11th Sunday after Pentecost
“I Will Always Love You”
1 John 3.16–18
 We know love by this, that he laid down his life for us—and we ought to lay down our lives for one another.  How does God’s love abide in anyone who has the world’s goods and sees a brother or sister in need and yet refuses help?  Little children, let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action.
Many of you may be familiar with the song, “I Will Always Love You.” Dolly Pardon wrote and recorded the song in 1973 and won several awards. The rest of you probably remember Whitney Houston’s version of the song from 1992, made popular in the movie The Bodyguard. The song was an international hit for years to come through Whitney’s ability to introduce the song to a much wider audience, almost 20 years later. Today is, in fact, Whitney Houston’s birthday. She would have been 52 today.
The premise of the song is that even though this relationship is over, I’ll cherish what we had, always wish you well, and I will always love you. It’s sad, really. The song is a farewell ballad to a relationship that was good, but just not good enough. There’s irony in the lyrics because the words state that I’ll always love you but then that love is leaving. Sure, it says, “I’ll Always Love You,” but then it walks away.
Now, I’ve heard this song a thousand times and heard my wife sing it in the car when Whitney Houston’s version comes on. I’m a Tina Turner fan, personally. So while she’s singing “I Will Always Love You,” I’m singing, “What’s Love Got to do with It?”
But in looking at this deeper and taking the words of the song in, I can’t help but notice that this is the definition of love today. That for non-Christians and even some Christians who fall prey to it, they believe that they will or can always love someone and yet walk away. As Christians, we can’t accept this kind of love. We are shown by God throughout history and Scripture, that love is abiding, advocating, close, intimate; that an “always love” is just that, ALWAYS.
Our children are being taught and sometimes by example that it’s ok to walk away when it’s not. We serve a pursuing–God. Whether it’s bitter or sweet or bitter–sweet, God never leaves us and never forsakes us. His love is a chasing love, a pursing love, a sacrificial love. Godly love is an acting love, that doesn’t depend upon words or sentiments, but it imitates the God who loves completely.
Our Scripture this morning commands us to lay down our lives for one another, just as Jesus laid down His life for us. It questions us–and–our–intentions by saying, how does the real, true, love–of–God live within us, if someone needs love but we’re not going to provide it? And that is the question. Are we going to see the world in such a light that we will say to it, “We love you,” and then go one about our way, not coming along side it and staying with it, through thick and thin, good and bad, pretty and ugly.
It’s like the wedding vows that we make at our Christian services, that we will be committed to each other TILL DEATH PARTS US. And according to the love of Jesus Christ, not even death can part us. The resurrection of Jesus is such that nothing would stand in the way of God being with the ones He loved and created. There is nothing that can separate us from the love of God because God won’t let it. As the Scriptures say in Romans 8,
 Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?  As it is written,
“For your sake we are being killed all day long;
we are accounted as sheep to be slaughtered.”
 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.  For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers,  nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Nothing should come between the love we have for one another, because Christian love is a death–defeating–love. Our issues on politics, social standards, finances should never come between the resurrection–love that we have from God. The same goes for our marriages and for our children. What will you let GOD do in your marriage or in your family if you love with a resurrection–love?!
As 1 John says this morning, don’t love in word and speech, you love in truth and action. We don’t love and then leave! That’s saying it and then not backing it up. But we love in truth and sometimes that means telling them the truth and then loving them through it or into that truth. God loves you and is loving you into the image of His Son. When God gets done with you, you’re gonna look like Jesus to Him. He’s not going to give up or give in.
Will you love that way? Will you be loved into the image of Jesus? Will you love others into the image of Jesus? Will you love your spouse, your children, your neighbors and community into the image of Jesus? Will you love our schools into the image of Jesus? God says, I will ALWAYS love you, and I will never walk away! That is the God we serve; a God of faithfulness, of commitment; a God of miracles and of wonders! And to Tina Turner, “What’s love got to do with it?” EVERYTHING!