God Will

150510_coverJohn 15:9-17

Year B, 6th Sunday of Easter

Lyle Lovett – God Will Lyrics

Who keeps on trusting you
When you’ve been cheating
And spending your nights on the town
And who keeps on saying that he still wants you
When you’re through running around
And who keeps on loving you
When you’ve been lying
Saying things ain’t what they seem

God does
But I don’t

God will
But I won’t
And that’s the difference
Between God and me

Join me!

God does
But I don’t
God will
But I won’t
And that’s the difference
Between God and me

I find that song hilarious and refreshingly honest. We talk about loving one another and loving others and even loving our enemies, but when push comes to shove, God does, but I don’t, God will, but I won’t, and that’s the difference between God and me.

If we pretend that this isn’t true we turn the Gospel into a lovely sentiment and rob Jesus’ word of true power. We need to admit that we cannot count on ourselves to choose love. Even when we try, we fail.

In this Easter Season I have been emphasizing the importance of Jesus revealing both true humanity and God. Jesus shows us what true humanity looks like, and in doing so, he shows us divinity. We know that humanity is created in the image of God, but most of the time we don’t see that. Jesus reminds us and reveals to us the beauty and wonder of God’s image in human form. The wonder and the beauty and the power of this revelation is that in recognizing true humanity in Christ we are better able to recognize true humanity in others. When we see, recognize and honor the humanity of others we see Christ in them.

That’s a beautiful truth to discover. May the Christ in me meet the Christ in thee! The problem is there are so many forces that dehumanize others in our eyes.

Isn’t that the root problem of racism? The other race is less human than your own. Not of us, not like us, and so, not quite human. Email and social media will do that too. People will say things in an email that they would never say to your face. I have seen some of the most rude and crass statements imaginable in emails and comments on web sites. Somehow, the Internet provides just enough of a screen for people to hide behind that they feel safe abandoning civility.

Racism and Computers are not the only dehumanizing forces we encounter each day. Simply getting into a car and driving is enough. How many times have you felt anger towards other drivers, yelled at them or said nasty things about them or to them as you drive? How many times have you seen someone honk or flipping you off as you drive? (Maybe I’m just a lousy driver, but I sure see enough of that…) Other drivers are less than human somehow. We can so easily see other cars as obstacles and irritations and inconsiderate jerks rather than as other people. A woman flipped me off the other day when I was waiting for an intersection to clear at an accident because she wanted me to go into the intersection. I looked at her and wondered if she would have behaved so rudely if we had not been in our cars.

These examples of dehumanizing others are the extremes that reveal the more subtle truth about how we interact with others much of the time. We succumb to the many dehumanizing forces of the world and lose sight of humanity and of divinity. We fail to see the true humanity in others, and so we fall into Lyle Lovette’s world.

So who says he’ll forgive you
And says that he’ll miss you
And dream of your sweet memory

God does
But I don’t
God will
But I won’t
And that’s the difference
Between God and me

The only way we can hope to love our enemies, or even love one another, is to abide in Christ. God will, but I can’t. God does, but I don’t because I can’t by myself. So I must abide in Christ and love as Christ, letting go my own prejudices, my own resentments, my own judgments.

That is what Jesus is telling us in the parable of the vine and the branches. When I try to love by myself, using my own heart and strength, expecting my own capacity for love to prevail, I am like the branch that has been cut off from the vine. Someone honks at me in traffic and I am immediately angry. Someone says something nasty about me and I am resentful. Someone has good fortune or success and I am envious. My heart withers and dries, like the branch cut off from the vine.

We know that we are supposed to love one another, but in truth we find that hard or impossible. We know that we are supposed to have compassion, but too often we can only have compassion on people we see as below us. We know that we are supposed to forgive, and yet we hold onto grudges and resentment. That is the default setting. That is what passes for normal. That is the common sense and expected reality, and that is what the Gospel came to overcome.

Jesus says, “As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love.” Jesus acknowledges that he is able to love even us, in all our sinfulness and immaturity, because he abides in God. We can love one another, despite our tendencies to dehumanize one another, by abiding in Christ.

Here is how it works: When I look at someone who has said something nasty about me or has just behaved poorly, I feel anger, resentment and even contempt. I know I’m supposed to love, but I don’t feel love, so how do I do love? But Jesus looks at that same person just as he looks at you and me, and sees true humanity. Jesus looks at each of us and sees the image of God. Jesus can love even when you or I struggle. Abide in Jesus. Abide in Jesus’ love. Let Jesus love your enemy and you can just go along for the ride. Abide in Christ and let Christ do the hard work of forgiving and loving.

God does, but I don’t. God will, but I won’t. But I can abide in Christ and participate in what God is doing instead of giving in to my own weakness, resentment or fear.

What Jesus is asking us to do is to let him be the source of the love we give. I will love my antagonist because Jesus loves her. I will forgive her because I know that Jesus forgives her. I will be compassionate because that is what Jesus is doing. The forgiveness, compassion, and love flow from God to Jesus, from Jesus to us, and from us to others.

Even Jesus does not try to love by his own power. “As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love.”

Jesus is asking us to do exactly what he has done. Abide in God’s love. Because Jesus abides in God’s love, and because we can abide in Jesus’ love, we can love as Jesus loves. We can love even our enemies, our antagonists, those who we envy, and those we resent.

God does, so we can too, by abiding in Jesus.

The Rev. David Marshall
St. Dunstan’s Church, Shoreline WA
May 10, 2015

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