************ Wedding Sermon on 1 John 4:12 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This wedding sermon was preached on April 30, 2005
1 John 4:12
"If We Love One Another ..."
Josh & Charlene, how many people, do you think, have ever lived on this earth? Perhaps 8 or 9 billion. Of all these people only five have ever seen God face to face; only five have ever seen God as He really is, in all His glory, power, holiness, and grace: Adam and Eve before their fall into sin, Enoch, Elijah, and Christ Jesus.
I wonder if anyone here as ever thought of meeting God face-to-face? What would that be like? I know this would be the most powerful and wonderful experience we could ever have. Listen to some of those people who have been snatched from the jaws of death; the believers among them speak about a tremendously bright and beautiful light, unbelievable joy and peace; and, they are often saddened at being awakened to this life again.
All of us have heard about God. We know His promises and His Word. And we all know that here on earth we must live by faith and not by sight. But wouldn't it be great, even for just a moment, to see God? It isn't easy to always live by faith. It would be nice if just once we could actually see what we believe in.
Yet, as Scripture makes clear, God cannot be seen. "You cannot see my face," said God to Moses, "for no one may see me and live" (Ex 33:20). "No one has even seen God," says our text, "but if we love each other, God lives in us."
Did you catch that? Our love for one another is evidence of God's indwelling presence. If we fulfill the command to love one another, then we experience God's presence in our lives.
Do you realize what this mean, people of God? It means that the unseen God, the God none of us has ever seen, is revealed in God's people if and when they love each other. And, bride and groom, it means that the unseen God is especially to be revealed in the love between a husband and a wife, for here on this earth there is no closer and sweeter expression of love than that between a husband and wife.
Awesome, isn't it! And scary too! When unbelievers look at us, our churches, our marriages, our family life, they are supposed to see the indwelling presence of the loving God.
Josh & Charlene, none of us has ever seen God. Yet, my prayer is that when we look at your marriage relationship and your family life we will be able to see the presence of the loving but invisible God.
Christian love means not only that God dwells in us but also that "his love is made complete in us." It would be hard to exaggerate the greatness of this conception. It is so daring that many scarcely dare to believe this. God's love, which originates in Himself (vs 7-8) and was manifested in His Son (vs 9-10), is made complete or perfect when it is lived out in His people. God's love for us is completed only when it is reproduced in us or among us.
"God is love" says John (vs 8). And He wants to share Himself with His creation; He wants us to be like Him – to be loving and fellowshipping beings. Parents do this when they make room for children. They want to share their life, their love, their laughter, their home, with smaller persons. They want to share themselves. So it is with God. He wants to pass on His love. His love is brought to completion, it is perfected, it is made whole, when it is displayed in our homes, our marriages, our churches.
Don't forget this, Josh and Charlene. By loving each other until death do you part, the love of God is made complete in you.
What is meant by love in our passage here? What is this love that is to be displayed in our homes, our marriages, our churches? In the Greek language here the word that is used is agape.
Agape love is a giving love. This love seeks to give rather than to get. It is a love which gladly and willingly makes sacrifices for the other. Agape love keeps on loving even when the other person doesn't respond; agape love keeps on loving without asking for anything in return.
Agape love seeks the good of the other person. It strives, to the very utmost of its power, to avoid anything which is harmful, injurious, offensive, abusive, or demeaning to the other person. Within the marriage relationship this love means that neither the husband nor the wife belittle each other nor subject each other to physical, mental, or emotional abuse.
Agape love turns the heart towards the other and away from ourselves. But, then, the self is never the center of the Christian's being. The Gospel teaches us to always consider the happiness and feelings of others.
On this your wedding day, Josh & Charlene, this kind of love seems most natural. On this your wedding day, nothing seems more natural than to have agape love – to give of yourself for the other person and his or her interests, needs, rights, goals, and even pleasure. Of course you will have agape love; after all, you have just pledged to love each other, and to do so until death do you part.
Agape love is so easy to pledge. On the wedding day and during the honeymoon and the first weeks or months of marriage both of you, I am sure, will strive to give this love. But you will not always find it to be so easy and natural to give this love. You see, we are sinners – redeemed sinners, to be sure – to whom cling the tentacles of evil, hate, lust, greed, envy, malice, anger, discord, selfish ambition, and the like – all of which stand opposed to agape love.
We also find ourselves living and working in a world which does not easily harmonize with a self-giving love. You see, today is the age of "self" in our culture. The modern generation of men and women are self-centered and focus on self-fulfillment, self-pleasure, and self-glory. And, this self-centeredness carries over into many modern marriage relationships where both husband and wife want a partner who meet their needs, drives, rights, and goals. And, if the other person prevents self-fulfillment, or self-growth, or self-independence, the marriage relationship is ended with a divorce.
The Biblical demand to love may be simple, but in today's world it certainly isn't easy. So, I want to challenge you, bride and groom, their family and friends, to constantly seek ways to live out the heavenly ideal of love, of giving of yourself for the other.
Of course, only One has ever succeeded in truly giving over the Self for the sake of others; only One has ever succeeded in showing a pure agape love. That One is Jesus. John says,
(1 Jn 4:10) This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.
"We love," says John in another place, "because he first loved us" (1 Jn 4:19). Agape love, that giving of self for the sake of the other, is possible, then, only in union with Christ. This means, bride & groom, that yours is to be a Christ-centered home – a home in which Christ is Lord. A glamorous wedding does not guarantee a great marriage! It is only the presence of the Lord, a commitment to Him by both the husband and the wife, that guarantees a great marriage.
Josh & Charlene, how we rejoice with you and for you that God has joined you together as husband and wife. From this day on you go down life's pathway together. But as you do, remember the words of your wedding text:
(1 Jn 4:12) No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.
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