Friday, May 24, 2024


The first word in the formula X + Y = a spiritually strong church is so obvious, and it is especially a John, the apostle, word. There’s an old story (which means you have probably already heard it) of John preaching his last sermon.  He was so old, his voice was weak and he was frail. Because they so revered him the crowds squeezed in tight to hear this apostle who’d actually been with Jesus. |What would his last words be?  With a quavering voice he said: Little children love one another. Little children love one another. Little children love one another. And then again, and again, the same words. People became restless. Some said it was such a shame. Was it a sign of dementia?  Was this all he was going to say?  Some people understood. It really was the most important thing of all for them to hear. And some, in their shame, knew John was probing deeply about what mattered most about their own behaviour.  

You can hear John's love for these people  It says 'the chosen lady and her children' and it could be a family group whom he loves  v1.  Or it could be his way of speaking to a local church a sister church full of brothers and sisters . In fact, it’s suggested that the details are left vague so that in those  days of persecution disciples couldn’t be identified. But I think he knew their names and he loves them. He cannot wait to see them face-to-face v12. To belong to a group of people who love and care for each other is the greatest gift.

Love  is such a warm, popular yet elastic word. It extends over a wide spectrum from the superficial at its lowest end. Carol and I happen to love Lentil and Bacon soup which at the moment means we have a small store. And we say we love it.  We can say that with meaning about favourite food, football clubs, pop stars and the a heap of things. Moving along the spectrum love becomes heavier and more engaging.  We can fall in love - love of partners, family, friends, It can be highly emotional. Of course we can also fall out of love. But at its highest, and it really is the highest form of love, is Jesus love, Agape. That's the word in John 2.  It's never highly emotional. It cost Jesus everything to love us and it costs us everything to love him back.  We have to make him Lord and say in the power of the Spirit that we want to love other people like Jesus loves us.  It’s a commanded love, that needs our hearts, souls, minds and will.  John says it often: it’s not a new command but one we had from the beginning. I ask that we love one another and this is love: that we walk in obedience to his commands. As you have heard from the beginning, his command is that you walk in love. (vv5,6).

It's a tough love. 

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