“God’s love has no strings attached”
Sermon by: Rev. Brian Devlin
Scripture: 1 John 5:1-6, John: 15:9-17
“Hear now these words from the First Letter of John, chapter five, verses one thru six.”
1 John 5:1-6
5 Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the parent loves the child. 2 By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. 3 For the love of God is this, that we obey his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome, 4 for whatever is born of God conquers the world. And this is the victory that conquers the world, our faith. 5 Who is it that conquers the world but the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? 6 This is the one who came by water and blood, Jesus Christ, not with the water only but with the water and the blood. And the Spirit is the one that testifies, for the Spirit is the truth.
“Let us continue on with our reading taken from the gospel of John chapter five, verses nine thru seventeen.”
John 5: 9-17
9 At once the man was made well, and he took up his mat and began to walk. Now that day was a sabbath. 10 So the Jews said to the man who had been cured, “It is the sabbath; it is not lawful for you to carry your mat.” 11 But he answered them, “The man who made me well said to me, ‘Take up your mat and walk.’” 12 They asked him, “Who is the man who said to you, ‘Take it up and walk’?” 13Now the man who had been healed did not know who it was, for Jesus had disappeared in the crowd that was there. 14 Later Jesus found him in the temple and said to him, “See, you have been made well! Do not sin any more, so that nothing worse happens to you.” 15 The man went away and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had made him well. 16 Therefore the Jews started persecuting Jesus, because he was doing such things on the sabbath. 17 But Jesus answered them, “My Father is still working, and I also am working.”
“Having heard with our ears these two ancient writings, let us now open our hearts to the love of God.”
“God’s love has no strings attached”
My how time flies. I can’t believe it’s been almost two years ago, when I came to Riviera United Church of Christ, I saw a banner which said “God’s love has no strings attached” which immediately started me thinking what does this mean to us as Christians? One of the suggested passages in the lectionary for today, John’s gospel chapter 15:9-17, contains the word love 8 times. Throughout all of Scripture the word Love is used on numerous occasions. As Pastor Tim mentioned some time ago every pastor has their own Love sermon.
Love can be both conditional or unconditional. People may say I love you if you fulfill a certain condition or they can love unconditionally. In other words, they can love no matter what the circumstances may be. I posed a question to a group that I was speaking to on the subject of unconditional love, and that question is what can we learn from our animals? Our animals teach us unconditional love. No matter what we do or say to them they continue to love us, and they do this their entire life on earth.
I recall a few weeks ago when Pastor Tim was telling us of the death of his beloved “dog” Jamie. Jamie loved Pastor Tim and Lois and they loved Jamie unconditionally. I want to tell a story about one of my dogs. I want to talk about Chico. Chico is a chihuahua who is approximately 1 year old and weighs all of 8 lbs. In the first year of his life he was abused and tormented by two different families. When a friend of mine was telling me about Chico over dinner, I immediately decided to take him and give him a life he deserved. I loved him unconditionally and he learned to love us unconditionally as well. He and I bonded immediately and had a mutual love. All he ever wanted was love and to be loved unconditionally. To this day, almost a year later before I go to work, he makes me pick him up and give him love before I leave and when I come home at night, his happy dance, I ‘ve got to pick him up.
Almost 60 years ago, I was born in another country and immediately placed in an orphanage. Nine months later a husband and wife visited the orphanage looking to adopt a child. They wanted a child they could love unconditionally and raise in the proper tradition and with respect and unconditional love for others. The couple I mentioned were my parents, and I was adopted at nine months of age. I have many fond memories of My parents such as various travels and activities such a playing games and just sitting and talking about any issues in my life, but my most memorable moment with my parents is after I have come out of the closet, in my mid 30’s we were in our family room talking and all of a sudden my mom said to me, “I don’t agree with your life or the way you’re living it but you are my son and I love you unconditionally.” They loved me unconditionally, the same way Jesus loves each of us, and continued to love me unconditionally until the day they died.
In a statement Ram Dass says the following about unconditional love:
“Unconditional love really exists in each of us. It is part of our deep inner being. It is not so much an emotion as a state of being. It’s not I love you for this or that reason, not I love you if you love me. It’s love for no reason, love without an object.”
ew people nowadays understand what true love is, nor can they comprehend the unconditional love of God which sent Jesus to Calvary to die for our sins as John 3:16 tell us “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.” As we can see God’s own plan, who has as benevolent patron, sent Jesus, his agent out of love. So that we who are believers won’t perish but will live eternally. If you look at John’s gospel, chapter fifteen verse twelve, we are given a commandment which says: “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.” Brian Tracy says the following about unconditional love: “The greatest gift that you can give to others is the gift of unconditional love and acceptance.”
A month or so ago I had asked the congregation to collect food for the youth of Brevard County who were displaced from Puerto Rico after the hurricanes. The response was tremendous. We do not know the people who received the food that was collected but, yet, we do know they are children of God, our neighbors, and they were able to eat thanks to our donations. To those people this was the greatest gift. This was a gift of unconditional love.
It does not matter who you are or what you have done, God loves you! We’ve all been hurt by others at times. When memories arise that bring pain to the forefront, love those who have hurt you by praying for them.
It doesn’t matter if you haven’t seen them in a long time, they still need your prayer.
Whoever loves God also loves his children. The love of God can be expressed in the love of neighbor, the criteria of its sincerity and the first of the commandments to which one is committed by the love of God. First John chapter five: verse three thru four says: “For the love of God is this, that we obey his commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome, for whatever is born of God conquers the world. And this is the victory that conquers the world, our faith”.
Sometimes people equate keeping commandments with loving, but this text clearly distinguishes loving Christ from obeying his commandments. If you love me that’s one thing and then you will keep my commandments, that’s another thing. One thing leads to the other: Love and keeping the commandments are not identical. It’s not wrong to say that loving Jesus, or loving God includes doing what he commands, which is why John says in First John chapter five: verse three: “And his commandments are not burdensome.” Verse one: says “Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the parent loves the child”.
The sign that you love God is that you love others, especially other believers. Then verse two turns it around and says that loving God is the sign that you love his children. The road to love is such a great concern of John’s and is paved with faith in Christ. The word “that” underscores that saving faith has a particular content. It is not a vague religious commitment but a wholehearted trust in the saving work of Christ. Everyone who believes has been born of God. Obeying God’s commandments in Scripture is the way to love the children of God because God’s commandments show believers the true way to do good for others. Love and law are complimentary.
As I was looking at Facebook one day, there was a post for a church which read as follows:
Love thy neighbor,
thy homeless neighbor,
thy gay neighbor,
thy Muslim neighbor,
thy black neighbor,
thy immigrant neighbor,
thy Jewish neighbor,
thy addicted neighbor,
thy Christian neighbor,
thy atheist neighbor,
thy disabled neighbor.
Jesus didn’t make exceptions neither do we.