And we’ve tamed Him over the years to be a thoughtful cerebral man. We have chosen to see him more like a friendly traveling preacher, than the out right, world changing, paradigm shifting, crazy peaking man that He was.
We read His words and say a polite “Amen” and choose not to remember that most of the things that Jesus said in his life where completely crazy to the people who heard them.
He said crazy things Like. Matthew 5:43
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’
and everyone said “Amen”!
And then He said...
But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you,
Which was an absolutely crazy thing to say! Jesus was not a man who came to be reasonable.
If he came to be reasonable He would not have stood on a mountain and said:
Blessed are the Poor
Blessed are the Meak
Blessed are the Peacemakers
He went to a temple, Made a whip and beat the people who were buying and selling. He threw over their tables and chased them out!
Not are these the word and actions of a reasonable person?
A reasonable person, would have have entered the temple, scheduled a meeting with the counsel of elders. Would have made a presentation stating the pro’s and con’s of having money changers, and livestock sales within the temple. He would have made projections and shown how tithe money could be maintained without their presence, and then would have scheduled a followup meeting to discuss the outcomes of the previous meting. going over timelines for the removal of the the money changers, and of course appropriate compensation for the premature cancellation of their services.
Perhaps He would have come to a compromise to have the money changers situated at a predetermined location outside of the temple.
This would have been reasonable. But Jesus wasn’t reasonable. He was Radical! The Pharisees more than likely spent much time trying to figure out weather he was the son of Man or simply Insane!
And now over 2000 years later we read these words and say a polite amen and go on with our lives.
And maybe that’s the problem with Christianity today we’ve forgotten that absolute insanity of Christianity. we’ve conformed Christianity to our lives rather than letting our lives become conformed to the Live Jesus called us to.
And so here we are talking about loving our neighbors, and we find that Jesus calls us to do something we thought should be simple, but then He takes it to a new radical level.
He says this several times, but here is one time in Matthew 19:19
‘Honor your father and your mother,’ and, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ ”
Love your neighbor… easy!
As yourself… wait! what? (as the Kids would say)
It’s easy to envision loving your neighbor… I mean, I know how to love someone. But then again, maybe not the way Jesus would have us do it.
To love someone as I love myself? This is one of those man in the mirror moments
Illustration about Loving yourself in Bible College (My dean in Bible college was William Racha)
My pint is that you have you love yourself for the “As yourself” to be useful. Now I’m going to make the assumption that we all love ourselves here tonight.
But I want you to know that if this is something that you struggle with. that your church is here for you. we have lots of resources here as well as that can be recommended to help you see yourself as an object worthy of love (which btw. you are)
But Let’s look deeper at this command to Love your neighbor…
It’s funny first of all that when we quote this verse we typically stop right at that point. When we are asked what is the commandment we reply “To Love your neighbor...” But radical Jesus never said you should JUST love your neighbor. He said you should love them as YOURSELF!
and it’s this “as yourself” as I mentioned that makes this a radical proposition because, well.. I love myself. I think i’m pretty nifty. I love the talents and gifting that God has given me and I try my best to use them everyday!
I cherish and honor myself, I hold myself in the highest of regards. I try my best at all times to treat myself, my body, my mind and my soul, as well as I can.
I want the best for myself. I challenge myself daily to be better than I was before. I read everyday to expand my mind and knowledge. I look for new opportunities to do more, and to do as many unique things as I can.
I love me and because I love me I treat myself a certain way.
I would never harm myself, because I love myself,
I don’t disrespect myself, because I love myself,
I challenge myself, because I love myself
I look for the best things in life I can get because I love myself.
and it’s this kinds of all consuming, radical, unreasonable love that Gods wants us to have for our neighbors! and maybe that’s why we tend to cut out the “As yourself” from the verse, cause if we’re all truly honest about it, not one of us loves pretty well anyone as much as we love ourselves?
Oh, some of us may come close with our spouses...
Some may come close with our kids.
But i doubt any of us get to that level of love for the guy with the cardboard sign that says “Out of work and need money for food, anything helps”
I doubt any of us get to that level of love for the drug addict that you see shooting up in an ally.
I doubt any of use get to that level of love for the lesbian couple that you see walking down the street hand in hand.
But God does. He loves them with a radical all consuming Love that surpasses our ability to understand it.
