Summary: Loving others means giving of ourselves for the benefit of another. What we choose to give is a reflection of how much we really love them, & ultimately reflects how much we love God.
This is the last sermon in our series, “Loving others…and letting them know it.” Throughout this series, we have seen the importance of unconditional love, and we have learned practical yet meaningful ways of expressing this love – from a handshake, to a kind word, to time spent together in meaningful fellowship. In our final study of this series, we will look at how what we give to others can be a powerful expression of our love for them.
I read a story recently about an incident in the life of Queen Mary. One day while walking with some children, Queen Mary was caught in a sudden shower. Quickly taking shelter on the porch of a home, she knocked at the door and asked to borrow an umbrella. “I’ll send it back tomorrow,” she said. The queen had deliberately disguised her appearance by putting on a hat that partly covered her face and by wearing some very plain clothes. The homeowner, reluctant to give a stranger her best umbrella, offered her a cast-off she found in the attic. One rib was broken and there were several holes in it. Apologising, she turned it over to the monarch, whom she did not recognise.
The next day she had another visitor—a man with gold braid on his uniform and an envelope in his hand. "The queen sent me with this letter," he said, “and also asked me to thank you personally for the loan of your umbrella.” Stunned, the woman burst into tears. “Oh, what an opportunity I missed that did not give my very best,” she cried.
Friends, each one of us here today has had the same opportunity as the woman in this story. Each one of us, throughout our lives, has had occasion to be of service to another – to give something of ourselves for the benefit of another. And what have we given? Have we given our best, or merely a cast off that we could afford to part with – a weak effort made with an apology? Have we given anything at all? Or does it even matter?
Throughout this sermon series, the bedrock principle that we have emphasised over and over again is that our love is to be just like God’s. Let’s take just a minute, then, this morning, and look again at just what kind of love God has. Turn with me please, to a passage familiar to most of you here this morning: the 3rd chapter of John, verse 16. Read with me please John 3:16….
You know, we read and quote this passage so often that I believe we overlook just what kind of love we’re talking about here. But take a closer look, and we notice something about God’s love for the world: it moved Him to action. Love in God’s economy is more than sentementism, more than words, more than sympathy. God’s love was tangible; it resulted in Him doing something. In fact, a more accurate rendering of the Greek text would be, “This is how God loved the world: He gave…” His love wasn’t a mere feeling, but the key motive for Him giving this great gift to mankind. It resulted in Him giving His one and only Son, so that anyone – no matter what their condition, what their social status, no matter what their background – anyone at all could come to Him and be forever changed.
What’s more, we are told that the action taken on the part of God was not just a last-minute thought, a half-hearted effort made on behalf of a rebellious people. Revelation 13, verse 8 tells us that Jesus is “the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.” The Son of God, in His love for the people of this fallen world, had taken deliberate action to save us, even before we needed to be rescued. He realised what the sacrifice would require, and He made a conscious decision, motivated – indeed, driven – by His deep love for each one of us.
And so, as we contemplate this love of God – this love that manifested itself in the greatest gift we could ever receive, even the gift of His own Son, Jesus Christ – we realise that if we are to love as God loved, it is not enough to smile and nod; not enough to share a word of encouragement or prayer. No, these expressions of love have their time and place; but there comes a time when words and sympathy must give way to action; a time when our hearts must move not only our lips, but our hands as well.
Perhaps the greatest illustration of this to be found in Scripture is in the book of Matthew, chapter 25. Chapters 24 and 25 of Matthew are both centred on the events that will culminate with the return of Jesus to earth to take His children home. In Matthew chapter 25, Jesus tells the disciples a parable of how it will be at the final judgement. So read with me, please, at Matthew 25, starting at verse 31… (read verses 31-46)