The Currency of God’s Kingdom
1 John 5:1-6
In the past, I have volunteered as a coach for various YMCA youth sports teams. The last team that I coached was a K-1st grade soccer team. In the YMCA league, they don’t officially count goals, so no one really wins or loses. But it never failed that once the games were over, the first question from all of the kids was “did we win, coach?” We had one little boy who after our team only scored 1 goal, and the other team scored 10 goals, ran to the sideline and told his parents “we won!”
When we are young, being first and getting our way is usually what’s most important in life, isn’t it? When we are young, we all probably want to be the fastest, or the strongest, or the one that can throw the ball the farthest, or make the most baskets. When we are young, we want to win and be the best at everything.
Unfortunately, this desire to regularly win doesn’t necessarily end when we become adults, does it? As adults, we want the biggest car, or the biggest house, or the biggest television, or the brightest shirt, or the biggest corner office. Many people think that they have finally made it in life when they have the most toys that other people envy, or the most followers on Facebook or Twitter.
Someone once said that in God’s economy, the rich, those that God says are truly victorious, are not those who have the most toys or the best office. In God’s economy, the person that is to be respected is not the greedy, selfish person. In God’s eyes, the opposite type of person is more appealing. In God’s economy, “things” are not the priority. Instead, it is love.
The currency of God’s Kingdom is love, and as part of our living in God’s Kingdom, we should give love away like we have won the Powerball Lottery. I believe that this is one of the ideas that is being relayed in I John 5:1-5. The act of loving is a symbol of wealth, in and of itself.
Love. God is….love. God loved me. God loved you. God loves us. God loved us enough to send the Son on our behalf. Jesus loved us enough that He willingly came and died for us. And, because God loved us, we should love others. It almost seems like John thinks we should just have one big love fest, doesn’t it?
Jesus confirms this idea and even clarifies it when He is asked what the greatest commandment is. He says that all of the commandments, rules, and laws of God can be boiled down to 2 simple sentences, totaling 4 words. “Love God. Love others.” A simple equation.
And according to John, these two things, loving God and loving others, are not hard to do. They are not burdensome. When John uses that word burdensome, he’s saying that it’s not a hassle to love. God’s desire is not an unreasonable request.
How is it possible for us to love? First, through God’s own actions, God gave us the greatest example of how to love. God loves so much that God gives. I John is littered with references to this idea of God giving out of love. Second, since we are the children of God, we have been given power by God to overcome (to defeat or conquer) the world. Third, as God’s children, the Holy Spirit is our guide and power source. By depending on the Holy Spirit, and seeking the Spirit’s guidance in our daily lives, we do not have to be subject to what Satan and the world throws our way in an attempt to keep us from loving God and others.
John Piper says that these things can be, “summed up as desires for what we don’t have and pride in what we do have. When we don’t have what we want, the world corrupts us with covetousness. And when we do have what we want the world corrupts us with pride. This is what keeps us from loving God and loving each other. We love stuff. And when we don’t have it, we crave it. And when we do have it, we love to talk about it incessantly. And where is God in all that? At best, he’s there as the cosmic Sugar Daddy. We may even thank him for all our stuff. But there is a kind of gratitude that shows the gift, and not the giver, is our god.”
You may be thinking that this sounds too simple and naïve. How can anyone be expected to realistically buy into this? All I can say is practice love. When you feel like it, and when you don’t. When it’s convenient, and when it’s not. When it’s towards people that you know and already care about, or people that you can’t stand. When it’s towards people you trust, and people you don’t even know.
But please understand that God will not force or coerce any of us into doing anything. You don’t have to do any of these things. But, never forget that you are where you are in life because of the love that has been given for you. Your mother’s love. Your father’s love. The love of friends. And even the love of complete strangers.
I think we sometimes forget that we don’t live on an isolated island like the Tom Hanks character in the movie Cast Away. We are not by ourselves. We are all connected. We all live in community. We all have the privilege of experiencing God’s love through others. The fact that we are also able to share this love with others is precious.
On the website www.preachingpeace.org, one writer said it this way, “We are to love as Jesus loved. We are to love the brothers and sisters. We are to love God. To share in the divine life and so to be called a child of God. In this sphere of love, there is no room for hatred, retaliation, or apathy. Love is the mode of existence of both God and God’s children. To live in this love is to overcome the world that is grounded in the violence and rampage, of retaliation and vengeance. It is to live honoring life and relationships. It is this way of being, and only this way of being that can be called ‘born again.’ Any other way of existence is a false and unformed faith.”
May we all live out a faith that is being fully formed.