Now I think at this point its a god Idea to look at what love does and doesn’t look like. because I can see that some of you are getting a little uncomfortable (and I don’t want that lol)
Nope, sorry.... When you love someone and you want he best for them you do not want hem to stay and live in sin. Love doesn’t say “I know what you’re doing is wrong, but I won’t say anything because I love you” That is not love. That isn’t even like.
Love does not accept your short-falling. it wants to see you better yourself. Love says, What you’re doing is not OK and because I love you I want you to be better than this.
Loving someone means that you love them and accept them even though they are sinful, BUT it does not mean that you accept their sin.
That’s why we say that we should
Love the sinner, not the sin
Loving someone does not mean that you love their sin too. Of course not! In fact it is the opposite of Love to say that your sin is ok. If I love my children and see them doing something wrong. I don’t say “I will keep my mouth shut because I love you”. Because I love my children I cannot keep my mouth shut. I must tell them what they are doing is wrong and help them to correct their action.
See one of the problems today is that we live in a world that says if you love me you’ll accept whatever I do, you won’t challenge my beliefs or dare to disagree with me. This is a lie from the devil. When you love someone you are compelled to challenge them when you see them acting wrongly.
but our God has it differently, Hebrews 12:6
For whom the Lord loves He chastens, And scourges every son whom He receives.”
The world would say this isn’t love at all.... Jesus says this is ultimate love
Look through the life of Jesus and you’ll find that there is something missing. It’s not an obvious glaring mistake. it’s not a in your face omission, but it’s something that you would expect to see hundreds of times throughout the life of Jesus, and the fact that this is absent from the Bible is kind of strange, or at least I thought so… but maybe then again, it’s also a show of what Love is and isn't
Read through the life of Jesus and you wont find him telling anyone at anytime that they had to do anything for his healing or redemption!
Not once does he say: I’ve healed you not I expect to see you in the front pew next Sunday”
At no point does he say: I’ve redeemed you so now you need to fil out this membership form and one of my disciples will call you early next week.
Instead He simply says “Go… and sin no more”
Instead he says “ Hey come and follow me”
See Jesus did not use His love and kindness as a Temple recruiting tool. He did not attaches any strings to his healing, and his compassion didn’t come at a cost. It was at all times freely given, and sometimes that’s were we fall down as Christians. we try to use our love and charity as church recruitment tools, and people see right through that. See Love with strings isn’t love at all.
If as a church we do something good, simply to get people to come to our church then it isn’t good at all.
This is what Love Says: Love says” I don’t care who you are or where you’re from. I don’t care what you look like, which community your belong to our what your sin is. I will do for you simply because I want to see you because better and for no other reason.
think about how you love yourself. do you attach strings to the things that you do for yourself? do you tell yourself you will only do something for yourself if you have a perfect day, or only if you get through the day without sinning? Of course not! you do for yourself because you love yourself and for no other reason.
Love is not the exclusive domain of a particular group of people. it was not meant for some and not for others. There is not a single person who was meant to nor should be excluded from love regardless of that you think of them. regardless of the level or depth of their sin. Regardless of what you think of the,m and regardless of what they have ever done to you.
Love doesn’t look at someone and pass them by because they don’t deserve it. Love doesn’t say “We’re not for you because....”. Love simply say’s “Hi, I don’t particularly care about what your story is, or what sin is in your life. I don’t care what you did to me yesterday, and I’m not going to worry about what you might do tomorrow. I love you right now and I will love you tomorrow too”
Look at Jesus He didn’t discriminate when it came to who he showed love to, He showed love to:
Prostitutes and harlots
Lepers, Blind and Lame peoples
Sinful Jews and Samaritans, and
(probably worst of all to the pharisees) Gentiles
Jesus did not show one ounce of favoritism when I comes to how he shared out His love. His love was literally for everyone… and it’s probably one of the reasons that the Pharisees where so annoyed by Jesus. Jesus took what they thought belonged to them alone (God’s love) and shared it with everybody indiscriminately!
Can we follow Jesus’s example? Can we show love to:
The Beggars and Homeless
Down and Out
The Gay’s and the Lesbians
Hindu’s and the Muslims?
Remember this doesn’t mean that we have to agree with them. certainly not. like I mentioned before. sometimes the greatest act of love we can do is to tell someone that they are wrong. But how we do that says just as much about us as the message that we are trying to convey.
