Once upon time, a small country Baptist church called a young preacher right out of seminary. The pastor search committee was impressed with his knowledge of the Scriptures and his preaching ability. His professors highly recommended him. Being a small church, they felt fortunate in being able to call such a gifted young man.
His first sermon to his new flock just wowed the congregation. Many in the church congratulated the pastor search committee for finding such a skilled preacher. The next Sunday came and the new pastor preached exactly the same message, though only a few realized it. The third Sunday, the new pastor preached exactly the same message. This time, more than a few people recognized it. Some began to wonder if their new pastor had only one message. The forth Sunday, the new pastor preached exactly the same message. Now even the deacons were aware that the message had not changed in the month since they had called their new pastor. They approached the pastor search committee as to the issue. They were dumfounded at what was taking place. After all, his professors had recommended him as an astute student of the Scriptures as well as a gifted orator. It fell upon the chairman of the search committee to approach the young man. He inquired, “Pastor, in the short time you’ve been here, many of us have grown to love you and we appreciate your leadership. However, you’ve preached the same message four Sundays in a row. Is there a problem?” To which the pastor responded, “No, there’s not problem. As soon as you all begin doing the first sermon, I’ll preach a new one.”
That story actually has some grounding in history with the preacher in question being the Apostle John himself. The 4th century Church Father, Jerome, tells the following story: “When the blessed evangelist John the apostle, had lived in Ephesus into his extreme old age and could hardly be carried to the meetings of the church by the disciples, and when in speaking he could no longer put together many words, he would not say anything else in the meetings but this: ‘Little children, love one another.’ When at last the disciples and bothers present got tired of hearing the same thing again and again, they said, ‘Master, why do you keep saying the same thing?’ John replied with a saying worthy of him: ‘Because it is the Lord’s command, and it is enough if it is really done.’”
So if this morning’s message seems redundant with some of the others I’ve preached from 1st John, I’m probably being faithful to the Apostle’s writing. For throughout the text this strong theme of the necessity of brotherly love is repeated over and over and over again.
So this morning, let’s revisit the subject of Christian love and discover four new truths about it.
In 1 Corinthians 13 we get a pictur of love’s importance. “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.” (1 Corinthians 13:1–3, NIV84).
It doesn’t matter if doctrine is perfect. It doesn’t matter if we have the most talented musicians on the face of the earth. It doesn’t matter if we have a sound exegetical explanation of the Word in the service twice a week. If we lack love we are not the Church of Jesus Christ.