1John 5:1-9, Common English Bible
Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves the father loves his child as well.
This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out his commands.
In fact, this is love for God: to keep his commands. And his commands are not burdensome, for everyone born of God overcomes the world.
This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith.
Who is it that overcomes the world?
Only the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.
This is the one who came by water and blood—Jesus Christ.
He did not come by water only, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth.
For there are three that testify: the Spirit, the water and the blood; and the three are in agreement.
We accept human testimony, but God’s testimony is greater because it is the testimony of God, which he has given about his Son.
The word of God for the people of God, thanks be to God.
When we say we love God, Jesus’ father, then we also say we love Jesus who is God’s child. When we say we believe in Jesus, because of the love between God and his son, we become Jesus’ brothers and sisters. Then we cannot only love God and Jesus, we are commanded because of our love of the parent’s and the child’s love for us to love all of God’s children—all of them.
In this kind of love relationship there is no, “Mom love’s you more.” There really are no favorites with God. God is always and forever reaching out in love to us. As believers in Christ, we are challenged to know and take action realizing that:
· Every injustice done to a child of God—anyone created by God—is a reminder of the injustice done to Jesus
· Every violent act committed against one of God’s children is a reminder of the violence committed against Jesus
Jesus told his disciples:
“If you love me, you will keep my commandments…whoever has my commandments and keeps them loves me.
Jesus was born of a woman—none of us are motherless when it comes to our human birth. Jesus experienced having a mother. We can only imagine the ways Mary loved and cared for her son—her son who was the Messiah. Being a mother is a huge responsibility. Many women have become mothers without physically birthing a child. Many women have been mothers to other people when their own birth mothers were not able to fulfill the role. I believe that Jesus, because God is his father and our father, often loved and cared for people as a mother cares for her children. I believe that’s because God also loves us as we see mothers loving their own children. It requires love empowered by the Holy Spirit to love others who are not blood of our blood and bone of our bone.
Throughout the New Testament, the Greek word “kosmos” is used. It usually refers to an interconnected network of Powers—political, economic, cultural, ideological—that have nothing to do with loving people because they are created by God. These powers set themselves up to become our idols and to dominate our lives. Walter Wink refers to this system as the Domination System that consists of:
· economic injustice
· hierarchism and
with the system being maintained by violence. In small and big ways we all participate in the Domination System and even believe, though Jesus railed against it, that it is the way things are—reality. We even find ourselves defending the Domination System because we are convinced by the Powers—the kosmos—that any alternatives are worse.
It’s like trying to imagine cars, trucks, trains, airplanes, spaceships, and ships that are fueled by something other than oil. Yes, we have electric cars today and hydrogen powered cars are being developed, and it’s hard for us to conceive of all forms of transportation and power being fueled by anything other than fossil fuel or oil. Just like it’s hard for us to imagine solar power or wind power taking the place of electricity fueled by coal or nuclear power by fission no fusion that requires radioactive elements. We are convinced that the devil we know is better than the devil we might get if things change. Why? Because we are Pharisees—we are part of the Domination System.
We have come to believe, just as the Pharisees believed, that not participating in “the way things are” will result in chaos and terrorism.
Jesus exposed the Domination System and offered us the love that Mary had for him and that God had for him. Jesus offered us God’s love—freedom and liberation from the Domination System. Walter Wink says, Jesus’ love is to be loved “not despite our sins or because of our achievements, but simply because we are intrinsically of immeasurable value to God.” This completely undermines the Domination System’s power to convince us that our value is based on what we can earn or based on what we can contribute and that we are never going to be good enough.
Our belief in Jesus and our faith in what Jesus has done for us through his life, ministry, death and resurrection is our recognition that the Domination System is nothing but a lie. We are now able to recognize the truth that God loves us completely and unconditionally.
This is the same kind of love that empowered Mary to become pregnant with Jesus and carry him in her body for nine months. This is the kind of love that meets the every need of a newborn baby—feeding, diapering, sleepless nights. Unconditional love that makes babies thrive. Unconditional love that God uses to make us more like Jesus each day so that we can love as Jesus loved.
In John’s gospel Jesus asked Peter, “Do you love me?” Three times he asked Peter and three times Peter said yes, and each time Jesus told Peter to “feed my sheep.” Feed my sheep is God’s unconditional love—the love of a mother that provides the basic life necessities for a newborn baby—food, clothing, a place to live, protection and security. Again, this is easier to do for blood of our blood or bone of our bone or making a commitment to do this when adopting or fostering children.
To truly break the Domination System we must feed all the sheep—even the ones who are most vexing—the most challenging ones. The ones who never seem to get it together. The ones who keep being in need and keep needing to be fed.
We do this with dignity, too. Just as a mother loves with dignity—a love that creates a state of being worthy, honored, or esteemed in her children. This is the unconditional love of God.
Jeremy Smith, a United Methodist minister serving as Minister of Discipleship at First United Methodist Church in Portland, Oregon often writes for the blog, Hacking Christianity. Here’s a story from a posting of his from this past Thursday:
About five years ago, I was traveling with a wise elder minister [meaning an ordained elder—not indicating age]. We drove through a town and saw two different churches side by side. The United Methodist church ran a clothing store where clothing was sold for 25 cents, jeans for $1, shoes for $2, etc. The other church advertised free clothes, jeans, and shoes. Neither was open at that time in the evening so I had no idea of which was busier.
My travel companion and I had the following conversation:
Jeremy: Well, I hope the Methodists don’t get put outta business.
Elder (craning her neck to see the churches): I would hope so, because that means that everyone is clothed and taken care of.
Jeremy: I meant that the other church is giving clothes away while the UM church is selling their clothes. Seems like an easy choice.
Elder (twinkle in her eye): You think the UM church is selling clothes? They aren’t. Anytime you can buy something and feel a bit more like the rest of the world, you are getting dignity in the deal. So they aren’t selling clothes. They’re selling dignity.
Whether it is a thrift store for clothes, vouchers sold for the homeless shelter, a meal for a few cents, or putting 18 cents in an offering plate, by allowing people experiencing poverty to participate in the very system that excludes them gives them a little dignity. Giving dignity clears out that stain of unworthiness [The Domination System’s lies] a bit at a time. What a great gift and ministry!
Recall that John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, read the book of 1John, five chapters, daily as his morning devotion. Recall that 1John is a commentary, an explanation of John’s gospel—a way to help us better understand and hear the message of John’s gospel.
Reading 1John daily is a way for us to become more like Jesus by not only remembering that our belief in Jesus’ life, ministry, death and resurrection provides us with salvation and eternal life—reading 1John daily also reminds us of Jesus’ last command to his disciples—love as I have loved. To accomplish loving people, as Jesus loved requires the power of the Holy Spirit within us. Dignity—honoring and esteeming each person created by God—is what unconditional love looks like. When we love others as Jesus loved, then we are feeding his sheep—all people who are created by God.
My challenge for us is that we commit to reading 1John for the remaining 21 days in this month. What time of day you choose to read 1John is your choice, and reading the entire five chapters or listening to them over the Internet daily is the goal. Before you begin to read, pray first for each of us in this congregation to love people as Jesus loved, and pray for each of us to be open and ready to show the love of Jesus each day to those all around us are in need of Jesus love—in need of knowing that the Domination System is a lie and that God’s unconditional love, dignity and freedom from the ways things are is the reality of the life God gives us.