The theme running throughout both the Gospel of John and the epistles of John is this: Just as God has loved us, so must we love one another. This reverses our culture’s conventional wisdom. Our culture pushes us to think of ourselves first and to climb ladders of success and fame.
Jesus flips that assumption upside down. He says the first will be last, and the last will be first. He states that he came into the world not to be served but to serve. He tells us if people gain their life, they will lose it; but those who lose their life for his sake will find it. And he says that the greatest kind of love we can demonstrate is laying down our lives for our friends.
So, the questions that confront us are these: What is God calling us to surrender for the sake of others?
What prideful notion must die in order for us to practice the healing act of forgiveness?
What material possessions must we release in order to give sacrificially to someone in need?
What ambition must we surrender so someone can achieve his or her dreams?
What act of self-sacrifice do we have to perform in order to see justice in a world of injustice?
What is God calling us to give up so someone else can experience the gift of life, love, peace, and joy?
Jesus gave up his life. Only the God we serve would do something as radically unexpected as dying so that others could live. If we follow this Jesus and if we have the image of this God within us, we are called to do the same. What is God calling you to do?
God, thank you for the new life you have given me through the resurrection of Jesus. Help me embody resurrection and new life for others. Amen.
This week’s readings open with a confrontation in Acts between Peter and John and some of the religious leaders. Peter speaks in harsh terms to the leaders, stating that they had killed Jesus; yet by the power of Jesus’ name, a man who could not walk has been healed. By that same name spiritual healing happens as well. The other three passages employ the metaphor of the Good Shepherd. “The Lord is my shepherd,” the psalmist declares, and the shepherd cares for all our needs. In John’s Gospel, Jesus declares that he is the Good Shepherd who lays down his life for his sheep. First John repeats this imagery. Jesus proved his love when he lay down his life for us. If we truly love one another, we also ought to sacrifice in tangible ways.
• Read Psalm 23. How comfortable do you feel about God’s provision for your life? Do you believe you have enough?
• Read Acts 4:5-12. When have you gotten into difficulty for exercising your Christian faith and values? If never, why not?
• Read 1 John 3:16-24. The writer notes that we may find being called sheep unbecoming. He goes on to mention that the epistle of John addresses followers of Christ as “little children.” Would you prefer to be a sheep or a child? Why?
• Read John 10:11-18. Which of your assumptions about God have been turned upside down? How did this come about?
Respond by posting a prayer.