Love One Another
1 John 4:7-12
I believe it was Frank Luntz who originally wrote: communication is 20% of what you say and 80% of what they hear. The longer I have the opportunity preach the more I believe Mr. Luntz probably went a a little high with that 20%. Writing sermons is a funny thing, the minister gets to spend hours picking just the right words crafting how they fit together and what they are going to say, while the listener chooses what they hear. We have spent that last 4 months talking about the One Another passages in the Bible. I have spent a considerable amount of time trying to find the right words, crafting stories and illustrations to impress on you how important it is to encourage, pray, forgive, accept, greet, appreciate one another. But what I really hope that I have been able to communicate through all of these words and sermons is the overwhelming call to love one another.
I tried to communicate the idea that unless we are able to truly love one another we will never be able to have the type of community that God created for us to enjoy. Unless we love one another we will never be able to encourage, accept, or forgive one another. John and Paul both understood that love has to be the driving force in our relationship with one another. That’s why they wrote: John 13:34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.
John 15:12-13 This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lays down his life for his friends.
Romans 12:9-10 Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.
These passages, along with the one that was read for us from 1 John 4, point us back to what really matters in this life, and that’s our ability to love. John and Paul spend a considerable amount of real estate in their letters stressing the central message of Christ is to Love one another. In our text for this morning John gives us three reasons that we are to love one another. We have looked at these before, but let me briefly mention them again:
First, we love because that is our natural response to a God that loved us first.
Love is not just a characteristic of God; He is Love. When we truly understand how much God has done for us, and how deeply He loves us, our go to response becomes loving others.
God’s love is on a totally different level that what the world considers or passes off as love. When we express God’s love in our lives, we give up the right to meet our own wants and needs first. There is no room for a me first attitude in His Kingdom. God calls us to live a life of sacrificial love, because that is how He loved us.
Second, we love one another as evidence of our relationship with God.
We can fool a lot of people into thinking we are something we are not. We can even fool ourselves at times, but when we get down to brass tacts, our life always tells the truth about our relationship with God. You can tell a lot about my relationship with God by the way that I love the people that He loves. Healthy Churches and Christians are not the places that have the greatest growth plan, healthy churches and Christians have the greatest love for people who are different.
And, we must love one another so that we can reflect Christ.
One of the things that we have enjoyed about living back in Alabama is the chance we have to see the moon and stars. When we were living in South East Texas, the sky was illuminated every night with the lights from the oil refineries. And while they were beautiful, it made it difficult to see the moon and stars at night. But there are times when Trista and I are walking around Choccolocco Park or Oxford lake when we just have to stop and look for a while at the stars and the big beautiful moon. Some nights it shines so bright I feel like it brightens up the whole city.
But I learned in 5th grade Science class that the moon only shines because it reflects the light of the Sun. In the same way we can only shine if we reflect the Son. The call for us to be a community of love is found all throughout scripture. And even though the teaching of Jesus and the apostles is plain, the execution of that teaching at times get’s a bit distorted. Love is a funny thing. We tend to know it when we see it, but it’s also a bit like jello, tough to pin to the wall.
Love means a lot of different things in our world, which is why it sometimes gets wrangled into unloving agendas. We can do selfish, reckless, and self-destructive things all in the name of love. Some the most hurtful conversations I have ever been a part of, were supposedly had in love. I have seen people detonate an atomic bomb in their personal life in the name of love. And as we are picking up the pieces I have to point people back to the truth that love never destroys.
What Greenbrier needs to figure out is how does God want His love to be reflected in this community? It’s not enough for someone to say they love you, that love must drive the way that they treat you, and act towards you. So let me offer you a few ways that love can become a verb in our lives as we strive to love one another.
First Love must be reflected in our Kindness
I wanted to start here because I believe that kindness is powerful, and just like love, kindness is something that the world doesn’t understand. We give up kindness for being nice, and we fail to realize that nice is not the same as kind. Nice wears the veneer of kindness, and while they may look alike on the outside, their goals are completely different.
I am not sure how you would define kindness. I spent a little time poking around on the internet and looking through some books in my office and didn’t find a whole lot to help me with this point. I mean there were tons of stories, but not much explanation of what real kindness entails. Trying to define kindness has been harder than I anticipated. But my inability to define it doesn’t mean it’s not significant.
When ever I have some difficulty trying to figure out what I need to do, I usually go back to 1 John 2:6 where John writes Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus walked. I believe that will help us in our discussion about what it means to be kind. So I went back and picked out a few stories of how Jesus dealt with people and showed kindness.
In John 2 we see Jesus at a wedding at Cana, and the family was in big trouble because they had run out of wine. In an act of kindness Jesus turned water into wine to keep the young newlyweds from the terrible embarrassment and possible legal action. Kindness won’t let you be embarrassed.
In John 8 Jesus was confronted with a woman caught in the very act of adultery. You may remember that Jesus took the crowds focus off of the woman, and turned the focus back on the individual members of that crowd. And while He does not excuse the woman of her sin, He forgives in an act of kindness. It was kindness that reminded the woman and the crowd that we all need forgiveness from Jesus.
