Summary: The Christian Church is a family--Joined together by the love and blood of Jesus Christ--Therefore we must love each other.
Growing up I loved to listen to the Pittsburgh Pirates baseball team on KDKA, America’s first radio station. I still remember sitting in a football locker room in the 1960s, listening to the Pirates win the World Series. (When the Red Sox finally win a series, you can be sure that I will be watching it on TV. If you and I are not alive, maybe God will throw a party and let us watch it from Heaven on satellite TV.) In the 1950s, I saved money for streetcar fare and admission to old Forbes Field, and for the first time I got to actually see the Pirates. At that time they were MY TEAM. I clamed them as my own. I knew all their names. I had seen most of their pictures in the newspapers. I knew their batting averages and won-loss records. I guess you could say that I loved those guys. It was a thrill to be in the same ballpark with my team. Believe it or not, each week I am just as excited to come to church to be with my Forever Family.
In the late 1970s, the Pirates won the National Baseball League pennant. A major player on that team was Willie Stargell. The slogan he impressed upon the team, by words and music and actions, was, “We Are Family!” He helped the whole team to see that teamwork was more important than personal pride and selfishness. Each team member would sacrifice when the need arose. He taught them that they were to love each other as family.
We can look at the church in the same way. We are FOREVER FAMILY. We live in a mobile, changing, lonely society. People are looking for family. I read yesterday that the average person can expect to have twelve different jobs/careers in a lifetime. Often rootless people have nothing left but the church. We need to learn to love everyone who comes through these doors as FOREVER FAMILY.
I. IF WE LOVE EACH OTHER, WE ARE OBEYING GOD’S COMMAND.
In today’s Scripture text we read, “This is my command: Love each other.” In Chapter 14, Jesus said, “If you love me, you will obey what I command.” (14:15) Christian love is not a manufactured feeling. Christian love is learning to treat each other the same way God treats us. Love is a matter of the will, not of emotions. Jesus also said, “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.”(v.12) How does Jesus love us? He forgives us and he is kind to us.
We must choose to love. It is a conscious act of our will. Each of us must determine, “I will put him/her first. I will be kind to her/him. I will be patient.” The more we deliberately will to love one another, the more our emotions begin to change. Worship then becomes more meaningful when we are family. We want to spend time with family whom we love. Time flies when we are having fun.
II. IF WE LOVE EACH OTHER, WE ARE FULFILLING GOD’S LAW.
Paul learned this lesson well and he wrote: “Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law.”(Romans 13:8)
In the Old Testament God gave many laws to govern the land, to guide relationships to property and neighbors and to guide in worship. Jesus taught that love fulfills the law and covers all the important issues of life.
When we love our neighbor, we do not break up his marriage and family. We do not violate his property. We do not defame his reputation through gossip and slander. John wrote: “I ask that we love one another. And this is love: that we walk in obedience to his commands. As you have heard from the beginning, his command is that you walk in love.”(2 John 5 & 6) Love does not substitute for the law, but love fulfills the law. When we love each other as forever family, we meet the law’s requirements.
III. IF WE LOVE EACH OTHER, WE ARE FOLLOWING GOD’S TEACHING.
Paul, who before his conversion to Christianity, used to hate the Christians, wrote: “May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you. May he strengthen your hearts so that you will be blameless and holy in the presence of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus comes with all his holy ones.”(1 Thessalonians 3:12-13) Later in the same epistle/letter Paul wrote: “Now about brotherly love we do not need to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love each other. And in fact, you do love… Yet we urge you, brothers, to do so more and more.”(1 Thessalonians 4:9-10)