The Beginning of Love

Arguably the most popular scripture passage quoted at a sporting event reminds us of God’s love. John 3.16 “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, so that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have everlasting life,” isn’t just a teaching about how much God loves us, but how much He wants us to love others. Even though we do not live up to the standards God has established for, and though we are not worthy of His love, STILL God endured the Cross so that we could live. Today God is calling us to love others in the same way He loves us. He is calling us to love with true sacrifice for others, whether they love us in return, but this is the love of God. When God loves, there is life.


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Thank you for tuning in to another episode of Be Transfigured, where we invite you to live a new life in Christ. We pray that this episode is a blessing to you and will inspire you to rededicate your life to Jesus Christ. We invite you to join us for worship or study at the Saint Nicholas Greek Orthodox Cathedral in Tarpon Springs, Florida, where visitors are always welcome. We'll be back in a few moments to share some more information about our ministry.

If I were to hold up a sign, I'm not going to do it, but I want you to imagine you're watching television, a baseball game, a football game, anything, and you see someone holding a sign and chances are, it's going to say John 3:16. It is one of the most famous passages to be quoted on a sign in a sporting event that I have ever seen.

And it is something that expresses God's love. "For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish, but have eternal life." And today, the Sunday before Holy Cross, the church is reminding us of God's love. God so loved the world. His love for us, you and me, even though this was 2000 years ago, His love for us was so great that He gave up everything. The church says He emptied himself and came down and became one of us. And we know, as we're going to celebrate tomorrow, was crucified. He offered His life so that we could live. That's how much God loves us.

Now, I don't know about you, but when I reflect upon my life, I have not done anything that deserves that kind of devotion from God. I have not lived up to my end of the bargain. There's a joke. There's a person praying to God, "Lord. Thank you. I have not sinned today. I have not taken the Lord's name in vain. I have not yelled. I have not accursed anybody. I have been perfect. So thank you. I'm about to wake up and start my day."

When we're asleep that's about the only time that we are not sinning as human beings. Big, small, it doesn't matter. If we're honest with ourselves, we are not worthy of God's love. And still He came and gave Himself up for us, knowing in advance what He was going to have to endure. He knew He was going to be crucified. He knew He was going to be beaten. He knew He was going to be whipped. He knew He was going to be tortured. And still He loves us so much that He endured all that for us, so that we could live. Because as St. Paul reminds us, "The wages of sin is death." And so each one of us who has sinned, if it were not for Christ, we would be eternally dead. And so we're thankful. We're thankful that God has shown such great love for us.

But Christ also calls us to love. He calls us, as I wrote in the bulletin, He says, "Love one another as I have loved you." And so my brothers and sisters, what God is calling us to do today is to sacrifice everything that we have for others. The willingness to empty ourselves because we love. Not just the good people, not just our favorite people, not just the ones who love us back, but everybody. Love, we know requires pain. We don't like it. We'd prefer it not happen. But anyone who has ever loved knows that with love there is pain. Either the pain of rejection, the pain of abandonment, the pain of mourning, or even just the pain of distance as our loved ones might be far away in another country.

We know that love comes with pain. And so why is it so often that we knowing that pain is coming, why do we avoid it so much? We know that the reward for love is God's kingdom. The very next passage in the Gospel, after this morning's reading says, "He who believes in Him is not condemned, but he who does not believe is condemned already because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten son of God."

Now, that verse, my brothers and sisters, is a reminder that the reward from heaven comes in those who believe. "For God so loved the world that he gave His only begotten son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life." If we want to live, we must love. And we must learn to love as God loves, with sacrifice and pain. And that means, most importantly, that we give up our own agenda in life. We have to stop looking at life, whether it is the life of the church, whether it is the life of our family, whether it is at work, with our friends, we have to stop [START] giving up our own personal agenda if we want to love like God loves.

We have to be willing to give it all up. And that brings pain. It brings uncomfort, but it brings life. And so as we now, two weeks into our new year, the church so profoundly reminds us of the road ahead, the road of the cross. The Christian life is struggle. We must be willing to take up our cross, as Christ picked up his, so that we can live forever. Practice, my brothers and sisters, by spending the next week, I'll make it even easier. Today. Let's practice by spending today…, repeat after me, you ready?

When someone asks you a question, this is what I want the answer to be, "Whatever you want." Repeat after me. "Whatever you want."

Congregation:                   Whatever you want.

Fr Athanasios:                   That is the beginning of love. Something as simple as letting someone else choose. "What do you want for dinner?"

Congregation:                   Whatever you want.

Fr Athanasios:                   You see how easy that was?

                                                And for our children, when our mother says, "Clean your room." What are we going to say?

Congregation:                   Whatever you want.

Fr Athanasios:                   Whatever you want. I heard you, bravo. Husbands, that includes you too.

                                                That's the beginning of love. And that kind of love brings life and praise from God. Glory to God to all in things.

Be Transfigured is a production of Be Transfigured Ministries in cooperation with the Saint Nicholas Greek Orthodox Cathedral in Tarpon Springs, Florida. We depend upon your generosity to maintain our ministry. You can make a safe online donation when you visit our website, liveanewlifeinchrist.org.