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We only know it will be love: A sermon on 1 John 3:1-7

Brothers and sisters, here is the amazing thing that we have to deal with, that is so hard for us to understand. That is even harder for the world to understand. The thing that trips us up, the thing we cannot catch up with, that we cannot ever grasp is how great, how singular, how unprecedented, how utterly surprising and evernew is the love that God the Father has given to us in Jesus Christ. Through his act of love, uninterrupted, untainted, unqualified love, God has made us, in him, to be God’s own children, God’s own family. Make no mistake about it, brothers and sisters, that is what we are. And we are that, only in, through, and by God’s radical act of love in Jesus Christ, the Nazarene, the one we crucified, the one that the Father raised up, and who came back to us again speaking peace to us. The thing we cannot catch up with, that we can never grasp, never fully understand, is that somehow, through some miracle, God has made us part of God’s own life. We are God’s children! That is what we are!

And that, brothers and sisters, is why the world is confused by us, why they do not understand us when we speak about the Gospel. They don’t recognize us because they did not recognize Jesus, the one who has made us what we now are. Brothers and sisters, this is the miracle, that we are God’s children now. And yet, there is so much about this that eludes us. It is so weighty, so much greater than we can know and comprehend, indeed we cannot understand it. What this all means, what it will be, how it will be revealed, how we will live forever in God, what God’s victory shall look like, and what the world made new will be, brothers and sisters, these things we do not know. We cannot possess them, catch hold of them, grasp them, explain them, and hand them out to others as if they were goods and services. All of this is too wonderful for us.

There is only one thing we can dare to say we know. We know that when Jesus is apocalypsed, when he is revealed, manifested, when his transfiguring kingdom breaks forth in its ultimate fullness, when all this comes to pass we know this: that we will be like him. We will see him as he truly is. We will see, with unveiled faces, the fullness of the singular, radical, uninterrupted, and evernew Love that Jesus is. And then, brothers and sisters, on that day, we will be like that. We will finally shed all that remains of our blindness and our self-deception, and we will see the Love, the so-great Love of God that Father that is Jesus. And when we see it, we will be transformed. We will be like that. We will be loosed from all our hidden shadows and darknesses and be transformed. We will live, without reserve in that one great Love.

This is our hope, brothers and sisters. And every one of us who hope in this find ourselves working. We work, we struggle, we cry out, we yearn together to be made single-mindedly devoted to this Love. We strive to unify our divided hearts so that we might love without interruption, just as Jesus loves without interruption. We work for this, we encourage one another in this, we pray for one another in this, we weep with one another when we fail in this, and we keep on going together in this. We search, we pray, we yearn, we work, we study, we listen—all so that we may grow up into the Love that Jesus is.

And when we sin, when anyone sins, we shy away from this undivided Love. We cease to let it be the one true thing, our one true “law”. We seek to be unmoored from single-minded devotion. We long to divide things up once again into secret spheres where we can rule our own lives. When sin we are guilty of the worst sort of anarchy, an irrational refusal to have our lives transformed in the glory of the single-minded, uninterrupted Love of God that is Jesus. Sin is the refusal of this Love. It is the refusal to make this Love our one and only “law”. Sin is lovelessness.

And you know that this is why Jesus came to us brothers and sisters! This is why Christ apocalyptically came on the scene: To take this lovelessness away! In him there is no hint of lovelessness, but only the Father’s uninterrupted act of Love, the love that brings life out of death, new creation out of the present evil age, hope out of despair, praise out of sorrow, shouts of joy out of cries of grief. This is the Love that Jesus is. There is no lovelessnes in Jesus, no hidden shadow, no dark side. He came for one reason only, to destroy lovelessness wherever it exists in this world.

This is why, brothers and sisters, that no one who has been made part of God’s family through this Love continues to live in lovelessness. Those who keep on embracing power, control, domination, fear, and death, they haven’t understood this Love. They haven’t seen it yet. They haven’t tasted and known it yet. And when you, my brothers and sisters, when we fall back into lovelessness, we forget, we cease to live as what we are: God’s children. We pull ourselves back from the Love that God is and stumble backwards into the darkness that Jesus came to take away. When we are living in the Love that Jesus is, there is no room left for lovelessness.

So brothers and sisters, don’t let anyone make you believe the lie. The lie that one can be righteous, be moral, have integrity, be worthy  without living totally by Love. Everyone who lives out this Love is living in righteousness. There is no other ground, there are no other standards. To be righteous is to live the Love that is Jesus. There is no other righteousness, no other virtue, no other integrity, no other morality, no other standard by which we can assess ourselves. The only righteousness that God honors, that God creates, that God shares is the righteousness of self-abandoning Love. The only righteousness is the righteousness of crucifixion and resurrection. This is the only place we can live, this is the only hope we can stand on, this is the only life worth giving ourselves to.

Some truths to embrace:

  • The world does not know Jesus. To the extent that they know us, that we make sense to the world, to its way of running, we are not living as what we are, the children of God.
  • Our only hope, the only thing we have, is that who Jesus is will be our future. We know nothing else, we must seek for nothing else.
  • When we really hope for the Love that is Jesus, we find ourselves working together to love better. When we really hope, we really work, and we can’t imagine not doing it.
  • Sin is refusing to allow Love, the Love that is Jesus, to be our one and only law, our one and only rule, our one and only criterion for life and hope.
  • It is more important to refuse to be deceived than to figure out everything that we should do, or how to answer every question. The radical “No” of God to all forms of lovelessness must always be before our eyes. Only when we let God’s “No” to lovelessness reign can we hear God’s resounding “Yes” of uninterrupted Love.
  • The definition of Love is Crucifixion and Resurrection.



  1. Skip Newby wrote:

    Alright Halden, well done. Gave me some thought for depth.

    Monday, April 23, 2012 at 6:51 pm | Permalink
  2. Thanks H, really good, now, to believe. Obliged.

    p.s. great verbed apocalypse.

    Tuesday, April 24, 2012 at 9:55 am | Permalink
  3. dan wrote:

    *The definition of Love within a particular context is Crucifixion and Resurrection. No?

    Even still, that language still sounds too… flowery… vague… for me. Can you tell me what that actually looks like in your life?

    Wednesday, May 9, 2012 at 12:32 pm | Permalink
  4. Halden wrote:

    It probably is too vague and flowery.

    And no, I can’t. Certainly not as some sort of level of love or radicalism that I have obtained. Not in the slightest. What I’m trying to describe here is the sort of pressure, the sort of call that I hear and want to learn to affirm and live into that the Gospel seems to proclaim.

    How do I live that out? Well I’m trying to love the people around me and find ways to move into serving those who are suffering as best I can. Probably not doing it right, but I’m gonna keep trying.

    Saturday, May 12, 2012 at 7:52 am | Permalink
  5. dan wrote:

    Now that is the kind of comment I can really respect (TITWOT!).

    I hear ya, about trying to live into a certain understanding of the Gospel proclamation (although, given my current loss of faith in language, I would suggest that maybe there is no disembodied proclamation of the Gospel… so, really, maybe what we’re learning — for the first time, over and over, as we go down this road — is what the Gospel actually is).

    And I hear ya about not doing it right but still trying. For several years now, I’ve been living by that Beckett quote Zizek made famous: “Ever tried. Ever failed. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.” Ain’t that the way, eh?

    Saturday, May 12, 2012 at 6:07 pm | Permalink
  6. Halden wrote:

    Yes it is, brother. Ever so much.

    Sunday, May 13, 2012 at 11:42 pm | Permalink
  7. erin wrote:

    Thank you for this.

    Friday, June 15, 2012 at 12:17 pm | Permalink

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