On that note. lets talk about what Love does look like:
Love is not a stable element. it is an excelerant. Love pushes and challenges, and prompts you to better yourself. Which one of you here doesn’t want to improve on yourselves every day? which one of you here is satisfied with just where you are right now, meaning you wouldn’t change and thing and need not improve upon yourself?
OF course you all do? why? because you love yourself. Love is a relentless improver, Love says I love you AND you can be better than you are today. The tow things are not mutually exclusive like the world will tell you.
in fact if someone doesn’t want to see you better yourself, they probably don’t love you.
If they don’t ever challenge you, they probably don’t love you.
Love is OK with your flaws AND STILL want to see you improve on those flaws.
See the world tells us that any sort of criticism of my life means that you hate me. to the world criticism is a act of hate because they don’t want to hear about their flaws, They don’t want to hear that they could be wrong. This is the hold that the Devil has on the world, because if no one ever improves upon their sins the world is truly doomed, and this is what the devil wants.
The devil wants a word where the motto is “to each his own” because then that means that literally nothing is “wrong” so long as it is ok to me. This is what we call “moral relativism” and it’s one of the devils greatest tricks.
My mother does foster parenting and once had a child who believed strongly in this. he would literally tell me that a crime wasn’t illegal unless you get caught!!!
There are people out there who will tell you that “So long as it doesn’t harm another it’s ok!!!! This isn’t love my friends! Love would never leave you in your sin just to keep you happy! Love would never sit idly by while you harm yourself all the while saying it’s ok because you’re not harming someone else! Love wouldn’t! Love Couldn’t! Because Love care too much for you!
Do you know what would let you sit in your sin? Hate! Hate has not problem with you harming yourself and claiming it’s ok because you’re not harming another. Because Hate knows that “hurt people, hurt people” that specifically act that you do may not harm another.. but as you damage yourself you are bound to damage others in turn… some way or another.
Love say, “NO! I cannot stand to watch you do this to yourself and to other, I have to step in” That’s Love!
Love challenges you everyday to be better than you were the last.
Love challenges you to see the world differently
Love Challenges you to love others as you love yourself!
Love its the highest expression of Godliness that any person can aspire to. after all God IS Love 1 John 4:8
He who does not love does not know God, for God is love.
and we were made in His image. so when we show love we are literally showing God. (but you know… no pressure)
I mentioned last week that Judgement is an awful recruitment strategy and we explored how Jesus chose to show love to though who didn’t deserve it. so let me take it a step further.
We have a saying that we must love the “unlovable” but I think the Bible is trying to tell us that there is NO Unlovable person. no not one. When Jesus chose to show love he wasn’t just showing the character of God, He was showing God. He was showing exactly what God looked like to the people who needed to see it most. Why was Jesus so transformational to the people that he encountered? because when you encounter Love, you are encountering God, and that is what Jesus was doing. Who can stand unchanged in the presence of God?
The same goes for us. When we show love to people we are showing God himself to them.
When we show love rather than Hate to those who oppose us we are showing them God.
When we show Love rather than disdane for the people outside of the church, we are showing them a glimpse of what God looks like. and I for one cannot think of a better recruiting tool than God himself!
Brothers and sisters. Do you want to win a Muslim over? Show them love instead of hate!
Do you want to win over a LGBT person? try showing them love, instead of lecturing them about the sinfulness of their lifestyle. I promise. most of them know exactly how sinful their lifestyle is and they’ve made peace with that. Show them love and acceptance instead. Show them that God doesn’t hate them, but loves them. and the best way to show them that God loves them is to love them yourself. Because when you love them you are showing them God, as the get to know God through you they will naturally find themselves becoming uncomfortable with their lifestyle.
Some of us Christians take it as our job to make sure that the world and people know just how displeased with them God is. you see people like the Westborough Baptist crowd, protesting at military funerals with signs that say God hates fags and other awful things. and do you know what people see of God? the see a God of hate and malice. instead of a God of peace and Love. they learn that God hates them personally and that couldn’t be further from the truth! How do I know? whell we just read it
1 john 4:8 GOD. IS. LOVE. And if he IS love he cannot also be hate. Se the truth of the matter is there is not PERSON that God hates. Now he may hate sin… but Sin is an action or act. not a person or people. And I have to again come to the central thesis of our Faith in John 3:16
For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.
