1 John 4:10-12
N.T. Wright shared an enlightening conversation he had with someone who was discussing their experiences at different churches. After commenting on how they had tried several different traditions and denominations this person suggested that all churches should be forced to put a danger sign out front that warned people to expect nasty gossip, snide conversations, and rude behavior once they entered the door.
This is one of those stories that I understand, but I really wish that I didn’t. I am pretty sure that each of us could share a story of a time when someone who was rescued by love, and called to love chose to not act in love. It's not that we have failed to love our enemies. We have failed to love, with the supernatural love that comes from God.
We are taking a few weeks to focus specifically on Biblical love because we still struggle with our sinful nature. We all struggle with being impatient. It’s amazing how quickly we become irritated with other people, and allow our selfishness to rise to the top. There may be people in our community who would say that even Greenbrier needs to put a danger sign out front.
That’s why we are taking a deeper look at 1 John 4, the Bible’s clearest, most practical, most easy-to-understand teaching on love. Today we are going to focus in on verses 10 through 12 and look at Love's Model.
The world has tried to find the true meaning of love in a 100 different ways. Yet, love is not modeled in philosophy. Love is not modeled in theology, or in Sociology. Love cannot be defined by abstract concepts. Love is an action, but it’s not physical. Love is exemplified in the redemptive action of God on our behalf. It is best defined by the action God took in order to save us from ourselves and our sin. When we say that we love someone, what we are saying is that we are imitating what God has done for us. We have been called to follow Jesus and live a life that resembles the cross.
The world wants us to buy into a different idea of love, one that is self serving. The world’s love is based on loving people as long as they meet my needs, or make me happy. It is very selfish, if we can even call it love at all. It is such a far cry from the type of love we were created for the love that is based on the call of Christ to Love as I have loved you.
This morning I want us to specifically focus on what John writes in verse 11 of our text; Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. Underline the word ought.
I am not sure what you think about when you hear the word ought. Maybe it makes you think about something you were supposed to do but forgot. Or something you were supposed to do, but didn’t have the time or the desire to do. Like I ought to loose 10 pounds but I really want to eat hot wings and a piece of cheese cake.
But the word ought here means design. You were created to love. That's what you were designed to do. When John says we ought to love one another, he is saying that we were created to love just like honey ought to be sweet. The sun ought to be bright. Teenagers ought to roll their eyes at their parents. Fish ought to swim.
God created things for a particular purpose. We don’t put a fish on a leash and expect them to walk down the street. Fish belong in the water where they can swim. You were created to love and there is something horrible and broken when we refuse to live in love. When we turn our love, our focus inward, it is not just a failure to love, and it’s not just a spiritual problem. Actually it’s deeper than that, it’s a denial of your very humanity.
We need to take a look at our lives and be honest about how we are doing, how well we are living up to our calling. Unfortunately, I need to confess that there were times this past week when I was like a fish on a leash. I got to spend hours with this text this week, and I still found myself living more selfishly than lovingly, so caught up in my own agenda, so absorbed with my own feelings, so propelled by my own desires that I refused to love like I was created to love.
Unfortunately I am not alone. The Model City is filled with people who are unfulfilled. You are constantly within 50 feet of people who are attempting to do something they were never created to do. You were created to love, and yet so many of us are trying to live for ourselves. And as long as we are focused inward we will never find lasting happiness or fulfillment. We will continue to wander around in our emptiness as long as we deny what we were created to be.
We are called to live our lives as a reflection of the cross. If our community is to have any hope it will be because those who have accepted the love of Christ in their lives, have determined to love this community. If we are going to love like we are created to love, we must follow the Model that Jesus laid out for us.
First, Love requires a commitment.
If we are going to love like God has created us to love, we must be committed to loving others. And for most of us that means that we have to be willing to burn our ships and abandon our exit strategies.
There is this great passage in 1 Kings 19; Elijah was a great prophet who not only stared down 400 prophets of Baal and 450 prophets of Asherah, but he was willing to stand toe to toe with Ahab and Jezebel. But the time was coming for Elijah to pass on the responsibility to someone else, and God directed him to a farmer named Elisha.
