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Holy Love

A police officer was on patrol when the officer saw one of the community members who experiences homelessness sitting alone on a curb. The police officer felt the Holy Spirit say to go buy the person lunch. A little surprised, the officer replied to God, “Excuse me Holy Spirit but... what are You doing here?”

A nurse just finished her double shift at the hospital when on her way out, God told her to check on one of the families in the waiting room to give them some comfort. Under her breath she muttered, “Excuse me Father God, but what are you doing here?”

A preacher was once up late working on his sermon, thinking about the different times God had distinctly shown up in his life, when all of a sudden he felt Jesus appear in the room with him. The preacher was taken aback and asked, “Jesus, what are You doing HERE?”

Have you ever wondered, God, what are you doing here?

Last week in service, Pastor Mario pointed out that, while God is not afraid of sin, sin cannot be around God because God is holy. So it may come as a surprise when we encounter God in situations that seem less than holy. Let's look at an example of God being present for a people who were not behaving in a very holy way, and see how God responds. Isaiah 6:1-8 reads like this:

1 In the year of King Uzziah’s death, I saw the Lord sitting on a high and exalted throne, the edges of his robe filling the temple.

2 Winged creatures were stationed around him. Each had six wings: with two they veiled their faces, with two their feet, and with two they flew about. 3 They shouted to each other, saying:

“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of heavenly forces!

All the earth is filled with God’s glory!”

4 The doorframe shook at the sound of their shouting, and the house was filled with smoke.

5 I said, “Mourn for me; I’m ruined! I’m a man with unclean lips, and I live among a people with unclean lips. Yet I’ve seen the king, the Lord of heavenly forces!”

6 Then one of the winged creatures flew to me, holding a glowing coal that he had taken from the altar with tongs. 7 He touched my mouth and said, “See, this has touched your lips. Your guilt has departed, and your sin is removed.”

8 Then I heard the Lord’s voice saying, “Whom should I send, and who will go for us?”

I said, “I’m here; send me.”

In this text, Isaiah experiences a vision of God. He gets to see the Lord. Yet the seraphim, who are spiritual, holy beings, cover their faces and cannot see the Lord. Why is that?

Isaiah saw God and was afraid, because not only was he a "man of unclean lips" (impure, or not holy), but his people were also unclean. But what does God do? He makes Isaiah holy. He removes Isaiah's sin with a hot coal from the altar.

Throughout the Bible, particularly the Hebrew Bible, we see a pattern where God goes looking for people to bring them to him and restore their relationship with him. Then those people turn away from God to do what is right in their own eyes, instead of what God says is right. They face the consequences of their choices, sometimes by wandering in the wilderness, sometimes by experiencing exile. But God does not leave them to suffer forever; God goes after them. That is some radical love.

God is holy, and calls us to be holy. Holiness, as we explored last week, is a difficult concept to define. But one important aspect of holiness is love. God is set apart in how God loves us. And God calls us to love as he loves. He sends us on a mission into the world to share his holy love.

Look at Isaiah's response to having seen God and having been made holy. God asks, “Whom should I send, and who will go for us?” And Isaiah responds with an enthusiastic, "I'm here; send me!"

What if the key to becoming like God, learning how to love like God, is found in seeing God?

The more clearly we can see God working, the more we want to be involved in God's mission. The more clearly we see how God loves, the more we want to love like God loves.

How does God love? What does this "holy love" look like? Well, let's imagine a physical therapist who is really good at her job. She will meet her patient where they are at but she won't leave the patient where they are at.

Your physical therapist will start out with exercises that you can do and then she will push you beyond what you think your limits are. At the same time, she knows when you need to rest and recover. There is a beautiful balance that she navigates with you. You appreciate her. You get angry with her, but you are grateful for her because she is helping you to get stronger and heal.

In the same way, God's holy love is not a love that just accepts us as we are and leaves us there. No, God's holy love is one that challenges us to step outside of our comfort zone and makes us better. God provides both loving encouragement and loving challenge in our journey toward holiness.

Thomas Aquinas said that "to love is to will the good of another." That is what God wants; he wants us to reach our highest good, our greatest potential. But that does not come from staying where we are at or where we have been. No, that comes through intentional challenge and encouragement.

In John 1:14, Jesus is described in this way: "We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth." Jesus was full of grace, but did not lie in order to keep people comfortable. He spoke the truth even when it was uncomfortable for those listening. Jesus was a model of holy love.

So how can we seek to live lives of holy love? One way is to look around at our lives and those we come into contact with and to ask Jesus, "What are you doing here?" Knowing what Jesus is already up to helps us to know how to live into our relationships.

We do not always know what is the highest good for the people around us; that is why we need to rely on God for wisdom. We have to see what God is doing and follow where he leads.

Knowing what Jesus is doing helps us to know what we should be doing. We are not flawless and so our love will not be either. But the Holy Love we receive from God can overflow into Holy Love for others and for ourselves. You become what you behold; behold Jesus.

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