You Are Loved
December 13, 2009
日本キリスト教団 頌栄教会牧師 清弘剛生 Pastor Takao Kiyohiro, Shoei Church, Church of Christ, Japan
Translator M.A.F., Indiana, USA
First John 4:7-12
Here Is Love
1. "Here is love." [This statement] is written in the scripture passage that was read just ago. It is the words from verse ten. "Here is love." -- Where is it? In that same verse it is written that "(God) sent his son." When it says, "his son" it [means] "Jesus Christ." God had sent Jesus Christ in this world. The Bible states that "This is love."
2. Christmas will be here shortly. It is the celebration of when Jesus Christ was born into this world. In our church, the drama of Christ's birth is performed every year. The scene of when the Christ is born is performed in a truly heart-warming way by such sweet children. As you all know, however, the Christ who was born into this world would be crucified and die. We must not forget this [part] at Christmas time. Of course the person who had written the epistle of John which I read to you today understood that when God had sent Jesus Christ into this world it meant not just that he would be born into this passing world but the he would die upon a cross. As he points to this Christ he says, "Here is love."
3. When you think about it, it is an extremely strange story. The death penalty by crucifixion, waiting to die on a cross with hands and feet nailed on it, is an extremely cruel punishment. The spectacle of it, by all rights, is sure to be nothing but grotesque. No matter how you look at it, it has by its nature no connection to "God's love." Pointing to this incredibly brutal cross, John says, "God is love." He exclaims, "Here is the love of God." If this is the case, then we need to reconsider what God's love is.
4. To begin with, what is "love?" "Love" is a beautiful word. But at the same time, we also know that this thing called "love" is deeply connected to the human world of reality which is not as pretty as we would like it to be. As a matter of fact, many people suffer and are injured because of love. It is easy to love the ones who love us. But, the fact is we are not living surrounded by persons who always have good will towards us. It is the same even when at home, even at the workplace or school. Whenever we try to live truly loving others in these [places], we cannot avoid suffering.
5. When [I] think about "love," there is a famous passage of scripture that immediately comes to [my] mind. It is First Corinthians chapter thirteen, the letter to the disciples at Corinth. It is often read at weddings. "Love is patient. Love is tender-hearted. It does not get jealous. Love does not boast itself, it is not haughty. It does not lose courteousness, it does not seek for its own advantage, it does not irritate, it does not hold a grudge. It does not rejoice in unrighteousness, it rejoices in the truth. It forebears all things, it believes all things, it hopes all things, it endures all things," (First Corinthians 13:4-7). When many people hear these words at weddings, they are deeply moved.
6. But before long I couldn't help but notice that just being moved won't do. We are to be patient, tender-hearted, [with a love that] "forebears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things." I came to see that what Paul is saying in this text is extremely important for us. In reality, so many people seem to agonize at this part. [They struggle with] "the love" that is spoken about here, that it is not feasible between spouses, parents and their children, or even girlfriends and boyfriends without it turning into something full of hurts some times or turning into a big mess some times.
7. So, on the other hand, instead, I can argue that, people today can't help but avoid these kinds of relationships and go in the direction of pursuing only shallow relationships that can easily be broken off. When making friends it is not with their real names, they associate together with handle names, and if things get awkward, they want to put themselves in situations where the relationships are easily broken off. They can simply vanish. They're gone. [It's] a casual relationship so there's no need to bear [any] burden and responsibility for someone else. It is also a time when [people] are having only this kind of bond, this kind of interaction. Regretfully, even marriages have gotten that way. If things get inconvenient for a couple, the marriage can easily dissolve. Marriages take for granted the possibility of divorce. I'm saying it is not even strange today to get married with a prenuptial agreement on what to do in case of divorce.
8. So, human beings may be like that, however, God never intended for us to relate to one another in that manner. That is what is written in this text. God "loved" us. He loved us to the utmost utmost level possible. He could never just cut [us] off. Even when we have turned our backs to him, he has loved [us]. Even if we've been indifferent to God, God has loved [us]. Even the times we used to ridicule God, God loved us. Even if we did not love God, God did love us. This is what John is saying here in this text. Please look again at chapter four and verse ten. The text reads as follows. "We did not love God, but God loved us, and sent his son as the atoning sacrifice for our sins," (verse ten).
9. We did not love God. God loved us human beings when we were unloving towards him. The fact that we are here in this place now is none other than a manifesting of that love. Why are we here in this place now? Why are we in a place praising and worshipping God? I think it's because God has not disposed of us and pitched us away for good. God has forgiven us and completely accepted us in.
10. As I said earlier, forgiving and accepting involve suffering. When [we] consider how [he] has loved, forgiven, and accepted [us], that love is not some pretty thing in lip service only, but more. It means exactly this, that God bears upon himself the messy mud, he takes on the pain. It means that God becomes full of hurts and wounds. That is exactly what John saw at the cross of Jesus Christ.
11. Of course, at the very moments when Jesus was being crucified, [John] probably did not understand [all that completely]. But, it would be afterwards, each time he would recall that scene, that figure which would illustrate itself before his eyes would be that figure of God who had shown his love while completely wounded and tattered apart. The agony that he saw there was none other than the agony that was for the purpose of forgiving, loving, and accepting humankind so defiled by sin. That is the cross. He saw this love [from God]. Therefore, in this epistle, as he points to that cross, so to speak, John exclaims, "Here is love!" There, he points at the Christ all bloodied, affixed to the cross and exclaims, "Here is love, here is where love is."
Love One Another!
12. Then John goes on to add, "Beloved ones, because God has loved us in this way, we ought to love each other as well," (verse eleven). The expression, "We ought to love each other" translated literally is "we are indebted to loving each other." We have a debt. It means we have a loan to pay back. We have a huge debt of love [to pay back] to God.
13. "Here is love," said John. If we know that love, if we know that we're loved by God, then we will soon come to walk the lifestyle in which we live loving God. That is the faith life. The name of this life long thing, the faith life, is not something anyone with the huge debt of love could ever begin to pay back, however, it is nothing other than a whole life, at the least, in which a person lives paying a little bit of love back to God, a lifetime during which one [trys to] return the favor.
14. But, when you try to return love back to God in this way, then, God says to us, "Whenever you want to pay me back, don't give it to me, but give it to your brothers, to your neighbors." Therefore, John puts it like this. I will read it to you again. "Beloved ones, because God has loved us in this way, we ought to love each other as well," (verse eleven). The one we owe is God. The one we pay it back to is [our] neighbor. Paying it back to a neighbor is to pay it back to God.
15. Let's renew our awareness that, "I am a debtor to love." When we can live each day embracing this mindset, our home lives, social lives, and church lives will change in such a huge way. The anger and the dissatisfaction we hold towards others come from the mindset that I am not being paid by the Lord in a fair manner. "I'm not being paid even though I am doing so much." But how would things be if all of these things [were filtered through the mindset that] "I'm paying back a debt!?" I [should] only say, "I'm not even paying a small fraction of my debt!" Wouldn't you be happy instead, [thinking,] "I am paying God back even if it is a little at a time?" To begin with, we have received from God so much more than we ever might have given to him.
16. Pretty soon when our lives will have ended, as we look back over our lives in the Lord's presence, we will undoubtedly lift up voices of surprise. "I was loved. I was truly loved. The love by which you have loved me is something that has gone far beyond my imagination." And I'm sure I will also think, "I fully intended to pay you back, however, the relationships to which I was oriented by you, in which I have loved and been loved by others, were none other than the manifesting of your great love."