Elisha was a farmer from a family of farmers. He was wealthy and had the assets to prove it. When Elijah walked up and threw his cloak around Elisha, no one had to tell him what was happening, Elijah was offering him a job. He was faced with a decision, he could do what was easy and safe, he could stay on the farm and continue to plow with the oxen. Or he could make the choice to follow God’s call.
Elisha got rid of his exit strategy. That’s why he slaughtered his oxen. That’s why he burned his plow. That’s why he threw himself a going-away party and invited everyone he knew. He cooked the oxen and then gave the meat to the people. He knew that if he was going to follow God then he needed to go all in.There was nothing to come home to. He had removed the temptation. He had eliminated the exit strategy. His love for God moved him to make a dramatic commitment.
Love thrives when it is rooted in commitment. We were created to love people with an unrelenting commitment. But we have our own exit strategies when it comes to loving people. We say that we are going to love people like they have loved us. So if you are loving and easy to get along with then I will love you back. That exit strategy doesn’t follow the model of Christ who love those people who hated and despised Him. The call is to love people like you love yourself, not just love the easy to love. So get rid of your exit strategy and love everyone, and start with the creepy ones.
It’s too easy to give up on people. If someone acts out of their sinful nature and hurts our feelings, breaks our trust, or makes us angry, our instinct is to just cut them off, and let them go. We tell ourselves that they are not worth our time, or they are not worth the effort to love them I mean after all if they are not going to try, then why should I? We have this exit strategy that people are only worth being loved, if we think they are worthy of our love. And if you have an exit strategy, then you are not committed. So get rid of your exit strategy and love everyone, and start with the difficult ones.
God models love’s commitment. Peter writes that God is long suffering with us (2 Peter 3:9). Which means God has been patient with us when we choose to sin, He loves us when we refuse to love Him in return, He continues to call us back to Him when we choose to rebel against Him. If that is how God loves us, and He has created and gifted us to love like He loves, then we must be committed to love.
This morning you are being called to make a commitment to do the very thing you were created for. And you will find when you are committed to love, God will open your eyes to 100 different opportunities to love like you ought to be loving.
Next we need to understand that love requires self-sacrifice.
I think that one of our mistakes is that we are shopping for love that's comfortable. We want to love as long it will fit into our schedules, doesn't challenge our finances, or take us across uncomfortable cultural borders. We want love that doesn’t require sacrifice, but that’s not love.
John says that God’s love for us is the model for how we love other people. Think for a moment how God loved you. Jesus endure the mocking of the people, the humiliation of being stripped of His clothes and His dignity, the embarrassment of being put on display for people to hit and spit on. Think about the blood that streamed down His face as a crown of thorns is jammed onto His head Think about how every nerve in His body screamed in pain as they drove the nails through His skin. Think about how God turned His face from Jesus as He hung on the cross, I mean Jesus saw the back of God’s head. The shocking thing about the cross is Jesus wasn't dying for His friends, He died for His enemies. He died for people who rebelled against Him, people who are too arrogant to confess they need of His grace.
But that’s not the only time that Jesus sacrificed for you. Think about Him looking at His Bride, at how soiled the Bride has become when we bicker and fight about what we want. How often has His Bride been divided and broken; yet He never turns His back. He continues to pour out His love although we could never earn it and surely don’t deserve it.
Yet we think we are sacrificing when we choose to love folks who are easy to love, who return our love. I want love to only love the people who have someway earned my love. Because I actually love myself more than I love others. Thats’ why I struggle to love people who are hard to love. Which is a far cry from the sacrificial love we see in Jesus.
Paul writes in Philippians 2 that Jesus made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross! (7-8) Before Jesus ever drew his first breath as a baby in a manger in Bethlehem, He sacrificed His rights and positions of power. And this was not just a one time experience, a one time sacrifice, it was a daily sacrifice of our Savior who was intentional in His love for us. This sacrifice is powerfully seen during one amazing moment near the end of His life.
It's the final meal Christ is going to have with His disciples; they're in a rented room. The custom in Palestinian culture in those days was, before you eat a meal, there would be a servant who would wash the feet of those who were gathered for the meal. It was not only just a cultural custom, it made the meal more appetizing. People ate reclining on couches, no one was able to put their feet under a table, their feet were near your face; if they stink it affects the meal.
