Are You Loving One Another?

This sermon can be watched or listened to at www.templebaptistchurch.ca!

Rate yourself on a scale of 1-10 on how well you love one another.

1____________________________________ 10! 10 is that you are a very loving person and people tell you this all the time. 1 is that your own mother has a hard time loving you. Loving one another is one of the easiest teachings to say and memorize, but one of the hardest to do. Now if you are here today for the first time, I suspect that you expect that as followers of Jesus Christ we are loving toward one another. You may not have heard much about Jesus, but you have probably heard that He promoted that we are to love one another. So how are you doing with that? Are you loving the people around you? Could there be some room for improvement? How would your new college roommate rate you? What score would your spouse give you? How about your siblings? Your parents? Frankly, if you get a low score at school, work or out in the community, you have some issues because those are the areas where we are most concerned about our reputation. Out in the public eye, people usually see the best version of us. We can appear pretty loving and kind.

I gave myself a score of 6. I know how I can be fairly loving to people in our church and community, but then sometimes fail miserably at home with loving my family. I also know that I don’t always respond in love when I have poured myself into a task, project or somebody’s life and then at the moment that they should be most grateful, they tear a strip off you. I can easily want revenge by giving the cold shoulder or gossiping about them or giving up on the relationship. I am loving only a little bit more than half of the time.

This is why this message is so important. Some of you are on the verge of being so unloving that you could do irreparable damage to your relationships. This is why, in part, our church has been studying through the Gospel of John since Easter in order to understand our new identity in light of who Jesus is. Our Leadership Team took time out of our busy schedule last week to seek the Lord in prayer and to discuss the future. We also tried to do some self-evaluation. We see God changing us to be more like His Son Jesus in so many ways and are so thankful for His work. We have moved past a lot of our traditions and barriers to ministry and instead have more of a care for our community just like the BBQ we put on for Centennial Public School this past week. We have embraced grace, but hopefully not at the expense of truth. We have a discipleship pathway that is our measuring stick for effectiveness rather than just numbers. In other words, we care more about whether you are reading God’s Word, praying every day and sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ than how many people come here on a Sunday. These are all good things that God has done in our midst over the past 5 years.

God is growing us, but the area that we think we can continue to grow in is our love for one another. Love is the mark of a Christian. This is our new identity – our love for one another. Jesus teaches His disciples that their love for one another will set them apart. It still does. Our love for one another is compelling. In fact, our memory verse for the month of September is John 13:34, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.” But here is the thing: Jesus gives this command not at the beginning of His ministry! He doesn’t proclaim it on top of the mountain with thousands listening like He did at the beginning of public ministry but instead in the darkly lit room on the night that He was betrayed. Jesus started out His ministry in Matthew 5:44 telling His followers to “love their enemies and pray for those who persecute them,” but the night before He died He is more focused on how His disciples should aim their love at one another. He was so concerned that He spent the last day before His death taking the form of slave and washing His disciples’ feet including the one who betrayed Him. After practicing what He was going to preach before He preached it (which is always a good strategy for preachers), Jesus finally got to some final words. Let’s read about those words in John 13:21-38! Read John 13:21-38!

If I had to say in a sentence in summing up this passage and what it means to love one another, I would put it like this: To love like Jesus is to love those who betray, misunderstand, deny and leave you. We read in this passage Jesus was betrayed by Judas, misunderstood by all the disciples, denied by Peter and left by all but John at the Cross. Jesus knows how hard it is to love one another. He can relate to any hurtful relationship you have had. You may have been betrayed, misunderstood, denied or abandoned, even by followers of Christ, but Jesus commands us to still love one another. No other club or religion teaches such love. But this doesn’t mean it is easy to apply. That is why D.A. Carson says, “The new command to love one another is simple enough for a toddler to memorize and appreciate, but profound enough that the most mature believer is repeatedly embarrassed at how poorly they comprehend it and put it into practice.”[1]

Maybe part of the reason why we have a hard time loving one another is some misunderstandings about what it means to love. I’m focusing today more on the application under the banner to love like Jesus is to love those who betray, misunderstand, deny and leave you. I will try to correct 4 misunderstandings about love. Here they are:

