May 9, 2021
1 John 5:1-6
Growing up, I was captivated by the work of M.C. Escher. Trying to determine in many of his drawings whether the stairs were ascending or descending. Where did they start and where did they end?
In much of his art, he incorporated the use of a Mobius strip. For example, when you look at a single piece of paper, it has two sides. However, if you give it a little single twist and attach the ends, it becomes one continuous surface. You can start at one point and draw a line all the way around and you will eventually end where you first began.
Like the single piece of paper, we could state God’s love for us in on one side. The other side of the paper would be our love for God. There is the notion they could be two separate things. Yet we put them together and form a mobius strip, the two loves become intertwined. This is a wonderful example of how we abide in God and God’s love abides in us. This love is all wrapped up in the belief we love our neighbors as we love God. This love is expressed as Jesus draws us to himself through our faith. In our faith, we are one with God.
Love and faith are not easy.
To love one another it means we must break out of ourselves. We leave the desire of pleasing ourselves behind and look to see how we can serve and love our neighbors. When we begin to grow our faith in Christ, we begin to see the love for our neighbor more clearly.
Through the life of Jesus, we learn what true faith means. Jesus is faithful to the calling of his father to go and teach. Jesus is faithful to the disciples he calls to follow him in the way. Jesus is faithful in healing and performing miracles to reveal God’s love for all creation. Jesus is faithful in the garden when he wants to turn away and yet lets God’s will be done. Jesus is faithful to the very point of death on a cross. His faith is in God, the father. Also, his faith is in humanity, to continue in his word and grow our own faith in him.
Growing our faith sounds like it could be easy. Simply plant the seeds and it will start growing, right? It depends on what we are doing with those seeds. Are we watering them with the word of God and prayer? Are we nurturing the seeds with good soil and fertilizer? Are we pruning the growth back where it is not needed or wanted? Unfortunately, the growth of our faith can also be easily stunted. And for me, I am usually the one getting in my own way when it comes to growing my faith. I have a feeling if you thought about it, you are probably the one stunting your own faith on most occasions.
When we step into new situations and feel as though we are on the outside, our insecurities can be heightened. It could be an insecurity regarding how you were raised or your family of origin. It could be an insecurity around your job and wondering if it is good enough to fit in with the crowd you are talking to. It could be an insecurity around education. If we let them, our insecurities can guide our lives instead of our faith in Jesus.
For me, I will admit, self-doubt is the one distraction I allow to get in my own way. When I first started seminary, I would question myself as far as I am truly where God wants me to be. For me to self-doubt was easy, because I was surrounded by classmates born and raised in the church. As I did not come to the church until my late-twenties, I doubted whether my faith could match the faith of my colleagues. I easily dismissed the benefits of coming to the church later in life and the different valuable perspectives I could share.
Trying to be someone you are not can also stunt one’s growth in faith. When we try to be something we are not, our faith can become stagnant. It is possible to talk up a good game but are you truly getting your feet moving and your hands dirty? In other words, are you putting your faith into action?
To put our faith into action requires an obedience to the word of God. An obedience to the commandment we are reminded of in 1 John. The commandment to love our neighbor. Following the commandment of God offers us a true freedom in relationship. By doing so, we reveal a love born in God which results in our victory in faith. And as the author of 1 John tells us, this victory of faith conquers the world. We want to live in the world, but not be of the world.
Being of the world means our attention is being drawn to the material bling attempting to attract our time, money, and possessions. Being of the world pulls us away from the true faith found in Jesus Christ. Being of the world can be like poison. Therefore, as our faith grows, it conquers all those worldly desires. Faith becomes alive and is seen through our actions for our neighbors.
People notice when they see faith in action. It can be seen when we give a bike to someone in need. It can be seen in our welcoming new worshippers. It can be seen in the distribution line while hosting Gleaners.
Peter Scholtes put his faith into action when he, a white priest, volunteered to lead a half-Irish, half-Black parish on the South Side of Chicago. “For him, love was not just a romantic notion spouted by theologians. It took on concrete daily meaning. He weathered protests of White parishioners when he and his associate hung a sign outside of the church welcoming [Martin Luther] King on his first trip north. …He watched in disappointment as white congregants migrated out of the changing neighborhood.”[i] His experiences in this neighborhood at the height of the Civil Rights Movement would lead him to write the 1966 hymn, “They’ll know we are Christians by our love.” His hymn reflects the very nature of 1 John and especially this last chapter as we are called to love our neighbors and put our faith into action.
If you are like me, it is easy to get tongue-tied and caught up in reading 1 John. While it seems repetitive in parts, I wonder how many ways the author can talk about God’s love. And yet, I do not believe we can preach and converse about God’s love for us and our love returned to God enough. Because, in our faith and love we are one in God. The ability to love one another through our faith in action is present in all of us. However, sin distracts and leads us to other places. We find redemption in Christ. A Christ who loves us where we are no matter what circumstance we find ourselves. A Christ, whose very love for us is never ending; an endless loop like the mobius strip. A Christ we are drawn to in our growing faith.
[i] Bonnie J. Miller-Mclemore, Feasting on the Word, Year B, Volume 2, pg. 490.