Or in Luke 8 when Jesus was headed to the home of Jarius, a ruler of the synagogue, who’s 12 year old daughter was dying. While He was making his way through the crowds a woman who had been subject to bleeding for 12 years, came up and touched the edge of Jesus’ cloak, knowing that it would heal her. Jesus felt the power leave, so He stopped and asked Who touched me? But the apostles said, Master, you are in a crowd, lots of people are touching you. but Jesus asked again who touched me. The woman, seeing that she could not go unnoticed, came and fell at His feet. And in an act of Kindness, Jesus claimed her, He calls her daughter. It was kindness that let the women know she was accepted.
And in John 13 we see that Jesus washed the feet of the Apostles, including Judas, who had already agreed to betray Him. It was kindness that treated Judas with love when Judas refused to show any love at all.
Time and time again Jesus encountered the blind or the lame, or those suffering from leprosy, or a tax collector, or prostitute and every time He showed kindness. Jesus understood that kindness is simply noticing someone else and recognizing their needs. You can show kindness when you allow someone to be heard, when you allow someone to feel important, when you allow someone know that they matter, not only to God who they cannot see, but to another human that they can see. Kindness is when you act in compassion towards other people with no strings attached. Kindness is motivated by love for others, but niceness is motivated by self.
Secondly love must be reflected through our Politeness.
Have you ever heard a sermon on being polite? I looked back through my files and I have never preached a sermon on being polite, yet I think that it is a critical part of love. Our culture and society becomes more and more isolated, we have forgotten what it is to notice the other people around us. The result is that our focus becomes more and more self centered, and we begin to make all of our decisions based on what makes me happy.
It’s impossible to be polite to someone you don’t see, and with all of these wonderful gadgets in our lives, it is becoming more and more difficult to see one another. I mean I really appreciate having the world in the palm of my hand, but what I have noticed is that there are times when I get so focused on this little phone, that I ignore the real world happening around me.
When Trista’s little sister was old enough to date for the first time, my mother in law asked me to take her out and show her how a gentleman was supposed to treat a lady. Francis and I wanted to give her a baseline to judge how well these guys she was going to date were actually treating her. I brought her flowers, opened the car doors for her, the door to the restaurant, held her chair for her when she sat down, made sure that she had everything that she needed, and even went and watched the movie that she wanted to watch. When we returned to the house I asked her if she understood how she was to be treated. She looked at me and said, If I have to wait for someone to treat me like that I’ll never get a date.
Maybe she’s right. In 1 Corinthians 13:5 Paul writes that love is not rude. J.B. Phillips paraphrases this verse by saying, "Love practices good manners."
You might be sitting there thinking that being polite is such a small thing. And it is a small thing, but that doesn’t mean it’s not significant. Being polite is … like salt, while you might not always pay attention to it when it is present, but it is very obvious that something is lacking when it is absent.
Dealing with people is not easy. Which is all the more reason to be polite. When we are polite we show people how much they matter, how much value they have in our lives and in the Kingdom. People are important to God so they must be important to us. That’s what I was trying to impress on Tina and that’s what our love for one another needs to impress on the world, and this community. We say please, and thank you, hold open doors, smile, and remember one another because we are trying to tell each other through our actions that you matter, that people matter.
Finally, love must be reflected through our Cheerfulness
It is far too easy to settle for what is easy instead of what we really want. For example people want to find purpose, but they often settle for a paycheck. We want a relationship with God and we settle for religion. We want joy and cheerfulness and we settle for happiness. And when we sell ourselves short, we never achieve what we were created for.
People in our community need to see what true joy and cheerfulness looks like, because for far too long we have undersold the ability to find cheer and accepted happiness. It’s important that you understand that cheerfulness and happiness have very little in common, happiness is based on your circumstances, while cheerfulness comes and remains constant regardless of what happens. Cheerfulness is an inner attitude of joy that manifests itself through outward celebration.
There was a time when I would get offended when folks would talk about churches being filled with Bitter Brothers and Sour Sisters. I wanted to defend the folks I worshiped with, I wanted to remind folks that the church was a place of serious business, and everything had to be done decently and in order. But then I realized that those things don’t have to be mutually exclusive. You can do serious things, in a decent and orderly way and still be cheerful and inviting.
A few years ago I came across a picture, that when I saw it I immediately had to have it. It is a picture of Jesus laughing, and it was a revolutionary concept for me. Jesus was a cheerful person. At least that’s how Jesus talked about Himself. He told His apostles in John 15:11 I have told you these things so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow! and then in John 17:13 Jesus said, I told them many things while I was with them in this world so they would be filled with my joy.
We serve a cheerful God, He rejoices in His creation, and He especially rejoices in the salvation of lost sinners. If we are truly God’s children, then we must display the family trait of cheerfulness in our lives. Christians will be recognized by their cheerfulness; even when everything around us is being turned upside down. It was the cheerfulness that allowed Paul and Silas to sing praises to God when they were chained to a damp and dirty jail floor in Ephesus. And it was cheerfulness that Jesus called us to in the Sermon on the Mount when He said, God blesses you when people mock you and persecute you and lie about you and say all sorts of evil things against you because you are my followers. Be happy about it! Be very glad! For a great reward awaits you in heaven. (Matthew 5:11-12)
God created His church to be a community of love and love is infectious. In a world that is starved for love, when they see the way that we love one another, they will want to know more about Christ who taught us to love. The Model City is in desperate need of a Savior and we can meet that need by showing the Love of our Savior. And that can be done by
L—listening when another is speaking,
O—overlooking petty faults and forgiving all failures;
V—valuing other people for who they are;
E—expressing love in a practical way.