Text: John 13:33-5; 14-15-21
The third sermon in the sermon series “Abide These Three: Faith, Hope, and Love.”
A partial transcript of the sermon.
…Love is the stem from which faith and hope blossom. Love is the heart that circulates their life blood. Love is the yeast that makes them rise.
And this is Paul’s point in 1 Corinthians 13, “If I can speak in the tongues of angels, but do not have love…. all of those the angelic chorus becomes little more than the noise from a gong or a clanging cymbal. If I give away all that I have, even give my life in the name of Christ Jesus my Lord, but I do not do that in love and with love, I don’t gain anything. I can have the greatest faith in the world – even to say as Jesus said ‘To say to that mountain be lifted up and planted in the sea, even if I have faith that great, – but do not have love….I am nothing.” Paul says.
Because Love is the only thing that makes these other dimensions of discipleship solid and healthy. Love is the very reason discipleship exists, because love is the reason that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, God incarnate came to earth. John 3:16 doesn’t say “For God had something He wanted to prove.” it says, “For God so Loved the world, that He gave his only begotten son.”
And love is not only that foundational, it is really the only thing that is unquestionable. Because love is immune to the infections and mutations that can befall both faith and hope. Hope can be smug. Faith can be self serving. Both of those things can be passive. But love is not susceptible to those things. If it is, it’s not love anymore. And in hindsight we can look back and say. “It really wasn’t love to begin with.”
“Because love is immune to the infections and mutations that can befall both faith and hope. Hope can be smug. Faith can be self serving. Both of those things can be passive. But love is not susceptible to those things.”
So why have we Christians put more emphasis on hope and faith, especially on faith? I mean, I don’t know of anyone excommunicated or labeled a heretic because they weren’t loving enough, have you? Love as wonderful as it is, is also a dangerous thing. And I think that’s why we don’t want to give ourselves fully over to love. Faith, yes, let’s talk about faith. Let’s be all about hope. Faith gives us orientation. And we like that feeling. Hope sustains us, and we like that feeling. We like the feeling that love gives us too, but we understand if we’ve experienced it that love animates us. We can sit and contemplate faith. We can create systems that make it work for us, that’s what we call theology. We can keep hope quiet, and store it up for ourselves and keep it inside. And anything we can keep inside, we can make our possession.
But not love. Love is a verb more so than it’s a noun. Love makes us get up and do things. Love will not sit by and watch, and when it runs it will not wear a bit or a bridle, either. Love spurs us – we don’t spur it. And I think that’s why we’re often very cautious to approach love. Love makes us do crazy things. Because it makes us think about other people ahead of ourselves. And that’s something we are so often very hesitant to do. Because it means we have to surrender our control.
“Love is a verb more so than it’s a noun. Love makes us get up and do things. Love will not sit by and watch.”
But the truth is that when we operate with that mindset, and others around us operate in that mindset, there is an abundance of life and light and pretty much anything anybody happens to need. That’s where Jesus directs us. “What shall I do to inherit eternal life, Rabbi?” the young lawyer asked him. And Jesus’ response was, “Nothing centered upon yourself. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself.Do this, and you will live.”
And that’s how love has sustained me this week, that’s what I’ve found at the bottom in the midst of it all. I have found life. Didn’t find it in a book I’ve read. I didn’t find it in a class that I took. I found it, was reminded of it, rediscovered it by receiving love, by giving love, and by witnessing love.
I found it by hearing parents advocate for their child – being willing to hitchhike 600 miles if they had to if that’s what it would take to get the care they believe their son needs. I’ve found it in the testimony I heard about grace and healing taking place because love motivated one of my sisters in Christ to enter back into a painful situation when she was invited to do so. I found it hearing testimony from a couple I know who’ve worked through some things that almost did their marriage in. But they’ve hung on and worked through them because of love. The love they had for each other, would not allow them to let go.
And I’ve seen it in my own family. As we purchased an airplane ticket we really can’t afford and I’ve agreed to be a single parent for a week (that’s crazy, I’m going to regret that). But I did it, and I did it like that, because I love my wife and my wife loves her grandmother and she needs to be there. And you know what, it’s been an energizing, purpose filling experience to make this happen. To do this for someone I love. And to enable her to be there with someone she loves dearly and deeply. I’ve been encouraged with words, I’ve been encouraged with hugs, and I know as we live in to that and as we work this thing out, more support, more things that we need will follow, they will come. Because that’s what happens when we live into love. When love becomes a verb, rather than a noun.
This is why Paul can declare with confidence and passion in 1 Corinthians 13, that “love never fails.” Love never fails, because love never ends. Love never quits. And I invite you to hear this as you hear Jesus’ words this morning. Because Jesus, even more passionately than Paul is directing us to love. He’s not suggesting we love, he is commanding us to love. He says “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you should love one another.” And he says that our love for each other is not only how we’re going to show him that we love him, it is how we are going to show the world that we are his disciples.
“How we love one another is how the world will know we are the people of Jesus. Not how many Bible verses we’ve got memorized.”
Did you catch that as we read John 14? How we love one another is how the world will know we are the people of Jesus. Not how many Bible verses we’ve got memorized. Not how well or how poorly we theologically grapple with tragedy and injustice. Not how many offices we hold at church. Not how many bumper stickers we plaster on our car saying “Yay Jesus!” No! It’s how we love one another that will demonstrate how much we love God. How we love God is reflected in how we love our neighbor. How we love God is reflected in how we love each other. How we love God is reflected in how we love even our enemies.
And so we have some questions to think about today. How are we going to love each other here at First Baptist Church? How are we going to create opportunities to love one another?…In a Christ-like way? Because to love and to be loved, that’s how you learn to love…Who’s going to know you are a disciple of Christ Jesus this week because of how you love them? I think this is a question we need to ask ourselves every week as disciples of Jesus. And we say “Lord I don’t know how. How do I love somebody, especially someone who seems awfully unlovable?”
Well, Jesus gave us two very simple answers. The first is the Golden Rule, ” Do unto others as you would have done unto yourself” and if you don’t know any other place to start, start there. But the other answer he gave, he gave to that same young lawyer who asked him “Lord, how do I inherit eternal life?” And he said, “Love God, love your neighbor.” The young man said, “Well, who is my neighbor?” (Todd tells the story of the Good Samaritan). And Jesus asked the people he was talking to, “Who was a righteous man, who was a neighbor in this story I have just told you?” And they said, “The one who cared for him.” And Jesus said, “Go and do likewise.” So what are we waiting for? Thanks be to God Amen.