Thursday, June 5, 2014

Paying it Forward

The comedian Billy Crystal grew up in New York, and a was a huge fan of the New York Yankees. This was during the 1950s, when the Yankees were the greatest team in sports.  One day, his dad took Crystal and his brothers to a Yankee game.  He had some connections, and managed to get his boys a tour of the field before the game started.  Ten-year-old Billy Crystal was standing in the Yankee dugout, when up walked Casey Stengel, the manager of the team.  He said, “Hey kid, want to play today?”  Crystal said, “Yeah!”  He later said, “I thought that was how it worked.  They just chose up before the game started. It would be like, ‘I’ll take Mantle, Dimaggio, and…the kid!”  I love that story.

For the past few weeks, we’ve been talking about God’s love as explained here in 1 John 4.  Two weeks ago, we talked about how God IS love.  That means that everything God does is motivated by love; even His wrath is motivated by love.  It means every good thing that has ever happened to you is a gift of a loving God.  But the people who fully experience God’s love are those who are most fully aware of their own sinfulness and need for a Savior.  Last week, we talked about how we know that God really does love us, and what difference it makes.  It’s not about what we do, it’s about what Jesus has already done, in giving His life as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.  God’s love saves us.  That’s the good news.  This Sunday, as I wrap up this short series, we’ll talk about the change that God’s love should produce in us.  

Already I can hear objections: “But wait!  I thought you said it wasn’t about what I do, it’s about what He has already done.  Now you’re telling me that there are strings attached.  That’s a bait and switch.”  No, it’s not.  Look at our text, 1 John 4:11-12: 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.  I think about it in terms of Billy Crystal’s story.  Imagine he really did have a chance to play a baseball game with the heroes who he had watched on TV, whose baseball cards he treasured.  Imagine they were able to endow him with the ability to run, hit, field and throw like a major-leaguer, and they said, “Go play centerfield today.”  Would he say, “No thanks.  It’s an honor to be chosen, but I don’t feel like playing?”  Of course not.  Because of God’s love, we have been accepted onto the greatest team of all.  We were chosen not because of any righteousness of our own, but simply because of His amazing grace.  And not only are we chosen, we are empowered to change people’s lives forever.  And God says, “Come be a part of my incredible plan for the redemption of all creation, the greatest undertaking in history.”  That’s not a prerequisite of our salvation, it’s a benefit.  If we have truly received the love of God, we want to pass that love along.  
            That leaves us with certain questions:  Who is the “one another” we’re supposed to love?  What exactly does it mean to love one another?  How do I learn to love that way?  We'll talk about that and more this Sunday. 

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