Doing Love. (DOLOVE.SER) John 15 9-17 1John 5 1-6. [James 2 14-26.] 6th Sunday of Easter Year B
Rev John Howard, Methodist Church of GB.
“No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” This text is used across the world in the remembrance of those who have died in wars. It’s use in war memorials could hardly be more different from the context it comes from.
Two quotes from Rev Dr Martin Luther King Jr. “Everyone must decide whether they will walk in the light of creative altruism or in the darkness of destructive selfishness.”
“The time is always right to do what is good.” Doing good things, doing loving things is what I want to talk about.
The verse “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” comes from the long passage in John’s Gospel when Jesus is talking to the disciples in preparation for his arrest, trial and crucifixion. He is speaking of his relationship with the disciples, as friends, and that, the proof of the love of friendship is the actions that it produces. Jesus will soon be laying down his life for his friends, that will be the evidence of how much he cares for them. The verse is therefore about Jesus, but at the same time it is also a challenge to those listening to him, for what he is saying is that my friendship with you will be proven by the act of giving up of myself, how will you prove your friendship to me, to one another and to God? He makes it clear that the evidence of their friendship to Jesus, to each other and to God is in how they “Love one another”.
There was once a family who were farmers. They had a piece of land, not very large but they farmed it to gain a living. There were two sons in the family, Nathaniel and David, they were similar in age and quite different in character. Nathaniel was very quiet, seldom showed his feelings and quietly got on with the work of caring for the land and producing the crops. David was a character, known throughout the area, he was always the centre of attention. The time came when their father died and at the funeral the two boys promised to look after their mother, David did so very publicly, when all the friends and family were there, “I’ll make sure that you never are lacking for anything”. In contrast, Nathanial said little in front of the others, but in the quiet, after everyone else had left he took hold of his mothers hand and said, “don’t worry I’ll care for you.” As time went on and the routine of the family settled down again the old pattern emerged, David was out and about so busy with his social life that he had little time for the farm or for the family. Their mother was cared for though, by Nathaniel. Which one really had love for his mother deep in his heart?
It is the point about actually doing the things that shows love that the writer of the first letter of John makes as he draws his letter to a close. This is how we know we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out his commands. This is love for God: to obey his commands. Loving God and loving those around us are integral connected. To get that right is why honest self reflection is important. How does your faith show in your life? What are the ways in which we do show love? In the story I told a moment ago, I am sure that at the time he said it David totally meant to look after his mother, but as life went on he failed to do so. There is a well-known saying “the road to hell is paved with good intensions.”
We can say all we like that we do love God but unless the deeds we actually do in our life show that this is indeed the truth, we don’t really love God at all. The lesson here is always, that it is not the deeds themselves that save us, we cannot earn our place in the Kingdom, no it’s not the deeds that save us, its the change of heart, the love of God, the faith in God, that is what is taken as righteousness. It is by God ‘s Grace. However, if this change of heart is real, if we really love God then our actions cannot help but show it. We are saved by faith, but if that faith is real it will show itself by the way we live. That is the point that John is making and it is the point that we all need to hear. The belief that you could earn your way to heaven, one that the New Testament portrays as being the Pharisees attitude, is also the way of many people today, they say “well I lead a good life”… but the danger of this way is that it will be self justified, the way of faith demands the living of a good life, but it is always humble of that good life, because of the knowledge that it is only faith, not deeds of themselves that saves us. That is the message John has for the people he is writing to here.
How then does this life of faith show itself in day to day life, at the beginning of the twenty first century? Let me give a few examples, though there could be many more. These are about “doing love,” today.
· It does so by listening to each other. You cannot love a person who you have so little respect for that you don’t listen to them. We all know people who never listen to what anyone else is saying. Each of us can be like that.
· It means a regular worship and prayer life, where space is found to listen to God. Life today is so busy, so pressurised that it is much more important today to set time aside to be quiet every day, before God. This too is “doing love.”
· We must genuinely care for the people we meet from day to day. We need to be honest with ourselves about the things we do in order to live. For example: does a teacher teach to serve the children, or to be paid? There is something of both and how much depends upon each person. But the dedication to do the job really well can never be brought about simply by doing the job in order to be paid for it. Whatever we do for a living do we need to do it for others not for ourselves.
· It also involves caring for those who are further away, for justice in the world, for peace, for equal rights, for development work and aid. This includes politics, which can be a frustrating and messy thing to be involved in, but that is about shaping the world, and we are committed to playing our part in making the world more the place God always wanted it to be. Building the Kingdom. It involves applying Christian Ethics to decisions that affect others. It means living, day by day, in a way that respects the needs of others. Buying fair trade products, recycling, reducing your carbon footprint, using ethical banking. Sometimes these things might cost us money – they might mean that we can’t do all the things that we want to do. That is a part of laying down one’s life for others, it is “doing love.”
“Doing love” involves believing that all people across the world are not simply strangers to be ignored, but friends we have yet to meet. Giving life for his friends meant in the case of Jesus giving his life for so many people of every age, time and country. For us it involves giving ourselves to God through “doing love.” This is a life style choice, fundamentally counter cultural to the society we live in, it probably always has been.
And so I call upon everyone here to recommit themselves to showing their faith in Jesus, by “doing love.” Jesus said “Greater Love has no-one than this that one lay down their life for a friend”, he also did it. So let us all, keep trying everyday not simply to speak about the way of Jesus, but actually living it, “doing love.”
Let us pray
Almighty God, who in Jesus laid down his life for his friends, grant that we may grow in faith, that we might give our lives to you, and through you, give our lives to each other in love and care, we pray in the name of Jesus Christ.