The Way of Love/June 10, 2018

Second Baptist Lincoln
June 10, 2018

I John 4:7-16
 7 Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9 This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.
13 This is how we know that we live in him and he in us: He has given us of his Spirit. 14 And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. 15 If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God. 16 And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.

 

Love is a very popular idea in today’s world, it’s on everyone’s lips. Songs are sung, books are written, and films are made all about love. But, we often forget that love is a truly Christian idea. It is seen in its fullness only in Christ. Love originated in the mind of God, John says that “God IS love”. But what the world calls love is extremely different from what God in Christ revealed love to be. Love is used 180 times in the New Testament so it must be an important topic, it must be something that God wants us to grasp.

As you might recall, last week I began a new 10-week series on Discipleship based upon the book “The Ways of the Alongsider.” As you learned initially, an “Alongsider” is a growing Christian who comes long side a newer or weak Christian to help bring them into a deeper and closer relationship with Christ. We also learned last week this is intended to be done by “amateurs.”.  The apostles were amateurs who Jesus trained.  What was funny, is that that 24 hours after I emphasized that Jesus trained amateurs to preach the gospel, Jae Stockton, our missionary speaker last Monday noon, said exactly the same thing. She said, “I’m a missionary, but so are each one of you.  You are a missionary.  We are missionaries every day of our lives.”   
This week, I want to talk about “LOVE” and how vital love is to the concept of being an alongsider. It is so important, that John says in his epistle,  “He who does not love does not know God.”   If you don’t love, you aren’t a Christian.  You have no connection to God if you are not a person of love.That’s pretty black and white.  That’s pretty harsh. So WHAT IS LOVE?   Look at Verse 7 & 8 – here we find the origin of love.  John begins by telling us that Love comes from God, and the person who doesn’t love, does not know God. It is difficult to understand this statement until love is defined. So, what is love? Webster’s dictionary, defines love as a “strong liking for someone or something, or a passionate affection for another person”. Verse 7 though says that love is from God. This is not a Dr. Phil or Oprah definition of love.  This is not love as defined in a Harlequin romance novel.  It is not a love defined by Beyonce or Taylor Swift in whatever music they sing.  

So right away we see that the problem is evident, love is from God, and therefore a human definition is not sufficient enough to describe love.  In modern English, love is one word that has many meanings but if we look at the original New Testament Greek we can see what type of love John is talking about. In Biblical Greek, words for love include philia, eros and agape. Phileo is friendship and it means brotherliness or companionship. – This is the love that we would have between best friends. Eros (not found in the New Testament) means sexual desire, this is where we get the word erotic from. Agape is godly love, unconditional and totally unselfish.  The way it plays out in relationships, is that Eros is all take, phileo is give and take, Agape is all give. All through this section the word for love that John uses is agape. It’s not sentimental love, it’s not sexual, and it’s not social love. It is a supernatural love that the Holy Spirit can put in our hearts, and only the Spirit of God can make it real to us. In other words it’s the love of God. 

So what we find in the Bible is that we are always to love one another.  We find in both the Old and the New Testament. Lev 19:18 says “Thou shalt not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself: I am the LORD.” However Jesus then put a different slant on this commandment and said in John 13:34 “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.” And God loved us FIRST.  He didn’t wait until we loved him to pour out his love for us.  He loved us before we were formed in our mother’s womb. We certainly give Him plenty of reasons not to love us! But, He showed the greatest act of love there could ever be. Look at Verse 9: Christ’s death on the cross for you and me is the greatest love that anyone can have.

