Love on the Last Day (1 John 4:17-18)

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1 John 4:17-18

In the recent documentary Won’t You Be My Neighbor, Mr. Roger’s wife, Joanne, shares some of his last moments dying of stomach cancer. Fred Rogers frequently read Matthew 25, where the Son of Man comes in glory and gathers all the nations before him. The Son of Man, who is Jesus Christ, separates them one from another, like a shepherd separates his sheep from the goats. The Sheep inherent the Kingdom prepared for them from the foundation of the world, but the goats are cursed and sent to everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels. As Fred would read this, he would ask Joanne, “Am I a sheep?”

In our hyper-material culture, we rarely think about anything that we cannot touch, taste, see, smell, or hear. We tend not to think about the afterlife or day of judgement. Yet, I think, if we look deep down inside, many of us have an innate fear of death and whether our lives really matter.

God’s love gives us confidence at that final hour. John says: “This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment (1 John 4:17).” There will come a day when you will come face to face with your Maker. The degree to which you have embraced his love will be the degree to which you will be able to look your Judge, Jesus Christ, in the eyes. When we come before him, will we be like Adam and Eve who hid themselves out of fear and shame? Or, will we see love in our Judge’s eyes?

If you embrace God’s love revealed in Jesus Christ, it will change you. It will change you on the inside and the outside. (We’ll talk about how it will change you on the outside at another time.) On the inside, you will know that you have been loved with an out of this world love, because Christ died for you. That knowledge alone will have a profound impact on your inward being. On that day, which we will all inevitably face, you will stand before your Judge, but, instead of condemnation, you will see love.

Joanne would say to Fred on those occasions, “if anyone is a sheep, then you are.” Similarly, John is assuring those who have received this love, “Yes, beloved, you are a sheep.” The love is there. Have you received it?

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