Summary: Love is a powerful motivator and our lives should be lived from a foundation of love.
What Love Does To Us
June 16, 2013
We’ve already had a full meal – on Scripture, on the depth of poetry in music expressed as prayers of our hearts, on the celebration of new life and a family committed to have Jesus as the center, and on the testimony of faith of a man in our midst. And it is Father’s day, and that is present in many of our minds as we have plans and thoughts that will begin later on. With that in mind, I just want to try to weave these various pieces together into a single theme – that of “what love does to us”. And I’m going to end with the challenge that if love produces that strong a response, then maybe we should love more deeply.
Tugging the Threads:
So let me pull on the threads, and for each the question is, “what does love do to us”?
Threads from Scripture:
We heard a number of different Scriptures this morning – Psalm 32, the story of Naboth’s vineyard, Paul confronting Peter, and Jesus at Simon the Pharisee’s home. Throughout, there is a theme of sin, confrontation, forgiveness, and the result – love.
There are some great, powerful stories in these Scriptures. The story of Naboth’s vineyard is a story of total selfishness, insatiable greed, and horrific wickedness. In many ways, it is a story about what happens when there is no love, when there is only concern for self. The king, so self-absorbed that he sulked in his little bed when he didn’t get the veggie garden he wanted, refusing to eat, acting like a spoiled 2 yr old in a toy store. His wife, the wicked queen, mocking his weakness and proving how weak he was by taking over and devising her own plot which as we read involves lying and conspiracy and murder. All for the convenience of a veggie garden. There is no love here… so perhaps from this story the question is, “what does a lack of love do to us”? It turns us inward, petty, harsh, and even violent. And any sane person looking in is revolted.
The second Scripture talked about Paul confronting Peter over a creeping hypocrisy. It starts off innocent enough – Peter is trying to avoid criticism and keep up appearances, but Paul sees a deeper issue, a much more important issue: Peter’s actions as a leader were about to cause a major division and create a major stumbling block to non-Jewish people coming to faith in Jesus. And – here is the key – Paul loved enough to confront. Paul loved the non-Jewish people enough to defend them, even against Peter who had walked with Jesus himself, and whom Jesus himself had entrusted the leadership of Jesus’ earthly Kingdom. Paul loved Peter enough to confront him, when Paul could have just walked away and let a great schism happen and Paul could have started and led his own thing. And, perhaps most important, Paul loved Jesus enough to fight for the truth of Jesus’ Kingdom and make sure that the main message – “that a person is made right with God by faith in Jesus Christ”, was the message that won out. So what does love do to us? It makes us bold, it makes us willing to fight for truth, it makes us see what really matters when we slip into just wanting to keep the peace and avoid criticism. It empowers, and the right prevails.
The third Scripture is the powerful story of Jesus at Simon’s banquet, with the woman who appears, is obviously a sinner, is incredibly inappropriate in her intimacy with Jesus by kissing his feet and washing them with her hair, and ends up as the model by which the Pharisee’s hospitality is embarrassed. Jesus tells this story, “41 Then Jesus told him this story: “A man loaned money to two people—500 pieces of silver to one and 50 pieces to the other. 42 But neither of them could repay him, so he kindly forgave them both, canceling their debts. Who do you suppose loved him more after that?” 43 Simon answered, “I suppose the one for whom he canceled the larger debt.”
What does love do? First, the love of Jesus welcomes the outcast. And when she experiences the love of Jesus – in effect, having her insurmountable debt cancelled and she is then suddenly free to live life once again – when she experiences that love she is forever completely changed. Do you think she went out and lived Jesus’ way because she felt she had to? Do you think she obeyed out of fear? Do you think she ever thought “well, I guess I have to do this or that because I am supposed to”… Do you think she lived a changed life regretting accepting help and feeling she owed Jesus something and had to pay Him back? No! She was full of love. This is what love does to us – it awakens something deep inside our spirits, something that reflects and expresses and connects with the very heart of God, which is love. God’s love, as we see in this story, turns everything on its head – there is nothing of earning it, nothing coercive or manipulating, nothing of “being forced to do this or that”, nothing of “I have to obey or else I’ll get in trouble”. This is Christianity – a life lived out of experiencing the love of God for us, His forgiveness, and then our response is simply the overflow of our love to God. So often we forget this. We live our Christian lives from some negative place of “I have to or I’ll get in trouble”; or “I don’t want to but I’m supposed to”; or “well fine then I’ll do it your way Jesus”. And when we do that we are Simon the Pharisee; saying “Hey Jesus, come be part of my life on my terms. Make me look good. Let me presume to be in control and decide for myself what I think about you.” But when, instead, we experience the love of God, what does that do to us? See, Jesus’ point in the story is that recognizing how great the debt was that was cancelled connects to that deep place inside us that wells up with gratitude and love that then responds with joyful exuberance that will do anything to please God and delight in it. Now if you read that story and think your debt was small – that you only had the 50 pieces of silver forgiven – then you are dead wrong. We all have the same debt; we all have complete hopelessness without Jesus; we are all, therefore, recipients of such lavish love, such outrageous forgiveness, that surely when we recognize and grasp that, we will respond with extravagant love in return.