Reading Time: 3 mins

Gospel: John 15:9-17 (Easter 6: Series B)

Reading Time: 3 mins

But the Church is not built on human love. That would be much too small for God. No, the Church is built on God’s love and God’s love is different.

She was recalling her mission trip to Mexico, and I could tell we were getting to the good part. Her hands were animated. Her face was excited. But then her voice slowed down. She started giving me intricate details of her experience. She was drawing it out, so I could see it more clearly. She was slowing down her telling, so I could understand why this was such an important moment in her life.

Is that not how it is with life-changing moments? When we share them, we want them to be deeply experienced. We will emphasize details, explain situations, slow down, and meditate on what was happening. Why? So, others understand. So, they slow down for a moment with us and contemplate all the experience means.

Something like that is happening in our gospel reading from John. John has reached the pivotal point of the Gospel. Jesus has spoken repeatedly about this hour, His passion, the moment when He will be glorified by His Father, raised up to draw all people to Himself. As the disciples gather for the Passover, their last supper with Jesus, Jesus pauses to teach them and... it is a long pause. They gather in the upper room in chapter 13, and it is not until chapter 18 that they leave. John slows down the climactic moment of his gospel, so we experience the fullness of what is happening.

John is drawing us into the fullness of God’s radical, incomprehensible love. In this moment, Jesus calls His disciples not only to experience but to also share the radical nature of God’s love. “Love one another, just as I have loved you” (15:12).

As Christians, we know what it means to be loved by God. We have experienced His grace in the baptismal waters, His grace in the sharing of His body and blood, His grace in the word proclaimed. We know what it means to be loved by God. But what does it mean for us to love like God? How do we love others as God has loved us?

Luther once contrasted divine love and human love (see the 28th thesis of the Heidelberg Disputation). Human love, according to Luther, finds its object. That is, a human will love something which is lovable. Whether it is a cute puppy, or a beautiful sunset, or a compassionate friend, we will find what is beautiful, pleasing, beneficial, and good... and we will love it.

We know what it means to be loved by God. But what does it mean for us to love like God?

Unfortunately, such love gets us into trouble. Why? Because puppies, sunsets, and people change. Everything is beautiful in its time (Ecclesiastes 3:11), but not forever. Cute puppies improperly trained can become demanding dogs. One day, our compassionate friend might do something selfish and challenging. If we only love people who are loveable, we will need to distance ourselves from our friends.

Over time, our love becomes limited. As you look at your social media contacts, how many are people you do not like? As you look at the people you have chosen to spend time with, how many say or do things you strongly disapprove of?

It is hard to love people. Why? Because people act in ways that make them hard to love. To only love those who are lovable leads to a limited kind of love. Our world gets smaller as there are only so many people who can live up to the standards we set before we give them our love. And the love of God, which was poured out in Jesus to extend to the ends of the earth, gets caught up in small, exclusive, limited communities of like-minded people who love like humans.

But the Church is not built on human love. That would be much too small for God. No, the Church is built on God’s love and God’s love is different.

Divine love does not find its object. Divine love creates it. That is, God’s love does not find those who are good and righteous and reward them with love. No, God’s love finds those who are evil and unrighteous and loves them into life. Divine love bestows goodness and righteousness freely on those who do not deserve it. This is the marvelous nature of God’s love. Centered in the death and resurrection of Christ, flowing out of His forgiveness of all sin for all people, divine love finds the unlovable and loves them into life.

This is the life Jesus shares with His disciples on the night when He was betrayed, and this is the life He shares with us today. He has loved us with the greatest love, a love that laid down His life for you, a sinner in need of salvation. And it is also a love which reaches out through you to a world in need of salvation. In God’s Kingdom, there is no one so ruined that they cannot be reclaimed, no one so evil that they cannot be embraced, no failure so bad that it cannot be forgiven.

This morning, Jesus calls us to slow down and look closely at our community. Are we loving our enemies, doing good to those who do evil to us, embracing those who push us away? Because that is what Jesus is doing among us. He has brought His love to us, a people who do not deserve it, and He is bringing His love through us to a world that has fallen away from God.


Additional Resources:

Craft of Preaching-Check out out 1517’s resources on John 15:9-17.

Concordia Theology-Various helps from Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, MO to assist you in preaching John 15:9-17.

Text Week-A treasury of resources from various traditions to help you preach John 15:9-17.

Lectionary Kick-Start-Check out this fantastic podcast from Craft of Preaching authors Peter Nafzger and David Schmitt as they dig into the texts for this Sunday!