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Love One Another, Pt. 2
1 John 4:11-14
June 8, 2014

It is perhaps the worst case of amnesia in the world. Deborah Wearing tells the story of her husband, Clive:

Clive had no idea that Tuesday, March 26, 1985 would be his last day of conscious thought. We weren’t ready. Did he feel his brain disappearing that night? Why didn’t he wake me? By morning he could not answer a simple question or remember my name. The doctor said it was flu and a lack of sleep that was causing the confusion. He tucked him up with a temperature of 104 and a bottle of sleeping pills. “No need to stay home,” he said to me. “These’ll knock him out for eight hours. Go to work.”

But it wasn’t okay, and while she was at work, Clive left the apartment and was found wandering the streets by a taxi-driver who called the police who then took him to the hospital.

The diagnosis came 11 hours after our arrival at St Mary’s [Hospital]. A virus had caused holes in Clive’s brain; his memories had fallen out. The doctors said it was encephalitis, from herpes simplex, the cold-sore virus. The virus, they explained, lies dormant in most of the population. Once in a blue moon it slips its moorings, and instead of going to the mouth it goes to the brain. The brain swells up, and, before long, brain crushes against bone.

The virus does its damage before anyone knows it is there.…By the time they had figured out what was wrong with Clive and started pumping anti-viral drugs into him, all he had left where his memory used to be were…scars. He could not remember a single thing that had ever happened to him, but he remembered me and knew that he loved me. [my emphasis]

August, 1985: “How long have I been ill?’’

“Four months.”

“Four months? Is that F-O-R or F-O-U-R (ha ha!)?”

“F-O-U-R.”

“Well, I’ve been unconscious the whole time! What do you think it’s like to be unconscious for… how long?’’

“Four months.”

“Four months! For months? Is that F-O-R or F-O-U-R?”

“F-O-U-R.”

“I haven’t heard anything, seen anything, smelled anything, felt anything, touched anything. How long?”

“Four months.”

“… four months! It’s like being dead. I haven’t been conscious the whole time. How long’s it been?”

After two weeks, I decided it was legitimate to start saying, “Nearly five months,” to skip the joke.…

In spite of Clive’s amnesia, inside he retained his fundamental intelligence: the same intelligence that had propelled him throughout his career. He was often lucid and, apart from occasional episodes when he was full of rage, he was himself. That was what made his condition all the more horrific.

Clive no longer had any episodic memory, that is, memory for events. Clive did not have the brain parts necessary to recall anything that had happened to him in the whole of his life. But, as is the case with amnesia, he could remember general things. For example, Clive knew that he was married, although he was unable to recall our wedding…He could not have described my appearance, although he knew me as soon as he saw me. He knew he was a musician and conductor, but could not recall any concert. He knew his children by his first marriage – two sons and a daughter, all grown up – but expected them to be much smaller and wasn’t sure how many he had.…He knew his own name and the names of his siblings and childhood family. He knew facts about his childhood life: where he grew up, where he was evacuated to in the war.…After that, his sense of his own autobiography got a bit hazy.…Clive could not remember the sentence before the one he was in. Conversation, watching television or reading were beyond him.…

After almost 20 years in this condition, Deborah writes…

Clive still writes his diary. The entries have barely changed, but the handwriting is calmer now. And his disposition is a lot happier. He knows he is in his place and I am out in the world.

“When are you coming?” is his regular refrain. But if I hesitate at all he reassures me that he is all right and he understands I have to do what I have to do. “Get here at dawn,” he says anyway. “Get here at the speed of light.”

And one day I do arrive at dawn. I drive through the near-empty roads, hoping to be there when he wakes. But when they open the front door, he is there, already awake, and I am the first person he has seen and he clasps me to him and sings a high G and waltzes me into the living-room.

“My eyes have just come on,” he says. “I can see everything normally for the first time.” “And I’m here!” I say. He hugs me again, holds me at arm’s length and smiles. Later, when he makes me coffee, he knows where the cups are and where the milk is kept. I take him for a drive, and as we draw near to the house on the way back, he must recognise the place, for he unclasps his seat belt and offers to get out and open the gate.

When I leave that night my car doesn’t start and I have to come in and call the breakdown service. We make a drink in the kitchen. Seven minutes after the last mention of my car Clive says, “Well, at least it means you can stay a bit longer!” Perhaps he had been rehearsing the event in his mind through those minutes. When the garage has repaired the fault and the engine is running, I come back in to get my things. Clive is ready to say goodbye and not hello.

“Remember I love you,” I say. “I can never forget you for a moment,” he says. “We’re not two people but one. You’re the raison d’être for my heartbeat, darling. I love you for e-ter-ni-ty.” When I reach home several hours later I call him. I want to tell him I’ve arrived safely but he’s forgotten I was there. “When are you coming?” he says. “Please come at the speed of light!” “I just got home from you,” I say. “Oh really? Well, come at dawn then…”

The article from the London Telegraph was entitled, “The Man Who Keeps Falling in Love with His Wife.” But it also could have been entitled, “The Woman Who Keeps Loving Her Husband…”

If you watch a sentimental, romantic movie in the theater, love seems easy. But it is not always easy. Sometimes it’s hard. Very hard. It can be hard in marriages and it can be hard in families with children and parents. It can be hard among friends and neighbors. And it can be hard in the church. And that’s why we need often to be reminded of the importance of loving one another, and also of the ability God has given us in Christ to love those who are unlovely.

That’s part of the message of 1 John. In that letter, John repeatedly addressed a number of doctrinal and pragmatic concerns for the churches he loved in Ephesus and Asia Minor. And among those repeated themes is the topic of love. He spoke of this issue in 2:5-11 and then again in 3:11-24. And then in 4:1-6 John took a short detour to the topic of the work of the Holy Spirit and now in verse 7 through the end of the chapter he resumes his thoughts about love in the context of the church body.

 If we know God, we must and we will love one another.

In this passage, Paul offers answers to questions about loving one another.

  1. Whom Should We Love? (v. 7a)— one another
  2. Why Should We Love? (v. 7b) — because love is from God and that’s what we also do
  3. What if We Don’t Love? (v. 8) — it reveals that we don’t love God (are not believers)
  4. How Do We Love? (vv. 9-10) — by contemplating God’s love for us through Christ
  5. What is the Motive to Love? (v. 11a)
  6. What is the Obligation to Love? (v. 11b)
  7. What is the Effect of Love? (v. 12)
  8. What are (Personal) Benefits of Love? (vv. 13-14)

Download the rest of this sermon on 1 John 4:11-14.

The audio will be posted on the GBC website.