God’s Transforming Love

Sunday May 9, 2021, The Sixth Sunday of Easter (Cycle B)

The tie in between today’s readings: Love Changes Perspectives.

Psalm 98:1-4, Acts 10:25-35;44-48, 1 John 4:7-10, John 15:9-17

Jesus would have made a terrible magician. A magician depends on misdirection to perform his hocus-pocus. He has us looking in one place while the real workings of the trick is in another. In the end, we pay him for the entertainment, and he goes his way. Jesus, on the other hand, breaks His audience away from life’s deceptions and focuses them on its true purpose. From the stage, He calls for volunteers to come forward and gives them the real magic: to love God and neighbor. The changing power of this love redirects their perspectives from self to others. No one ever encounters the Christ and remains the same.  It is a lifelong metamorphosis, and He promises to never leave or forsake them throughout the process. It is plain to see that Jesus never does tricks. He performs miracles.

Today’s reading in 1 John 4:7-10 tell us that the miracle of this transforming love is sourced from God and Christ is our connection to it. John is very clear that, in our natural condition, we do not love God as we should. In fact, Romans 5:10 describes us as His enemies. Yet, the Lord loved us. The Father sent His Son to the cross to restore our relationship with Him. By faith in Christ, we can be with Christ during His crucifixion and join Him in His resurrection to a new life; born again through the loving power of God Himself. This is extremely counterintuitive to the many who resist the gospel and hold the common thinking that, as long as we strive for good deeds over bad, then the Lord will be pleased with us. No! Jesus Christ is the propitiation for our sins and the only way back to God. This supernatural love is well beyond any human’s ability to generate. It is a gift. It is a privilege…and it’s ours for the asking.

The proof of this reality is the extension of God’s love through us to others. This new love within us shatters the notions of business as usual. It’s not about me any longer. Our reading in John 15:9-17 takes place during the Last Supper after Jesus washes the disciple’s feet in John 13. His object lesson demonstrates that His people must love and serve each other even as He has loved and served them. Christ tells them in today’s reading that this sacrificial love goes even to the death. Jesus promises that loving in this way will bring joy, a special intimacy with the Lord, and the blessings of a fruitful life for ourselves and others. Who would have thought that?

This life-changing love of God goes beyond our personal sacrifices and reaches out to break down social barriers and prejudices. Our reading in Acts 10:25-35 is a case in point. At this time, the vast majority of believers in Christ were Jewish, but Gentiles were also trickling in. So, was Christianity to be an extension of Judaism or something totally different became a very thorny question. The culture and societal influences against the other nations were so ingrained in the Jews that God had to make a special revelation to Peter earlier in Acts 10 before he could encounter the Gentile, Cornelius. The dramatic conversion of Cornelius and the people with him in today’s reading taught Peter that, in every nation, God accepts all who fear Him and do what’s right. The Christian Church, therefore, is a new creation and, as it evolves in its understanding of the mind of God, continues to be to this day. Many charitable organizations and social movements that make this world a better place stem from the Christian ethic. The need goes on. God in His love has given you a part to play in it too. Get involved!

Our reading in Psalm 98:1-4 is a celebration of song and joy to the Lord for His victory in Christ’s sacrifice. The gospel of salvation has gone out to the ends of the earth, and many have responded to the call of faith in Jesus for the forgiveness of sins and the resulting new life of love. Have you? Are you focusing on the unfulfilling illusions of life? Are you going through the motions of religion? Is God…boring? Then it’s time to get serious with Jesus. Get out of your seat and get up close and personal with the Lord on the stage of your life. He will make the magic of the new birth and the love that comes with it real in you. Do it today. Be one of His miracles.

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