we are to love others in the same way.
There are many manifestations of the love of God for us in history and in our daily lives…but the greatest is the gift of his Son on the cross.
John gave us that truth in his gospel, John 3:16 For God so loved the world, he gave his only Son.
And then twice in this paragraph.
The coming of Christ is the concrete, historical revelation of the love of God.
We see love defined here as seeking the good of others at personal cost…no greater example of love has ever been given.
In a biblical theodicy, there are 7 themes or motifs…this in the greatest one
“God if you are there, and good, and powerful…why don’t you do something?”
“I have…Christ has come.”
“I will…Christ will return.”
Christ is the revelation of the kindness and goodness of God.
This love of God in Christ assures us of God’s love for us and lays out the obligation for us to love one another.
Now, in this time between the advents of Christ…God’s love is seen, partially but powerfully, through our love.
In his gospel, John wrote “No one has ever seen God” (1:18), identical to what he wrote here in verse 12.
How then can God be known?
Jesus, has made him known.
That is amazing.
And to add to our astonishment, John says, “If we love each other, God’s love is made complete in us.”
In other words, our love for others is evidence of God’s indwelling in us…and evidence to the world of God’s love for them.
God is love, God loved us, if love one another…his love is made complete in us.
In the next few verses John combines the truth and the love test.
This again gets at that idea that the world in opposition to God is okay with his love as long it is non-specific (generic love), and love is defined by ourselves.
Many want God as a kindly grandpa whose primary goal is to say in the end, “A good time was had by all.”…he is not that God.
Or like the many moms and dads who say to their children “All I ever wanted was for you to be happy.”
That’s true to a degree…and it’s not true at all.
It’s untrue, when the happiness is defined as “right now”…it’s true, when the happiness is long term…this life and beyond.
I’m sure Sam Bankman’s parents would say they wanted him to be happy.
The problem is they raised him with a worldview that put himself at the center of the world and now, after a few years of fame and luxury living (and ripping off a lot of people)…at age 31 he will likely spend the rest of his earthly life in a cell.
He will be enormously unhappy…because of his self-directed pursuit of personal happiness.
Selfishness…even if disguised as in his case as altruism (I want to get very rich to help more people)…is always a failed method for personal happiness.
God is after our real happiness, not our own passing and ultimately empty versions of it.
So, the gospel makes God’s love very specific…it is revealed in Christ.
His goal for us…is also very specific…to be conformed to the image of Christ.
And so, what about our sins?
Christ died on the cross for our sins…what does this say about them?
They are bad…unacceptable.
Christ said to a woman trapped in her sins…go and sin no more.
The love of God in Christ, is tied to the truth of who Christ is….they cannot be separated.
Let’s go on, Look at the ways John speaks to our certainty in this passage.
it is tied to who is Christ, and our responsibility to love others as he has loved us.
13 This is how we know that we remain in him and he in us: He has given us of his Spirit. 14 And we have seen and we testify that the Father has sent his Son as the world’s Savior. 15 Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God—God remains in him and he in God. 16 And we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and the one who remains in love remains in God, and God remains in him. 17 In this, love is made complete with us so that we may have confidence in the day of judgment, because as he is, so also are we in this world. 18 There is no fear in love; instead, perfect love drives out fear, because fear involves punishment. So, the one who fears is not complete in love. 19 We love because he first loved us. 20 If anyone says, “I love God,” and yet hates his brother or sister, he is a liar. For the person who does not love his brother or sister whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.
As we believe that Christ, is the revelation of the Love of God…as we put our faith in him alone.
And as we live our lives, in growing fashion, in line with that love.
We have confidence…his perfect love drives out fear.
-specifically, fear of God’s judgment.
We are certain of our acceptance by God now and into eternity.
He finishes with a biblical truism…you say you love the invisible God? Then love the visible people all around you.
This ought to be common sense.
It was not for the ones inventing their own religions…for these theological innovators…you could love God and ignore or mistreat others at the same time.
Nonsense, John writes.
21 And we have this command from the “top” The one who loves God must also love his brother and sister.
So, a simple test.
“Do you love the people around you.” Lovable or unlovable…do you love them?
No, then you don’t love God.
It’s simple…but it’s NOT easy, is it?
What does it look like to love others
Since this is of bottom-line importance…we need some clarity.
If I were to ask different people…What is gravity?
One person will say, “Gravity is a force of attraction between things with mass.”
Another will say, “It is why we fall down not up.”
Okay, but what is it?
No one knows…not really.
If you ask 100 people what love is…you will get a combination of definitions.
-Some theoretical, some experiential, some cliche
Love is a complex chemical reaction in the human brain.
Love is feeling good, happy, excited.
Love is acceptance is the most common. (but this definition has its limits)
-You will accept me as I am! (what if you are a murderer, does love accept that?)
How do we, as followers of Christ…let Scripture tell us what love is and how to apply it?
1. Love begins with God
In fact, John wrote,
1 John 4:8 “God is love”
-Love is an attribute, or in inherent aspect of who God is.
In the Bible we see that it is revealed in the fact that God eternally gives of himself to others.
In the trinity, Three persons one being, Father, Son, Spirit…there is love, self-giving relationship.
