You know who I hate? Well, “hate” maybe is too strong. You know who I have a hard time not hating? Those who hurt my children. I get upset at anyone who mistreats my kids. There is not much you can do for me to compensate for what you did if you hurt my kids. You can give me presents, you can say nice things, you can sing my praises but you will not make me feel better if you hurt my children. What you can do for me is to do something for one of my kids.
Do you believe God is happy with our world? Yes or no? What would be the evidence we would use to see if God is happy with our world? Do you believe God is happy with you? Yes or no? What would be the evidence? I hear this in myself and others. “I know I shouldn’t act this way but....” “I know I shouldn’t say this but....” “I know I shouldn’t post that but....” “I know I do that but....” If you know and still do, we call that willful wrong.
If you believe God is not happy with you, then what do you think would make him feel better. At this the pastor is supposed to say, “Go to church.” But if you believe there is some kind of ritual that makes you right with God and you avoid making restitution with someone you hurt, you are wrong. Sometimes our view on religion keep you from loving someone else. If you ever feel guiltier about missing church than treating someone poorly, than you are at the center of your religion. If you think that religion is about you making things right with God your religion really is about you. If you say, “I need to break this habit,” “I need to get back in church,” “I need to get my life together.”
“I....” “Me....” “What exactly must I do to make things right with me and God?” “How do I keep God happy with me?” If these are the things you say or think then your whole life is bent on trying to appease God and is all about you.
Another problem with this type of thinking is that it affects others. Someone hears you say, “I go to church all the time.” But they don’t see you love. They will respond, “Well what is that worth? Why does that matter? I know people who don’t go to church who are kinder and more loving than her. I don’t need Church.” Instead of caring for others, our idea of religion can be, “What must I do to get your attention, keep your attention, and make you happy, God?” That is selfish religion. Do you really think that God needs your behavior? God doesn’t need it. But your neighbor does. Not just any neighbor. The best love is towards those who are hardest to love. If you are a democrat, Jesus directs the love to those on the right of you. If you are a republican, he tells you to love those to the left of you. The person you absolutely despise is the one that God tells you to love.
At the very center of our faith is the one who came from God. Jesus is the one that the children will speak and sing about today. That little baby who came was God himself. Jesus, who was the one and only, the beloved child of God, died, covered in his own blood and saliva of other men. He is the one to give up everything in order to love you. Jesus took care of everything between God and you. There is no loophole to your relationship with God. There is no workaround. There is no need to hide anymore. God loves you.
Jesus stood up for you. Jesus appeased every ounce of anger that God felt towards you and how you have treated people. The greatest thing any person can do to honor God was to love his children and this is what your Savior did by dying for you. How far is love willing to go? When your Father answered this question it cost him his Son. When your Savior answered this question it cost him his life. There is nothing you can do to make God love you any more or any less. Can you imagine how Christmas would look this year if we actually loved like that? Just think about how your perspective on Christmas would change if you didn’t judge how people loved you based on the presents under the tree but instead asked “How can I love someone else today?” Can you imagine how your conversations with the other political party would go if it were sprinkled with that love? Can you imagine how much your life would change if you stopped using the excuses of “But...” and instead returned to the love of God.
The most honoring thing you can do for God is to do something for his children. The harder that person is to love the better.
Here is the ultimate why. God loved you. He requires nothing of you to receive his love. He put no burdens on you. There is nothing you can do to make God love you any more or any less. Nothing. Christmas is all about love. Yet there is only one of the Gospel writers (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) that really emphasizes that word “love.” John loves the word love. Mark uses it 8 times, Matthew 17, Luke 19, but John uses the word love 56 times. That is more than all the others combined (44). John wrote three other letters, 1, 2, and 3 John. In this short trilogy, he uses the world love 54 times, the majority are in 1 John (46). 13 times in this paragraph.
7 Dear friends (literally, “loved ones”), let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9 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. 10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one