The Heart of It All
1 John 4:7-21
“Cut to the chase.” A quick search on the Internet reveals that this saying goes back a long way, back to moviemaking in the 1920s. The saying refers to moving from a dramatic scene to an action scene. There are times in life when we want to say, “Cut to the chase,” aren’t there? When a story has gone on too long, for example. When a sermon has gone on too long, for example! When it seems we’re dealing with peripheral matters when we have no time to waste, we want to say, “Cut to the chase. Get to the point.”
Sometimes we are under such pressure and need desperately to know some answers and get some help that we know we don’t have time or energy to wade through a lot of trivialities. We’re facing a crisis and we want help. We’ve received a diagnosis about our health or someone else’s and suddenly a lot of the issues we thought were important aren’t important any longer. We face some decision that will affect our lives radically. Life has gotten down to the basics for us in some way and we feel we don’t have time left for anything but getting to the point.
This passage is “the point.” It’s “the chase.” It’s the focus of so much of what we want to know about life and how life is to be lived. Here’s what it tells us about what we might call, “the heart of it all.”
This passage tells us what the bedrock of life is like when it tells us what God is like. It says that God is love. Maybe you’ve never wondered about this, but many of us have wondered whether there is indeed a God and what that God is like. It makes all the difference whether there is truly a God or we’re alone, completely alone, living an essentially meaningless existence that is going nowhere, with that little hyphen between the date of our birth and the date of our death all there is. It matters, too, what this God is like. Is God distant and uncaring, ignoring us? Is God distant and unable to help, with no strength to enter into our lives? Is God mean and out to get us?
Those three little words, “God is love,” get to the heart of it all. They cut to the chase. They tell us that God is pure self-giving love. God cares. Indeed, God cares deeply.
What a reality to build a life on! We are not alone, neglected, orphaned. God is love.
How do we know this? Of course, it’s a matter of faith, but the reality to which John points is that God “sent his only Son into the world.” God did not keep his distance from us. Any parent knows how precious his or her children are. God’s sending his Son shows us unmistakably how much God loves us. There’s more, of course. God “sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins.” God sent his Son to rescue us from the mess we are in, although much of it is our own fault.
How do we know that God loves us and that this little statement, “God is love,” is not just syrupy sentiment, a deep-seated wish, or a figment of our imagination? Here, too, we are at the heart of it all. God in Christ has entered into our experience, our drudgery, our crises, and our need.
Have you ever flown directly over your home community, the place where your own family lives? As others looked out the airplane windows, perhaps they could make out roads and see the dots of houses. You, however, saw that and more. You saw places familiar to you and knew that people who loved you and whom you loved lived there. You had an attachment to that place that others on the plane didn’t have. You’d been there. Well, God’s been here. Indeed, in God’s Spirit, God—this God who is love—is here, right where you and I live. God has “sent his Son” and “given us of his Spirit.” The God who is love did that for us.
So how does this affect our lives? All of life is changed when we live on the basis that God is love. Living on the bedrock belief that God is love helps us “cut to the chase.”
The heart of it all is that knowing, truly knowing, that God is love gives us confidence. No longer do we need to be afraid or uncertain about facing life—or death. We can count on the reality that God is love.
God’s been here, right here, right where we wonder about life, face threats and hardships, and worry about what might happen, has happened, or is happening. We can count on the God who is love.
This great truth affects our lives in yet another way. You see, if God is love and indeed loves us, then that has to affect our relationship with our fellow human beings. How can we ignore our fellow human beings if we know and worship a God like this—a God who is love? How can we harm our fellow human beings if we know and worship a God like this—a God who is love? How can we fear our fellow human beings or anything else if we have confidence in a God like this—a God who is love? Indeed, since we serve a God who has structured the universe so that love is what is most important, our only proper response is to live with love ourselves and love other people just as God has loved us. To love a God who is love means that we must love our brothers and sisters, all our fellow human beings, also. That’s the heart of it all.