God's Love is "Mean-ed"
During this Easter season here at International Lutheran Church, we are reading through the first letter of John to the churches in Asia Minor and witnessing just how God’s love is revealed to us and through us. Today, we see the love of God by means of His own Son – Jesus!
Years ago, I had a friend in Taiwan who had some stickers made to put in his watch shop. He generously shared them with me, and I was eager to use them. One sticker said, “Jesus loves you.” Another sticker said, “God is love.” When I first met my friend, I thought that he was a very religious and gospel-oriented person. I was so excited to meet someone who shared my passion for sharing God’s love with others. I learned later though that he was using these stickers as lucky symbols or charms to put in his store to help sell watches. What I had taken to mean a sign of sharing the “good news” of God’s love, he saw as a means to improve his business. There is nothing wrong with working hard and finding new ways to connect with customers, but this event made me start to wonder what such “stickers” communicate to others. My curiosity was even more peaked when, having put these stickers on my backpack, an elderly gentleman in the post office took offense at their message. He even took time to stop and question me as to how I would know if Jesus loved him or how God could be love after seeing how Christians act sometimes. One thing that was more apparent to me after both these encounters was that what we mean to communicate doesn’t always communicate. In fact, what we think is kind and loving might even be taken as mean and offensive. Maybe this was a bit of the trouble that the Ethiopian eunuch was having as he tried to understand the words of the prophet Isaiah. How could the chosen Messiah of God be the One who would suffer the greatest injustice of all? As Philip stood next to his chariot by means of the Spirit, God opened the way for this difficult truth to be understood. “God is love” is not just an emotional platitude but a statement of God’s use of means to communicate what is otherwise not comprehendible. “Jesus loves you” is the good news of His life given for you and me as an atoning sacrifice for our sin. Simply, it is the means by which our sins are forgiven. While propitiation isn’t a word we use much today, what Jesus did on the cross is the very way or means by which God’s love is shown, given, and delivered to us.
The Apostle John understood the “mean-ed” good news. He records for us those words of our Savior on the night when He was betrayed. As He walked with His disciples, Jesus told them how He is the vine and we are the branches; how abiding in Him was essential to having His love flow into us but also through us. Without the connection of His love our lives wither and die like a branch cut off from the vine. Without a connection to the Vine, we can accomplish nothing and bear no fruit. All these images emphasize that Jesus is the means by which we are loved by God and that we become in Him the means by which others know His love. Through Jesus, your sin and mine is taken away. God’s love for us is revealed in us and shared with others through us by His Spirit. This love is not mean, but “mean-ed” as we abide in Him.
Christ is Risen! He is risen, indeed! Alleluia!