So There is not one person that is beyond Gods ability and desire to love them. God wants everyone and that’s why he made His 2 greatest commandments so simple and so clear.
Love God with all your heart, mind, and soul. “Love me!” God says and I will teach you about love”
And then He say’s Go out and love you neighbor, just like I taught you to love.
Go out and love others just like I love you! because when you show others love you are literally showing them them me. and that is what it means to be a “witness” of the Gospel
Love doesn’t care what you did last night
Love isn’t interested in the fact that you fell short, yet again.
Love has no interest in your latest failure.
Love sees your potential.
When you look in the mirror in the morning you may see… well... this.... but some how each of us can imagine what we would look like just a bit fitter, or we can imagine what it will be like when we pass that course, or finally defend our Thesis. why? because the love that we have for ourselves allows us to see the best in ourselves even though we’re not there yet.
and that’s the exact same love that God calls us to for our neighbors.
Can you imagine a Muslim girl taking off her hijab as she finally recieves the freedom that God gives?
Can you imagine the homeless person finally getting of the streets and into a normal life?
Can you imagine the Gay couple raising their hands in worship to the one true God who has set them free from sexual immorality?
Can you imagine the Lame man walking again?
That IS love. That is what love does. it sees you at your best, at your prime, at your optimal state, even before you get there.
and We See that reflected throughout the Bible We see God all throughout the Bible choosing people based on their future potential rather than their current status.
Why else would God have chosen Mary, A Young girl not even married, but somehow able to humbly receive and care for Gods son.
Why else would he have chosen David. the youngest and smallest of his family. and yet he because one the God called a man after His own heart!
Why else would he have chosen Saul of Tarsus. a man who’s job it was to kill Christ’s follower who became one of our greatest Apostles and the author of much of what we call the Bible today!
See God saw in each of them the potential of what they could be even while there were still in their current circumstance. The fact that Saul a Pharisee, a follower of the law, who knew the 10 commandments and more by heart daily sinning by having people put to death wassn’t enough to put the God of love of his target. God saw his potential first. God saw what Paul was capable of an in love pursued him while still a sinner.
and that’s the beauty of Love. because not a single one of us got rid of all our sin first before becoming saved. God saw us all in our sin, looked down on us and said “I want him anyway, because I know what he is capable of”
So here we are with this command. Love your neighbor as you love yourself… which by all accounts is a command that we might consider crazy. uttered by a God who has an irrational love of us. and don’t be mistaken God love for us is completely irrational, I mean look at us, saved and yet still mired in our sin. If god were not who he said he is, he would have no reason at all to continue loving us. people who continually reject Him, doubt, him and test him… If I were God I would want nothing to do with humanity. and yet here he is still saying every day to every person. Here I am, I love you, still will you have me?
He saves us from our sin and teaches us how to love ourselves by showing us how he loves us. and then he says Go spread the Good News that I love ALL people
I don’t just love Christians in fact I loved them before they loved me!
The good news is that God doesn’t hate Gay or Lesbian people. He Loves them passionatly. Does he want them to change? Of course He does, but that’s because he loves them not because he hates them. Does he condone their sin? of course not, but since when was changing your ways perquisite of Gods love? If it was we would ALL be doomed
The Good news is that God doesn’t hate, the drug addicts and the beggars. no! He loves them passionatly! Does he want them to change? of course he does, but not because he hates them, but because he loves them so much that it pains him to see them living the way they are. Does he condone their sin? of course not, but the depth of their sin can never match the depth of Gods love for them.
The Good news is that God doesn’t hate anyone He love each of us… and he love each person outside of this church equally and equally passionately. There is no difference between Gods love for us and Gods love for them.
The Good news is that Gods love is for everyone regardless of their sin and that’s the message that God wants us to send out to the world.
God wants us to go out into our country and tell the people, YES you are a sinner, but God loves you anyway.
God wants us to go out into our city and tell the people, there is no sin that excludes you from fellowship with us, because God loved us while we were yet sinners and he loves you too Romans 5:8
But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
God wants us to go out into our neighborhood, and invited them all in, because He desperately wants to have a relationship with them too regardless of where they are in life right now.
God wants us to show our neighbors the same Love that he showed us, which is why he commands us to love our neighbor, as our self.