“Dearly Beloved…” That’s the way I started out my last wedding sermon. I know it’s a little bit of a throwback. We don’t call too many people “beloved” anymore, but I hope you know what I mean. Today, I want to think about why that’s a perfect way to greet one another…“beloved.”
The text I want to look at is 1 John 4:7-12 where John says, “Beloved, be loving.” And it’s more than just a great wedding text. It’s a section of Scripture that is important for you every day of your life — that’s if you like being loved, that’s if you appreciate the chance to love. Because the truth of it is — regardless of how you feel — “Beloved” applies to you. You are loved.
Whether it’s a day that everyone is telling you that and showing that to you or not – you are loved. If by no one else (which I doubt) you are loved by God. So beloved, be loving. And the word that our text uses 15 times for “love” is a powerful one. It’s the same word God uses for the love with which God so loved the world, the love he commands of husbands and wives, the love he demonstrated in dying for us while we were still sinners. With that word, he says “Beloved, be loving.”
Here is how it is recorded in John’s first letter: “7 Dear friends (Loved ones, beloved), 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.”
Beloved, Be Loving. That sums it up. Now, here I’m going to speak specifically to couples — but realize the truths apply beyond just romantic relationships. You are loved, so love. But don’t misunderstand. I don’t want you to … God doesn’t want you to love one another because the other loves you. That’s the mistake all too many couples make. They look at that special someone and see how wonderfully they are treating them and how nice they make them feel and how beautiful they are and how much benefit they derive from them, and so they love, they give, they sacrifice, they work to make their spouse as happy as that spouse makes them. And it is such a wonderful feeling and the birds are chirping and the sky is blue and love love love…
But don’t do that. That feeling only lasts so long. Guys, don’t try to make her as happy as she makes you — ever. Ladies, same thing. Don’t do it. That’s not love — that’s selfishness. And that fails, because the moment that sinner you’re in a relationship with doesn’t live up to one of your expectations. The moment his selfishness forgets about your feelings or her pride puts you down — and maybe it hasn’t happened yet — but the moment you see each other in your real birthday suits – the one we call the Old Adam — the moment you sin against one another — it’s way too easy to stick with the standard and then seek to make your spouse just as happy as they make you — especially when that happiness measures negative on the scale.
That’s what John clears up in verse 10. He says, “This is love: not that we loved God (with our imperfect, reactionary love) but that he loved us.”
Don’t try to make one another as happy as the other makes you. Try to love each other like God loved you — that’s not selfishness — that’s the opposite of selfishness. That’s love — real love this time, not just the greed that our world calls love. Notice how John goes on then — “This is love — that God loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.”
So instead of loving your guy because he bought you flowers or held your hand — set out to love him when he’s a jerk. Same for you guys. Love her the way Jesus loved you and me. Born rebelling against him, and not really coming up for air all that often — every time we fail, every weakness, every greedy, prideful, lusting thought slaps our God in the face — and right then — “while we were sinners, Christ died for us.”
That’s love. So now — because you are loved in that way, forgiven of all the sins God should never forget, because he did that — God says, be loving, sacrificing in the same way your Savior gave up what he deserved so that he could make us what we didn’t deserve. Don’t look at your marriage as mutually beneficial. It will be if you don’t look at it like that — but if you go into it with the goal of being served as well as serving — selfishness will get in the way and cause problems. You see, real love doesn’t expect compromise, but offers sacrifice. Love doesn’t make demands, but gives of itself. Love doesn’t meet someone half-way, but goes the extra mile…again.
So guys, Jesus tells you to be love in the very same way he is — becoming last, not so that she thanks you later or is more inclined to give you your way, but because that is what love does. Ladies, God’s Word tells you to submit, not because your guy is your king, but your head — a part of you I’m thinking you really don’t want to be without. And for both of you, those will be challenges. Those things will take true love. You’ll have to make your attitude the “same as that of Christ Jesus, who being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped but made himself nothing… for us!”
And then, as John says in verse 12, God’s love will be fulfilled in us. It will be brought to its purpose — that the world see what God is like when they see your love. How cool is that! Just by loving the person you fell “in love” with (whom you kind of like anyway) — just by loving one another — you get to show people God. So do it. Beloved, be loving.
Rev. Jonathan Scharf is pastor of Abiding Grace Lutheran Church in Covington. Worship every Sunday is at 8 & 10:30am. Full sermons and more information can be found at www.abidinggrace.com.