We’re talking about becoming love during this series. And as we do so, we’ve been taking a look at 1 John 4 to help us get an understanding of what that means. But there’s also this other huge thing going on in the world right now. As we live through a historic moment, we’re experiencing in real-time events that will be scrutinized and summarized in years to come. 

I’m writing this the evening after we had to do a livestream of our service rather than meet in person. Tens of thousands of other churches had to do the same. To my knowledge, that has never happened before, if it has it’s been a long time. 
As we live during this worldwide health crisis and being the leader of a small church, I have found myself asking the question: “How does the church lead by example during this time.” Ironically, that question has brought me back to our text for this series: love. Love is the answer. 

But what exactly does that mean?

As a society, we have been making decisions for generations now based on how something affects us. We do what we want and decide on what we are going to do based primarily on if doing that thing is good for us. 

As if I need to, let me explain. We tend to do the things we want to do. At the same time, if there is something we want to do, we tend not to let other things get in the way of that. Two weekends ago, Bekki got tickets to take our family to Monster Jam. We also got to go to the pit rally event before the event itself. I don’t think I could count on both hands how many times I got coughed on while waiting in line to meet the driver of Grave Digger. We want to do the things we want to do, and even if we’re sick we’re not likely to let that get in the way of us doing what we want to do. 

And by we, I mean we. I go to work when I’m sick. I have preached many times while being sick, once I had my face in the toilet before and immediately following the sermon. But, now, in light of our current worldwide crisis, I find myself asking if that’s the loving thing to do. 

Is it me being loving to show up somewhere sick because I don’t want to miss out on my favorite time of the week? Is it loving of me to potentially make someone else sick because of my own desires? 

One of the big themes of this crisis has been that people are overreacting. I was feeling the same way for a while. But the more informed I became about the crisis, the weightier the problem became. When I thought about just how contagious this virus is and how deadly it can be for the vulnerable (which happen to be the very people I, as a follower of Christ, am supposed to be highly concerned about), and the thought of unnecessarily exposing someone to a sickness that could kill them, well, that hit pretty hard. 

In South Korea, they had the virus contained for the first 30 cases. But patient 31 was a super-spreader who shared the disease with thousands of others. I could imagine if this were in our area, patient 31 could have been someone who didn’t want to miss out on Monster Jam. Now they have over 8,000 cases and 75 deaths.    We talked in the livestream yesterday that love is perfected (completed, finished) in us when we are loving one another sacrificially. Our confidence as believers on the day of judgement is linked to the way we love one another. Someone who is abiding in the love of the Father can’t not love a brother or sister. Someone who is living in God’s love doesn’t just have internal feelings of love and concern for someone, but is moved in action and deed to express that love. 

We’ve said that love isn’t love until you give it away. The word for perfected used here in 1 John 4 is the same word Jesus used on the cross when He said it is finished. His work of pouring himself out in love for us was finished, completed, perfected. He had done everything he was sent here to accomplish. And those weren’t just the words He spoke, it was the act of loving the disciples to the very end and the act of laying down his life. 

If I’m being honest this whole thing is incredibly inconvenient in so many ways. We (like many churches) are gearing up for Easter. We have many people who rely on our Food Pantry. We have other groups who use our church. And when I look at it from all the ways it is affecting me, it’s easy for me to get frustrated, angry and upset. That’s when I’m prone to want to start making decisions based on my preferences rather than on loving others. 

But, that’s not what love would do. And that’s the question I’ve been asking myself in this. Is it loving the vulnerable around me to make decisions that contribute to the spread of a disease that could be lethal to them? Is it loving of me to make decisions based on my own convenience and not consider how that decision might negatively impact the healthcare workers in our town who will have to care for those who get sick and maybe get sick themselves? Is that loving? 

It doesn’t sound loving to me. It’s frustrating. It’s inconvenient. At the outset, it seems like it’s going to be a long time. I would so much rather go about life as usual. But that’s not what love would do. 

In the grand scheme of things, giving up some mobility and ease of access for a period of time to slow the spread of a dangerous virus isn’t actually that big of a sacrifice. It feels like it in the moment, but in retrospect it won’t. In the moment it might feel like an overreaction, but wouldn’t it be better to overreact and save lives than to under react and lose lives? Life is a precious gift of God, and we ought to treat it as such. One of the ways we can honor God’s gift of life is to not do things that we want to do at the cost of the health and well being of others. 

“Dear Children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.” 1 Jn 3:18. 

In the meantime, we have a great opportunity to rethink that rat race we’ve been in for so long. It’s kind of like God is putting us all in timeout for a while to reevaluate our lives and make decisions about what’s really the most important. What I think we will find is that putting God first and loving others second is what we were created for. And when we have those two things back in the right order, it has the potential to change everything. 

So, let’s love by honoring the recommendations of people who are much smarter than me and have spent much more time in college than us. Let’s love by praying for those in our area who are sick and struggling. Let’s love by offering assistance where it’s appropriate. Let’s love by not putting ourselves first, but putting others first. Let’s get back to the basics of seeking God and His Kingdom first and above all things. Let’s love by being present with our families. Let’s love by seeking for God to use this crisis to draw people into His kingdom by the millions. This is a horrible situation, but God works everything for the good. And this might be the wake up call we all needed.

15 If anyone confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God resides in him and he in God. 16 And we have come to know and to believe the love that God has in us. God is love, and the one who resides in love resides in God, and God resides in him. By this love is perfected with us, so that we may have confidence in the day of judgment, because just as Jesus is, so also are we in this world.

Let’s by like Christ in this world by loving like Christ did while He was in the world. 

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