Summary: Nine times in the NT we are called to love one another. It is echoed by 3 authors in 4 books. It is the one principle on which all the other one anothers depend.It is also the only one another that comes directly from the lips of Jesus.
What is it in Jesus that so draws people, that wins their allegiance away from every other master, makes them ready to leave all for his sake, and to follow him through peril and sacrifice even to death? Is it his wonderful teaching? Those who heard him declared, “no man ever spoke like this man!” (John 7:46) Maybe it's his power that is seen in his miracles? Could it be his sinlessness? Even Jesus' most determined opponents could find no fault in him. Is it the perfect beauty of his character?
No, none of these account for the wonderful attraction of Jesus. What drew people to Jesus was his love. His love shattered barriers of hate and prejudice. His love picked up the pieces of broken hearts and put them back together. His love gave aimless lives meaning and purpose. His love found forgiveness where there had only been condemnation. His love brought triumph out of failure. Love is the secret. He came into the world to reveal the love of god.
Men saw it in his face, felt it in his touch, and heard it in his voice. His friendship was unlike any friendship they had ever seen before or even dreamed of. It was this that drew them to him and made them love him so deeply, so tenderly.
We gather to worship to celebrate and enjoy that love. But the same love that Jesus had, is the same love that's been given to us. It's the same love that's been put into our hearts. It's the same love that we've been called to show the world, and to each other. That's what we'll be taking a look at today.
A big part of my philosophy of ministry is that the church should be outwardly focused. The church best fulfills her God-given mission when she is looking outward, loving and serving those outside those outside the church. You will hear me talk a lot about this throughout my ministry.
But being outwardly focused is only half the equation. An outwardly focused church must also be inwardly strong. Without an inner strength and unity, we won't be able to support that outward focus. So as we grow in our outward focus, we also need to grow in our inward strength. They're like two muscles that work together and must be developed together. We can't exercise and strengthen one without also strengthening the other.
So what does it take for us to be inwardly strong? Sprinkled generously throughout the New Testament are fifty-nine one another passages. These are verses that describe how we are to treat each other, who we are to each other. Let me give you some examples. “Be devoted to one another in brotherly love (Rom 12:10).” “Live in harmony with one another (Rom. 12:16).” “Accept one another (Rom 15:7).” “Teach and admonish one another (Col. 3:16).” “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love (Eph 4:2).” “Encourage one another and build each other up (1 Thess 5:11).”
We begin a new series this morning covering these one another commands by looking at the granddaddy of them all. It is the one repeated more than any other, and that is we are to love one another. Nine times the call to love one another is repeated. It is echoed by three different authors in four different books. It is the one principle on which all the other one another principles depend. Listen to the role love plays in these one another passages, “Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves. Live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers. Serve one another in love. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.” You can't be a one another church without love.
Love one another is also the only one another statement that comes directly from the lips of Jesus. John 13:34-35 says,
A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.
What is it that defines us as Christians? We could be defined by our mission- to seek and save the lost. We could be defined by our worship. We could be defined by our church organization and structure, but the one thing that should define us more than anything else, that can really set us apart is love.
Jesus calls loving God and loving others the greatest of all the commandments. He says that everything that Scripture teaches hangs on those two things. The apostle Paul says there are three eternal virtues that remain faith, hope, and love, but the greatest, he says, is love.