Fourth Sunday of Advent
9God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might live through him. 10In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11Beloved, since God loved us so much, we also ought to love one another.
I John 4:9-11
In the year 2000 I was serving as a chaplain in a juvenile prison when a movie came out that had a remarkable effect on several of our young men. It was the movie, “Pay It Forward.”
Many of the young men readily identified with the lead in the movie, twelve year old Trevor McKinney, who was haunted by his mother’s alcoholism and his fear of an abusive father. But Trevor becomes caught up in an assignment by his new social studies teacher, Mr. Simonet. The assignment is to think of some way to make the world a better place and then to put that plan into action. Trevor comes up with the idea of paying a favor forward instead of paying it back. And Trevor’s attempt to make good on his idea of paying it forward brought a radical transformation not only in his troubled family, but in an ever-widening circle of people.
Today’s text is all about paying it forward. In this wondrous gospel text we read of God’s love for us in sending his Son into the world, so that we might come to life through him. And what is it that God asks in return for his sacrificial love? Something quite different than we might have expected.
We might expect the divine logic of verse 11 to conclude: “Since God loved us so much, we also ought to love God in return.” But no, it says rather, “Since God loved us so much, we also ought to love one another.” God asks for nothing in return for his love except that we pay it forward. In a sense, God is making all our debts to him, now payable to others. We “ought also,” like God, to love without asking in return.
Think of the power and the life that might be released when we love, wanting only our love to be passed on to others! Think of what this kind of unconditional, “pay it forward” love might mean for our families, churches, and communities!
The divine logic calls us to look for opportunities to reach out to love others in sacrificial and practical ways. This could mean doing good for people we don’t even know, or don’t even like! It could include even small acts of love like helping the neighbor carry her heavy packages or helping put up decorations.
Let’s see if this Advent and Christmas we can’t spread the gospel of paying it forward! “Since God loved us so much, we also ought to love one another.”
Read, Reflect, Respond, and Rest with today’s scripture text,
I John 4:9-11, and devotional.
Today’s Moments of Diaphany
- an answer to prayer
- evidence of his love and care
- evidence of his creative power and wisdom
- his help to do his work