Sunday Message for 30 January 2022: “Love is the Greatest”

Love is the most powerful force in the universe. Paul the Apostle realized this when he wrote, “And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love” (1 Corinthians 13:13).

Other religions have insights about various topics but nothing is comparable to the central role of love in the Christian faith. Jesus elevated love such as when he shared the Golden Rule, a statement ultimately about love: “In everything do to others as you would have them do to you; for this is the law and the prophets” (Matthew 7:12). This means that the Golden Rule summarizes what God wants from humanity.

Consider that if most people would practice the love inherent in the Golden Rule then life on earth would be much different. If people loved one another then would most of the world’s religions become irrelevant? History reveals that religion cleverly circumvents the Golden Rule by diverting emphasis from love toward distracting, institutional baggage. Despite attempts to ignore or diminish the Golden Rule, nothing is more vital for spiritual health or humanity’s survival.

When done right, love is not easy. The goal is to demonstrate love of God by how well you love other people. Love is demanding; true love is exhausting. This is why its easier to say and rehearse the Golden Rule then it is to live it. This is the great human struggle, to close the gap between what people ought to do and what they actually do. The church has been created to help bridge this divide between the real and the ideal, by providing instruction and encouragement.

It’s hard to overestimate love, which is the fantastically powerful core of God. “So we have known and believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them” (1 John 4:16). But it doesn’t end there. “Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God” (1 John 4:7).

“What!” you may exclaim, “Can it really be that love exceeds divisions, that love unites people even while much religion seeks to divide?” Yep, that’s one way to sum it up. Beware therefore when a religion seeks to make rigid boundaries between “Us” and “Them,” as often such ploys attempt to subvert the universal, unifying force of love.

Love is God’s essence, expressed through its redemptive power. People of faith embrace the loving Spirit of God, which guides from within and helps us love one another. Love is the highest aspiration but it is worth repeating that it’s a constant struggle to love as much as we could and should. Religion at its best is only a means to an end, and that end is loving God and one another.

Jesus practiced what he preached. This is a chief reason why he exudes moral authority. People watched Jesus and noticed that he was inspired by a higher standard than simply following rituals, rules and regulations. Jesus’ message of redemption continues to guide spiritually awakened people as they strive toward the Almighty. God wants us to understand that love demands more than the lip service of creeds, catechisms and confessions. Jesus taught us to put love in action, which is compassion.

Jesus even gave his life, the ultimate and highest expression of love: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life” (John 3:16). Jesus’ emphasis on love transforms religious theory into spiritual reality.

Jesus magnificently summarized how love connects with God. Jesus was asked about what was the greatest commandment, and his reply echoes through eternity: “[Y]ou shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these” (Mark 12:30-31). You can’t expect more clarity than this. Jesus’ words summarized both the Old Testament Jewish Law and his New Testament message.

There’s no list of every possible act of love, but then there doesn’t need to be. Love is life’s guiding principle, like a force or energy that illuminates from within and that can be utilized in infinite ways. If this seems too vague then you may define love as any act or attitude that enhances life.

Consider that love is the giving of yourself in a way that promotes the best interests of others. No matter how you define it, love is something you can recognize and feel. Love is an energy that empowers a revitalized life. Are you ready to be transformed by love? How much different would your life be if you received and shared more love?

Join us at St. John United Church of Christ where we accomplish the mission of expressing love by discipleship and outreach. We partner with God to strengthen existing Christians (discipleship) and we partner with God to make new Christians (outreach).

Strive to get up close and personal, connecting with God and with one another. Transcend the façade of superficial religious theater. Cultivate the deepest, most meaningful relationships and exude God’s love with persistent enthusiasm.

–Reverend Larry Hoxey

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