Witnessing to God’s love 1
1 John 4:7-12
Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: he sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.
Where should a good story begin? In particular, where should one start if one was to offer an explanation of the Christian good news to someone who was interested?
One fruitful point of departure, it seems to me, would be the theme that God is love. If people from different world-views are to engage in meaningful discussion with one another they need to find some common ground. The priority of love as a force for good and well-being in the world is one such place. Who doesn’t believe in love?
But the idea that God is love in the New Testament is not a philosophical theory derived from our consideration of the divine perfections. It is not something simply given. The Scriptures argue that we only know that God is love from history – from what God has done among us.
This is how God showed his love among us: he sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. (1John 4:9)
For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. (John 3:16)
But God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us. (Rom 5:8)
God’s love is inextricably tied up with the gift of his son to a suffering world. God’s love is displayed in Jesus’ cruel death on a Roman cross. We might say the love of God is cruciform in shape. The cross reminds us that at every point God’s loving is costly. God is not like some cosmic chess player who plays games with our lives. Rather, Jesus offers himself as a sacrificial pawn so that we might live.
The reading for today indicates that God sent Jesus as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. The word translated atoning sacrifice is hilasmos in Greek. It is the same word group as the ‘mercy seat’ on the Ark of the Covenant in the Greek Old Testament. God’s love is given so that mercy and forgiveness may be found – so that things can be put right. And that is how God’s love works.
Great lover of my soul,
Eternal fountain and bedrock of all human loving,
Slow to anger and ever ready to show mercy,
I come to you, as an object of that sacrificial love,
Captivated by it and liberated through it,
So that I too might become a channel of your love
To a world that is unknowingly searching for it.