No human religion has this complex and beautiful reality…Love within the Trinity.
Jesus said in John 17:24, “My glory which you have given me in your love for me before the foundation of the world (cosmos).”
1 John 4:10 Love consists in this: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice, for our sins
Paul wrote of the “Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” Gal. 2:20
So, love is an attribute of God that humans can experience and share.
To describe it as anything other than “self-giving for the good of others” is to describe something other than biblical love.
I think about the principle we have discussed before, the need to be “Well-differentiated”
-Connected but autonomous.
-We choose to connect with others for their own good…but we remain our unique selves, with the responsibility to ultimately obey God in how we love others.
-Certain ways of “giving others what they want or demand” when it is not good for them…is not love
-To accept sin in others is not love (we are not to be harsh or play the role of Jr. Holy Spirit)…but we are to love the sinner not the sin…it is cliche but also true.
-We are to ask the hard question, “What is the right thing to do here in this relationship”, not the wrong question “what will happen if I do it?”
Love for humans cannot come untethered from the Lordship of Christ.
Gal. 1:10…am I now trying to win the approval of men or of God?
We are to give our lives away for others, within the parameters of what it means to be faithful to God.
Love begins with God, and is seen in Scripture as self-giving in its definition.
Not giving what people demand, but giving what people need.
2. Loving others is going to be a life of direction not perfection.
Love is perfect in God, not in us.
Our actions in this moment might be spot on, but our motives will almost always have some mixture of self in them.
In some forms of Buddhism only the actions that are done out of totally disinterest are legitimate…you have to not care while doing what you should be doing.
The idea is that motives determine your ultimate destiny as much, or more than actual actions.
Our motives are never going to be pure…so even though we ought to pay attention to our hearts…
We have to focus on doing for others what love looks like right now.
We can’t become overly immersed in “motive evaluation”…this can be quicksand.
So…let’s just agree, our motives are often mixed at best…we need God to help us continually improve them.
We can also agree that the Bible most clearly defines both the love of God and the love required of Christians, by the cross of Christ.
So, we generally know what to do with our lives…we need lay them down for others.
If we are making life about us…then we are heading the wrong direction.
We cannot lay down our lives as an atonement for the sins of others, but we are to lay down our lives for the good of others.
This is a really high bar.
The cross as a model for human ethics shows how sinful we still are…who doesn’t fall short of that standard?
But by faith, and grit, and the working of the Holy Spirit…we can make a good start on this.
Direction not perfection.
What might this direction towards Christ’s perfect love look like?
Let’s finish with a look at Phil. 2, a passage where Paul combines the Love of God revealed by Christ on the cross with how this is to work out in our lives.
Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. 5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross
Selfish ambition: putting self-first in words, thoughts, and actions
Conceit: myself at the center of my heart and life (literally, empty glory)
Don’t live like that…instead live in humility.
Humility: Is an understanding of our dependence on God.
*Know who God is and who you are…now look around at the world.
When you look through the lens of humility…you see more clearly, yourself and others…and how to respond to them.
Those outside the church when Paul wrote this, misunderstood what Christians meant by humility…they thought it meant…insecurity, cringing before others.
Far from that.
Some philosophers have mocked Christ as that pale, weak, Galilean.
He was not pale like the silly pictures of him…he spent his days outdoors; and he was certainly not weak.
These philosophers would have been as speechless in his strong presence as the rulers of his day were…and they will bow before his glory someday as every knee will.
Christ allowed himself to be killed…he had a choice…and he choose the glory of Father, the good of others…and the writers of Hebrews ways…his own joy…it was for joy that he endured the cross.
Humility is living with clarity…we are created, God is Creator
As his creation we use whatever strength we have been given for the good of others.
We are not to put self first, we don’t pout and get petty, when others treat us as we are…servants.
Jesus showed how to live this way.
Consider others more significant means do what Jesus said is to be our priority.
“Do to others as you would have them do to you.”
We are to have the “mind” of Christ in us.
This means we are to see the world how he sees it…it is not about me; love is about self-giving to others.
So, love is to give our lives for the lives of others.
We are to do this under the Lordship of Christ…faithfulness to him forms the parameters for how we love others.
There aren’t easy answers for what it looks like to love others as Christ would have us love them.
I spent a couple of restless nights and troubled days recently trying to discern what love looks like in a certain relationship in my life.
I got some things right and I got some things wrong in the process.
“So, Terry, that’s not helpful…you said you would give some practical direction, now you are saying it’s fuzzy.”
No, it’s not fuzzy…we have a clear vector on which direction to head.
We are to measure our love for others by looking at Christ on the cross…that provides all the clarity we will need in terms of the direction.
But as we seek to love others like this…we will get some things wrong and we will get some things right…but the important thing is, we are not guessing about what love is…we know.
We are not basing our direction on our own emotions or what others might demand from us.
We have a settled direction…though we will not travel that direction with perfection.
The direction itself, will, over time, increase our certainty…we will experience God and others will be blessed in the process.
Measure your life by the cross…there God showed his love for you.
Measure your love for others by the cross…that is how God wants you to show his love to others.
This life direction…will increase your certainty…and the glory of God and the good of others…and your own joy.