this was preached in fuller form on Easter Morning
Freed to live lovingly
John 20.1-29; 1 John 4.7-12
“Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any they are forgiven…”
Our struggle. How do you know when someone loves you? What do you look for – what should you look for?
Are words enough? Is it true just because someone says it is; or because I wish it was so?
It usually takes a demonstration of some sort – someone needs to do something, giving expression to their assertions or our hopes. What kind of gift – does it have to be expensive? It needs to be something that says I’m giving myself for our message to have any impact. We need to keep renewing that gift of ourselves and of our commitment to another.
We also have to be prepared for the difficult task of accepting a similar gift; whether it’s in return or initiated by the loved one. It becomes a exchange of trust,an affirmation of common hope.
What has God shown us? What is one of the great evidences of participation in the resurrected life of Christ? What provides one of the clearest form of tokens of the death and resurrection of Jesus? This would be a living symbol that is daily renewed and works relationally more than crosses or learned theological works.
We’re given a clue in one of the earlier post-resurrection encounters Jesus has with His disciples. [Look at John 20.21-23; it’s in that part of the story.]
Here Jesus breathes the Holy Spirit on those gathered and commissions them to forgive sins (which was the most controversial aspect of His ministry.) Just as His rising overcomes forever the threat of death, so this commission to forgive overcomes all kinds of the dreadful dark of the terrible things people do to each other. All else that happens, people being saved, cleansed, healed, served, helped, flows out of the living streams of forgiveness flowing from a heart given over to love.
Just as the dominant fruit of the Holy Spirit is love, so it is with the greatest driver of the gifts of the Spirit. They flow freely when love is alive and allowed to rule.
John tells his readers that God is love and calls us to love similarly, not because it’s a great idea, but precisely because they were first loved by God. Again it is not the love that can simply be spoken as though that were enough, it is love that must find expression in ways that touch and transform the lives of others around us. John audaciously says that when we love others God becomes visible…the love of God became visible on the Cross of Golgotha, and can only become visible around us as we practice loving whoever God brings across our individual and collective paths.
So what should you do? We each need to welcome and allow the ministry of the Holy Spirit in our lives, the most authentic sign of His presence and activity being – love. We allow this because Jesus has already allowed it in His life and has made the same energising and motivating presence to us. This means opening ourselves to the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives…“keep on being filled with the Spirit.”
In our devotions and almost as an hour by hour exercise we have to keep deciding to to let love guide every relationship [just as He has for us]. “Today I choose to love as You loved!” It means asking for whatever means it takes to hold firm to that attitude of heart and that discipline of being. It’s a work of the Spirit that is unceasing, but it is also unfailing.
Ask also, “How would love work if it were to rule in all the situations I encounter?”
…and…it would transform even further the life of this community. It would liberate our hearts for witness and service, for mission and ministry. It would attract people to be among us and inspire awe in the community. Christ is risen, let Him now rule.