|Love U | Love Others|
|February 14, 2009|
Part 2 of 2 | February 15, 2009
Welcome to week #2 of a short little series called Love U. In this series, we’re exploring the two most important commands in the Bible. This book is really thick, but Jesus really helps us out because, out of the entire Bible, he gave us two commands. Two commands that are the most important. Two commands that really sum up everything else you’ll ever read in Scripture.
Mark 12, starting in verse 28. “One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, "Of all the commandments, which is the most important?"
"The most important one," answered Jesus, "is this: 'Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.'
The second is this: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no commandment greater than these." (Mark 12:28-31, NIV)
Last week, we focused on the greatest command in the Bible. The command to love God. This week, our course work in Love U will take us to the second greatest commandment: love others.
Jesus told us that greatest command is the command to love God. Then he said, “The second is this: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no commandment greater than these." (Mark 12:31, NIV)
At the risk of sounding like Captain Obvious, there is a common denominator in the two most important commands in Scripture: love. Love is the defining factor of our lives as Christ-followers.
In fact, the Bible tells us that we can’t love God if we don’t love others. According to the Bible, that presents an irresolvable contradiction. Loving God while not loving others is simply not possible.
Look at these verses from 1 John. “Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.” (1 John 4:7-8, NIV)
Love comes from God. Love is his creation. His idea. Love emanates from him because love is who he is. John told us in these verses that “God is love.” Did you notice that he didn’t say that “God is loving?” He said, “God is love.” Love is simply who God is. It is woven into the fabric of his heart. God embodies the very definition of love. He is love.
And John makes this connection very clear. God is love. And if we are truly God’s people, then love will define our lives. He said, “Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.”
But if that’s not strong enough for you, listen to what John wrote a few verses later.
“If anyone says, “I love God,” yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. And he has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother.” (1 John 4:20-21, NIV)
Think about the implication from these verses. If you say that you love God but you don’t love others, John flat out calls you a liar. It is impossible to separate the two greatest commands in Scripture. The commands to love God and love others are a package deal. You either have both or you have neither.
To put it in the very simplest terms, according to these verses in John, you can’t call yourself a Christian if you don’t love others. If you don’t love others in tandem with loving God…I don’t know what you are, but I know what you’re not. You’re not a Christian. You can’t claim to follow Christ if you don’t love others.
Now, before you get mad at me, before you think I just crossed the line, I’d like you to look at the words on the screen again. If you don’t love God and others, you’re not a Christian according to the Bible. Not according to Mike Edmisten. According to the Bible. You can get mad at me if you want, but I didn’t write this. God did. God himself said that if you claim to love him but don’t love others, you’re a liar. A poser. A fraud.
But now, instead of a negative perspective, think about this from a positive perspective. When you boil it all down, the Bible only really gives us two supreme commands…love God and love others. If you are doing those two things, most everything else will fall into place. If you want to please God, if you want to be a real Christ-follower, there are only two commands that need to define your life. Love God and love others.
In John 13, Jesus said, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:34-35, NIV)
Jesus said that everyone will recognize us as his disciples if we love others. He didn’t say that everyone will know that we are his disciples if we put a fish on our car or wear Christian t-shirts or listen to Christian music. He didn’t say that people will recognize us as Christians if we spout Bible verses, pray before our meals, and raise our hands during worship.
Don’t get me wrong. None of those things are bad. But sometimes it’s easy to get caught up in minutiae to the neglect of the main thing. The main thing is love. Love is what will cause us to stand out from the crowd. Love is what will cause people to recognize us as followers of Jesus. Love is what will draw others to Christ. And if you don’t exhibit love in your life, then take the fish off your car. Throw your Christian t-shirts in the drawer. Keep your Bible verses to yourself. Because it’s all a sham.
So, if love really is all that important, then we should probably try to understand it, right? Is love some indefinable, abstract quality? No it’s not. In fact, Jesus defines what love looks like in the verses we just read.
Jesus said, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:34-35, NIV)
Jesus gives us the definition of love. The definition is him. He told us to love others in the same way that he has loved us. He sets the standard. He gives us the example to follow.
If you want to define love, this is it. Loving others simply means treating people like Jesus did. Love means that you speak to another person like Jesus would speak to them. You serve them the way Jesus would serve them. You have a Christ-like compassion for them. You are patient with them just like Jesus is patient with you.
How would this change your marriage? How would it change the way you interact with people at work? At the gym? At school? In the grocery store or at the gas station? If you took this simple truth of treating people like Jesus would treat them and applied it in every area of your life, it would be nothing short of revolutionary. It would change every relationship you have or will ever have.
