Eternal Life Now

May 16, 2021

1 John 5:9-13

I have been struck these past several weeks by the letter of 1 John. It has instilled in me a whole new appreciation for the Johannine community. It is founded in respect and ultimately a great love that is embodied in Jesus Christ.

Our journey together through the letter of 1 John has been revealing. Revealing in a way in which God’s love for humanity has been poured out and shared. A love beginning in creation, born incarnate in Jesus, and suffering on a cross for all of creation. It is a testimony to the very love of God within each of us. Yet, it is the testimony of God conquering all sin and brokenness where love reigns free. The author writes in the hopes of sharing this testimony. In this testimony we can witness Jesus fulfilling the promise of eternal life.

I would pray you have begun to get a sense of where we go from the glorious resurrection of Easter. The letter of 1 John is a call to love. A love beginning in the formation of creation. A love we are all fully capable of sharing with our neighbors.

The purpose of this letter is not to convince those who do not believe the same way. The purpose of this letter was to fortify the faith of those already in the community. It is a good thing to be reminded we are on the right track. It is a good thing to know God loves us. It is a good thing to know love will eventually conquer all.

Love reigning supreme is a goal each one of us should be focused upon. The more we express our love for the neighbor, we testify to Jesus.  The more we live in the love of Jesus Christ and follow in his way, we experience eternal life.

As it is written in 1 John, eternal life is not a future goal. Eternal life is already available to us now. The end game is not to get into heaven. If our focus is only centered on getting into heaven, then we are missing out on so much of life. Eternal life comes to us today when we believe in Christ and follow in his footsteps by being the hands and feet of God in this world. Believing in Christ is not simply something we say or are told to do. Believing in Christ is truly relational and is found in our relationships with others. Eternal life is a call to authentic human existence in the world. Eternal life is a call to embody the love of God made known to us in the Word made flesh. Eternal life provides freedom in a loving God where we are met with mercy and grace.

There are plenty of obstacles along the way to living this eternal life. There were many people who doubted Jesus in the first century. Alongside this doubt, also rested a complacency in the current system and the fear of changing anything. There were other prophets trying to raise their voices above the din of the crowds and would lead people astray. One of the greatest obstacles was love of oneself. Yes, you need to love yourself before you love others. However, do you let the love flow from yourself to your neighbors?

We could point to modern day examples in each of these obstacles. If we are honest, many of us at one point or another have had our doubts or allowed others to stir them within us. Doubt can raise many questions and can also strengthen our faith. Complacency is what has closed many churches. Without the desire to change and meet people where they are at, like Jesus did, churches can find themselves struggling with a lost sense of direction. We can point to cult leaders who have tried to raise their voices to attract people and lead them astray. We have also seen times where the leader themselves think they are bigger than Jesus. When it comes to loving oneself more than we love God, all we must do is examine consumerism run rampant. Where are we spending our time, energy, and finances?

Despite these obstacles, the letter of 1 John reminds us we are loved by God. It is a reminder believing in Jesus Christ brings us eternal life now. Eternal life following in the footsteps of Jesus and sharing the love of God. Eternal life which brings us freedom and grace.

Throughout these past six weeks we have been reminded we are a child of God and nothing or no one can take this reality away from us. Each and everyone of you are created in the image of God and are loved. In the call to love, God includes all creation. This means we are to care for the environment and the very creation entrusted to us by God. We are to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. One way to express love for our neighbors is through our actions. Through this love, we share in the love of Jesus and live into eternal life now. All of this culminates in living eternal life now by living and sharing the love of God.

Over the past several years, different faith traditions have been witness to many tragedies both within our own country and worldwide. Mother Emmanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina was victim to such tragedy in 2015 when nine of its members were killed. Another incident happened at the Christchurch Mosque in New Zealand in 2019. In 2018 multiple people were killed at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh. Time after time we have witnessed communities stepping up to support one another amid such tragedy.

One specific example of God’s love being shown through faith in action and love of neighbor occurred in Canada following the shooting at a Mosque in Quebec. Christians and Jews formed “rings of peace” around other mosques in town to ensure the safety of their neighbors. The love of neighbor was returned following the shooting at Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburg. Muslims would form a “ring of peace” around six Toronto area synagogues. These are testimonies to God’s love present for all creation.

Are you ready to provide a testimony? A testimony to live as Jesus lived. Putting your faith into action through the love of Jesus Christ. Love is the testimony we are called to share with our neighbors around the world. God is love. Love is the foundation of all things. Where we go from here is to continue to love on our neighbors the best we can. To love them through our actions and testimony to Jesus Christ. In this testimony, we find eternal life.

By Alex Steward

I am a husband, father, and pastor within the ELCA. I did not grow up in the church and thus come at this pastoring thing with an unique perspective.

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