“I just love chocolate.” “I love your new dress.” “I love my family.” “I love my car.” “I love my job.” “I love the Lord.” “I love Fall.” “We love that new restaurant.” “I just love…” Love is an often-used word, one that is used in a variety of ways.
With Valentine’s Day approaching our thoughts turn to the language of love. The word, “LOVE” conveys so much and has so much power. But at other times is simply expresses how we feel about our latest acquisition or our level of loyalty to our favorite sports team. We use it so flippantly, its significance is diminished.
I believe love is our faith in action. The little letter of 1 John packs a powerful message. John says many things about love, but three things clear from his writing.
First, love is action. “But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or speech, but indeed and truth.” (3:17-18) In John’s mind, love is more than a feeling. It is more than simply saying “I love you.” For John, love proves itself in action.
How can God’s love abide in a person who can close their heart to another in need? In this message, we see the motivation of those who so many years ago saw children in need and loved them --- people like John Mills. It was not an easy journey for John Mills as he began a ministry to orphaned children. He met many obstacles. But, Mills put his faith into action. He loved! God’s love continues to be our motivation today. It continues to be our motivation to ask you for your help.
But John also gives us another important lesson about love. “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear.” (4:18a)
Sometimes, our children come to us obeying out of fear because of their past. It is very difficult to make the switch to obeying out of love. When our children obey out of fear, they are not able to experience the love that flows to them from our childcare workers or other staff. In response whey can only experience approval or disapproval. John is clear that obedience is part of love, “For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments.” (5:3a) The reason for obedience is not fear … it is love. For our children the feelings of disapproval are the ones they have lived with day in and day out. We continuously work to help our children understand they are loved. It is not an easy lesson to learn if all you known is fear. But like John Mills and the many others since him, we will love. We will love because we know that God’s love in action has the power to change those feelings of fear, hurt, disapproval, and worthlessness.
Finally, John makes one more thing clear about love. “Beloved, let us love one another; for love is of God and he who loves is born of God and knows God.” (3:7) This is the kind of love at the heart of Christian experience. The experience of undeserved, self-giving love is both the beginning and the end of our faith.
“In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent His Son to be the expiation for our sins.” (4:10) So John makes clear the origin and nature of true love. God opened the way for us to love as a response to His love. This is what we hope for with our children. Having experienced God’s love, we can somehow open the way for our children to respond to the same love. By putting love into action --- grounded in the Father, not based on fear, demonstrated by actions --- we try to reflect the message that “God is love.”
Thank you for making this ministry of love, possible by acting on your love of God. Thank you for loving “our children” through your prayers and financial support. “Truly, they will know we are Christians by our love, by our love.” Happy Valentine’s Day!