  • Love comes naturally – There are many people who think that love comes naturally and easily. That it is in our nature to love. However, this is not true. We are naturally selfish. Most of our days are spent looking after our own wants and needs. Even when we are acting loving, it often masks our selfish desires to be well thought of or for people to do what we want. This is why Jesus actually has to make the call to love one another a commandment and not just a good idea. Did you notice that Jesus says loving one another is a command in verse 34? This means that if you call yourself a Christian and you choose not to love other Christians, then you are disobeying Christ. You are in fact not loving Christ when you neglect to love one another. This does not mean that obedience equals love. You can obey without love. Judas did! “Sold out to Satan though he was, Judas had no recourse but to obey the word of Jesus”[2] and so Judas left the upper room when Jesus told him to. You can do the right thing without having the right heart – one full of love. Which raises the question what does it mean to love somebody? I heard somebody tell me long ago that love is doing what is best for the other person even at your expense. That type of love doesn’t come naturally. It comes supernaturally. It comes from God. The writer of the Gospel of John also wrote another letter in 1 John 4:7, “Beloved, let us love another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.” Love doesn’t come from within ourselves, but from God. Some of you have been trying to will yourself to love that difficult person in your life and it really isn’t working. Love comes from God. Ask God to give you His love for that other person. There is a second misunderstanding about love…
  • Love doesn’t have favourites – This sounds really good, but actually undermines love and is unChristlike. What do I mean? First, notice that Jesus had a favourite. We know that He loved all His followers, even Judas. However, one of Jesus’ followers had a greater place in His heart. Verse 23 identifies the man, “There was reclining on Jesus’ bosom one of His disciples, whom Jesus loved.” Richard Lenski observes, “The hearts of most were near to Jesus, yet young John’s was nearer.”[3] John, the writer of this Gospel, was Jesus’ favourite disciple. John was like a son to Jesus who broke through the usual invisible barrier of personal space and hung on Jesus. You see, to love is to have favourites. I liken this to how a marriage works. Lori and I love each other in a way that we don’t love others. We became exclusive so that we could become inclusive. In fact, out of our love we bore four children, but I am not just talking about sexual love, now that I have grossed out my children. Our love for each other has helped us to love people in more profound ways. We have been able together to care for our neighbours in ways that I certainly couldn’t have done alone. We have been able to counsel people together. We have become more loving and inclusive of others because we have been exclusive. And so, I want to address an issue that almost every church and school and team is accused of – cliques. Temple has cliques. We have seasoned singles here at Temple who shortly after this service will gather together at some local restaurant. That is a good thing and I’m sure they would invite you to come along if you wanted to come. We have groups of young adults who go and have a nice home-cooked meal after the second service. We have groups that know more about the inner workings of the church than others – we call them leaders (Staff, Deacons, Elders). We have even intentionally created small groups of people who meet together weekly to discuss God’s Word and pray. We believe these groups rather than becoming insulated cliques actually help people love others outside their groups. For example, someone might be having a hard time at work and then they go to their EPIC small group where they are reminded of Christ’s words and love and they are emboldened to go back to work with a new love for their co-workers. And then we have hundreds of cliques called families. The problem is when we are friendship sufficient and don’t care about those outside the group. This leads to people feeling that they are left out. This is where we can grow as a church. But the problem is in being exclusive. We need exclusivity because we don’t have the time to be equally loving to all. In being a friend to all, you will be a friend to none. In fact, if you don’t have a group that you can appropriately be more intimate and loving with, you won’t be very good at sharing that love with others. Jesus had a clique – 12 disciples and we should be thankful that He did because out of the Twelve, He formed the church and you and I have Christ’s love. Their love for one another attracted many people to Christ (Acts 2:46-47) And eventually those Twelve were scattered to the four ends of the earth to spread the love of Christ. We must do the same, but it all starts by forming into groups! I challenge you to join a small group. (Talk to Pastor Aaron or write your name in the info card in front of you and take it to the Welcome Centre afterwards.) Love is a two-way street: invite others into your groups and strive to become a part of a group. I saw that beauty of exclusive love, of having favourites, two weeks ago when a small group at the end of the service formed a circle and prayed for Dale Bowyer as his father lay dying. Their love for one another reminds me of another misunderstanding…
  • You must feel like loving others – Many think that you must feel like loving the other person. Again, loving others is a choice to do what is best for the other person. There are many times that you don’t feel like loving the other person, but you still do what is best for them. At that moment, you may be loving them more than if you did when you felt like it. Jesus did! Verse 21 makes it clear, “When Jesus had said this, He became troubled in spirit and testified and said, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, that one of you will betray Me.” Jesus was troubled in spirit and yet He taught and loved people to death – His own death. Peter in the story promised to love Jesus until the death. Peter says in verse 37 that he would lay down his life for Jesus, but “sadly, good intentions in a secure room after good food are far less attractive in a darkened garden with a hostile mob.”[4] Feeling like you are loving may not be loving at all. Maybe you came here today with a grudge for something somebody did to you? You don’t feel like loving the other person at all. May I not only remind you that Jesus commands you to love, but that He loved you even when He didn’t feel like it. After supper, He went to the Garden of Gethsemane to pray and to ask God to give Him another way to redeem you than the cruel Cross, yet Christ still went through with it. Ask God to help you love when you don’t feel like it! He will! And yet this does not mean you turn a blind eye to sin, which is the fourth misunderstanding …
  • Love means ignoring the truth – Notice that when Jesus was asked about who would betray Him, He revealed who it was. In fact, He could have just have kept the whole betrayal bottled up. Instead in verse 21, He unloads the burden and tells the truth of one who was going to betray Him. Love means telling the truth. Now some of you may still have a nagging question and question the truthfulness of Jesus’ statement: how is this new when the command to love your neighbor as yourself was written around 1500 years earlier by Moses in Leviticus 19:18? “The new command is not ‘new’ because nothing like it had never been said before. Its newness is bound up not only with the new standard (‘As I have loved you’), but also with the new order it both mandates and exemplifies.”[5] Those five little words elevate loving others so much. We must love as Jesus loved. And to love like Jesus is to love those who betray, misunderstand, deny and leave you and this includes telling the truth. Telling the truth in love may be the most loving thing you can do.

