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Summary: 1 Corinthians 13:13 states the greatest is love, so how well are we doing building a bridge of love both inside and outside the Christian Community?

You might have heard the statement, “If you love someone set her free, if she comes back, she’s yours, if she doesn’t she never was.” The Pessimist would say, “If you love somebody. Set her free…if she ever comes back, she’s yours, if she doesn’t, well, as expected, she never was.” The Optimist would say, “If you love somebody, set her free…don’t worry, she will come back.” Computer program makers would say, “If you love somebody, set her free, if she comes back charge her a re-installation fee, and tell her she is going to need an upgrade.” I have this for Pastor Diane. An HR specialist would say, “If you love somebody set her free…by offering her VRS and other benefits, then outsource her.” The Psychologist would say, “If you love somebody set her free…if she comes back, her super ego is dominant; if she doesn’t come back, her id is supreme; if she doesn’t leave she must be crazy. A financial expert would say, “If you love somebody set her free…if she comes back, its time to look for fresh loans, if she doesn’t, write her off as an asset gone bad.” Jesus would say, “I you love somebody, set her free…if she doesn’t come back, continue to wait until she comes by building a bridge to her.”

This is what we are doing here at New Hope, building a bridge to the future by laying down the plank of love.

Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 13:13 These three things will remain for ever. They are faith, hope, and love. And love is the greatest of them.

In 1 Peter 4:8 we read Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.

How do we build a bridge of love, within our Christian community spanning out to the community at large? We do it by…

A. Loving Unconditionally.

For the Christian, love is not an option. John 13:34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.

Jesus demonstrated love toward us, that while we were yet in our sins, He died for us. He loved us without condition. The Greek have a word for this kind of love, it is called Agape, the highest form of love one can have.

If Jesus loved all mankind, those involved in sin, and those who have been forgiven, He sets the example for the Christian community. And for some, this is a hard thing. To love unconditionally.

Missionary Florence Alshorn said "To love a human being means to accept him, to love him as he is. If you wait to love him till he has got rid of his faults, till he is different, you are only loving an idea. He is as he is now. I can only love a person by allowing myself to be disturbed by him as he is. I must accept the pain of seeing him with hopefulness and expectancy."

We need to build a bridge of love by loving unconditionally. We also build a bridge of love by

B. Loving Sacrificially.

Jesus gathered the disciples together and said this in Mark 9:35 `The way to be first is to put yourself last and be a servant to the others.’ You demonstrate love by serving, by being a servant. That at times is a sacrifice.

It is being with others, not walking life alone, serving, giving. We’re very often like the child who cried after she went to bed and her mother came in. She said, "Honey, what is it?" She said, "I just don’t want to be alone in the dark." Her mother said, "But Jesus is here with you." The little girl said, "But I want somebody with skin on."

When we love others, we make sure they are not alone…we may be the only skin they will encounter who can show them the true love of Christ.

Loving sacrificially means getting involved in a small group where you can be that covering of skin others encounter who can pray for them, help them, provide hope for them in their journey. Love sacrificially with all your life, don’t try to live your faith alone, live it our in community.

We build a bridge by

C. Loving mercifully.

Romans 3:25 informs us for all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God. There is not one who is without need of God’s mercy.

C.S. Lewis said, "He loved us not because we were lovable, but because He is Love."

Many of you have heard the story that Corrie ten Boom told about how she was speaking one time in Germany, long after the war. In the back of the room, she saw the German guard who had been responsible for starving her sister to death. She said, "At the end of the meeting, to my dismay I saw this man coming down the aisle with his hand outstretched. I just sent up an S.O.S. to the Lord. I said, ’Lord, I cannot shake hands with that man.’ By the time he got to me, my hand shot out, and in that split second God gave me grace to say, ’I forgive you.’" Of course, she found out that he was a brother in Christ. He was coming to ask her forgiveness.

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