1 John 4:15-21; 1 Corinthians 13:1-8
Pastor Tom Millner
November 21, 2010
I read a story this week about a Zoologist who was amazed at an exhibit at a local zoo. There was a monkey in the cage with a lion. The Zoologist inquired from the Zoo Keeper how he managed that seemingly impossible feat. The Zoo Keeper responded: “Well, they get along most of the time reasonably well. Sometimes the monkey upsets the lion and they get into it. Then we have to find another monkey.” Seems animals eventually act out of their nature. That’s why we’re surprised when God acts out of His nature (which is love) and not out of ours!
There are two key verses from today’s reading that we will focus on this morning: 1John 4:18, and 1 Corinthians 13:6. 1John 4:18 reads “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. Then 1 Corinthians 13:6 reads “Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.”
“There is no fear in love.” “Perfect love drives out fear.” “[Love] rejoices in the truth.” Fear can drive away perfect love. God is love, but we need to be reminded that all love is NOT God. God defines love, not the other way around. We are so bombarded with images of love that we confuse ourselves into believing that all we love is Godly. We may make those feelings our god, but they are more often than not ungodly. We have a plethora of recovery groups (thank God) dedicated to recovering from the ravaging effects of love out of focus. Think about it!
So much of what we see today regarding love is nothing more than ego driven trivia that lays bare the heart and mind to more hurt and disappointment. The ego is fundamentally fear based. Fear of being discovered to be less than the individual deems acceptable, the ego drives behavior that draws attention to itself in an effort to prove to the outside world that it is not as unacceptable as it believes itself to be. Generally speaking, the so called “big ego” is nothing more than a puffed up version of a poor self-image. In some individuals the expression of the so called “weak ego” is manifest by behavior that quietly hides behind a shroud of self-effacement or false humility. Both expressions fear being disclosed and thus create defenses around possible disclosure points. Some attribute these kinds of behaviors to self-esteem, or lack thereof. Books are written on how to improve one’s self esteem. They all come down to manipulating ways to FEEL better about one’s self. We hear that to love another we have to love ourselves. In other words, before I can care about you, I have to take care of number one! Some folks take the care for others before self to be a means of survival in a harsh and difficult world. It’s still “me” focused because it is driven out of self-preservation. More self-love may sell books, but it’s not what scripture talks about as perfect love. All of these actions we’ve described come not from self-loathing, but self-love that will go to any length to self-preserve…sometimes even to suicide! Best not place our acts of fantasy in the position reserved for God alone. That translates to idolatry! What, then, is perfect love?
Perfect love is broad and personally directed. John 3:16 states; “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” He loves this world so much that He gave up His only Son for each who will believe. As Augustine said “He loves each one of us as if there were only one of us.” The creator and giver of all life loves us with a love that is self-giving and eternal. How much more esteem does one need? What I need to do is forget about what I think is important for my own esteem and focus on what God has already done for me! I already have all I need. That, my friends is a lifetime of discipleship that transforms my obsession with self into a oneness with Him who is perfect love! One human was born with it, and He died an agonizing death, not to satisfy His ego, but to sanctify our relationship that with His and our Father. Because God so loves us that He gave His all for us, we need not live in fear of rejection, of not measuring up, of not being more…perfect love is sufficient! Think on this thing.
Perfect love is permanent! Human love is more often than not conditional. You love me? Oh well, then you have my attention – let me see how I can love you. Or, if I love you hard and strong enough, then you’ll reciprocate. That’s not love, it’s a form of lust to possess. Perfect love existed before we were born and will be with us through eternity. Perfect love is patient with us; does not puff itself up; it is not seeking for its own good; it is not making a list of wrongs. It is not here today and gone tomorrow. In fact, Romans 8:38-39 states” For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Does this help our understanding that “perfect love drives out fear”? If the love that spans and commands the universe can never be separated from us, what do we have to fear? What other esteem do we need? What other ego satisfaction or gratification do we need? NONE! We are currently being perfected in His love, therefore we need to drop the façade, let go the false halo or the belief that we need one and pick up the chip that says “safe in the arms of perfect love” to remind us of our living in sober love!
Perfect love can’t be improved upon! The Gospel is full of meaningful assertions as to our being accepted by God, secure in His cross, and significant in His grace and mercy. There is no greater love, no greater expression, no greater heights to gain, and no bigger mountains to climb. We already are all the things we would ever aspire. It’s time to live in the moment; in the reality of who we are by the manifestation of perfect love on our behalf. Living like that means emulating the character of Christ. Loving like that means giving to God first in our lives, our attention, our talents, our income, our day, and letting go of “our way.”
God has laid before us a bountiful table of grace. He calls us to come and dine on His provision. His mercy says it’s OK that you’ve soiled your hands; you won’t be rejected. His grace says the cost of admission to the table, which is more than you can afford, has been paid in full. Just come and feast upon His provisions and nourish yourself with the food of life!