Summary: When I love like Jesus loves I see life’s interruptions as divine opportunities
This week, I came to the conclusion that perhaps I’ve done enough preaching on loving like Jesus and maybe it’s time to move on to something else. That’s because I’m finding that God seems to be providing way too many opportunities for me to apply what I’m learning and teaching each week. Does anyone else feel like that, too?
Last Sunday, there were several people who went above and beyond to help out with the church picnic. At the risk of leaving someone out, let me mention just a few people who did that. As usual Ryan Fregoso jumped in to help – loading up ice chests, cooking hamburgers and hot dogs and helping with the cleanup. And the guy who happened to bring his truck to church – Jon Settlemeyer – got stuck bringing everything back to church afterwards and helping to get it unloaded. Russ Alimena selflessly helped unload and load everything. And of course, my wife, as usual, helped with so many things behind the scenes – everything from picking up ice to helping get things put away at church after the event.
As Mary and I were putting everything away at church, I mentioned to her how nice it would be to get home, take a shower and put my feet up for a while. When we finally got home our new neighbor, Brad, was in the process of cutting down his eucalyptus tree that has been hanging over our backyard for a while and threatening to come crashing down on our grill. A couple weeks before that, I had offered to help him when he got ready to do that.
So I had a choice – I could wave and say hi to Brad and wish him well and go in and take my shower and get off my feet, or I could actually do what I told him I’d do previously and give him a hand. I’m not going to lie. My initial thought was “God, why did this have to be the week that I am going to preach on ‘Love Does Not Insist on Its Own Way’?”
Fortunately, at least this time, I chose to do my best to love like Jesus and so I spent the next hour or so helping Brad cut down his tree. I’ll admit this wasn’t totally a selfless act on my part because there is definitely some benefit for Mary and me in having that tree gone. But I think for the most part, I made my choice based on doing what I needed to do to literally love my neighbor.
But I don’t always act in such a selfless way and my guess is that most of you struggle with that as well. Once again this morning, if you always love others like Jesus by not insisting on your own way, then you’re excused since you really don’t need to hear this message. But if that is an area where you struggle, then will you join me in seeing what we can learn from Jesus about loving like that?
As we’ve done each week so far in this series, we’ll begin in 1 Corinthians 13, where Paul described the various aspects of loving like Jesus. The next phrase we come to is found in verse 5:
It [love] does not insist on its own way…
(1 Corinthians 13:5 ESV)
While each phrase in 1 Corinthians reveals an important aspect of Biblical love, in many ways this particular phrase summarizes them all and is the essence of what it means to love like Jesus. Once again, Paul describes love from a negative viewpoint – what it is not. Although the ESV translation of this phrase certainly captures the sense of what Paul wrote here this is one place the NASB actually does a better job of translating his words more literally:
…it [love] does not seek its own…
(1 Corinthians 13:5 NASB)
The verb “seek” is actually a much better translation than “insist”. It is the same word that Jesus uses in the Sermon on the Mount when He commanded His listeners to “seek first the kingdom of God”. It is a verb that describes an all-consuming quest that won’t quit until it finds what it is seeking. So Paul is describing a kind of love here that is completely contrary to my natural tendency to pursue what I want for me, often at the expense of others. Genuine Biblical love does exactly the opposite – it puts the interests of others ahead of my own.
We could easily find a number of passages where Jesus exercised that kind of love, but the one I’ve chosen to look at today is found in chapter 14 of Matthew’s gospel, beginning in verse 13:
Now when Jesus heard this, he withdrew from there in a boat to a desolate place by himself. But when the crowds heard it, they followed him on foot from the towns. When he went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them and healed their sick. Now when it was evening, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a desolate place, and the day is now over; send the crowds away to go into the villages and buy food for themselves.” But Jesus said, “They need not go away; you give them something to eat.” They said to him, “We have only five loaves here and two fish.” And he said, “Bring them here to me.” Then he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass, and taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven and said a blessing. Then he broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. And they all ate and were satisfied. And they took up twelve baskets full of the broken pieces left over. And those who ate were about five thousand men, besides women and children.