This sermon was originally preached via podcast and Facebook Live at Mission Hills United Methodist Church in San Diego, California on May 9, 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 5:1-6
Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the parent loves the child. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. 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. Who is it that conquers the world but the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?
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.
I want to start today by acknowledging two things. One, Happy Mother’s Day to all who are honoring it. We take time today to celebrate the gift of those who serve as loving parents. The second thing is that today’s passage talks about the parent/child relationship between God and God’s people. I want to acknowledge that not all of us have parents who have loved us well, and if that is you, I invite you to exchange parent/child language for something that makes more sense in your story.
Today’s passage that Ru read for us comes from a letter that was written by a pastoral figure to a church. Think of it as a kind of sermon. For some context, in the churches in that area, there had been conflicts because there were false teachers who denied Jesus’ deity, that he was the son of God. The writer, or preacher, is trying to help the congregation understand the nature of the relationship between God and Jesus, and why it’s important that they believe that.
“Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God.” Our author John is being direct, talking directly about those false teachers who aren’t able to accept that Jesus is both fully man and fully divine. He follows this by saying “everyone who loves the parent loves the child”, which again, goes against the attitude of the ones being accused of false teaching. This verse here makes a case for why we, if we don’t love our neighbors, can’t fully love God, and why anyone who loves God the Creator will also love their siblings in Christ.
What is a role that God plays in your life? Who is God for you?
God plays a lot of roles in our life, Creator, Redeemer, Sustainer, Peace, Friend, and the list of course goes on. And also, God plays the role of Loving Parent. Again, this is a role that can be troubling for some, because they themselves perhaps haven’t had that or seen that by how God was taught to them, or perhaps that parental figure in your life hasn’t been all that loving. God in this passage does show us that loving parent role, or the loving caregiver role, and God’s showing that through God’s love for Jesus, God’s offspring.
The point here that John is making, is that God loves like a loving parent loves. And therefore, if we are to love God, we need to and get to honor God’s love for both Jesus and all God’s children, by sharing in God’s love for them.
The last few verses go into this further, and John starts to talk about keeping God’s commandments. Now, what does he mean by this? If we look at the ten commandments from Exodus, which we will dive deeper into next week with the start of our new series “What’s Up With Church”, we can see that there is a pattern among the commandments. The first half deal with honoring God, and the second half deal with honoring others.
This is why John brings the commandments up, because if we really are to love God, we both see and honor God for who God is, as one who cares for God’s creation, and we follow God’s commandments, which not only include that honor for God, but also honoring and loving God’s children.
If you all remember, what is a rule that either you’ve had to follow or that you’ve had others in your care follow, that at the time seemed annoying but was actually important?
I think about when caregivers have the rule of coming home before it’s dark out. Being from Alaska, the winter months get dark pretty quickly, so as it got dark in my childhood, it seemed like a pretty annoying rule. But then it gets dark, and you can’t see anything, and so the rule makes sense in hindsight.
Sometimes, we think of God’s commandments as stringent, like hearing a rule as a kid and thinking it’s a pretty silly or extra strict one. But then we glean new perspective, that the rules are about keeping us safe, about the parent or caregiver’s protection of us. It’s because of their love for us that they give us these rules to follow. So when we read the commandments and realize that what they’re all really after, is honoring God and honoring our siblings, we can better understand the purpose for them in the first place. God wants us to love God and to love those that God loves.
Today, I’m not here to convince you that this is something that is true, that God calls us to love God and love neighbor. In fact, Jesus is incredibly clear on this, which we’ve touched on countless times at Mission Hills. Instead of convincing you, I want to invite you to rest in this truth, that our love for God and our love for God’s children is intertwined, divinely connected.
As we leave this place, may we celebrate our oneness in Christ, our identity as God’s beloved. May we honor God through our words and our works, loving those whom God loves, and doing it well. And may we celebrate all those who strive to provide care and support like God does for us.
God of us all, you have created us out of divine love. We thank you for calling us yours, and for encouraging us to support, care for, and hold one another. Guide us to love through our actions, as Christ has done for us. Amen.