This is a sermon that I preached on Sunday, 2/14/21, at Berkeley Friends Church (via videoconference). The scripture reading for this sermon was: 1 John 4:7-12. You can listen to the audio, or keeping scrolling to read my manuscript. (The spoken sermon differs from the written text.)
What does God look like?
A couple of minutes ago we looked at an image of a mama lion and a baby lion, and we talked about how this image could represent love for us. The love of a parent for a child. God’s love for us as a community.
This is important, because the apostle John tells us that God is love. So when we know what love looks like, we know what God looks like.
What does it mean that God is love? It means that when we care for our brother or sister, we’re seeing God. When we share. When we protect. When we say we’re sorry. When we give a hug. That’s what God looks like.
When George and Francis and I walk together to the park, the rule is that we have to stay together, and when we cross the street we always hold hands. That’s the rule, because if we don’t hold hands, we might get hurt crossing the street.
So when I tell George or Francis to hold my hand, even if they don’t feel like doing it right then, that’s what love looks like.
We can see God through the way that a father protects his children. We can also see it through how children take care of their father.
Sometimes, I forget to hold someone’s hand, and George or Francis remind me. They say, “¡manos, papa!” And we remember to hold hands. Francis and George are watching out for me. They don’t want me to get hurt crossing the street. That’s what God looks like. Francis and George are showing me love by protecting me. That’s what God is like.
The apostle John tells us that we know God when we love other people. If we don’t show love to other people, then we don’t know God – because God is love.
So how do we know if what we are doing is love? How can we tell that our love comes from God, that we’re really seeing God?
John tells us that we can recognize God’s love in our lives when we remember Jesus. George and Francis and Amos are my sons. Jesus is God’s son, and God loves Jesus so much, just like I love my boys. I would never want to let anything bad happen to George or Francis or Amos, and God doesn’t want anything bad to happen to Jesus, either.
But God loves us so much that God sent Jesus here to be with us, even though he knew that we would hurt Jesus. God knew that people would kill Jesus, but Jesus came anyway. He became a man and lived with us, so that we would see what God’s love looks like.
Jesus coming to be with us was like God putting out his hand and saying, “Stop! Don’t cross that street without me. You need to hold my hand. I love you, and I am going to keep you safe. I’m going to set you free so that you can cross the street.” God says, “I love you, and we will get to the other side together.”
No one has ever seen God, but now we have seen him because we have seen the love he has for us in Jesus. Because of his love for us, we can walk with him no matter how scary the world feels sometimes.
No one has ever seen God, but if we love one another, God’s love is perfected in us. The love of Jesus shines through us, so that the people around us can know what God is like.
And in spite of all the hurt and scared and confusion we see in the world, we know that God’s love in us can heal the world, until everyone is holding hands and walking together.