Summary: We can say we love God if we want to, but, Jesus teaches us that the only way to follow Him, is to love and serve people like He does. Jesus wants people to find Him, to discover His redemption.
When I was a kid my parents were missionaries in the Philippines. We lived there for three years, two in one house and one in another outside of Cebu City. In most parts of the city, including the part our first house was located, were open sewers. Ditches that were filled with water containing all of the human and water waste in the neighborhood. I was six years old when we moved there, and I was 8 years old when we moved from this particular house to another house outside of the sounds and smells of the city. So I was old enough to remember many things about this house. I remember one day, my brothers and I took my dad’s tea strainer from the kitchen and used it to fish for guppies in the ditch. Yes, we were playing in the sewer. You might wonder how, on a typical blistering hot and humid day, we could play in an open sewer. You would think the smell alone would be killer. But, I don’t remember the smell. Isn’t that interesting? I remember the water ditch in front of our house, but, to me, it was just that; A ditch with water in it.
My parents freaked out when they found out where we were and what we were doing. And we particularly were in very deep trouble for using dad’s precious tea strainer. I remember asking him, “Why can’t you just wash it off?” I really didn’t understand why they were so upset.
I’m more scarred now from the memory of the bath my mom gave us. I’m pretty sure she used sandpaper and Lysol. And I’m wondering now if I was water boarded.
Sin is like this; especially the sin of selfishness. Our selfishness is just like living with an open sewer. We become acclimated to it. We don’t find it shocking at all. We become so used to it, that we live with it, play with it, and we don’t smell it. We don’t recognize that we're playing in the sewer. We’re all inherently selfish. It’s built into our human nature.
We’ve been told since we were babies to stop being selfish. One of the first lessons we learn is to share our stuff. Some of us grasped this idea better than others when we were kids, but, we’ve all heard it from our mom. “Share your toys!” But the spiritual problem with selfishness is much deeper than just the unwillingness to share toys. There are people who are unselfish, who give to others and who do a lot of charity work, but, completely miss the purpose of the mission of Jesus. Jesus said he came to save people from their sin not help them out of a bind. We help people, so that we can share Jesus with them, because Jesus is the Savior of the world.
Today is the final talk in our series "defining love.” We’ve discussed how genuine love, God's love, isn't normal. We talked about how love is faithful and that the result of faithfulness is joy. Our culture defines love in a million different ways, but, God defines love much more simply. People think we’re weird. When we love the way God loves, we’re going to be talked about. Folks are not going to understand why you love God’s way.
It’s not difficult for a follower of Jesus to understand God’s love. A follower knows what love is, because they follow the teaching of Jesus, and Jesus clearly defines love and shows us what it is. But, someone who doesn’t follow Jesus will struggle with love. In our society, love and lust are often confused with each other.
Love is faithful. Love is faithful to God and faithful in relationships. Genuine love doesn’t bolt when things get tough. We don’t lose our faith in difficult times. As a matter of fact, the opposite is true. For those who genuinely love God, difficult times are considered an opportunity to grow in faith. We receive joy in suffering. Like Paul and Silas when they were beaten and thrown in prison. How can you be singing and full of joy about your situation, if you’re suffering? Or how can Jesus on the cross gasp through his pain “Father forgive them?” Who does that? Who forgives like that? Who sings while they are being tortured? People think they know what love is, but, here’s the thing, it’s impossible to understand genuine love without a relationship with Jesus Christ, because he’s the one who shows us what real love is.
1 John says, “This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins”
Last week we talked about how love can't survive between two people and between us and God without sacrifice. Someone has to make the sacrifice. God showed us what love looks like. He was the example of what genuine love, faithful love, and sacrificial love look like.