John 4: 7 – 21
Today we are entering into the last third of our walk through the Believe Series. Up to now, we have looked at:
10 Key Beliefs of the Christian Faith
10 Key Practices of a Jesus-follower
Now we are starting our ‘BE like Jesus’ section of the series.
10 Key Virtues of a Person Who is Becoming More like Jesus.
The first key virtue we will investigate this morning is LOVE.
Love is such a vast topic, that it is impossible for me to even begin to understand its complete depth, never mind share in a 25 minute sermon all its intricacies and wonders. So this morning, I would like to only focus on a few insights that I believe God has laid on my heart
John 4:7 – 21
How many of you have watched the television show, ‘Cheers’? For eleven seasons, from 1982 to 1993, Cheers was one of the highest-rated shows on television. It was set in a bar with a mishmash of characters who came every day after work to have a drink: there was an alcoholic ex-pro, baseball playing bartender, a know-it-all postman, a semi-unemployed accountant/painter/interior decorator, an abusive cocktail waitress, and a strong independent female manager.
This comedy showed us people who care about each other, who accepted one another in spite of their many failings and frailties and idiosyncrasies, people who shared an emotional bond, who were committed to one another. Just listen to the Cheers theme song:
Making your way in the world today
Takes everything you’ve got;
Taking a break from all your worries
Sure would help a lot.
Wouldn’t you like to get away?
Sometimes you want to go
Where everybody knows your name,
And they’re always glad you came;
You want to be where you can see,
Our troubles are all the same;
You want to be where everybody knows your name.
Isn’t that what we all want? People who care about us? People who are glad when we show up? People who will support us and stand by us in the bad times? People who will accept us instead of criticizing and judging us? People we can just be ourselves around?
I want that – I need that. And, dare I say, so do you. We all do.
Illustration: – upsurge of chain of pubs during the late 80’s and early 90’s (Kegs, O’Hagans, MgGinty’s, etc. (Were these an attempt to achieve this “place where one can belong??) These pubs didn’t stay around for too long. Obviously they did not meet that need. Unfortunately, there are still millions of people around the world who are making their way to a pub to look for fulfilment, a place to belong and feel cared for. Sadly, all they get is a headache and hangover. Often feeling emptier than they did before.
Well, I’ve got news for you. Good news and bad news. The bad news is that ‘Cheers’ was pretend. It wasn’t real.
The good news is that there is a place where it can be real, and is supposed to be real. That place is the church! The kind of place that Jesus Christ intended His church to be.
Unfortunately, you and I know that too often, it’s just the opposite. We have to recognise that when many people think of an accepting, loving, supportive, place to be real, to just be themselves, they are more likely to think of an AA meeting than a church.
So then, how do we make the church a place like this?
- Christians should make Love a priority
We all know that loving people can be difficult. Even people at church can be difficult to love. There’s a lovely old chorus that goes: “I’m so glad you’re a part of the family of God,” and then I think many of us look at the person beside us and sing, “I’m surprised you’re a part of the family of God.”
Indeed, loving people is difficult, but this is what the Bible commands. (1John 3:11) “For this is the message we have heard from the beginning: we should love one another.”
In the Old Testament times, the LAW was the priority. Jesus came along and shifted the priority to LOVE.
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and most important commandment. The second is like it: Love your neighbour as you love yourself.” (Matthew 22:37 – 39)
In this Great commandment, Jesus is not only summing up the entire message of the Bible and all the laws, He is going beyond the law. His new law fulfils the laws of old. As we read in Romans 13: 9 & 10
“The commandments: ‘Do not commit adultery, do not murder, do not steal, do not covet, and any other commandments, are summed up in this one decree: “Love your neighbour as yourself.” Love does no wrong to its neighbour. Therefore love is the fulfilment of the Law.”
OLD (10) COMMANDMENT = WHAT YOU MUSN’T DO (Negative language)
JESUS’ NEW COMMAND = WHAT YOU MUST DO (Positive language)
- Christians should embody the distinguishing nature of Love
Love should be our badge. When we demonstrate Christian love, it distinguishes believers from the rest of the world. In John 13:35, Jesus says, “By this shall all people know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
It’s like Jesus has given the whole world the right to judge whether or not we are his followers.
Notice, that Jesus did not say that people will know that we are His disciples if we promote His agenda, or wear a Christian T-Shirt or a WWJD bracelet, or have a fish decal on our car, but rather if we love one another.
A watching world will be persuaded not when our values are promoted, but when they are incarnated, when we become purveyors of love.
Believers are God’s advertisement to a watching society. The vivacious virtue of love distinguishes the Christian.
- Christians should demonstrate the virtue of love (What does this love look like?)
- Love values the other person
Do we really appreciate or value the people around us? I’m sad to say that too often I approach relationships with other people, first taking my own interests into consideration and too easily making a value judgement.
Have we stopped to think about the value of each person around us?
We measure “Value” by what people are willing to give or pay for something. Think of an Art auction. The lot goes to the person who makes the highest bid. Sometimes when I look at some of the art at auctions, I think, wow, what a piece of rubbish and then it sells for a couple of million dollars. So it was valuable after all.
Now think about it, John 3:16 says “For God so loved / valued the world, that He gave His one and only Son.” Now isn’t that the greatest price you can think of?
Everyone around us is of incredible value! – How can I say this? Well God thought they were so valuable, that He was willing to give His only Son to die in their place.
Maybe it is time that we start looking at others in the way that God looks at them. Because people matter so much to Him, they ought to matter to us too. Therefore we need to love them as He loved them.
- Love is vulnerable
Love goes beyond sentimental feelings. It breaks down barriers. It exposes the heart.
CS Lewis describes the vulnerable nature of love in his writings:
“To love is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries. Avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in a casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in the casket – safe, dark, motionless, airless – it will change. It will not be broken. Instead, it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable.”
- Love entails a cost
Love gets its hands dirty. It takes a chance. It goes out on a limb. It takes a gamble. Love makes a statement and leaves a legacy.
Love cost God dearly. He put everything on the line. Jesus gave up his life because of love. “No greater love has anyone than to give up their life for another.” (John 15:13)
God willing, we will not be called to lay down our life for another, but to think that loving others will not cost us anything is naive.
The reality is that when we put others first, we come second!
I’m not saying that we should constantly abuse ourselves or become passive doormats, but Christian love inevitably carries cost. Even when the cost is high, we can nevertheless count on God to bring fulfilment to his followers. True love always costs. If there is no cost, then there is no love.
- Can we achieve this kind of Love in our own strength?
The simple answer is “NO”! We cannot love others like Christ – without
The Lord who forgave even those who crucified Him, stands ready to forgive you and me for our lack of love. He wants to show us his mercy today and to cleanse our loveless hearts and fill them with His loving Holy Spirit. Then we can begin to love like He loves us.
In conclusion then, it is when we open ourselves up to the Love of Jesus that our love will become like that of Jesus; when we make love a priority in our lives; when we begin to wear this love like a badge; and we truly value each person, making ourselves vulnerable and willing to love no matter the cost, that the Church will begin to fulfil its true calling on earth.
If you’d allow me to return to my opening image of the “Cheers” pub. I think we should all be striving to make the church the kind of place where people know your name. A place where all are accepted and loved, where lives are radically changed by the love of God flowing through His people in their relationships with one another. And as we become that kind of a church; the world will notice. When strangers walk through that door, they will sense that something is different here; when they go home, they’ll say, “I want that”. They will want what we have, and eventually we will be able to tell them that what we have isn’t a “what” at all. It’s not a “what,” it’s a “who” – Jesus Christ, living in and through us.