Pastoral Perspectives

Perfect Love Cast Out Judgement

In my last sermon on Love One Another, I shared from 1 John that if we love one another, God abides in us. Because no one has ever seen God, it is a good way for us to reveal him to the world. The apostle John explains how God abides in us through the giving of the Holy Spirit when we believe that he had sent his Son to be the Saviour of the world. But the Holy Spirit does not come to possess us like how we read of evil spirits possessing people in biblical narratives such that we will love one another. The Holy Spirit comes to help us and it is when we walk with him that we allow the Spirit to transform us and thereby testifying that God abides in us. But if we grieve the Spirit instead, how can our lives testify of God’s abiding presence? So please do not blame the Spirit when you do not love one another. And do remember to give God the glory when others praise you for the love you have for one another.

Now John also says that if we love one another, God’s love is perfected in us so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. As I had shared in my sermon, early Christian eschatology had this fear of judgment. Jesus’ parable of the ten minas in Luke 19 speaks of how the master’s servants had to account for themselves when he returned while the people who did not want him to reign over them would be slaughtered. So the apostle Paul reminds that we will all stand before the judgment seat of God and each of us will give an account of himself to God (Romans 14:10-12; 2 Corinthians 5:10). Sadly, this judgment for believers seems to have been lost today and Christians may live as if there is no such a day coming. But please do not get me wrong. I am not saying that salvation is thus by work and we may therefore lose it if we are found lacking like the wicked servant in the parable. Remember that the servant was rebuked and lost what he had but he was not counted among those who did not want the master to reign over them and hence slaughtered, i.e. eternal judgment for non-believers. It is this judgment whereby servants will account before the master that is the context for 1 John. So if love is perfected in us, we will have confidence when we come before our Lord and Master.

Now what is this love that will give us confidence on that day? We are told that it is of God and Jesus came to show us by loving and caring for the meek and lowly, something which the false teachers failed to do even for fellow brothers. The apostle John is assuring us that if we love as Jesus has loved, we need not fear. Nevertheless, some may still lack confidence because they cannot feel how they are being perfected by love, especially when they compare themselves with other Christians who are more loving. And so they might ask, “How much love must I give to reach that state of perfection and how do I know that I have reached it?” I humbly confess that I do not know how to answer because we are all made differently and gifted uniquely. But remember that the servant with five minas did not feel ashamed for not matching the other who had ten. And the master praised and rewarded them both because they had engaged in business as instructed, even if the business is as simple as putting the mina in the bank and earning interest, if that’s the best a servant could do. So it wasn’t how much they earned that mattered but whether they were faithful to obey and that gave them confidence before their master. And it is also true for us all. If we are faithful to love one another as the Lord has instructed, he will be pleased to receive us into his kingdom. Any act of love done out of our love for God is a perfect fragrance offering before our Lord and Master because we will want to give our best when we love God, even if our best falls short compared to others.

And with this Sunday, we finally end our sermon series on 1 John. The epistle is best summarized by verse 19 of chapter 4, i.e. we love because he first loved us. If we love so that God may love us, then I fear I may never know if I have loved enough for him to love me back or that he would still love me if I should stumble along the way. And if God does not love me because my love is not perfect enough, then what hope of eternal life will I have? But thanks be to God that it is he who first loved us and gave of his Son Jesus while we were yet sinners. Therefore, I know I have confidence because I know who my Lord and Saviour is.

Rev Ronnie Ang

September 25, 2016