Summary: How to love people enough to like them by developing the art of unconditional acceptance.
Love In Overalls
(Message #12 of the Series: View From God’s Mountaintop)
This morning we connect two texts. The first is the prologue to Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount.
And seeing the multitudes, he went up into a mountain:
and when he was set, his disciples came unto him:
Jesus taught so many of life’s great principles, and kingdom living. It was really a mountainous sermon:
The Sacredness of Marriage
Keeping our Language Pure
Prayer and Fasting
The Dangers of Materialism
The Providence of God
The Trap of Judging Others
The Golden Rule
Bearing Spiritual Fruit
Three chapters (Mt 5-7) which take only twenty minutes to read, yet entirely covering more topics than I could preach in a month. Small wonder it has been called the greatest sermon ever preached.
At the end of the preaching event, Jesus then spent the next few years living the sermon (a practice we all could adopt). His life is without question the greatest life ever lived. And herein is the connection with John 13:
34A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another;
as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.
35By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples,
if ye have love one to another.
There are two childhood memories that I connect with my understanding of this text. The first is of my Uncle Marlen. He has been gone some years now. When we were kids, all the boys of the family would gather for football. Uncle Marlen was always right in the middle of us. He was a gifted athlete. My uncle was always the quarterback – he could throw the ball into the next time zone! Whenever I could I made sure I was on his team. He would gather us together and say, You go this way when the ball is hiked. Turn left just past the old Ford near that tree. Run like the wind – I’ll throw y’the ball – Catch? “Catch” was Uncle Marlen’s way of finding out if we had the plan down pat.
The second memory is when I was much younger, and didn’t catch. My mother wanted me to put on my fall jacket. It had a zipper – a contraption I hadn’t yet mastered. Mom offered help, but, at four years old I knew what was best; I could do anything! After an eternity of trying to get the east and west ends of that zipper to meet, I finally cried out in agony, Okay! Okay already – you close it, I yip it!
Jesus had preached the sermon, then lived the sermon – and then he said to the disciples – It’s your turn – you do it! YOU live the sermon now. “Catch”
The Mountain Sermon of Jesus, and the ability of Jesus’ disciples (to this very day) to catch it, are much like my childhood frustration. We have read it a thousand times – even seen it demonstrated. And just like I had seen the zipper worked so many times, but couldn’t quite do the trick myself – so we miss catching when Jesus says, Love one another.
My attempts fall short. I find myself not loving like Jesus loved me. Psychologist James Dobson reports seeing a sign on a convent in southern California reading: Absolutely No Trespassing--Violators Will Be Prosecuted to the Full Extent of the Law. Signed, "The Sisters of Mercy."1
A few years back Pepper Rodgers was in the middle of a terrible season as football coach at UCLA. It even got so bad that it upset his home life. He recalls, My dog was my only friend. I told my wife that a man needs at least two friends and she bought me another dog.2
What is wrong with our attempts to follow the Master, and love as He loved? It is our incomplete understanding of what love is, and how it works.
Bible teacher and scholar Haddon Robinson writes,
When I was a kid in Sunday School….I could see absolutely no relationship between loving God and loving my brother or my neighbor….In the Scriptures, Christian love is not objective. Christian love is subjective. Christian love does not reside in the personality being loved. It resides in the person doing the loving. My basic premise was wrong; it is not such a simple thing to love God.3
Subjective! Did you catch? So often we connect love with the point that we are supposed to feel good. In essence, the characteristic we miss entirely is that love flows toward the object!
Let me demonstrate. In the sentence I love you, the word “you” is the object. “I” is the subject. The object receives the action of the verb love. If the statement is true (I love you), then all of the action and intent of my loving will be received by you. Love is subjective, not objective. And, as Haddon Robinson suggests, it ain’t easy! In fact it is scary, uncomfortable, and can wear you out to direct your energy towards others.