“All You Need Is Love” (1 John 5:1-8; John 15:9-17)

Sixth Sunday of Easter
May 13, 2012

“All You Need Is Love” (1 John 5:1-8; John 15:9-17)

“All you need is love. Love is all you need.” No, I’m not quoting John the Beatle. I’m quoting John the Apostle, or at least I’m paraphrasing him. Yes, John–that John, St. John–talked about love a lot. And he’s doing it again today, both in the Epistle reading from 1 John and in the Gospel of John. Basically, John is saying today, “All You Need Is Love.”

Listen first to John’s first epistle: “Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him. 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.”

And here John is just repeating what he had heard Jesus say years earlier, as recorded in John’s gospel, where Jesus tells his disciples: “If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.”

So it sounds like, if you’ll pardon the expression, love is all you need. If you want to keep God’s commandments and be pleasing to him, all you need is love. If you want to abide in Christ and stay connected to him, all you need is love. If you want to have fullness of joy–and who doesn’t?–all you need is love. Well, in that case, how are you doing on your love? Do you have what it takes? Do you have what you need? I mean, if you don’t, then you won’t be able to keep God’s commandments, you won’t abide in Christ–you will be cut off–and your joy will be running on empty. It would seem, then, that there’s a lot riding on how much love you have and how you’re putting it into practice. Let’s check this out today.

Love is the all-comprehensive commandment of God. All of God’s commandments can be summed up in this one word, love. Love God. Love your neighbor. Do those simple things, and you will be keeping all the other commandments in the process. If you love God, you will not let other things take his place in your heart. If you love God, you will treat his name, which he placed on you in your baptism–you will treat the Lord’s name as your most precious possession. If you truly love God, you will be in the Lord’s house every Sunday, because you hold God’s word sacred and gladly hear and learn it.

Likewise, with love for your neighbor. If you love God, you will also love the neighbor God has placed in your life. You will honor the authorities God has placed over you. You will not hurt or harm your neighbor in his body. You will respect your neighbor’s marriage. If you love your neighbor, you will not steal from him, you will protect his reputation, and you will not covet his stuff or his relationships. Love God. Love your neighbor. These are God’s commandments. Do these things, and you will live. Love is all you need.

But now perhaps the most amazing thing John writes in our lessons today is this: “And his commandments are not burdensome.” Huh? Come again, John? “You heard me,” John says. “His commandments are not burdensome.”

Whoa! How can you say such a thing, John? I mean, look, have you ever tried to keep these commandments and been honest with yourself on how you’re doing? Well, I tell you, I have, and it’s not pretty. In fact, I’d say God’s commandments can be a mighty heavy burden.

It sounds so easy, doesn’t it? Love. Who can’t do that? Rustle up some nice mushy feelings in your heart from time to time, hold hands, sing Kumbaya, and there, you’ve done it. Well, not quite. It may work when you’re with people you like and everything is copasetic and the sun is setting gently in the west, but what about those other times? You know, when you’re in a bad mood. Or when someone crosses you, or is being disagreeable. Not so easy then, is it? You lose your temper. You get angry. You say mean things, words you regret. You know you’ve sinned. Love has not had its way with you. And that’s just with people. But what about with God? That can be even worse. How much, really, do I love God? With my whole heart, soul, mind, and strength? Not hardly. Pretty cold in there it is, in my heart sometimes. Quite often, in fact. What is wrong with me? Am I even a Christian? Am I going to hell? “His commandments are not burdensome”? Are you kidding me?

So what gives? God does. God gives. He gives us the love we need, the resources we need, the forgiveness and the new life we need, to keep these very commandments.

All you need is love. Well, yeah, only it’s not the love you are able to muster up from inside of you. Instead, it’s the love that first comes from outside of us: God’s love, freely given, God’s love in Christ Jesus your Savior. He loves you, yeah, yeah, yeah. But God’s love in Christ is a lot more than just a line in a song. It is the living reality of a crucified Savior, shedding his blood for you to redeem you from all your sins of lovelessness. It is the reality of our risen Lord, conquering death and hell for us, so we have nothing to fear and everything to hope for. He loves you, amen, amen, and amen!

“This is my commandment,” Jesus says, “that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. This is how we know love. This is how we are able to love others. It’s because of the great “as I have loved you” love of Jesus.

Because you know God’s love in Christ and have received it and experience it, and because God’s love is so powerful it covers all your failures to love and provides you with new resources to love–this is how John can say, “His commandments are not burdensome.” It’s like when Jesus himself says, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly of heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

Friends, Christ bore the burden of the cross for us, lifting that load of the law’s condemnation off our shoulder and putting it on his own. Now we live in the new life of the Spirit, we are new people in Christ, and that not only takes the sting out of death, it also takes the crushing burden out of God’s commandments. We have forgiveness for our sins and new power to do what God commands us.

So, since you are a new person in Christ, and since you know what love is now and you are able to love–if that is true, and it is–how then will we love one another this week? Do you know anyone with needs? Someone with sickness, or mourning a loss, or sitting in loneliness, or otherwise beat down by life? There is your opportunity to love. How are things going in your family? Any friction there? Any room for forgiveness? That’s your opening to put love into action. I’m sure today everybody will be telling their mother that they love her, and they’ll probably do something to show their love. But how about the other 364 days of the year? And what about all the people other than your mother? Those folks need love, too. God’s commandment is to love them, too, in both word and deed.

Yes, it’s time to love. It’s always time. Don’t wait for someone else to act first. You take the initiative and do love. This is how Christ loved us, isn’t it? He went ahead and loved us and acted, even when we weren’t looking for it, even when we didn’t deserve it. So you now can follow suit. “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.”

God’s commandments for us Christians are summed up in the one word, love. Love God. Love your neighbor. And especially, within the fellowship of the church, love one another. “And his commandments are not burdensome.” All you need is love: God’s love in Christ, which saves you and forgives you and fills you with the love you need to keep his commandments. Abide in Christ’s love, and you will have the love you need to love God and to love one another. Abide in Christ’s love, and he will fill you with joy, in spite of all the pain and frustration and failure we experience in this life. All you need is love. God’s love in Christ–this love, his love, is all you need.

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Published in: on May 12, 2012 at 1:29 pm  Leave a Comment  
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