It’s About Love. Period.

alphabet soup says "Jesus loves you"
Photo credit: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/kyz/2737519144/">Stuart Caie</a>

1 John 4:13-21

This is how we know that we’re simpatico with God: God’s spirit is in us, and we are witnesses that God has sent Jesus to restore the world. God is in everyone who recognizes that Jesus is the child of God. They are part of God. We know and live God’s love.

God is love. Those who love are part of God. Something of God is in them. When the reckoning comes, it is love that will see us through. In perfect love, we are God’s image in the world. So don’t be afraid. Real love isn’t fearful. Real love banishes fear. Fear is a by-product of punishment. If you’re still afraid, you haven’t understood love.

Love because God loved first. People who say, “I love God,” but who hate others are liars. If you can’t love someone standing right in front of you, how are you going to love a God they can’t even see. This is the one and only rule: If you love God, love your neighbor.”

John’s God is all about the love. Love is the measure of every assertion, every action, every moment. Not convenience. Not expense. Not expedience. Not permanence. Not reputation. Not connection. So far as John is concerned, there are no excuses for not loving. So far as John is concerned, everything Jesus did was for love. Everything we do is either rooted in love or it has nothing to do with God.

But John’s kind of love isn’t some romantic notion. This is not about Valentine’s day. It means that when you see your neighbor in need, you do something about it. Period.

Do Love

outstretched hand
Photo credit: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/kubina/993034390/">Jeff Kubina</a>

1 John 3:18-24

Kids, love doesn’t happen by just talking about it. Love happens when we do it. Whenever we’re in doubt we can know, and God knows, that our hearts are in the right place by doing love. God is more than just what our hearts tell us. When we do God’s work, we receive whatever we need, just for the asking, so do God’s work and ask boldly. And this is God’s work, that we embody Jesus and love one another. This is what God wants, and all who take on this work are with God, and have God’s spirit.

It’s possible to spend a lot of time second-guessing what’s the right thing. John says we don’t have to guess. The right thing, according to John, is always the loving thing. Out of all the possibilities available in any given moment, one will be – without fail (“we receive whatever we need”) – the most loving one.

Let’s be clear. The most loving action is not always the easiest. Nor is it the thing we wish we could do, but can’t. (It may seem to be really loving to try to solve someone else’s dilemma for them, but I can’t do what someone else must, nor is it probably the most loving thing of me to do what they must do themselves.) Love is always an option that is available, right here, right now.

Let’s also be clear about this, because John is. Loving isn’t just wishing well for someone else, or saying “I’ll pray for you.” Someone who is hungry can’t eat your prayers. Let your prayer and love be giving them something to eat. What St. Francis said about preaching goes for praying and for loving too. Do it at all times, and when necessary, use words.

 

Life Is a Love Thing

presents under the christmas tree
Photo credit: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/jimmiehomeschoolmom/4165199870/">Jimmie</a>

1 John 2:15-17

Don’t be obsessed with the world or all the stuff. God’s love isn’t about the stuff. All that stuff – stuff you crave, stuff you see and want, money to buy all that stuff – it’s just stuff. It’s got nothing to do with God. All that stuff just comes and goes, but when it’s gone, God always remains.

It’s only a few days after Christmas, and how much of the stuff so many people spent so much time and worry over since Black Friday is already broken, forgotten, returned to the store, eaten, or needs new batteries?

Even if you got really good stuff (an iPad? a new car?) there will be new models next year. And the year after that.

But if you were blessed (and you don’t have to be of any special religion to be blessed) you experienced something of love. And you can call that back whenever you want or need it. You can even return it to its sender and still have it. It always remains. It may have been expressed, partly, through the stuff. But it’s not about the stuff.

So don’t be obsessed with the world or all the stuff. Because as it turns out, life isn’t a stuff thing. Life is a love thing.

Choose Happiness

woman holding book and robot doll
Photo credit: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/missrogue/457911556/">Tara Hunt</a>

1 John 2:7-11

Dearest friends, what I’m writing to you isn’t anything new. It’s the same instruction you’ve always had. It’s the same idea you’ve heard before. Or, maybe it is a new instruction, but it’s nevertheless the truth: true for him, true for you. The night is over, and the true dawn is already breaking. Whoever says, “I’m enlightened,” but hates a brother or sister, isn’t. They’re in the dark. People leading enlightened lives love. Such people won’t trip you up. But a hater is in the dark. Haters live in the dark, blinded and lost.

Someone once said that there are two kinds of people: there are the kind of people who divide people into two kinds of people, and there’s everybody else.

John is the first kind. Chances are we’ve all had some experience in both camps, as lovers and haters. One of the complicated aspects of being human is that people have the capacity for both. But, it may be possible to discern that people are bent or predisposed toward one direction or the other. And some cases are more clear than others.

In the final analysis, though, lovers win. Haters can make lovers’ lives miserable for a time, even a long time. But if you’re really a lover, you’ll find things to love in spite of the haters, and the joy that comes with loving is its own reward. And since it comes from within, the haters can’t ever really take it away.

But the closest haters can come to joy is a passing glee that needs constantly to be regenerated from the outside. The only laughter, the kind that comes at someone else’s expense. Which is why, no matter how much stuff some folks collect, no matter how obliging the people around them, or how great their empire, they’re still dissatisfied, restless, and mean.

Enlightenment is a choice. Happiness is a choice. They are both consequences of a choice one makes (and making it is a continuous act) about how to dispose your heart.