Love is possibly the most valued and sought-after commodity in the world, yet the ways of the heart are a mystery. When people are in love, it changes the way they act. It dominates their thoughts. It makes them walk on air. Some have died for love. Some have killed for love. Love is powerful. It drives people to spend millions of dollars. It drives poets to write. Love is a many-splendored thing. All you need is love. 'Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.
There are many kinds of love. For many people, love is equated with sexual desire or infatuation, or, at best, a strong admiration. Such worldly kinds of love are really self-centered and superficial, no matter how noble or unselfish they may seem.
We Christians should be called to a higher love. When Christ says, "This is My commandment, that you love one another," we should have something different in mind than a shallow, worldly kind of love.
So let us hear what sort of love Christ intends for us. There are three points that He makes about love that I will speak about tonight.
First point: Love treats inferiors as equals. Now, in Jesus' case, everyone on earth was inferior to Him, yet He called His disciples "friends". We, on the other hand, are not inherently superior to our fellow humans. We may be superior in certain ways. You may have specific skills or gifts that others do not have. But that does not mean that others are inferior to you.
Nevertheless, we humans have a nasty habit of comparing each other. Usually, we do not do this consciously. We look at others and put them in a category. Or we look at a person and all we see is their flaws (as if we do not have any). Some people we look up to. Some we look down on. After all, wouldn't we all say that there are certain people who are just plain bad? You know the kinds of people I mean.
But we should look at even those people and consider them our equals. That is what love does.
Second point: Love tries to give others joy, just as Jesus wanted to fill up the disciples with joy.
It is always easier to think about our own feelings than the feelings of others. This is difficult because quite often it takes a lot of time and effort to find out what makes them happy, and even more time and effort to actually make it happen. This requires good communication. It requires patience. It requires change. In fact, we are to go so far that we often ignore our own needs in order that we can serve others better.
Now, this does not simply mean that we should do anything that people want to make them happy. Nor does it mean feeding the self-centered desires of people. True, lasting joy is far more difficult. Sometimes it means refusing to give them what they want and instead giving them what they need. Perhaps they will take no emotional happiness from our actions. Even our best efforts may fail to produce joy in others.
Third point: Love counts our own life as secondary.
Now, I am not only saying that we should be willing to die for others. We should also, day by day, in every action we do, lay our life down for our neighbor. Whenever we sacrifice our time, we are giving up part of our life. Whenever we give up something we wanted for the sake of another, we are giving away our life. Whenever we take the hurt to shield another, whenever we allow them to have first choice or first priority before us, whenever we take a gift God has given us and we give it away to someone else, we are sacrificing a little bit of our life. You see, sacrificing one's life is not a one-time action. It goes on and on in every choice and every path we take.
Brothers and sisters, our love should be as great as the love of Christ. Our love should not merely be an emotion, but should be what we express in our actions. We should not only love those who are lovable or good in our sight, but also those who are hateful and hurtful and repulsive. We should not expect anything in return, but give freely. We should not hold back anything, no matter how much it hurts us.
Consider what this means. Love, which is idolized and praised by our culture, really amount to sacrifice and pain. True love does not mean following our hearts. Instead, true love often means to ignore our heart. If we are to truly love, we should take hold of the things in life, even those that make us happy, and we should be ready to sacrifice them for others, even for people who mistreat us. Even if they should take our lives, we should be thinking of nothing else than their well-being.
My friends, if we are honest, we will see that true love is not to be found in us. We do not practice the kind of love we are supposed to practice. Instead, love is found in one place, and one place only: Jesus Christ.
He chose the lowliest, more repugnant, least attractive object for His love. He chose humanity, warped and twisted by sin. He chose a loveless world. He chose us. We have never deserved His love. Yet He lavishes us with the greatest love that can be imagined.
His love is one and the same as the Father's grace. His love is perfect because it makes us into a fitting object for His love. His love makes us lovable. Every moment of His life was lived for us. Every choice made in love was for us. Every sacrifice, every word, every thought was given freely for us. In this way, the Father's love comes to us through Christ, because the Father considers every act of love that Christ ever did was our action, done by us.
The perfect love of Christ also comes to us through His Word. Apart from the Holy Scriptures, we cannot know the love of God. Yet through these gracious syllables, His love flows to us. The Bible is more than simply God's love letter, as you may hear people call it. The Bible IS His love, because it does not just talk about His love, it actually delivers it. To hear His Word is to hear His love. To remain in His Word is to remain in His love. So what can we do but hang upon every word that comes from our beloved Savior? What can we do but thrill at the sound of His voice and yearn to hear it with all our hearts?
Through His Word, He has shown us how great His love for us is; a love so great that He not only gave every moment of His life for us, but He gave us His death. Instead of the happiness He deserved, He chose nails and a crown of thorns and terrible whipping. He chose the agony of suffering for our sins. Such amazing love, that He chose to be cut off from His Father's love; the wonderful sweet love of God that Jesus had felt since before the world began. We cannot imagine, we cannot hope to match the sacrifice Jesus gave. We cannot see the limits of that love, because it has no limits.
Because of what He has done, we begin to have true love now as we remain in Christ through faith. Because we are in His Word, the grace of God covers us and covers everything we do. We are filled up with the joy that Christ's love gives us, and then we give ourselves in acts of love. So we count any loss we suffer in this life as nothing compared to having the love of Christ.
The Spirit keep you in Christ's love through faith so that you may see His love face to face in Paradise one day, and bask in the warmth of His grace forever and ever. Amen.
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