Summary: Have you experienced the kind of love that changes everything? Does it consume you? Does it burn within your heart? Does it transform your relationships? Does it mold your speech? Does it break your heart over the needs of others? The love of God has been
A Love that Changes Everything
Jack Kelley, a reporter from USA Today tells the story of a trip to East Africa in which he was taught a very valuable lesson. He was in Mogadishu, the capital of Somalia, to cover a terrible famine. It was so bad that as he walked toward the village he saw many people already lying on the ground dead. In his retelling of the story he recalls how the smell of death is something that gets into your hair, onto your skin, onto your clothes, and can’t be washed off.
As he made his way down the road he came across a little boy. He could tell that the boy had worms and was malnourished; his stomach was protruding. His hair had turned a reddish color and his skin had wrinkled as if he were 100 years old, both signs of malnourishment.
The photographer who was traveling with the reporter had a grapefruit which he gave to the boy. But the boy was so weak that he couldn’t hold the whole grapefruit for himself. And so they cut the grapefruit in half and gave it to him. He took the grapefruit, looked up at the two men as if to say “thank you” and began to walk back towards his village. What the little boy didn’t realize was that the photographer and reporter were following at a distance.
As he entered the village, there was another little boy who looked to be dead. His eyes were completely glazed over. As it turned out, this was his younger brother.
The older brother kneeled down next to his younger brother, bit off a piece of the grapefruit and chewed it. Then he opened up his younger brother’s mouth, put the grapefruit in, and worked his brother’s jaw up and down. The reporter and photographer later learned that the older brother had been doing that for the younger brother for two weeks.
A couple days later the older brother died of malnutrition, and the younger brother lived. I wonder if this is what Jesus meant when he said, "There is no greater love than to lay down our life for somebody else." Love changes everything. It changes our hearts and causes us to do things for others that we would never have done before.
I want to give you a practical example of what I mean when I say that love changes everything. If you’re married, would you raise your hand. Keep them up for a minute. (STOP AND QUESTION A COUPLE: Are you the same person that you were when you got married? Give me an example of something that has changed about your spouse? Is there anything that has changed because you married the person sitting next to you?)
Love has a way of reshaping us and redefining our priorities and our motives. It transforms our actions and ultimately it changes our lives.
Today’s scripture reading is about a love which sets the bar by which all other loves are defined. A love which defines unconditional love. A love which comes without condition.
Turn with me in your Bibles if you will to Paul’s letter to the Church in Rome. If you’re following along in the pew Bibles it’s found on P. (B, 39; C, 142) of the New Testament, the second part of the Bible. What we find in the first part of the book of Romans is Paul’s belief that the Gospel has the power to save everyone, specifically both Jews and Gentiles, both the chosen people of the Old Testament and all others. Paul builds up to chapter five by explaining to this church that they are righteous not because of what they’ve done to obey the law, as was the traditional thought, and not because of their good deeds but simply because of their faith in Christ. This is a radical concept for the Jews and was very difficult for them to accept.
Look with me at chapter 5. Paul starts this passage off by talking about a relationship. He writes, “therefore,” or to summarize the last chapter, since you can’t become righteous by works, by rituals, or even by obedience to the law, the way that you can be justified is through faith.
Before we go too far we need to pause and think about a word. This word “justified” is often translated “righteousness”. And righteousness, we learn in the Old Testament, is all about a relationship. When a person fulfills his or her end of a relationship, or his or her obligations, they are said to be righteous. Righteousness entails faithfulness to a relationship.
What Paul has laid out for the church in Rome and for us in the first four chapters of this book is the fact that you and I, while created to be in a relationship with God, have fallen short of our end of the bargain. Because of sin we no longer are able to keep up our part of the relationship. We have fallen short of God’s glory.