Summary: This sermon looks at what it means for us as Christians to be a people of love by looking at how we are called to love each other, love our enemies, and the role forgiveness plays in this love.
This year was a sad year for many football fans because it marked the end of an era. The historic Veterans stadium in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania was closed for good. The turf was horrendous and opposing players dreaded the trip to the vet because with one step, a career could be ended. But it wasn’t just the field conditions that were struck fear into the hearts of men. What made the Vet such an opposing place was the fans in the stands.
How bad were they? Well first consider that it is the only stadium that came complete with both a judge and a jail to imprison rowdy fans. In 1999, when Dallas Cowboys receiver Michael Irvin laid on the field for 20 minutes, suffering from a neck injury that ended his career the eagle fans celebrated and cheered. Matthew Scott, the only person in the United States to have received a hand transplant, was asked by the Phillies to throw out the ceremonial first pitch at the team’s home opener in 1999. The pitch, from his transplanted hand, dribbled over the plate so the fans booed him off the field. During a half time show near Christmas time, Eagles fans famously blasted Santa Claus with a shower of snowballs as St. Nick circled helplessly around the field before stadium officials had to rescue him. Perhaps one of the most famous incidents happened in 1989 during a game with the Dallas Cowboys, when a very prominent attorney was taking bets that nobody could throw a snowball and hit the Cowboys bench from that distance. He lost the bet as the Cowboys bench was pelted with snow and ice causing them to flee for their lives. The next day, that famous attorney’s name was revealed in the Philadelphia Inquirer. His name is Edward G. Rendell and two years later, he was elected mayor of Philadelphia.
Now I tell you all this because as you know Philadelphia is known as…the city of brotherly love! Somehow it just doesn’t seem to fit does it? But you know often we as Christians fail to live up to what we are called to be. If there is one thing that should be a distinguishing characteristic of a Christian it should be this…love. When Jesus was asked what the greatest commandments were He said it was this, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ’Love your neighbor as yourself.” Paul said, “ If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.” But often love is the one thing lacking in our churches. To often people walk away from the church claiming that they didn’t feel loved. Christians, especially evangelical Christians are often viewed as being angry people who want to see everybody go to hell! Though there may be some who fall into that category, most don’t. So this evening, I want us to focus on what it means for us as Christians to be a people of love. We’re going to look at three implications of this love and how it applies to our lives.
The first implication of being a people of love is that we are called to love one another! Jesus said by this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another. Romans 12:10 says to “Be devoted to one another in brotherly love.” You see, there are two dimensions to our love. First, there is the vertical dimension, that’s our love for God…but if we are going to have that vertical dimension than we must also have the horizontal dimension and that is the love we have for one another. Scripture says you can’t say you love God and at the same time hate your brother. If you are a believer in Christ, than you are a member of the body of Christ and of the family of God. You have millions of siblings all around the world and though we may be different in many ways, we all have the same common denominator which is stronger than any difference we may have, and that is Jesus Christ!
You see there is a common goal amongst believers-to glorify Christ and to spend eternity with Him someday. We have a common lifestyle, “If we walk in the light” There are common values, common habits and traditions that bind us together so despite our diversity, there is a common denominator that unites us.
Consider the twelve disciples. The twelve disciples were about as diverse and different as you could get. Simon the Zealot was a patriot-a kind of redneck who hated the Roman government. Matthew was a collaborator with Rome. That would be like putting Rush Limbaugh and Ted Kennedy in a room together for three years. They’d about slit each other’s throats. But Jesus united them. Thomas and Peter were opposites too. Peter was impulsive, quick to believe and often fickle. Thomas was a thinker, slow to respond but deeply committed. All these personalities must have unnerved each other at times, but they were united by a cause much bigger that their own ego‘s and personalities, and that was Jesus Christ.