Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. John 15:13 (NIV)
This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us. 1 John 4:9-12 (NIV)
I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy Christian church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen.
What does this mean?
*I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him; but the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith. – from Martin Luther’s Small Catechism on Sanctification -the Third Article of the Creed.
Belonging to God is not our choice. God is the one who does the choosing and the naming and claiming. God created. God calls us to life in Him. God loves us first and has plans for us. In Baptism we become permanently and irrevocably His. The Holy Spirit equips us for a life of faith. It’s not about what we do, but what God has already done and continues to do in and through us.
The gift of faith and of being named and claimed by God is incredibly freeing. Our salvation is not contingent upon our current emotional state, the good deeds we do, or our good behavior, but on Jesus crucified. He was the perfect example of love- laying down His life for not only His friends, but for every human being.
When Lutherans talk about loving God and those around us, we do so in the realization that we can only love because God first loved us. Much as the moon can only reflect sunlight and has no light of its own, we can only reflect God’s love.
This is not to say that it is easy or automatic to live a life that honors God. The difference is that we are called to live in response to God’s love for us. We cannot earn God’s love and we certainly do not deserve it.
If we say we love Jesus, it is only because He has loved us when we were unlovable.
What does that say for the love that we reflect?
If we love one another, God lives in us and His love is made complete in us.