Summary: God’s love creates a loving community among his people.
It is a favorite joke among boy scout dads, so I have heard it 7 or 8 times in the last two years. Two guys camping in Colorado crawl out of their tents one morning only to see a grizzly bear charging. The first man begins frantically to put on his tennis shoes, at which the other fellow yells: “What are you doing? You can’t outrun a grizzly bear.” The first man says, “I don't have to outrun a grizzly. I just have to outrun you!”
That’s only a groaner if you have heard it too many times. It is funny because it puts in a clever story form that tension we all know: the competing desires we have between saving our own skin and being the kind of friend who would lay down his life.
One pastor said, “Some people make enemies instead of friends, because it is less trouble” (E. C. McKenzie). Friends can be a lot of trouble; but in spite of many difficulties, God commands his people to love one another. In fact, in all of the teaching of Jesus, I think that only this command is specifically said to be a living witness to others of the reality of our new relationship with Christ: “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13.35).
Jesus said that in John 13; now (in chapter 15) he returns to that idea. After reminding his followers that true love for him results in obedience, Jesus challenges us to love one another.
[Read John 15.12-17. Pray.]
Pastor Chuck Swindoll wrote in one of his books: “Do you ever feel like a frog? Frogs feel slow and low, ugly and putty, drooped and pooped. I know. One told me. The frog feeling comes when you want to be bright but you are dumb. When you want to share, but you are selfish. When you want to be thankful, but you are filled with resentment. When you want to be great, but you are small. When you want to care, but you are indifferent; yes, at one time or another each of us has found himself on a lily pad, floating down the great river of life, frightened and disgusted, but too frightened to budge.”
Of course, you know how the fairy tale ends: the frog was not really a frog, though he looked like one because a wicked witch had cast an evil spell upon him and only the kiss of a beautiful maiden could save him. (For some reason unexplained, beautiful maidens feel a strong desire to kiss frogs.) And sure enough, one day a beautiful maiden lays a big sloppy kiss on those little slimy frog-lips, and crash, boom, snap – he is changed into a handsome prince. And they marry and live happily ever after.
The task of the church, then, is…kissing frogs, so to speak. And allowing ourselves to be kissed. Faithful Christian love has a way of rescuing kings and queens from their “frogness”
Probably the best example of Christian friendship in the Old Testament is that of Jonathan and David. Jonathan was the son of Saul, next in line to be king. But the people loved David, and wanted him as their new king. This was, of course, God’s will, but I’m not sure Jonathan knew that. What he did know was that he would lose everything which by right belonged to the son of a king – all would become David’s. Now that is a sure recipe for great antagonism! How would you feel if your career and inheritance were stolen by a rival? Jonathan fought the Philistines and saved the nation; now his hopes and dreams would die to save the nation.
1Samuel 18.3-4: “Then Jonathan made a covenant with David, because he loved him as his own soul. And Jonathan stripped himself of the robe that was on him and gave it to David, and his armor, and even his sword and his bow and his belt.” With that act, Jonathan gave up his life for his friend.
Martin Luther correctly observed: “It is the duty of every Christian to be Christ to his neighbor.” Jonathan was Christ to David; loving with a ministry that lifted and exalted his friend. Jesus commands the same of us. In order to obey the Word of the Lord, I believe we must do more than wish we were different; we must be very intentional about creating in the church a loving community. I would show you three reasons from our text this morning.
1. We Must Be Intentional About Building a Loving Community Because of the Reason for the Command (John 15.12a,17)
No one tells their children how to be selfish before they find their four year old distressing his younger sister by taking from her a toy. Hamas had no difficulty finding ways to torment and mistreat the Israelis they so much hate. Certain things come “naturally” to fallen mankind – sin and selfishness is bound up in the heart.