Think of how it would change the church if everyone treated each other like Jesus would treat them. Brian mentioned earlier why we radically changed the setup in our auditorium today. He told us that, “The church is a living organism, not a building, and it is made up of people who are neighbors to each other. People who love and care for each other as if they were their own family members.”
The reason we rearranged everything today is because there seems to be a misconception in the American church. And that is that the church is a place where you go to watch. You go to church to be a spectator. And, in a way, our normal seating arrangement probably teaches that misconception in some subtle way. All the chairs are normally pointed to the stage, meaning the focal point is whoever is onstage. Actually, the fact that we have a stage in the first place teaches the lesson that, in some way, the church is about being a spectator.
That’s why we chose not to be onstage today. Because the church isn’t about showmanship. It’s about service. It’s not about listening to somebody. It’s about loving everybody.
The picture of the church in the New Testament is a community of believers who love one another like Jesus would. And that’s why we’re all down here on the floor together. Because we’re all in this together. We’re all on the same level. We are all intensely loved by God, and his love compels us to love each other.
We’re going to spend the rest of our time today getting super practical. How do we love each other like Jesus does? What exactly does that look like?
Love meets people where they are. If the goal is to treat people the way Jesus did, then this is where you start. Jesus always met people right where they were. He loved them as they were. He didn’t wait for them to change. He didn’t wait until they became easier to love. He loved them as they were.
In the book of Ephesians, the Bible says, “Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love. Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace. (Ephesians 4:2-3, NLT)
Because of love, you make allowance for another person’s faults. You are gentle and patient with them. You love them as they are. Not waiting until they are as you would like them to be.
You can’t wait for someone to become lovable before you love them. Instead, God has called us to love people as they are. And the paradox is that the more unlovable they are, the more we need to love them.
Listen to what Jesus said in Luke 6. “If you love only those who love you, why should you get credit for that? Even sinners love those who love them! And if you do good only to those who do good to you, why should you get credit? Even sinners do that much!
And if you lend money only to those who can repay you, why should you get credit? Even sinners will lend to other sinners for a full return.
“Love your enemies! Do good to them. Lend to them without expecting to be repaid.
Then your reward from heaven will be very great, and you will truly be acting as children of the Most High, for he is kind to those who are unthankful and wicked. You must be compassionate, just as your Father is compassionate. (Luke 6:32-36, NLT)
Jesus clearly commands us to love people as they are. The more unlovable they are, the more we are called to love them. The reason Jesus tells us to do that is because that is exactly what he does. In these verses, he reminded us that God is kind and compassionate to the unthankful and wicked. In other words, us.
God doesn’t wait for us to become lovable before he loves us. He loves us as we are. Unthankful. Wicked. Broken. Sinful. We couldn’t be more messed up, and yet God loves us. As jacked up as we are, God couldn’t love us more. And God has called his people to extend that same grace to one another.
Maybe this is the best way to sum it up. Love people when they least expect it and least deserve it. That’s how Jesus Christ loves you and me, and it’s how he expects us to love each other. Love doesn’t wait for someone to change. Love meets them where they are.
But love isn’t content to let them stay where they are. Love meets people where they are, but pushes them to grow. This might sound contradictory, but it’s not. Love must absolutely meet someone where they are. If you can’t love someone where they are right now, then you have completely missed the point. But, at the same time, if you love them, you’re not content to let them stay where they are. Make sense?
The Bible says in Hebrews 10, “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.” (Hebrews 10:24, NIV)
That’s pretty interesting wording, isn’t it. Spur one another on toward love and good deeds. When you spur a horse, you get the horse to move, but the horse probably doesn’t like you much at the time. Those spurs get the horse to move, but they kind of hurt at the same time.
The old King James Version of the Bible uses the word “provoke.” Provoke one another to love and good deeds. Doesn’t the word provoke mean to make someone angry? Yep.
The point is that if you love someone, you want to help them grow. And at times, that means making them uncomfortable. Maybe even a little angry.
I love my sons as they are, but I’m not at all content to let them stay as they are. I want them to learn. I want them to grow and mature. And sometimes, that means that I have to do things that aren’t all that pleasant for them. I don’t like to discipline them and they don’t like to receive it. But if I never disciplined them just because it’s unpleasant, they would never grow. The goal of my discipline is to push them to be better, to learn and grow and mature. I love them when they misbehave. I love them in spite of their imperfections. But it’s precisely because I love them that I can’t let them stay where they are.
Love is willing to spur others to something better. Love is willing to have the hard conversations. Love is willing to say the right thing even when it isn’t the popular thing. Love will say what people need to hear; not just what they want to hear.
