This sermon was originally preached via podcast and Facebook Live at Mission Hills United Methodist Church in San Diego, California on April 25, 2021. To listen to the full recording, visit our podcast, “Mission Hills United Methodist Church” or search ‘Mission Hills United Methodist Church’ wherever you get your podcasts. If you would like to donate to the ministries of Mission Hills UMC, you can make a secure online gift here.
1 John 3:16-24
We know love by this, that he laid down his life for us—and we ought to lay down our lives for one another. How does God’s love abide in anyone who has the world’s goods and sees a brother or sister in need and yet refuses help?
Little children, let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action. And by this we will know that we are from the truth and will reassure our hearts before him whenever our hearts condemn us; for God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything. Beloved, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have boldness before God; and we receive from him whatever we ask, because we obey his commandments and do what pleases him.
And this is his commandment, that we should believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us. All who obey his commandments abide in him, and he abides in them. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit that he has given us.
If someone were to ask you what Christians believe, what might you tell them?
What do Christians believe?
It’s a hard question to answer fully. At least for me it is. There is so much that makes up our beliefs as Christians. And even then, there are so many different types of Christians. We as United Methodists vary in our beliefs to our siblings in the United Church of Christ, the African Methodist Episcopal Church, or the Baptist Church. We differ in liturgy, polity, and leadership roles. And our beliefs are personal to an extent, too. So to sum up what we believe as Christians in something as simple as a chat box is a really hard thing to do.
Today, our passage tells us that yes, what we believe matters. It’s important to be able to talk about what we believe and why. But more than what we believe, we are taught by Jesus that Christianity is more about doing than believing.
We’re told today in the epistle of 1 John that we should love “in truth and action”. Showing we follow Jesus versus simply saying it. Belief isn’t a bad thing, but at the end of the day, it’s not enough to simply call yourself a Christian without that proof in action.
In the spirit of action, we read further from our author, who asks “How does God’s love abide in anyone who has the world’s goods and sees a brother or sister in need and yet refuses help?” In other words, the writer states that the love of God isn’t in someone’s heart if they see someone in need but choose not to act.
Therefore, Christianity, following Christ, is not only about seeing the hurt in the world, the places and people in need, but being a catalyst for change in those ways, bearing witness to the gospel by both our words and our works.
This past week, much of our country tuned in as the guilty verdict was read in the Derek Chauvin trial. Chauvin was a police officer who murdered George Floyd by kneeling on his neck for nine minutes and twenty-nine seconds. While there is much to be said about the connections we can draw between police violence and the Gospel, Jesus himself being killed at the hands of the State, I want to focus on perhaps a lesser-drawn upon piece of this story.
This week’s lectionary passage stresses action over belief, action as a sign of boldness and love. And as I prayed about and studied the text this week, I couldn’t help but think about Darnella Frazier.
Darnella, 17 at the time, saw this interaction between a handcuffed George Floyd and Chauvin taking place, saw there was a problem, and took out her phone and filmed the whole thing, then posted it online. When she was on the witness stand, she said this about George Floyd: “He was suffering. He was in pain. . . . It seemed like he knew it was over for him. . . . He was terrified.” And while she wishes she could have done more, her video became what one legal analyst called “the strongest piece of evidence I have ever seen”.
In any ending of another’s life, a guilty conviction is not justice. But it is hopefully a wake-up call for us as Christians, a reminder that we are to work as hard as we can to love in truth and action. Darnella Frazier did that, serving as a bold embodiment of this truth, a teenager who bore witness when she saw a sibling in need. And we are called to follow suit in all the ways we can.
Our Missions Committee has been working hard this year at providing opportunities to do that for our congregation and communities. Together, they’ve researched and discerned several organizations and means by which we can love in truth and action. And I’m so excited and grateful that those will be shared in the coming months, and I’m hopeful this will be a catalyst for us as we strive to love our neighbors better.
Today, I want to ask you to share in the chat, one way you can love in truth and action. Is it an organization you care about? Is it a person or group of people you could mentor or take care of? Is it a service you can provide for your neighbors?
How will you love in truth and action?
As we leave this place today, may we remember that proclaiming we are Christians must be done in both word and action. May we be strengthened in our God-given belovedness, which abides in us fully. And may we, as bearers of the Good News, look for our moments to bear witness to truth, love, and hope in this world.
Let us pray: God of hope and justice, we are reminded today of the depths of our faith, a faith of activeness and aliveness. Guide us in our words and works to proclaim your love more fully, knowing that you God, are greater than our hearts. Show us the people and places who need us most. In your ever-abounding name we pray, Amen.