Summary: The fourth in a series on Matthew 24 & 25, this message focuses on being loving, since Jesus is coming back and we don’t know when.
Because Jesus Is Returning . . .
We have been studying through Matthew 24,25 - with this overall theme . . . Because Jesus is returning and we don’t know when, how should we be living?
A soldier was finally returning from the Vietnam war. He called his parents from San Francisco to tell them the good news, he was being shipped home. "Mom and Dad, I’m coming home, but I have a favor to ask of you. I have a friend I’d like to bring home with me." "Sure," they replied, "We’d love to meet him." "There’s something you should know," the son continued, "he was hurt pretty badly. He stepped on a land mine and lost an arm and a leg. He has nowhere else to go, and I want him to come live with us."
"I am sorry to hear that son. Maybe we can help him find somewhere to live." "No, mom and dad, I want him to live with us." "Son," said the father, "you don’t know what you’re asking. Someone with such a handicap would be a terrible burden on us. We have our own lives to live, and we can’t let something like this interfere with our lives. I think you should just come home and forget about this guy. He’ll find a way to live on his own." At that point, the son hung up the phone. The parents heard nothing more from him.
A few days later, however, they received a phone call from the San Francisco police. Their son had died after falling from a building, they were told. The police believed it was suicide. The grief stricken parents flew to San Francisco and were taken to the city morgue to identify the body of their son. They recognized him, but to their horror they also discovered something they didn’t know, their son had only one arm and one leg.
"If only we had known," I am sure they said over and over. If we had known it was our son, we would have welcomed him."
The parents in this story are like many of us. We find it easy to love those who are good looking or fun to be around, or family and friends, but we don’t like people who inconvenience us all the time or make us feel uncomfortable. Thankfully, there’s someone who won’t treat us that way, someone who loves us with an unconditional love, regardless of how messed up we are. That’s Jesus of course. But this morning we are looking at a story Jesus tells that reveals His expectations of us to love people just as He has loved us. Jesus tells us in this story that because He is returning and we don’t know when, be loving. He tells us this story, because He doesn’t want us to be like those parents, saying, "If only I had known."
- Read Matthew 25:31-46
Jesus says He expects us to be loving, to even the unlovable because He is returning. How can God expect that? How can God command us to love?
We learn in life that love cannot be forced. Beauty and The Beast teaches us that love has to be chosen to be love. So how can God command us to love? In John 15:12 it says, "I command you to love each other in the same way that I love you." The answer is in the meaning of the word. The word Jesus uses here for "love" is "agape." It is one of four words that were used to describe different kinds of love in the Greek culture. Interestingly, this words was the least popular and least used. Whereas "eros" referred to romantic love, "storge" referred to family love and "philia" referred to brotherly love or friendship love, "agape" referred to unconditional love. This love was not based on a feeling or natural attachment. This love was an action based on a choice. It meant something you did because it was right. In this sense you can love someone you don’t even "like." That’s the kind of love Jesus talks about here. In fact, this is what Jesus intentionally does for this Jewish lawyer. He paints a picture of love that requires the lawyer to imagine someone unlovable in his eyes. Now, this love is not necessarily devoid of emotions. It may and probably will involve the emotions, but it is not based on them or motivated by them. Interestingly, it is the word most often used to describe God’s love for us in Jesus (Jn. 3:16 or John 15:12).