But we’ve got to remember that this is a very fine line to walk. In Galatians 6, the Bible says, “Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently.” (Galatians 6:1, NIV)
And in 2 Timothy 4, it tells us to, “correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction.” (2 Timothy 4:2, NIV)
Are we getting the idea here? Love pushes someone to grow, but it does it gently. Carefully. With great patience. And if you can’t push someone to grow with that kind of attitude, just keep your mouth shut. If you can’t be gentle and kind, then just stay out of it. Because that’s a sign that you’ve got some serious growing to do yourself.
Mark Batterson is the lead pastor National Community Church, which is a large church in Washington D.C. I heard Mark tell the story about a time when an intern at his church rebuked him. He felt like there was an area of Mark’s life where he had grown prideful and this intern called him on it. And Mark said that he remembers how humbling it was. Here is an intern rebuking the lead pastor. His boss. You talk about a risk! But Mark said that this intern was right. The rebuke was right, it was given in love, and Mark grew from it.
I bet that most of us would not have done that if we were that intern. You don’t rebuke your boss. In fact, most of us are pretty skittish about rebuking anybody. It seems like we’re more concerned about not rocking the boat than we are about the people in the boat.
Love is willing to rock the boat when it’s necessary. But the goal can’t be to make you feel better. If you’re going to say something just so you can get it off your chest, keep your mouth shut. The only valid reason to rebuke someone is because you love them and you want to help them grow. So every one of us had better measure our own attitude very carefully before we take a step in this direction. Our motivation has to be to help them be better, not to help ourselves feel better.
When I worked in a previous church, I had an elder rebuke me in front of an entire crowd of people. There was some validity to what he was saying, but he really ripped into me in front of a lot of people in the church. And when he was done, he just nodded his head sarcastically, as if to say, “I really told you, didn’t I?”
Guys, that’s not how it’s done. Even though what he was saying to me was right, he said it in the wrong place, at the wrong time, with the wrong attitude. And that made the right words he said wrong. The right word said in the wrong way becomes the wrong word. When we’re pushing someone else to grow, it has to be done in love or it shouldn’t be done at all.
And here’s why that’s true. Love meets people where they are, but pushes them to grow, always wanting what is best for them. Loving others means that you truly, sincerely want, not what is best for you, but what is best for them.
Philippians 2 tells us, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.” (Philippians 2:3-4, NIV)
Consider others better than yourselves. Consider others before you consider yourselves. That’s how we love each other as Jesus loved us.
Love never asks, “What’s in it for me? What am I going to get out of this?” Love is always looking for what is best for the other person.
And that sounds great, until that person gets something you’ve always wanted but have never gotten. They achieve something that you’ve never been able to achieve.
Last year, I discovered that someone (who I don't particularly care for) has achieved a measure of success that I have long desired in my own life, but have yet to achieve.
First of all, yes…I said that I don't really like this person. Get over it. Pastors are people too. Like you, we have personalities that mesh with some people and conflict with others. I didn't say that I don't love this person in Christ. I honestly do…we just won't be attending a barbecue together anytime soon. This is one of those loving an unlovable person kind of deals that we talked about earlier.
Now, about this particular achievement…as soon as I found out about this, I had to reign in my thoughts and emotions. Immediately, I wanted to dive headfirst into a pool of critical resentment. And immediately, I knew this was wrong.
God commands us to, “Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.” (Romans 12:15, NIV)
We usually focus on the “mourn with those who mourn” part. If someone has suffered a loss or is experiencing pain in their life, it's not that hard for most of us to mourn with them.
Actually, the more difficult portion of that verse comes first: “Rejoice with those who rejoice.” To do that, I have to be willing to put my pride on the shelf.
When it comes to this particular person’s success, I have to rejoice with them. And that's not easy. I have a hard time getting along with this person. Plus, they have achieved something that I have always wanted in my own life. That’s a dangerous combination of emotions swirling inside me. I know where those feelings could lead, and it's not a good place to be.
So, as hard as it is, I’m forcing myself to rejoice over their success. Yes, it is forced.
You could argue that, if I have to force it, then it is not authentic, heartfelt, or real. That may be so, but I would rather force myself to obey God instead of allowing my pride and resentment to destroy me from the inside out.
What about you? Do you see someone succeeding where you have failed? Do you see someone (especially someone that you're not particularly fond of) excelling in their life?
Rejoice with those who rejoice. And if you don't feel it, force it. Love always desires what is best for the other person, even when it feels like you deserve it more. Even when it feels like this person is receiving your blessing while you get the shaft.
Jesus told us that the greatest commands in Scriptures are the commands to love. Love God and love others. The Bible shows us that love meets people where they are, but pushes them to grow, always wanting what is best for them.
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