Series: Renewing Our Relationship with God
Sermon: Sharing God’s Love
“Love one another” sounds so simple, doesn’t it? And it is. It sounds so easy, too. But if it were so easy Jesus probably wouldn’t have felt the need to mention it so many times. If it sounds so simple, and it sounds so easy, then why is it so difficult? By the time we’re finished this morning we’ll discover the answer to that question.
Renewing our lives begins with renewing our relationships. The two most important relationships are our relationship with God, and our relationship with others. Loving God and loving others are the two commands that we’ve been given, which if we follow those two commands will fulfill every other command that’s ever been given.
We’ve already discussed renewing our relationship with God the past 2 Sundays. Renewing our relationship with God begins with accepting that God loves us. Today we begin looking at renewing our relationship with others. Renewing our relationship with others begins with sharing God’s love with the people around us.
I. Loving our neighbors.
Who are the people around us that we’re called to love? That question was put to Jesus in Luke 10. “25On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. "Teacher," he asked, "what must I do to inherit eternal life?"
26"What is written in the Law?" he replied. "How do you read it?"
27He answered: " 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind'; and, 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'"
28"You have answered correctly," Jesus replied. "Do this and you will live."
29But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, "And who is my neighbor?"
A. Who is my neighbor? Does it amaze you the lengths to which some people will go to try to keep from loving someone? Me either.
In response to the question, Jesus tells the story of the Good Samaritan.
“A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he fell into the hands of robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead.
31A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. 32So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. 34He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, took him to an inn and took care of him. 35The next day he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper. 'Look after him,' he said, 'and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.'
36"Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?"
37The expert in the law replied, "The one who had mercy on him."
Jesus told him, "Go and do likewise."
Notice that the man’s original question was “who is my neighbor.” Jesus, however, turns the question around and asks, “Who was a neighbor.” That needs to be the question we ask ourselves. Not “who is my neighbor” so we can squirrel out of helping someone, but “am I being a neighbor” to those who need mercy.
The expert in the law understood that loving your neighbor is about showing mercy. It’s easy to “do no harm”, but that doesn’t necessarily give people the help they truly need. It’s easy to do no harm, it’s more difficult to show mercy.
II. Loving our family.
The Lord makes it very clear that family relationships are very important. But we are often more loving to strangers than we are to our own family members. Have you found that to be true in your experience?
Love at close quarters can be difficult. A Sunday school teacher was discussing the Ten Commandments with her class of five and six-year-olds. After explaining the commandment to honor thy father and thy mother, she asked, "Is there a commandment that teaches us how to treat our brothers and sisters?"
Without missing a beat, one little boy answered, "Thou shall not kill." Look at 1 John 3:11-15.
“11This is the message you heard from the beginning: We should love one another. 12Do not be like Cain, who belonged to the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own actions were evil and his brother's were righteous. 13Do not be surprised, my brothers, if the world hates you. 14We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love our brothers. Anyone who does not love remains in death. 15Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life in him.
Here are the first 2 siblings and they can’t even get along. Cain gets jealous of his brother and he kills him. This is sibling rivalry taken to the extreme.
John follows Christ’s teaching when he says even if you hate your brother in your heart you are a murderer. Do you see a pattern beginning to come out here? We’ve got to do more than just do no harm, we need to show mercy. We’ve got to do more than just not hate, we’ve got to love.
B. Love is more than words, it’s also actions. “16This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. 17If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? 18Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.”
What does it mean to lay down our lives for our brothers? Does it mean we’re willing to die for them? Maybe, but probably not. In a practical sense it means laying down the wants and wishes and desires of our lives in order to help a brother or sister.
(Story of Sagemont Church in Houston giving up their church’s money for a new building and paying off their debt in order to help a woman who needed surgery but couldn’t pay for it.)
As husbands it means giving up our plans for the sake of our wives. As wives it means giving up your wishes for the sake of your husband.
Parents (good parents) regularly sacrifice for their children. What is rare is when a child sacrifices their wishes for the sake of a parent. This goes for siblings too.
III. Love your enemies. Matthew 5:43-48.
“43"You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' 44But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
We have not even begun to understand the power of love until we have learned to love our enemies.
On the morning of October 2, 2006, a troubled milkman named Charles Carl Roberts barricaded himself inside the West Nickel Mine Amish School, ultimately murdering five young girls and wounding six others. Roberts committed suicide when police arrived on the scene. It was a dark day for the Amish community of West Nickel Mines, but it was also a dark day for Marie Roberts—the wife of the gunman—and her two young children.
But on the following Saturday, Marie experienced something truly countercultural while attending her husband's funeral. That day, she and her children watched as Amish families—about half of the 75 mourners present—came and stood alongside them in the midst of their own blinding grief. Despite the crime the man had perpetrated, the Amish came to mourn Charles Carl Roberts—a husband and daddy.
Bruce Porter, a fire department chaplain who attended the service, described what moved him most about the gesture: "It's the love, the forgiveness, the heartfelt forgiveness they have toward the family. I broke down and cried seeing it displayed." He added that Marie Roberts was also touched. "She was absolutely, deeply moved by the love shown."
Charles Gibson of ABC News had this to say about this Amish community. “Passages from the New Testament are taken literally in this community, and the Amish believe they need to love their enemies, which may be beyond the ability of most people, especially so close in time to the murders.”
The love and forgiveness of the Amish people was so counter to the normal behavior of the world that it caused people to ask, where does such love come from? The only answer is that it comes from God.
Can we love that way? Is it too difficult for us to love one another as Jesus commands us to? Yes, it is too difficult, without the indwelling Spirit of Christ providing the power to love beyond what we are capable of on our own.
In the beginning we asked the question why is something that sounds so simple and so easy so difficult? The answer is that love will often require that we get outside of ourselves, outside of our wants and our wishes, outside of the normal human patterns. When we share God’s love we’re sharing a love that is sacrificial, full of grace, and full of mercy. We must learn to love others as God loves us.