A sermon delivered by Robert Browning, Pastor, Smoke Rise Baptist Church, Stone Mountain, Ga., on October 3, 2010.
What part of the gospel attracted you? Was it the message of hope? Perhaps you were in a time of despair and the encouraging words of the gospel grabbed your attention.
Was it the offer of forgiveness? You were trying to decide what to do with your guilt and shame when you heard about this radical concept of forgiveness and restoration.
Was it the potential for change? You were tired of making mistakes and being your own worst enemy when you heard that you don’t have to continue living this way.
Was it the emphasis upon the importance of community and social justice? You were looking for a way to make the world better when you heard of the gospel’s insistence upon generosity and the pursuit of justice and peace.
What part of the gospel attracted you? What part of the gospel attracted the Johannine community that penned the gospel of John? I believe they were drawn to the gospel by the love of God revealed in the life and through the teachings of Jesus.
What was it about God’s love that impressed them the most? Perhaps it was the inclusive nature of that love.
According to the authors of the Fourth Gospel, God loves those who love Him, but He also loves those who don’t. The word used for world, kosmos, refers most often to those human beings who are at odds with Jesus and God.
As Culpepper writes, “The use of this word implies that God gives Jesus in love to all people who will receive him.” The gospel of John leaves no doubt that God loves all that God has made. The God revealed in Jesus is a God whose love knows no bounds.
I believe the writers of John were also impressed with the generous nature of God’s love. “For God so loved the world that He gave his one and only Son,” John wrote.
We all know that love and generosity go together. It is common to give gifts to those we love and to receive gifts from those who love us.
What God has done seems to be a bit excessive, though. In John we read that God “gave” His Son to the world. This is the only place in the Fourth Gospel that says God “gave” his Son. The more common expression is that God “sent” Jesus, as in 3:17.
Who among us would put our children’s lives in danger to save another person? I dare say no one, which makes what God did through Christ all the more impressive. It redefines generosity.
The Johannine community had to be impressed with the transforming power of God’s love. “Whoever believes in him shall not perish, but have everlasting life.”
God’s love turns death into life. It brings the best out in people, enabling them to overcome their sinful, destructive nature so they can experience the best that life has to offer.
What was the response of the Johannine community to God’s love? They received it through faith in Christ and invited others to do the same. I am confident that they were also faithful disciples who modeled what it meant to be the loving presence of Christ in a broken and hurting world.
How do you need to respond to God’s love today? Do you need to receive it through faith in Christ and let God help you overcome those things that keep you from experiencing life at its best?
Do you need to invite your friends and neighbors to accept God’s love and become a disciple, too? Who do you know that needs to hear the Good News of God’s love? Will you share it with them?
Do you need to be the presence of Christ where you live, work and go to school, showing people, as Jesus did, how God loves them? To do this, must you learn to see all people, not only as a part of the family of God, but as a part of your family?
In other words, must you get rid of the boundaries surrounding your love and truly love the kosmos?
Do you need to reach out to those who have hurt you, building bridges of goodwill and understanding? Do you need to be more generous, accurately reflecting God’s heart and character? Do you need to offer a helping hand to someone who is struggling? Do you need to be the answer to someone’s prayer with words of encouragement and hope? Do you need to give the gift of life to someone living in despair? Do you need to give yourself away like God does everyday?
Think about how you need to respond to God and His love as we are reminded once again of that love through the bread and cup.