So HOW ARE WE TO LOVE?  What is this love supposed to look like?  Do you want to see love acted out? Then look at 1 Corinthians 13, the "Love Chapter" of the Bible. Those beautiful, familiar words are practical words, too. Because what Paul is saying is, "This is how "agape" love acts. This is how it behaves.  Paul says, Love is patient. That means that I don’t get into a hurry with you if you don’t do things the way I would like for you to do them. I’ll wait. I’ll wait for things to change. I’ll wait for those edges to be knocked off, and I hope that you’ll wait for me in return. I don’t always do well at this.  I want people to meet my expectations.  People don’t always grow at the rate I would like to see them grow. "Love is kind." I wouldn’t say anything unkind to you because you are the object of my love, and the important part of my love is to make sure that you feel loved.  I don’t always do that very well. It doesn’t envy. I won’t boast about myself. I won’t become proud, because I am more concerned about you than I am about myself, I am not easily angered, I won’t keep any record of wrongs. We should all tear up our lists and throw them away and start anew with each other. Love doesn’t delight in evil, but it rejoices in truth. Love always hopes, and  it always perseveres.  Most people who pass out heart-shaped boxes of chocolates, who give roses, who send valentines and expressions of love have no idea what real love, GOD’S LOVE, is all about.

But if we are to become an Alongsider, love is at the very heart of what we do.  Why?
Because God is love.  Why?  Because “love is of God and every one who loves is born of God and knows God.” Here is why Love is such a vital and important commodity in being an alongsider.  If you take away LOVE, there is only indifference.  If you take away love, we simply don’t care. I mean that in both the horizontal and vertical sense.  If we do not have love (Like John Says), we don’t care about God.  This vertical relationship with the heavenly father is non-existent without love. This is also true of the horizontal relationship.  If there is not love, then why should we care whether another person grows in their relationship with Christ, or not.  

The way of the alongside is precluded of the fact that we love and care about other people.  If we do not love, then we are handicapped and unequipped to be an alongsider. Love is our chief motivator.  I want others to know of God’s love.  I love others enough to care whether they know of God’s love.  That is the whole basis for becoming an alongsider. Love is more than words; it’s our actions more than our emotions. John says that, “We ought also to love one another” he is not talking about some cheap sentiment. Jesus said, “If you love me keep my commandments” (John 14:15).  That is that vertical love.  Loving God.  Loving Jesus and keeping his commandments.

John takes it even farther in his text.  1 John 4:20 “Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen.”  There is one more reason that love is vital to the alongsider, and that is because of our own witness.  Do people see enough love in us to know that we’re the real deal?  The song we close with every Sunday says “They will know we are Christians by our love.” Will they really?   If we are to be an alongsider that comes alongside other people and guides them toward a deeper relationship, then they must first be able to detect the love of Christ in us.

So HOW DO WE ARRIVE AT THIS KIND OF LOVE?
Much of this is dependent upon spiritual disciplines.  Most of us do not love others naturally. You might think love is a natural response because of how a mother loves her newborn baby and how a baby loves the mother in return. But that is more because of biological and emotional bonding.  Get that same child at age two in the middle of a Target store checkout line when that child is in need of nap, and the child is suddenly melting down in a heaping pile of emotional tantrum, and you can see that love is not always a natural response.  Love takes work.  Love is built over time.  And certain spiritual disciplines lead to real love.  The first is a quiet time or devotional habit of spending time with God.  What kind of relationship would a father and son have if they never spent time together.  Our love for the Father grows when we have quality time together. The writer of the book “The Ways of the Alongsider” spends nearly the whole chapter talking about quiet time with God.  He believes that real love for God and others flows out of quality time with God. The second discipline is to absorb God’s word.  You’ve heard me say it many time and I will say it again.  Time in Bible study is the most quality time you will spend with God and with others. It’s how we truly begin to understand the mind and heart of God.

So it is clear that LOVE is a key element in becoming a person who comes alongside someone else to guide them toward a life in Christ. Keep in mind that we never truly convince someone or even “sell” someone on the idea of following Christ.  The Holy Spirit reveals Christ to people.  But our example, our words, and our actions are key tools of the Holy Spirit in accomplishing this miraculous task.Love is at the core of that process.  The irresistible love of God is what brings people to Christ, but that love is seen in those who call themselves Christians.  May God help us experience his love and reveal his love to others. Amen.