[1 John 4:7-12] Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9 In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. 10 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.
God’s Love, God’s Mission
Human love always fails. Love that is mere affection and feeling always falls short.
Human love teaches the golden rule: “Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.” But human love does not keep the golden rule. Instead, our love seeks to fulfill us – to fill our need for affection; to make us feel better about ourselves by our service – more than it seeks to help the other. Human love seeks a return.
Divine love, God’s love, loves even when there is no return. God’s love is not self-seeking – God needs nothing. God’s love is found in what He gives. His love is sacrificial. His love is never depleted. God loves even with no return or benefit. God loves because He is love.
Also, God’s love is holy. Righteous. Good. His love does not embrace wrong or sin to please the other. True love cannot abide evil. Sin is the opposite of love. God’s love cannot allow sin or wrong. In fact, true love extinguishes and is opposed to wrong.
Human love, on the other hand, will abide with sin and even embrace wrongdoing and evil for the sake of embracing those who fulfill our own need for love – or to avoid our own heartbreak – or because we love those we love (siblings, friends, parents, children, spouse) more than we love God who created us. Love that can embrace sin and wrongdoing is not love, but self-seeking.
True love cannot embrace in myself or in another that which is contrary to God’s will and word. Because God is love. Therefore, human love which is willing to go contrary to God – contrary to His clear word and commands – isn’t love at all. In fact, our own love falls so short of God’s love that our love measures up to being no more than sin.
“In this is love, not that we have loved God but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” – “In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent His only Son into the world, so we might live through Him.”
God’s love does unto us the good we do not deserve.
So often, human love means the creation of new enemies. One side loves one crowd and therefore complains that some other crowd is ruining their way of life. The other side loves another crowd and therefore accuses yet another of bigotry or intolerance. Human love chooses the neighbor to love and makes an enemy of others.
The love of God is a sacrifice for His enemies – a beneficial love and sacrifice for those who hate Him. In this is love, not that we have loved Him – we haven’t truly – but that He loved us.”
“For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die (that’s human love) — but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” [Romans 5:6-8]
In this is love, “that He sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” Love doesn’t let sin or evil abide. Love has wrath against wrong. But a propitiation is a sacrifice given that appeases, puts away that wrath. A propitiation rights the wrongs and puts God’s wrath away.
God gave Jesus to be that propitiation. Not to ignore sin but to make righteous satisfaction for sin by the actions of Jesus for all the rest. In Jesus, one Man for all the rest has died for sin and suffered God’s wrath. God’s love is such that He allowed His only Son to become a neighbor to man, and to love His neighbor as Himself – to be righteous and fulfill God’s law on behalf of the rest of man – and to be the sin-bearer who bears your sin and guilt – to be the sacrificial “Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” [John 1:29] – to right your wrongs in Himself, in your place, and give God’s love to you.
God has loved. Jesus has loved. God gave His Son. Jesus gave His life willingly. God in Christ has not done this for those who could give Him a return, but for sinners with nothing to give. God has given to you. That’s His love.
And now God has even given you His love to have in you for others. “God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us” [Romans 5:5]. “Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” With that same love. A gift from God. God’s love for you deposited within you for you to love your neighbor. No mere human love. God’s love. “We love because He first loved us.” [1 John 4:19]
In this way, brothers and sisters, the love is God’s and the mission is God’s. God’s love. God’s mission. It begins and continues with Him, not from us.
If the mission starts with us, it will only be a self-serving mission – one that is in love with success so we can boast in ourselves. If the mission starts with us, it will be a human love looking for a return – a mission meant to benefit us. When the love is our love and the mission our mission, the goal is our budget, our attendance, our way, our name.
When the love is God’s and the mission God’s, it all starts and ends with the sacrifice of Jesus for sinners and the holy life He gives. The true love and mission will always embrace God’s will and word and commandments as the God-achieved outcome [1 John 5:2,3].
Brothers and sisters, you have received God’s love in your Baptism. God’s love is now on a mission in you. God’s love abides in you and through you God loves your neighbor.
This mission, God’s mission, is therefore found in the keeping of His commandments in your life: “By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments” [1 John 5:2-3].
By living God’s commandments, God’s love is carried out for your neighbor through you. God’s mission is to love them through you thereby making His love for them in Christ known.
You live God’s mission for your neighbor when your life with them is lived in accord with God’s commands. And you live God’s mission for your neighbor when you speak to them the truth of God Law, in hope of their repentance, so that when you speak about the love God has for them in Christ – that Christ is that sacrifice, that propitiation for them – those words of God’s love can take root.
And there is yet another mission – God’s mission carried out by missionaries and other servants in the Church – by which the love and mission of God is brought to those you cannot reach. Those in far away places. Those in cities where you don’t live. Those who are inaccessible in your own city, but others know how to reach them.
What we cannot do ourselves, we support by giving, financing. Giving money for mission work is not mere human fundraising – giving for mission work is yet another form of the sacrificial love of God abiding in you. Love that doesn’t seek a return for itself but for another. Generosity according to the love of God.
“In this is love, that God has loved us.” Jesus has done for us and others what we could not do for ourselves. God’s love and God’s mission are the love and mission in God’s baptized people. May God grant that His love for us would be at work, more and more, in and through us. Amen.