The Generosity of Love

Sunday, July 26, 2020
Pastor Mark Aune

1 John 3:16-24

Dear friends in Christ, grace and peace. Amen

I don’t know what it has been like for you but the bible readings we have been hearing this summer have come alive for me in new ways.

I believe that God is giving us a different set of ears in this complicated and unprecedented times we are living in.

I believe the Holy Spirit is speaking to our hearts, cracking them open and changing them, allowing us to hear God’s word in new ways in this time and place.

Some will take comfort in this and others will be challenged by this.

My question for you today is this; how do you know what love is?

In your own life experience, in your own context, which will be unique and different for each person here today, how do you know what love is?

Or another way to ask the question would be does your definition of love match up with what the New Testament definition of love is?

We heard it today in the reading from 1 John.

 This is how we know what love is: “Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.” 1 John 3:16

Do you think it is just a coincidence that John 3:16 – For God so loved the world the He sent his only son… sounds like 1 John 3:16

Does 1 John 3:16 match with your definition of love? Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.

Or do you think more along the lines that love is a feeling, or love is food, or love is doing for others what you would want them to do for you.

Or love is pleasure, either emotional or physical, or love is acceptance or even mere tolerance. While these things may be partially true none of them are a New Testament definition o of love.

Last Friday, U.S. congressman John Lewis died. His life was lived in pursuit of racial equality in our country and the freedom for all men and women, regardless of race, color or creed that is embedded into our constitution and one which our country has struggled to live out.

John Lewis was American history in the flesh. He believed in nonviolent protest and change, and he lived it out.

This is what he said after the death of George Floyd;

“It was very moving, very moving to see hundreds and thousands of people from all over America and around the world take to the streets to speak up, to speak out, to get into-what I call-good trouble, but to get in the way, and because of the action of young and old, Black, white, Latino, Asian-American, and Native American, because people cried and prayed, people will never, ever forget what happened and how it happened, and it is my hope that we are on our way to greater change.” [1]

I was one of those who marched. It was a clergy march, a silent march. We were led by the black clergy caucus here in the cities. I thought long and hard about going but something compelled me to go, to provide one more silent voice.

It was a silent march; somber, reflective. Yet seeing all those pastors, black, white, brown, young and old, female and male marching down University Avenue while being protected by the citizen soldiers of the Minnesota national guard was a strange and surreal experience.

I don’t know if my presence mattered or made a difference for others, but it changed me.

1 John tells us – “Little children, let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action.”

How do you know what love is?

Sometimes it is very public but many times it is private and it looks like a husband or a wife being cared for by a spouse when there are serious and difficult health issues developing and life is changing, but love is still there.

It looks like a parent, any parent who is always there for their children, no matter the issue, the challenge, the loss, the heartbreak – love is laying down your life for another.

If Jesus has taken up residence in your heart and in your life, then how are you laying down your life for others? What does love, look like for you?

How is the generosity of love made known through you – through your words and your actions?

What if you took that generosity of love in the laying down of your life and applied it to your closest relationships; your family and your friends – what would happen to you and to those relationships if you loved in truth and action?

What if you took that generosity of love and applied it to sin – to your own sin and brokenness. Or the sin of your neighbor or co-worker – or to the sin of racism and the ways, both known and unknown that we participate in that sin?

1 John says – If our hearts condemn us, we know that God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything.

If your heart condemns you, then listen to your heart. Listen to the change God is trying to affect in your life. If your heart condemns you it is the first step in learning how to love in the manner Jesus loves – laying down our lives for others.

I read another John Lewis story that illustrates this truth.

He once described an incident when, as a young man, he was beaten bloody by members of the Ku Klux Klan after attempting to enter a “white waiting room.”

“Many years later, in February of ’09, one of the men that had beaten us came to my Capitol Hill office — he was in his 70’s, with his son in his 40’s — and he said, ‘Mr. Lewis, I am one of the people who beat you and your seat mate'” on a bus, Lewis said, adding the man said he had been in the KKK. “He said, ‘I want to apologize. Will you accept my apology?'”

After accepting his apology and hugging the father and son, the three cried together, Lewis remembered.

“It is the power in the way of peace, the way of love,” Lewis said. “We must never, ever hate. The way of love is a better way.”

Laying down our lives for others is what makes change happen. Laying down our lives for others because we have been transformed by the power of Jesus laying down his life for us is how the New Testament defines love.

“Little children, let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action.”

There is great risk in loving this way, but it is the way of Jesus.

His self-giving life and death are how the church defines love. This is how the church lives love.

Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.

This is the generosity of love.

It is the answer to what disturbs our lives, our country and it is the power that will heal our wounds and make us whole.

Thanks be to God. Amen

[1] on Black Lives Matter protests following George Floyd’s death. John Lewis quote

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