Reflections: Nothing Without Love – CUMC Youth Retreat

 “Then God said let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground. God created man in his own image. In the image of God, He created man.”

– Genesis 1:26-27

We are each meant to be a reflection of Christ, a mirror, casting a perfect image of Christ to the world. This has been our calling from the beginning, the reason for our creation: to cast a perfect reflection of Christ to the world and to act as God’s ambassador to His creation.

Over the course of this weekend we’re going to break down what it means to be a reflection of Christ and how we even go about doing that. We’ll explore what this looks in action – how this responsibility affects the way we live our life. Then we’ll look at what is holding you back from being that perfect image of Christ. What distorts your reflection? If you hope to live into the responsibility given to us through Adam and Eve, you must be willing to rid yourself of these distortions. Finally, we’ll discuss what we can do to make this happen and what a life of reflection can look like.

Our focus chapter for this weekend is 1st Corinthians 13. It’s probably familiar to most of you if you’ve ever been to a wedding, seen a movie wedding, heard a wedding, or know what a wedding is. It’s the loooove chapter. “Love is patient, love is kind”… This passage is used quite often to define how two people should live in marriage but I think the whole chapter acts as direction for how each of us should live a Christian life.

See Paul wrote this letter to the people of Corinth, to a strong and faithful community surrounded by Pagans (non-Christians). They sought to understand how to live as followers of Christ, to bring people to Christ, in an overwhelming pagan culture. Paul writes to them with advice that we also see Jesus give in the Gospels: Love. It’s about a love. Paul tells the Corinthians that actions are not enough, in fact they’re nothing without love.

If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don’t love, I’m nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate. 2If I speak God’s Word with power, revealing all his mysteries and making everything plain as day, and if I have faith that says to a mountain, “Jump,” and it jumps, but I don’t love, I’m nothing. 3-7If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don’t love, I’ve gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love.

 – 1 Corinthians 13:1-3 (The Message Bible)

We already know that we get nowhere by trying to earn salvation. Paul writes earlier in Romans:

When people work, there wages are not a gift but something they have earned. But people are counted as righteous, not because of their works, but because of their faith in God.

– Romans 4:4

It is out of love that we are reconciled. And so as reflections of Christ, we must also show love above all else. It’s not about how much money I give or how many mission trips I go on. It’s not about holding a door open or offering someone your umbrella. It’s about living your life through love of Christ and love of others. We are first given this responsibility in Genesis, through Adam and Eve. But later we are given this task again, this time by Jesus:

So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. 35 Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.”

 – John 13:34-35

“Prove to the world that we are his disciples” through our love. It’s right there, explicitly. Jesus doesn’t say “prove that you are my disciples by being perfect.” He doesn’t say “Prove that you are my disciples by being the best at church, giving the most, volunteering the most, paying the most, serving the most.” He said “Prove that you are mine through your love of one another.”

All of these things are good: volunteering, praying, giving of your gift. But we must be careful not to do them out of requirement, ritual, or self-service. Our actions, our good deeds, our offerings are not for the sake of qualification. They’re not in order to become good enough. We should do these thing as a loving response to the overwhelming and undeserved love shown to us by God.

As a response to God’s love. Through our faith. As an act of love, we do these things.

This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone, a new life has begun!

– 2nd Corinthians 5:17 (NLT)

Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean. Your filth will be washed away, and you will no longer worship idols. 26And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart. 27And I will put my spirit in you so that you will follow my decrees and be careful to obey my regulations.

– Ezekiel 37:25-27 (NLT)

Once you have had water sprinkled on your head, baptized, accepted Christ as your savior, your life is changed. You’ve been given the capacity to show love. As a response to this amazing gift, we are called to love. This is our response to God. This is how we worship God. We show love in all things. Through our actions, through our words, through our relationships, through our mannerism. And its for the sake of love that we do these things. If we do these things for any reason other than love, we are denying the spirit which has been put in each of our hearts.

Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 8Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 10This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.

– 1 John 4:7-12