Summary: We see real love in Jesus as he gave up his life for us.

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Love First

Jan 8, 2012


Let’s start with a little exercise: I want you to think of a fictional character that is widely admired. I’ll give you a bit of a start – I looked online for some lists of famous fictional characters and came up with some names: Batman, James Bond, James T Kirk, Harry Potter, Darth Vader, Indiana Jones, Sherlock Holmes, Gandalf. Others you might like to add to the list?

Now, as you look at the list, toss out some adjectives that might describe those characters: just yell them out, I’ll try to jot them down quickly (and no doubt illegibly).

Now, despite Paul’s instruction that we 2 Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think, I maintain that most of us are very thoroughly products more of our culture and our world than by the inner transformation of God on our lives. I maintain that most of us have, indeed, allowed ourselves to be squeezed into the mold of our world (borrowing JB Phillips translation of that same passage). And I would back that belief up with any one of us, myself included, by asking one simple question: how much time in an average week do we open ourselves up to the powerful, shaping, influences of our world – through TV, media, music, movies, work, newspapers, etc – versus how much time in an average week to we open ourselves up to the powerful shaping influences of the Holy Spirit – through prayer, worship, Scripture reading and study, Christian service, etc.? I would be very pleasantly surprised if there were more than 5% of us here today for whom those numbers would even begin to be equal. Here’s a New Year’s Resolution for you – resolve to spend as much time reading Scripture and praying (or other, intentionally created spiritual disciplines) each day as you do watching TV, movies, Youtube, or reading newspapers and magazines. With your leisure time, strive for an even balance. That seems a huge stretch.

And, I think, that proves my point: most of us are very thoroughly products of our culture.

So let’s return to this list of admired characters and the adjectives that describe them. Is loving anywhere on that list?

Here is my thesis this morning: the one, highest, most powerful, singular concept and power at the heart of our faith – that of love – has been ignored, re-defined, misappropriated, and thus robbed of all that God desired it to be by our culture and has, as a result, been completely neutered in our imagination and our practice.

And yet we know we need it.

We long for it.

We are deeply moved when we experience it.

In fact, we are transformed by it.

We recognize it, celebrate it, and tell stories about it when we see it in its authentic, real power. And yet if we look for it in our society, say by asking google news for stories about love, all we get are the latest Hollywood boyfriends/girlfriends, sports stories about elite athletes and their obsession with societal honors, or Demi Moore and her love/hate relationship with her body. As if that mattered in the slightest.

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