************ Sermon on 1 John 4:16-17a ************


By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman


This sermon was preached on July 23, 2004


1 John 4:16-17a
Wedding sermon for Asa & Karen Belt

Asa & Karen, your wedding text is part of a larger context that describes three characteristics of the Christian. First, the Christian possesses the Spirit (vs 13). Second, the Christian confesses Jesus as the Son of God (vs 14). Third, the Christian lives in the love of God (vs 16-17a).

So, in talking to you about love I am speaking to you as Spirit-filled Christians who confess Jesus as Lord and Savior.

"God is love," says your text. When it comes to love, the starting point is God's love for us. The source of all love is God.

What is this love? How is it shown? You know the answer as Spirit-filled Christians who confess Jesus as Lord and Savior:
(1Jn 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.
God sent His one and only Son to die for our sins. He did this out of love.

The Greek word used for God's love here is "agape." Agape love is a giving love. This is a love which one gives for the sake of the other. This is a love where one makes sacrifices for the benefit of the other. This is a love which one gives without asking for anything in return. This is a love that is full of grace. This is a love that perfectly describes what God does for us in Christ.

Think about this love for a moment. What does love look like? Your wedding text answers by pointing to Jesus' death on the cross. Jesus surrendered power and glory and position and gave Himself for us. He gave of Himself, He sacrificed Himself, for our sakes and in our place. That is the picture of perfect love.

"And so we know and rely on the love God has for us." Asa & Karen, God is the starting point for love. He shows us what love is. He showers love upon us. And, it is only in union with Him by His Spirit and in faith that you are able to give love to Him and to one another. In fact, without God's love for us we could not possibly love God in return. And, without God's love for us there would be and could be no love for one another.

"And so we know and rely on the love God has for us." A more literal translation of the Greek here is, "And so we know and rely on the love God has in us." God's love for us, God's agape love in Christ, is in us if we believe and have the Spirit. And because this love is in us we are able to love God and we are able to love one another.

Asa & Karen, a marriage relationship without God's love is a marriage relationship that cannot show true agape love. A marriage relationship without God's love is a marriage relationship which keeps everything shallow and on the surface. There is no sacrificing for the sake of the other person. There is no seeking the good of the other person. A marriage relationship without God's love is concentrated on self: self-fulfilment, self-satisfaction, self-desires, self-centered.

On the other hand, Asa & Karen, a marriage relationship which has the agape love of God in Christ at its center is a marriage relationship which gives and sacrifices and seeks the good of the other person.

"Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him." Asa & Karen, when husbands and wives show agape love to one another they are showing they belong to God. When Christian brothers and sisters show agape love they are showing that the invisible God lives in them (cf vs 12). This is a tremendous witness to the world and the community.

"In this way, love is made complete among us ..." This does not suggest that any Christian's love in this life can be perfect and flawless. Rather, in the Spirit and by faith love becomes developed and mature and more and more like God's love for us in Christ.

Asa & Karen, the Christian lives in the sphere of love: the Christian is the object of God's love; the Christian loves God; the Christian channels that love to others. And, you are to live out your marriage in the sphere of love: it starts with God's love for you in Christ; it responds in love for God; and it spills over in love for one another and others.

Now, practically speaking, what does this all mean and how is this to be shown? Listen to a scene witnessed by Dr. Richard Selzer:
Topic: Marriage
Subtopic:
Index: 1620-1621
Date:
Title: The Kiss that Works

I stand by the bed where a young woman lies, her face post-operative, her mouth twisted in palsy, clownish. A tiny twig of the facial nerve, the one to the muscles of her mouth, has been severed. The surgeon had followed with religious fervor the curve of her flesh; I promise you that. Nevertheless, to remove the tumor in her cheek, I had cut the little nerve.
Her young husband is in the room. He stands on the opposite side of the bed, and together they seem to dwell in the evening lamplight, isolated from me, private. Who are they, I ask myself, he and this wrymouth I have made, who gaze at and touch each other so generously, greedily? The young woman speaks.
"Will my mouth always be like this?" she asks.
"Yes," I say, "it will. It is because the nerve was cut."
She nods, and is silent. But the young man smiles.
"I like it," he says. "It is kind of cute."
All at once I know who he is. I understand, and I lower my gaze. One is not bold in an encounter with someone like God. Unmindful, he bends to kiss her crooked mouth, and I am so close I can see how he twists his own lips to accommodate to hers, to show her that their kiss still works.
That is love "made complete among us." That is what happens when "we know and rely on the love God has for us."

Asa & Karen, the agape love that God shows us and puts in us is a love that never ends. It lasts for better or worse, in sickness and in health, for richer and for poorer, in life and in death. People of the world and too many people in the church have a very hard time with this. The first sign of sickness or poverty and off they go.
When I think of this I can never help but think of my grandfather. My grandmother developed Alzheimer's. So severe that she was hospitalized. So severe that she did not recognize grandpa. So severe that she thought my mother was her mother rather than her daughter. So severe that she was playing with dolls and thought she was 5-7 years of age. So severe that she was not even able to feed herself.
Many people would not blame my grandfather if he rarely or never visited grandma. But he was there every single day. Looking after her. Taking her for a walk. Showing her love.
I read this past week that most people today are not willing to show such devotion and love to the person they married. But that is what we promise. And that is what God calls us to do. And that is what God does for us.

Asa & Karen, you will shortly pledge this kind of love, this agape love, to and for one another. As I already said, it starts off with God's love for us and in us. The poem on the back of your program says it all. I invite the wedding guests to follow along as I read it:
Marriage Takes Three

Marriage take three to be complete;
It's not enough for two to meet.
They must be united in love
by love's Creator, God above.
Then their love will be firm and strong;
Able to last when things go wrong,
Because they've felt God's love and know
He's always there, He'll never go.
And they have both loved Him in kind
With all the heart and soul and mind;
And in that love they've found the way
To love each other every day.
A marriage that follows God's plan
Takes more than a woman and a man.
It needs a oneness that can be
Only from Christ - Marriage takes Three.

"And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him. In this way, love is made complete among us ..."
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