Summary: Introductory sermon for a series on loving relationships. By virtue of Creation, we all bear the image of God. To truly love others, we need to see that image.
How many of you know who Steven Curtis Chapman is? Steven Curtis Chapman is a contemporary Christian musician. He’s been around for quite a few years, now, and recently released a CD with songs all centred around love. I want to quite the lyrics from the title song of that CD:
We’ve got CDs, tapes & videos,
And radio & TV shows,
And conferences, retreats & seminars.
We’ve got books and magazines to read
On everything from A to Z
And a Web to surf from anywhere we are.
But I hope with all this information running through our brains
That we will not let our heart forget the most important thing
And indeed, the most important thing is love. And this is true even moreso for Christians, for Jesus told us, in John 13:35, “By this shall all men know that you are My disciples: if you have love for one another.” And so love, love, love, is the key. The Beatles told us “Love is all you need”; another musician declared that “Love makes the world go ‘round”; and still another explains that “love is a many splendoured thing.”
But when the rubber meets the road, do we really know how to love? I mean, really, truly, know how to love in such a way that those around us can know, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that we love them, and that we love each other?
You see, I believe that in many circles, “love” has been to theorised, so philosophised, so theologised, that many of us no longer have a clue how to actually love someone. I mean, in theory we say that we need to love of God in our lives, and that when we have the love of God in our lives it will just somehow spill out of us onto those we come into contact with, and they’ll just somehow sense that we have this love in us. And yet I look back in time, and I look at the present day, and I am convinced that we’ve missed the mark. For you see, as I look back in time, I seem men in women like Mahatma Ghandi, who said he would gladly have become a Christian – if he hadn’t met so many. And as I look at the world around me, I see that the picture hasn’t changed much in many parts of the world. What’s worse, friends, is that even more than not inviting those on the outside in, we’re actually driving those that are already in, out. In my reading, and in personal encounters with people, I have discovered an incredible phenomenon in the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Would you like to know what it is? It is this: of the hundreds of Seventh-day Adventists no longer in the Church, only a small fraction left because of doctrinal or lifestyle disagreement. Very few left because they rejected the Sabbath, or the state of the dead, or the health message, or Spirit of Prophecy. So why do the majority of Adventists leave the Church? It’s either because they never felt loved in the Church, or because at some point in time another saint stepped on their toes and never said “I’m sorry”.
Now, I’m certain that if you were to ask those people who have stepped on the toes of others if they love God and love others, there would be no question in their minds about it. “Of course,” they would tell you. “We’re Christians, we’re supposed to love!” Yet for all of our head-knowledge about love, somewhere along the way we’ve missed the mark – we’ve failed to effectively demonstrate that love, which we claim to have in such abundance.
Now, I didn’t come here this morning to discourage you. The picture is bleak as it stands; but praise God, He didn’t leave us without hope. With God, we know, ALL things are possible. And so I am firmly convinced that, by His grace, and with a little bit of study, we can leave here today knowing how to love others. Do you want to know how today?
Let’s start by looking at Matthew chapter 5, starting at verse 43….
Having just read this verse, I want to point something out to you. Jesus makes 6 references, throughout chapter 5, to laws and customs of Jewish society in His day: Do not kill (v. 21); do not commit adultery (v. 27); laws concerning divorce (v. 31); laws concerning the swearing of oaths (v. 33); the law of eye for an eye and tooth for a tooth (v. 38); and the law to love your neighbour and hate your enemy, which we just read in verse 43.
Now, this is where is gets interesting, because for the first five statements Jesus look at, there are direct references to Old Testament commands; in other words, for the first 5 customs and laws Jesus addresses, there is a direct “thus saith the Lord” to back it up. But when you get to the sixth custom – the one about loving your neighbours and hating your enemies – you know what? There is not one single reference that I have found, in all of the Old Testament, where we are instructed by God to hate our enemies.