Love is the visible witness to our invisible Lord and Savior. Love is not a feeling or an emotion, although feelings and emotions can spur us to love and can help (or hurt) when we want to know who we should love. But Love is first and foremost something we do and how that we do what we do. The Glory of God is Love, “Love Divine, all loves excelling,” as we sang in our opening hymn this morning. When we love as God loves us, when, especially, we love our enemies, God is glorified by what we do, and we can claim, truthfully, that we are full of the Holy Spirit. If you want to know, am I saved?, am I following Jesus Christ?, then look to how you love, and how you want to grow in love.
How many times in your life have you wanted to see Jesus? How many times have you thought, I wish I could see him, just a glimpse of Jesus, maybe just the hem of his robe? Ah, but you do see Jesus, you can see him, more often and more fully than you might have imagined! When you want to see Jesus, you’re really asking to see the Glory of God, to see not just what the disciples saw, but what Moses saw, what Elijah saw, and what Peter and James and John saw when Jesus was transfigured before them on the mountaintop. You want to see God’s Glory—and you can! You do! God’s Glory is visible in the love we share for one another. You can see it when you love your brother or sister in Christ. You can see it when you love your neighbor as yourself. You can see it in the love that our fellow disciples have when they love their brothers, their sisters, and their neighbors. And it shines most brightly when we love our enemies. When you see love, you see Jesus! When you see love, you see the Glory of God! When you see love, you see the Trinity!
But doubt creeps in. Nagging worries take over. False voices whisper in our ears. They say things like, “Maybe love isn’t really from God.” Or, “Is that it? Isn’t there something more?” Or, “If you love that person, she will never learn her lesson!” They even say things that sound biblical: “Truth is more important than love. Standing up for what’s right is better than showing love, sometimes.”
This is why the work of the Holy Spirit is so important. This is why we need the Spirit, as much now as ever before. There are voices crying out, asking for us to love them, begging for us to show the mercy of God, demanding, even sometimes, that our society change so that justice, one of the most important forms of God’s love, can be real and true and certain for people who continue to be pushed out of sight and out of mind. And at the same time there are voices wooing us away, trying to convince us that now is not the time for love, saying things like, we settled those issues a long time ago, or if you talk about it it only makes things worse, or we have got to protect ourselves from the threat of those people. We need the Spirit, so that we can ignore the voices of fear-mongering and hatred and anger and condemnation. We need the Spirit, so that we can give witness to and see for ourselves Jesus Christ through acts and words of the Love of God.
Jesus says to his disciples, those who love me will keep my words. Truth and love are inseparable; you cannot keep Jesus’ words without loving him. You cannot be for truth without also being for love. You cannot, not if you want to be for the Love of God in Jesus Christ. And you cannot love Jesus without also loving those Jesus loves.
Jesus also says to his disciples, “the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you.” Jesus calls the Holy Spirit “the Advocate.” Why? What does the Spirit advocate? For love. The doubt creeps in; the worries nag; the false voices whisper; and the Spirit says, “Love.” The angry tirades continue on television, the seductive voices of supposed leaders beckons us away, and the Spirit urges us, “Love.” The “issues” press in on us, the “state of things” stresses us, and the Spirit rallies us to Christ: “Love.” The Spirit is not visible to our human eyes, but the Spirit advocates for Love, the Love of God. The Spirit advocates for us, reassuring us that we are rooted in God’s love. The Spirit advocates to us, urging us to bear witness to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit through our works of love.
And the Spirit advocates for us by drawing us closer to the words of Jesus Christ, by teaching us what we need to know in order to love faithfully, in order to love as God in Jesus Christ has loved us. Knowing Jesus’ words without bearing witness through our deeds to Jesus’ love means we are not yet filled with the Holy Spirit.
But there is hope for us—yes, there is hope for us, even now, even after all the times we’ve stumbled, even after all the times and ways we’ve veered away from love and toward something easier, less true, less worthy. The hope is this: Jesus does not give as the world gives! The Holy Spirit, the Love of God, the peace of having the Advocate assure us that we are loved and must love, is not given to us as the world gives. The world only knows about contracts, and giving through contract. In a contract, there is an agreement between two or more parties: you do this, then I’ll do that. You don’t do this, then I won’t do that.
We’re so accustomed to contract-giving that we hardly even know there is another way. But there is: the way of Love. Contracts have nothing to do with love. But God does not hand out contracts. God deals in covenants. A covenant is very different from a contract. In a covenant, one persons says, “I will do this,” and the other persons says, “I will do that.” They promise something that does not depend on the other person keeping her end of the bargain. God makes covenants regularly in the Old Testament: with Noah, with Abraham, with all of Israel. And Jesus’ promise of the Holy Spirit is an extension of the covenants God makes with his creation. Jesus says, keep my words, and the Father and I will dwell with you. And then Jesus says, the Father will send the Spirit so that you can keep my words.
That’s a covenant. That’s Covenant Love. God will be God, God will do for us what God has promised. We can keep the words of Jesus; we can love Jesus and those whom Jesus loves. Not because we have so much strength of our own. Not because we can earn the right to represent Jesus in this world as his witnesses. No! Because God has promised us the Holy Spirit, the Advocate, who will remind us of the words of Jesus, who will teach us to follow those words, who will lead us in the ways of Love that Christian discipleship demands. And because of the Spirit, our love can become the visible witness to Jesus Christ that this world desperately needs to see!