Summary: If we are going to be effective disciples and disciple makers, then our lives and our relationships must be characterized by love. Jesus said that they will know we are His disciples because of our love.

A. Let me begin with a story from the Peanut’s cartoons - you know how much I enjoy the Peanuts!

1. It’s Christmas time and Lucy comes to Charlie Brown and says, “Merry Christmas, Charlie Brown! At this time of year I think we should put aside all our differences and try to be kind.”

2. Charlie Brown counters with some questions: “Why does it have to be for just this time of year? Why can’t it be all year ‘round?”

3. Lucy retorts with her negative, disparaging tone: “What are you, some kind of fanatic or something?”

B. Today, I want to declare that when it comes to love, disciples of Jesus are supposed to be some kind of fanatics or something.

1. We are not just supposed to put our differences aside and be kind during the Christmas season, we are supposed to do it all year ‘round.

2. Disciples of Jesus are called to live lives that are characterized by love.

3. Jesus said it clearly and concisely: “I give you a new command: Love one another. Just as I have loved you, you are also to love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:34-35).

4. Our love for our brothers and sisters in Christ, our love for God, and our love for everyone in the world, even our enemies will be the biggest sign that we are people of God.

C. Today, as we continue our series on discipleship called “I Am A Disciple of Jesus,” we want to begin a new section in our series.

1. So far in this series, we have been focusing on some of the basics of discipleship; like: the call of discipleship, the cost of discipleship, and the command of discipleship.

2. In the last two sermons, we have tried to gain an understanding of the stages of discipleship and the spheres of discipleship, so that we understand how to grow to completeness as a disciple.

3. During the next section in our series, I want us to explore seven elements of a discipleship lifestyle.

4. The first element of a discipleship lifestyle is a commitment to developing loving relationships.

D. It is not a stretch to say that the whole Bible is really about relationships.

1. If you boil the message of the Bible down to its basic elements, it is about our relationship with God and our relationships with others.

2. For instance, think about the 10 Commandments – what are they all about? Relationships!

3. The first four of the 10 Commandments have to do with a person’s relationship with God – no other gods before, don’t misuse the name of God, no graven images, and keep the Sabbath.

4. The last six of the 10 Commandments have to do with a person’s relationships with others – honor your father and mother, don’t lie, steal, kill or covet.

E. You also might recall that when Jesus was asked what is the greatest commandment in the Bible, He didn’t answer with just one commandment, but gave two.

1. He answered, 37 “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. 38 This is the greatest and most important command. 39 The second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. 40 All the Law and the Prophets depend on these two commands” (Matthew 22:37-40).

2. So, according to Jesus, you can surmise that the thing that God thinks is most important is for us to have healthy, loving relationships with Him and with others.

F. This is why for the past four years or so, we have been using the “Loving” graphic as a way to visually express what we intend to be all about.

1. As a congregation of God’s people, we want to be all about “Loving”…loving God, loving people, and loving truth.

G. One of the things that comes through loud and clear from the Bible is that God has hard-wired us for a relationship with Him and for relationships with others.

1. When God created Adam, God had a relationship with Adam there in the garden of Eden.

2. But God knew, even before He created Adam, that He would need to create other human beings for Adam to live with and relate to.

a. In Genesis 2:18, God said: “It is not good for the man to be alone, I will make a helper corresponding to him.”

b. And as you know, God created Eve to be that “helper corresponding to him.”

3. This means that our need, desire, and capacity for relationships are part of our hard wiring.

4. It also follows that God has created us to be able to grow and flourish best in a community of faith characterized by loving relationships.

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