Family of Love
1 John 5:1-8
Those of us who know the gifts of God’s love, forgiveness, life and salvation can sometimes find it hard to understand why so many people spend their entire lives running away from the best news on the planet. Many people think the Christian faith, and the church that proclaims it, is all about rules, regulations and restrictions. They see the church as some kind of a trap to be avoided at all costs.
Others think that God is simply out to condemn people; that he is a God who allows ‘bad stuff’ to happen to good people, or that he even makes the ‘bad stuff’ happen. If only these people could understand that the family of God is a family of love! Its message is, and remains, the best news on the planet.
In our text today, the apostle John highlights four positive aspects of our life in God’s family. He first reminds us that God’s family is a family of love. John does not address us as ‘slaves of God’ or ‘prisoners of God,’ but ‘children of God’ (v.2a). He writes: Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God. We are children of God; ‘born of God’ to new life through baptism into Christ. As long as we continue to trust in Jesus for our salvation, we continue to be children ‘born of God’. Our faith in Christ and our life in God’s family go hand in hand. When God gives us a faith he also gives us a family; and it is a family of love.
John continues: and everyone who loves the father loves his child as well (v.2b). Not only do we know God’s love for us and love him in return, by faith; we know and show God’s love to his other children as well. We love Jesus who has become our older brother by faith; and ‘we love the children of God’ (v.2a). That is, we love all who are also our brothers and sisters in Christ – by faith.
We need to understand that God’s thoughts toward us are thoughts of love – the love of a father toward his children. Our love for him is the love of children for their loving father. Our love for Jesus and for one another is the love of brothers and sisters toward one another. We love, not because we are told to love but because we know how much God has loved us. We remain in his love and want his love to remain in us. God’s family truly is a ‘family of love!’
John goes on to remind us that our desire to live in obedience to God’s commands has much more to do with this ‘relationship’ than it has to do with any ‘regulations’. Life in the family of love is a life of willing obedience to the one who has already fulfilled the requirements of God’s law for us. God’s family is not a burdensome place to be.
Some people wrongly assume that, because Christians want to obey God’s commands, this is how we hope to get to heaven – by living according to a set of rules. Nothing could be further from the truth! Others wrongly assume that to become a Christian will limit their freedom. That’s not true either, because our faith in Christ is all about freedom, not bondage. Christ sets us completely free from sin and its consequences, from eternal death and from the power of the devil.
So why do Christians still want to ‘carry out his commands’? We do so out of loving gratitude toward God who sent his only Son to fulfil his law perfectly in us. Our desire to ‘keep’ or ‘carry out his commands’ is our loving response to the fact that God has already loved us and made us his children. Jesus has already kept the requirements of God’s law perfectly for us. By his living, dying and rising, Christ has fulfilled all the demands of God’s law. We can’t- and don’t have to – do anything to add to that.
We aim to ‘keep God’s commands’ because those commands also show us how to love in response to God’s love. They are our ‘guidebook.’ They show us how to love our Father and our brothers and sisters in Christ. Our willing obedience flows from the perfect obedience of Jesus who loved us and gave himself for us. That is why John says: ‘In fact, this is love for God: to keep his commands. And his commands are not burdensome’ (v. 3).
Why are the commands of God no longer burdensome for God’s children? That is because life in the family of love is a life of victory, not defeat. John writes: And his commands are not burdensome, for everyone born of God overcomes the world (v. 3b).
It would be really nice if more people could understand the Christian faith as a victory rather than a burden! Even though we are constantly under attack from the devil, the world and our own sinful natures, these things need not destroy Christ’s Easter victory in our lives. Even though we continue to live in a world where ‘bad stuff’ happens, we don’t need to blame God for that or assume he is cruel and unjust.
John reminds us that God sent Jesus because he wants to bring us his loving victory over the ‘bad stuff’ that happens in this world. Christ is not to blame for the bad things that happen; rather he is God’s solution to them. Bad stuff happens as a result of a fallen world and fallen human nature, not because God is unjust or cruel. In Christ, God has already given us victory over all the bad stuff that happens in this fallen world. We can’t always see that victory clearly while we live in the world, so he gives us trust in his goodness and his victory. John writes: This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith (v. 4).
The ‘bad stuff’ that happens around is even more reason to cling closely to Christ, our victor, and to live in his strength and hope rather than to turn away from him. More than that, faith brings us our own victory and hope in the worst of this world’s troubles and temptations. John asks: Who is it that overcomes the world? Then he answers: Only the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God (v. 5).
God doesn’t want us to live as defeated people, viewing the Christian faith as some kind of burden. Rather, he wants us to live in his love. So, it is his intention that life in the family of love bears witness to his love for us. John calls on the life of the human Jesus as a witness to God’s love: This is the one who came by water and blood —Jesus Christ. He did not come by water only, but by water and blood. The very life of the human Jesus – the one who came by water and blood – testifies to God’s love. His birth as a human being and his entire ministry – from his baptism in water to his shed blood on the cross – bear witness to God the Father’s deep love for his children.
John says that the Spirit, the water and the blood are still present in the church today, testifying to the love of God, shown in Jesus. He writes: 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 (v. 6-8). The Holy Spirit testifies to God’s love, shown in Jesus, whenever his people hear or read about the works and words of Jesus in the scriptures. The same Spirit brings Christ and his love personally to us in the water of baptism; and in Christ’s own blood and body, given in bread and wine.
God calls us together, as his loving family, to hear, see, taste and touch his living testimony to the truth of his amazing love for us. The ongoing testimony to his love is given and received in word and water, bread and wine. Their testimony is in agreement. We are God’s loved children, not prisoners or slaves. His children want to keep his commands because Christ kept them perfectly for us. His resurrection victory, which we receive by faith, has overcome the ‘bad stuff’ in the world and offers us a living hope. His loving invitation is that we continue to come to him and learn the truth about his love.
The family of God is a family of love. How could we possibly run away from the best news on the planet? Amen.
May the peace of God, which surpasses all human understanding, guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.
This message isbrought to you by Grace Lutheran Church, Web and Park Street, Mountain View, Arkansas. For prayer or more information, contact Pastor Kenneth Taglauer by email: [email protected]. A Pass it On Project , You can read more at Lutheran Church of Australia Sermons for Easter 6b