Summary: We are to have mutual love for one another.
Hebrews 13:1-8, 15-16
“The Heart of the Matter”
By: Rev. Kenneth Emerson Sauer
Pastor of Parkview United Methodist Church, Newport News, VA
Don Henley has a song in which he sings:
“I’ve been trying to get down
To the heart of the matter
But my will gets weak
And my thoughts seem to scatter
But I think it’s about forgiveness.”
When we’re trying to get down to the heart of the matter of Christianity, how often do our wills get weak and our thoughts begin to scatter?
Because the demands of the Christian life go so against the grain of our natural inclinations—that it is often much easier to have, say, a worldly Christianity or watered down version of Christianity.
In our Epistle Lesson for this morning, the writer of the Letter to the Hebrews is basically trying to get down to the heart of the matter of what it means to be a Christian.
He says that being a Christian means that we will love each other, we will have sympathy for those who are in trouble, we will be content with what we have and will be willing to share it, and we will worship God with praise.
Of course no one in the entire world can live like that!
We’d love to be able to live like that, but that is just an ideal…
…or is it?
Verse one starts out with: “Keep on loving each other as brothers.”
The New Revised Standard Version of the Bible reads like this: “Let mutual love continue.”
1 Peter describes this kind of love as “genuine” and “deeply from the heart.”
And Paul tells us in Romans chapter 12 that “brotherly love” means we “honor one another above” ourselves.
Now before I was born again I had no idea of what this love could possibly be like—I didn’t even know that it existed.
I suppose I loved those who loved me back…
…and that was it—end of story.
If someone didn’t love me, or if I didn’t care to get to know them—I did not love them.
Why should I?
As a matter of fact, my world was filled with a lot of hate for others.
I hated those who stopped me from getting what I wanted.
I hated those who didn’t treat me just like I wanted to be treated.
And I didn’t have a big problem with that. I mean, gee, that was just the way the world worked.
But something happened in my life…
…the Holy Spirit got a hold of me and showed me a better way…a completely new and radically different way of looking at others.
This is why I believe in the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
I don’t believe in it simply because someone else tells me that it’s true.
I don’t believe in it because I am just naturally inclined to have an unusual interest in a Jewish carpenter Who walked this earth 2,000 years ago.
I’m not a Christian because some person on t-v told threw a bunch of moral imperatives that no one can possibly follow perfectly at me.
I believe because I have experienced…I have gotten just a taste of God’s love in Christ…
…and ever since that first taste…
…nothing else has tasted right since.
How about you?
Have you gotten a taste of God’s love in Christ?
And, if so, has that love caused you to crave more and more?
Just before He died and just after He washed His disciples’ feet, Jesus gave a new command to His disciples: “Love one another,” He said.
Now on one level, that’s no sweat.
Think nice thoughts, do an occasional good deed, and center your life around the tenets of a Hallmark card.
We can do that at least part of the time…right?
But wait a minute.
Jesus doesn’t stop there.
He also says, “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.”
Jesus doesn’t say to love…
…oh, just the people who love us…
…nor does He tell us that we can pick and choose those whom we will love.
We are to love His way—just like He did.
Just like a Cross.
We can die loving His way…
…and as a matter of fact, we do have to die to self in order to love His way…
…but still, loving His way is not safe, nor is it easy.
But that’s His command…
…and it’s a non-negotiable command for those who choose to follow.
The late Harry Denman was once asked by a young person, “What is the new birth?”
Denman replied: “When you are born a person you have a physical birth and you love as a person loves which can be very, very selfish at times.