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In the beginning, there was darkness.
When we think of creation we might think there was nothing, the voice of God, a big bang, and Adam and Eve.
But if you carefully look at the first verses of Genesis, it says “In the beginning… the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep.”
I don’t know what a formless void looks like. A black hole? An unshaped mass? Whatever it was, it was dark, unwelcoming, and absent of life.
And then God shows up.
The Spirit of God, the breath of God, moves like a wind over the dark waters.
God speaks and creation comes in to being.
Let there be light, and there was light, and it was good.
I believe what is going on here is not just a matter of the physical manifestation of light that comes in to being. But I advocate that another word we could substitute for light is love.
Let there be love, and there was love, and it was good.
God is pouring out God’s self, God’s essence, in to the dark formless void and out of God’s love life is born.
This is what God does.
Even when Adam and Eve turn away and sin, God pours out love and knits clothes for them and provides for them.
After the flood, God places the sign of the rainbow in the sky as a promise of God’s love.
In Psalm 36, David sings:
Your steadfast love, O Lord, extends to the heavens,
your faithfulness to the clouds.
Your righteousness is like the mighty mountains,
your judgments are like the great deep;
you save humans and animals alike, O Lord.
How precious is your steadfast love, O God!
All people may take refuge in the shadow of your wings.
They feast on the abundance of your house,
and you give them drink from the river of your delights.
For with you is the fountain of life;
in your light we see light.
David makes this same connection of light and love. Light and love are the spring of life that extend to all creation.
This is what God does because this is who God is.
There are not many things that we can definitively say about God that are sufficient or complete. If you were to define God, what could you say? Any words seem inadequate and insufficient. Perhaps the only definition that works come from the letter of 1 John that simply says, God is love.
While all of creation testifies to the majesty of God’s love, we experience that love most powerfully in Jesus Christ.
Perhaps the most familiar words in all of the Bible come from John 3:16: God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him won’t perish but will have eternal life.
God poured out God’s self in to the world, so that everyone can have life.
While this might be the most familiar verse of John, the beginning of John sounds amazingly similar to the beginning of Genesis.
In fact, the two start with the same phrase, “In the beginning.”
The gospel of John also states that in the beginning there was darkness.
But again, the light that overcame darkness was not only a physical scientific property, but it was Christ.
In the beginning was the Word, the Logos, the Christ.
John goes on to describe Jesus as “the life was the light for all people.” And that “light shines in the darkness, and the darkness doesn’t extinguish the light”.
Jesus was not only born in a Bethlehem manger 2,000 years ago, but all of creation came in to being through the triune Christ, the light of the world.
God loves us so much, that the God who spoke, and by his very words, brought creation out of the formless void and light in to the darkness, took on human flesh and made his home among us.
Jesus walked our walk, experienced our pain, brought the light of God in to the world, and invited us to also be the light.
Just as God is love, Jesus invites us to be love.
Let there be love.
The essence of all of Jesus’ teaching are summarized in the great commandment. Even Jesus said all of the law and the prophets can be summarized in this: love God with all of your heart, mind, and soul and love your neighbor as yourself.
The philosopher Soren Kierkeegard said we can only truly live out this command when we hold all three things in balance: to love God, neighbor, and self.
Now this gets difficult when we begin to explore who qualifies as the neighbor we are called to love.
Again, Kierkegaard said when you walk out the front door of your house, the first person you see is the neighbor you are called to love.
Walk down Parsons Avenue, every person you see is your neighbor.
Come and take a number at the Free Store, and each of the 100 people waiting with you are your neighbor, who you are called to love just as you love God and love yourself.
In fact, Jesus pushes this so far that in the Sermon on the Mount Jesus challenges us to love our enemies:
“You have heard that it was said, You must love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who harass you so that you will be acting as children of your Father who is in heaven. He makes the sun rise on both the evil and the good and sends rain on both the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love only those who love you, what reward do you have? Don’t even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing? Don’t even the Gentiles do the same? Therefore, just as your heavenly Father is complete in showing love to everyone, so also you must be complete.
When we hear Jesus’ words, we might think this is an impossible teaching. Perhaps Jesus could do this, he was fully God and fully man, but we are fully human.
Jesus did not offer this as an impossible standard, but as an invitation to be a part of God’s work of redemption and reconciliation
This is part of the genius of Dr Martin Luther King Jr.
King’s ethic of love was not only for the oppressed, but also for the oppressor. He saw all of us as interconnected and the liberation of the harmed connected to the liberation of the one who has done harm.
King sacrificed his life in the pursuit of bringing his dream to life. He did not hide his light under a bushel, but he let it shine.
King held the Declaration of Independence in one hand and the light of his faith in the other and challenged us to live in to our highest ideals and all God created us to be.
He not only challenged those in power to address issues of injustice and war and poverty, but he believed that the very means by which systems could be changed is when we love the one we would consider enemy. For it is in loving the enemy that both are set free.
King outlined four reasons that we should love our enemy.
The first reason is that it is only love that can break the cycle of violence. Hate only begets hate, violence creates violence. If I hit you and you hit me and I hit you back and you hit me back it just never ends.
King said “hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.”
It is only through love that spirals of violence and hatred are broken.
The second reason we are to love our enemy is because hate destroys the person who hates. We might think that forgiveness is about letting the person off the hook who has done us wrong, But if we are the ones who carry bitterness in our hearts, that grows in us like a cancer. It eats and tears away at us. It mars our soul. We have to love instead of hate, to save ourselves.
This doesn’t mean we have to like everything a person does. If someone has said a bad word about you, you aren’t going to appreciate what was said. It doesn’t mean that we should tolerate injustice or allow abuse to continue. We don’t have to like who someone is or what they have done, but we are called to love them in to redemption.
This leads in to the third reason we are to love our enemy, because love is the only force that can transform an enemy in to a friend. Love is the only redemptive force that can change the world.
When we love someone who doesn’t like us, we disarm them. When we return love for hatred, love wins. Light always conquers darkness. You have never turned on a light in a dark room and darkness won. Light wins. It is the same for love. Love wins.
We have seen that wars only create more wars, but love changes the world. Love brought the brutal rule of apartheid to an end in South Africa, the ethic of love taught by King continues to challenge us as a nation 50 years later. We aren’t there yet, but love will win.
King said, “the darkness of racial injustice will be dispelled only by the light of forgiving love.”
The fourth reason we are to love our enemy is because it is only when we love our enemy that we can fully love God.
Jesus summarized his teaching on loving enemy when he said, just as your heavenly Father is complete in showing love to everyone, so also you must be complete.
We can only be complete in our love of God, neighbor, and self, when we extend the light of Christ in to the world to the point where we are willing to love the one whom we call enemy.
The Word became flesh and made his home among us.
God loves us so much that he physically came and lived in our world and shined a light for all people. A light that burned so brightly it shone with glory.
Let us shine with the same light.
Let us reflect the glory of God in our lives.
Let us dare to change our world by loving our enemy.
Let there be love.