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LOVE WINS

"Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him."

1 John 4:7-9


1 John is a letter written to encourage and counsel a fragmented network of churches in the ancient region of Ephesus.


Reading 1 John from start to finish can be a bit dizzying at times! While there are really just two simple ideas John wants to develop throughout the letter, those two simple ideas get stated, amplified, restated and repeated in different language over and over. Honestly, it's tiring at points. You almost have to pause every couple of paragraphs and gather yourself before moving on.


First, John wants the church to know that God is Light. God reveals the dark, hidden evils of the world. He shines His light on the broken, unjust spaces that need fixing -- the spaces inside of us and also the spaces outside of us, in the world. Another way John puts it is this: God is righteous. God is a God who puts things right in a world of wrong. Those who embrace Him live in this light, are exposed by this light and walk in this light -- they participate in the "right-making" life of God even (especially) when it means repenting of our own wrongs. They purse justice alongside the God of justice.


But John also wants this church community to know that God is Love. In fact, this is how John puts the Light of God into proper focus. His right-making or His righteousness is a part of His desire for what He has made to flourish. God's Light is a result of God's love. In other words, His Light shines in the Darkness so that we might be set free from hate and live in renewed relationships with God and our neighbors.


The verses quoted above from 1 John 4:7-9 celebrate this love God has for us and the model of love held up for us in the life of His Son. We love because God first loved us. We love one another because Jesus has revealed that self-giving love is the way God rules the world -- its the hope of the nations. Love is how God conquers a World of Sin and Death, and He invites us into that victory through a life lived in love.


The art piece attached above is taken from the famous Isenheim Altarpiece painted by Matthias Grunewald. It's famous for many reasons, but what I personally appreciate about it is the raw, unedited -- perhaps even horrific -- depiction of Jesus' act of love for the world. It demonstrates something about the nature of God's love for us and our love for one another: it's painful, difficult and at times surprisingly costly. The love God models for us is a love that meets us in the dark, painful places of our human experiences. He loves us at the cost of His life and burdens the shame of Sin and Death. He reconciles us through His death and makes right the wrong of the world.


For the monks, an altarpiece depicting a stoic, removed Christ on the cross would be meaningless. It wouldn't explore the deeper love they had experienced from God and the love they were reflecting into their community. Only a Christ broken and himself tortured would communicate these depths in meaningful ways.

The monastery for which the Isenheim Altarpiece was painted was a witness to this kind of love. The Monastery of St. Anthony was a refuge for the sick and the terminally ill. The Antonine monks of the monastery lived with the disease-ridden masses of the plague. They lived alongside those who suffered horrible pains and prayed with those tortured by chronic diseases.


For the monks, an altarpiece depicting a stoic, removed Christ on the cross would be meaningless. It wouldn't explore the deeper love they had experienced from God and the love they were reflecting into their community. Only a Christ broken and himself tortured would communicate these depths in meaningful ways.


Like John the Baptist to the right of the Cross in the painting, we point to this deep love of Jesus with our own corresponding lives' of love. We meet one another in our needs and in our pains. We support and serve one another. Love is not always warm and cheery because our lives' are not always warm and cheery. We sympathize and empathize with one another as we walk under the bright light of this magnificent grace we've encountered in Christ; the grace that has disrupted our self-absorbed lives and invited us to live life with the other.


John says: "This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him."


Let us love then, as John says: "Not in word only, but also in deed."

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Armenian Evangelical Church Chicago

905 W. Golf Rd. 

Mt. Prospect, IL 60056

office.aecc@gmail.com

(847) 758-7188

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