By Joel Hess –
Hippy Jesus came out this past Sunday in many church’s readings. “This is my commandment; that you love one another as I have loved you.”
We love that don’t we? We are great at loving, right? Good Lord, every other song on the radio is about love. The simultaneously most overrated and underrated band of all time, the Beatles, summed up our love affair with love in the song, “All you need is love!” Let me quote its Homeric first lines, “Love, love, love, love, love, love, love, love, love.”
John, in his first letter, repeated His Lord’s commandment with a twist. Chapter 5 reads,
“Everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him.”
We all love the Father, right? That’s easy! He’s so lovable! What about Jesus His Son? Bam! He died and rose for me? He loves me. He’s perfect. He cares, provides, protects. He is committed. Sure man, I love God!
But John basically says that if you love God then you will love His people. Therefore, the inverse may be said that if you don’t love God’s people then you don’t love the Father.
Loving God is easy; loving that stuck-up jerk in the choir ain’t easy! We will tolerate her, sure. We will smile and shake her hand. That’s what we think love is: tolerating jerks. That should make God happy. That will get me in the club. Yet Jesus says, “Love one another as I have loved you.” Crap. That at least means I should stop imagining mean comebacks to her snide remarks, let alone speaking poorly about her among my friends.
We are great at loving people who love us back. But that isn’t Christian love at all! Loving those who don’t give us anything in return, that’s Jesus’ love. That’s what He did. Yeah, no matter what some drug induced divorced bad fathering hippies say about you. You don’t deserve to be loved and you have even screwed up loving people who love you back! Your idea of love is what alienates, humiliates, and even kills people. It causes people to write boring songs like, “I want to know what love is.”
John says we are called to love EVERYONE who has been born of the Father. It seems impossible to love other Christians, doesn’t it Scott Keith?
John predicts our objections when he follows Jesus’ commandment to love others by writing, “His commandments are not burdensome. For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?”
We have a cool banner hanging in our sanctuary with a cross and the Greek word, NIKÉ. Victor!
I remember when I got my first pair of NIKEs in 7th grade. It was a big deal back then. Not everyone had name brand anything. Before I got them I was just an average athlete, not very good looking, and going nowhere. But I still remember putting those babies on. White leather. Black swoosh. Empowering! My self-esteem went up to Donald Trump level. I felt stronger and faster; anything was possible!
Yeah, I know. Stupid.
But John is actually saying the same thing. You can love unlovable Christians because you are literally wearing NIKÉs: the victory of Christ!
I know knee-jerk over-reactionary Lutherans (like myself) hate this word because it sounds so positive and even empowering! Oh no! But everyone born again in Jesus is a VICTOR! Sorry you fatalists. Just like the dude in the Waterboy said, “You can do eeet!” You can overcome the world! You can even overcome the rude gestures and unlikeable disposition of that old man who always disagrees with you at the council meeting.
You have been loved by God so much that His Son gave you His Nikes! His righteousness. His victory! He has covered your naked, broken, sin-soaked, unlovable and unloving body with His life in baptism. He has clothed you not just with mercy but with hope!
You can risk loving your brother and sister. You can risk giving them your best. You can risk wasting your time and energy serving people who might not ever pay you back, let alone say thanks! Who cares? God provides and has provided. You are wearing NIKÉs. Just do it.