There was no servant in this room, but there was a custom for that as well. The person hosting the feast could either find a servant, or do the act of service themselves. Or the third option was that the youngest person in the room would perform this act of service for the older ones who were going to be a part of the meal. So there were plenty of opportunities for the Disciples to serve in love, and yet the disciples were so busy arguing over who was going to be greatest in the kingdom and jockeying for the seat next to Jesus, they didn't have any time to think about the basin. Everyone would rather eat with dirty feet than model the love they had seen in Jesus.
So, at the end of the meal, Jesus gets up and takes off His cloak. The Lord of lords and King of kings gets down on His knees and washes the feet of the disciples who were too arrogant to be concerned about doing that for Him. It’s not because Jesus had a stroke and forgot who He was, the text says He knew He was from God. It was an opportunity to point the disciples to a love that is willing to sacrifice. When He is done serving them He teaches What I have done to you, you do to one another.
That’s the essence of love; if you love someone, there is no action, no calling so low that you would refuse to do it. There was nothing beneath our Messiah. There was nothing that He was not willing to do in order to purchase your redemption. So why do we believe that there are acts of love and compassion that are beneath us?
The ultimate evangelistic activity we can be involved in, is to be committed to loving people with a self sacrificing love. Love remains, when everything else fades away. It is love that draws people who are broken and hurting back to God. There is no activity, or ministry, or event that is more radical than the love that we have been called to model in this city. When we live in that love, we present the world with the greatest argument for God. When you love, you are not just speaking the Gospel, you are doing the work of Gospel in our community. It's the ultimate argument for the work of the Lord Jesus Christ.
The power of Christ’s love in our lives is magnified in the forgiveness that was purchased at the cross. But the church has a dark secret; the reason we don't love like God created us to love is because we aren't willing to forgive as Christ has forgiven. There are too many Christians who carry thoughts of condemnation. To many Christians rehearse people's failures in our minds. In moments of gossip, we share the sin and failure of someone with somebody else.
Most Christians struggle to love because we refuse to forgive. There are husbands here that need to forgive their wives, and there are wives that need to forgive their husbands. There are children that need to forgive their parents, parents who need to forgive their children, friends who need to forgive their friends because love is seen in the action of forgiving.
The cross is not just about our forgiveness, it's our power to model love in the model city. It’s not just about dealing with our guilt, it's dealing with our inability to save ourselves. The cross gives you the potential to love in ways you cannot love on your own. The cross reminds you that God has made His home inside of you and empowers you to love.
This morning before we can model love, some of us need to ask God for forgiveness. Some of us have rebelled against what God created us to do, and we need to commit ourselves to a life of Christ like love love. We need to seek forgiveness from the people in our lives.
There are husbands and wives who need to put your arms around one another and say, Please forgive me. I have not loved you as I have been called love, and I want to give myself to that.
There are parents who need to hug your children and say I haven't loved you the way God has called me to love you. There are times that I have been angry and impatient with you. Please forgive me. I want to love you in this way.
There are children; you need to say to your parents, I have made your life hard. It's because I've been selfish and self-absorbed, and I haven't loved you as I have been called to love. Please forgive me.
There are friends who need to restore their relationships and say, I gave up on you because I was unwilling to love you in the way that God called for me to love. Please forgive me.
Maybe some of you need to go your neighbors and say, I have made ridiculous boundaries more important than my relationship with you. Please forgive me. I want to love you as my God has called for me to love.
There are some of you who need to approach the people you work with and say, I have allowed the stress and toil of this job to make me difficult to work with. I am sorry for not being a better colleague and loving you like God called me to love you, please forgive me/
Because if we are going to love in a supernatural way, we will have to first seek forgiveness for the things that have hindered His love in our lives. A revival of forgiveness is the first step to allowing His love to be expressed among us.
Maybe you're here, and you've never experienced the grace of God, never experienced His love. And maybe, for the first time in your life, you've heard this beautiful story of love, and you say, I'm one of those people. I'm so discontent and so dissatisfied in my life. I would welcome you join me down front right now as we help you find the grace and forgiveness that God offers you.