As much as I want this to be true, it isn’t. God loves even those who claim to know what God hates.
No love? Then you don’t know God.
I’ve struggled all week with which scripture I should focus on for this Sunday’s sermon. The truth of the matter is that all three lessons are really, really good. The story of Philip and the Ethiopian Eunuch is fantastic, in every meaning of the word. John 15 and Jesus’ words of comfort to his disciples, “abide in me” are always worth preaching. I was so wrapped up in those lessons, that I almost missed one of the most powerful sentences in all of Scripture, 1 John 4:8, “Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love.”
There is a certain “church” based in a Topeka, Kansas that claims to speak for God. They seem to know everything that God hates, which is, according to 1 John 4:8, an oxymoron. They are, of course, not alone: just the most well known. Episcopalians are often tempted to argue that God hates the members of that “church” in Kansas. “Politicians” and “Pastors” make their way into the news all the time for claiming that this or that tragic event is the result of God’s hatred and anger. Just this week we’ve hear that the Baltimore riots are the result of same-sex marriage and the Nepal earthquake is because of the pagan faith of the people.
We know that this is rubbish. We know that those who don’t know love, don’t know God. And, much to our chagrin, we know that God loves those morons anyway. The very essence of God is love. In God, there is no room for hatred. That’s why Jesus calls us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. That’s why God sent his Son, not to condemn the world, but that world might be saved. That’s why God desires that we be grafted onto the vine of Christ, that we might produce the fruit of the kingdom. That’s why all the law and the prophets hang on a single word: love.
1 John reiterates this in verse 16b when the author boldly claims that “God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them.” Apart from love, we cannot abide in God. Apart from God, we can’t bear fruit. In fact, apart from God, Jesus says, we can do nothing. It all hinges on our ability to love. If we don’t know love, then we can’t know God. If we don’t know God, then we can’t know love. But, if we know love, we know God, and if we know God, we know love.