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Easter Is The Love of God

"Everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love." (1 John 4:8)

We find, in these words from the first Letter of John, one of the sacred texts of Easter. It is one of the most profound and enduring descriptions of God in the Bible. God is love. God's very being and nature is love. Love is what defines God. God is the one who gives meaning to the word love.
First John has been called "the most passionate book in the New Testament . . . the most profound, the most searching, and the most impassioned of all." Its greatness, says one biblical scholar, consists in the penetration with which it expounds a single thought: that God is love.
John says, there is no special knowledge of God other than the knowledge of love. One who seeks God need only learn how to love, and one who seeks to learn love need only look at the one sent by God, Jesus Christ the ultimate sign of love, the Word of God who loved us to the end, who died for love and was raised through love. The Risen Christ is God’s ultimate sign of love for the world.
Christ rose in love for the world, the whole world, says John, to drive away every form of darkness, all human sin and evil.
John warns Christians against all forms of other-worldliness, against avoidance of nature and earthiness, against all forms of spirituality that deny involvement with the world. The danger John saw in Christianity was its tendency to a kind of privatism and inwardness. Some people are always drawn to an essentially private kind of religion, concerned with inner things, the realm of individual meaning and personal destiny. It is faith for the private sphere, faith that is preoccupied with finding the inner light, the divine spark of truth within the self.
Against all this John wrote his passionate letter, his resounding gospel of the incarnation and resurrection of Christ, the enfleshment of God in human history, and the rising of Christ in glory to transform human life. He insists on the public expression of faith through love for the world and the world's people.

"Those who say, I love God, and hate their brothers and sisters, are liars; for those who do not love a brother or sister whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen." (4:20)

The entire letter of John, and most of the Fourth Gospel, are dedicated to undermining the very foundations on which spiritual withdrawal was and is based. He asserts the incarnation of God, he asserts the resurrection of Christ, he insists that God sent Christ into the world not to condemn the world but that the world through him might believe. He calls the faithful to public commitment not withdrawal. He declares the true being of God to be love, love for the creation in all its fullness, and the true mark of the spiritual person to be engagement not disengagement with that creation.

And he also discourages simple certainties. Faith is to be found in the ambiguities, in the light and in the darkness, in the shame of the Cross and in its glory, in the impossibility of the resurrection and in its necessity.

"My friends, test the spirits to see whether they are of God . . . for there are many prophets falsely inspired: every spirit which acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God, and every spirit which does not thus acknowledge Jesus is not from God." (4: 1-3)

The passionate epistle is a magnificent testimony to the true demands of faith. It penetrates as much into the modern world as it did into the ancient one. It invites us to be of good courage and to abide in the love which brought life out of death, the love which makes impossible any form of spiritual withdrawal.
Easter, therefore, gives us no permission for retreat from politics or social justice. It commits us to renew the life of the creation in partnership with the Risen Lord. We who tend the light of Christ, a flame lit in the darkness of Easter Eve to bring hope to all peoples, are called to be the fire of change and the water of new life. That the world might believe.
I wish you an Easter immersed in the love of God, empowering you to social action and the mission of Christ.

Click to download a pdf of the EASTER MESSAGE