Summary: If we can ever learn that Jesus commands us to a greater love, then Christmas will truly be Christ's Mass, and our live will truly be Christ-like.
Advent Service at Providence Baptist Church, December 24, 2008
Title: “We are called to a Greater Love”
Text: John 15: 12 – 17
A story is told of a little boy who wanted to grow so bad that he made a ruler to measure himself by. Each day he would stand beside his ruler and say, I am getting bigger. One day his father watched him as he was doing his routine and asked what was he doing? He replied that he was measuring himself and watching himself grow. His father looked as his measuring stick and when into another room and returned with a yardstick. He told his son to stand beside the yardstick and to the boy’s dismay he had not grown from what the doctor had told him a year ago. The problem that boy had was that he was measuring himself by his own yardstick.
As Christians we suffer with the same problem, we measure our sense of Christianity by our own yardstick. We puff out our chests, pat ourselves on the back; but God views all that we do as no more than filthy rags.
This text challenges us to respond to the command of Jesus Christ to exhibit a greater love. We are called to a Greater Love.
Unfortunately, we have indelibly etched into our being three problems: we exhibit a lesser love, or a little love and oftentimes no love at all.
A lesser love is when you say that you love God, but do not love your fellow man.
A certain ruler came to Jesus and asked him, what shall I do to inherit eternal life? Jesus responded that you know the commandments, and he began to recite the Ten Commandments. The certain ruler said I know them, and I have kept them from my youth. Jesus then said you lack one thing. Sell all you have and give to the poor. The scripture says the man went away sorrowfully because he was very rich. Then he says something very unusual to our modern ear, he says that it would be easier for a camel to go through a needle’s eye, then for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God. (Matthew, Mark and Luke)
A little love is when you love your family, but not foes.
Jesus says to those who would hear, love your enemies, do good to them, which hate you, bless them that curse you, and pray for them, which despitefully use you, and if someone strikes you on one cheek, turn the other. For if you only love those who love you, what kind of love is that, sinners love like that. If you do good to them that only do good to you, what kind of goodness is that, sinners do the same. However, love your enemies, and do good, and lend hoping for nothing in return: and your reward shall be great, and you shall be called children of God. (Luke)
No love is when you only love yourself.
Jesus tells another parable, he warns against covetousness: for life is more than self-gratification by collecting things that please you. He mentions a certain rich man who had plenty, and one day thinks to himself, what shall I do, because I have no more room for my gifts? I know what to do. I tear down my barns and build bigger barns to hold all I posses. Then I will say to my soul, take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry. God steps into the picture and says, thou fool, this night, thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be. Then he makes a comparison and say, so is he that loveth up treasure for himself, and is not rich towards God. (Luke)
However, a greater love is when you are willing to forego any sense of self and sacrifice your ego for another human being that you may not even know.
When one is willing to give up your sense of self, your sense of security, your sense of self-sufficiency to engage in the life of another; that is a greater love.
This is the polarity upon which we all live: either you are selfish or self-sacrificing.
When I say self-sacrificing, I don’t mean self-effaciating: where you extinguish or rub out the you for others. I mean self-sacrificing where you submerge your sense of who you are to be in relationship with others because they are also children of God. Martin Luther King Jr was not a garbage man, but he entered into the world of garbage men to connect his isness to their aughtness. So the Memphis workers walked with signs that said, “I am a man.” King understood that humanity is inextricably tied together in a grand mosaic designed by God.