After college, I spent a couple of years working as a cook in a chef owned and operated restaurant in Galesburg, Illinois. And while it wasn’t going to win any Michelin stars, it was a good restaurant and one of the more upscale ones in Galesburg.
And it was a traditional kitchen… meaning that there was a lot of yelling and swearing and name calling and threatening. That’s part of kitchen culture. Paul Bocuse yelled. Auguste Escoffier swore. Marie-Antoine Carême probably called people names. Eugenie Brazier probably threatened people.
Chefs throughout history and throughout the world have done all of those things. My chef wasn’t nearly bad as chefs at other restaurants. But the people who taught him yelled and swore at him. And he yelled and swore at me. And, when it came time for me to oversee someone else in that kitchen… I yelled and swore at him.
Tony isn’t going to hear this or read this. But, dude… sorry. I mean, hurry up, but still… sorry.
Hurt people hurt people. It’s true in these middle-sized things like workplaces. We have entire cultures based around hurt people hurting people.
It’s true in the little things, too. I’ve woken up on the wrong side of the bed or started my day with a problem and I’ve taken that out on my wife or my coworkers or my dog or some random person on the road. They might have never even noticed, but it’s happened. Hurt people hurt people.
And, of course, it’s true in the big things. We all know that children who are abused are more likely to grow up to abuse others. We all know that the children of people who abuse alcohol or other drugs are more likely to grow up to abuse those things themselves. History is not destiny; any child can grow up to be healthy and whole. But the scars of the past have effects in the present, and abuse tends to create a generational cycle. Hurt people hurt people.
And one of the ways that hurt people hurt people is by convincing people that hurting someone is the same as loving them. We get a distorted view of love. We start to think that love is the same as lust… or fame… or power. We trade love for the illusion of love.
Today’s reading is from the First Epistle of John. Now, there are a lot of Johns. There the John who wrote a gospel. There’s the John who wrote Revelation. And there’s the John who wrote these three letters that are in our Bibles. And this is one of those letters.
And this John, in this letter, is writing for a reason. You see, there was a group of people in his community who were docetists. That’s the fancy theological word for the idea that Jesus’ body was an illusion. According to the docetists, Jesus didn’t really suffer; he didn’t really die. And they believed that they were saved. And they believed that they were loved.
And John wants his readers to know that these people are wrong. That they had traded Christ for the illusion of Christ. That they had traded love for the illusion of love.
John wants his readers to know that God loved the world like this. God sent her only begotten son in the world as flesh and blood. And that son suffered and died and rose and ascended and will come again. And that son came into the world so that we might live through him.
John wants us to know that this is God’s love; that God is this love. And everything depends on that. Because anything else is an illusion.
So, on the one hand, we have the love of the docetists. It looks like love. We might even be tricked into thinking that it is love. But it is an illusion. It is play-acting. It is a fantasy.
And, on the other hand, we have the love that John wants us to know: God’s eternal and extravagant love. The love that compels God to create the world. The love that compels God to redeem the world. The love that compels God to come into the world, as one of us, and preach a message of love even to the point of suffering and death.
Hurt people hurt people. Sometimes, hurt people distort our view of love. Sometimes, hurt people trade love for the illusion of love.
John has this strange turn of phrase. “Since God has loved us so much,” he writes.
Since God has loved us so much…
Since God has sent her only begotten son as flesh and blood into this world that she created, and that son lived and loved and suffered and died and rose and ascended and will come again…
Since God has sent his son into this world so that we might live through him…
“Since God has loved us so much,” John writes, “we also ought to love one another.”
Think about that sentence. We might believe that we should love each other because it’s the right thing to do. We might believe that we should love each other because whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in them, and we all want to be closer to God. We might believe that we should love each other because of some abstract principle.
Hurt people hurt people. And all of us — everyone in this sanctuary, everyone in the world — is a hurt person. Some of us are a little hurt. Some of us are a lot hurt. But every single one of us is hurt.
And all of us — everyone in this sanctuary, everyone in the world — hurts other people. Some of us hurt other people a little. Some of us hurt other people a lot. But every single one of us hurts other people.
And if we want to understand sin just a little, we can look at that cycle of hurt people hurting people. Of everyone being hurt and everyone hurting someone else.
And that’s why the good news is so important. That’s why it matters that Jesus isn’t just a story. That’s why it matters that the gospels aren’t just ancient works of fiction. That’s why it matters that Jesus’ life and suffering and death and resurrection aren’t just illusions. That’s why it matters that God’s love is real.
Hurt people hurt people. But… maybe… loved people can love people.
God loves us in this way. God creates and sustain and redeems a whole world. God comes into that world as one of us. God is born and lives and loves and suffers and dies and rises and will come again. God walks alongside us and shoulders our burdens. God laughs with us. God cries with us. God heals us. God is with us.
God loves us. God loves you. God loves me. God loves the butterfly in the garden and the wasp in her nest. God loves the tulip rising out of the flowerbed and the thistle in the field. God loves us. Really loves us. Really, really loves us.
And that opens up a world of possibility.
Hurt people hurt people. And we are hurt people. And because we are hurt people, we hurt people. But… because God loves us, we are also loved people. And because we are loved people, we can love each other. And not just each other, but everyone. We can love our friends and our enemies. We can love the butterfly in the garden and the wasp in her nest. We can can love the tulip in the flower bed and the thistle in the field. We can love.
Let me repeat that, because it’s that important: because we are loved people, we can love each other. And not just each other, but everyone. We can love our friends and our enemies. We can love the butterfly in the garden and the wasp in her nest. We can can love the tulip in the flower bed and the thistle in the field. We can love.
And I cannot think of any news better than that.