Now that we have corrected some of these misunderstandings it is time to put love into action. You need to pray and ask Jesus what you can do that would be best for the other person even if and when they betray, misunderstand, deny or leave you. But loving like Jesus is not just a grit-your-teeth kind of love and be kind to others because that is what we nice Canadians do. No! As Max Lucado reminds us, “If God had a refrigerator, your picture would be on it. If He had a wallet, your photo would be in it … face it, friend. He’s crazy about you.” How can we move to that type of love for others? Where instead of driving yourself crazy over those who betray, misunderstand, deny and abandon you, what if you had a crazy love for them? Crazy in comparison to the world’s response to those who betray, misunderstand, deny and abandon you. Their response is to ignore or shout or attack or seek revenge. No Jesus calls and empowers us to love. And not some sick way, like the pretty girl who sticks with the total loser who abuses her because she gave way too much of herself to him. The only way is to ask God to give you a love for one another!

This is critical as we enter into Communion. Some Christian traditions extend this Lord’s Supper to a full meal and call it a love feast. I think we can call it a love feast too and it isn’t dependent on the type or amount of food. It is a love feast because we remember Jesus loved us. He even dined with people who betrayed Him, who misunderstood Him, who denied Him in front of a little slave girl and who abandoned Him so that the only disciple left when He was crucified was the one He loved as His favourite. This love feast requires that we love each other. I wonder if some of you have a grudge that has prevented you from loving others. As John Ortberg has said, “A grudge is like a baby, it has to be nursed if it’s going to survive.” It is time to get rid of that “grudge baby” and be born of God who will fill you with His love. “Judas shows how close a person can come to salvation and yet be lost forever.”[6] He was filled with Satan! Christ was filled with love! Only Jesus can help you truly score a 10 and love one another.

[1] D.A. Carson, The Gospel According to John – The Pillar New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1991), 484.

[2] Carson, 475.

[3] R.C.H. Lenski, Interpretation of St. John’s Gospel (Columbus: The Lutheran Book Concern, 1942), 944.

[4] Carson, 486.

[5] Carson, 484.

[6] Warren Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary – Volume 1 (Wheaton: Victor Books, 1989), 348.

Advertisements


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s