Before I forget, let me stop and make sure to wish everyone reading this a Happy Valentine’s Day!
We had a beautiful day in the Lord today, with some of the most amazing snowflakes that I’ve ever seen. I know that it might sound silly to say that, but seriously, these were the size of pencil erasers -- so big that you could see the lacy detail of the crystalline structure of each flake. I’ve never seen anything like it in my life.
We praise God for how well our Valentine’s Dinner went this week, and we want to give a big “thank you” to everyone who worked so hard to pull that off -- everything was excellent, as usual. I’m going to be off on a brief vacation for the next week, so I want to make sure that I gave kudos where they’re due before I left.
In our service this week, we continued stretching ourselves this month to think of worship services through different eyes, from different cultural contexts. We had people stand for the reading of Scripture, and I sat on the platform, wore my ordination stole, and spoke from the pulpit for the first half of the service, reflecting the traditions of not only “high church” contexts, but also several traditionally “African American” worship contexts. It was fascinating to hear from those in our congregation who found that very moving, and those who were emotionally disturbed by the changes. To be honest, that’s exactly why we’re doing that this month -- to try to help people see how much of what we consider “normal” or “appropriate” is actually just what we’re used to within our own contexts.
In our message this week, we gave people a special bonus “Lettuce Patch” sermon -- not continuing in Hebrews, but looking at a couple of “let us” commands in the small letter of 1 John.
In 1 John 4:7, our pastor tells us (well, commands us, really), “Let us love one another, for love comes from God,” but in 3:18, he’d clarified, “Let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.” On a simple, Valentine’s Day level, that suggests that we need to make sure that we’re loving the people we love well and actively.
But on a deeper level, when you look at the letter as one big picture, what Pastor John is getting at is that we need to be walking in the light with God, instead of scurrying away from the light like we used to do, before we were born again. And if we are walking with God, we need to be walking like God -- we need to act like He would act, and love like He would love.
For instance, we need to let go of any kind of hatred or bitterness that we’ve justified in our lives, because that’s walking in darkness instead of walking in the light. And we need to love like God loves -- not just the namby-pamby, huggy kind of “buy the world a Coke” kind of love that you see in Hallmark Channel originals, nor the sleazy kind of sensual gratification “love-making” that you see in prime time soap operas. No, I’m talking about the kind of love that makes a commitment to meeting the needs of someone else, that loves no matter what response we get from our beloved, that makes you willing to lay down your life to help someone else, that promises that “I will never leave you nor forsake you” -- and means it.
So when we read our “lettuce” verses in 1 John, they’re not really about Valentine’s Day kinds of love (sweet and good though that sort of affection can be). They’re talking about loving with the grit and the commitment with which God has loved you and me -- that He gave His one and only Son to die so that messed-up schmoes like you and me could live.
How are you going to commit to actively living that out today, now that you’ve read this Biblical command?