Living a life of love

1 Thessalonians 3:11-12

November 28th & 29th, 2009


          There are some things in life that go without saying.   I think Paul’s admonition to the Thessalonians which goes like this seems to fall into this category.  “..and may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, as we do for you”.    Increasing love and concern for others should be sort of a given, and yet Paul doesn’t hesitate to state the “supposed” obvious to the Thessalonians not only here, but also a few verses later.    “Now about brotherly love, we do not need to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love each other.  And in fact, you do love all brothers throughout Macedonia, yet we urge you, brothers, to do so more and more.”  (1 Thessalonians 4:9-10).   He is not saying that love isn’t happening among these people, but he pleads that just as there is no cap on God’s love for us in Christ Jesus,   so also our love for others shouldn’t be capped.     So this evening, and this morning we are going to get a crash course in living a life of Christian love.      

          First Christian love does not start with us.   In the prayer, Paul writes that the Lord would work in you to make you increase and abound in love for one another.  He didn’t just say “be more loving”, but he prayed to the God who can and does make it happen in our lives.   Love stops and ends with the God who the bible says is love and his love always leads to action.  In other words it is not merely an emotion.    For God so loved the world he  did something.   He sent forth Jesus to conquer our greatest barrier to love, sin itself.  Now this leads to further action.  In John 13:34 he says “As I have loved you, so you must love one another”.   Here we see that  love toward our neighbor, not only comes from our relationship with God, but also it  is not an option.    This means that living a life of love is simply what we do.  It is not based on the “so called” lovableness of the person to be loved.   The question “What does love mean?”, given to 4-8 year olds,   Nikki, age six responded by saying… “If you want to learn to love better, you should start with a friend who you hate.  She understood that the source of love is outside of ourselves in God, and it is expressed outside ourselves toward our neighbor.  The source of love, the strength to love, the reality of love comes from the God who sent  Jesus into our lives, not when we stopped being sinners, but in the midst of our sin. 

          This love starts and ends outside of us, it is not based upon the lovableness of the person, and it is not an option.      Our calling as God’s dearly loved people is to serve and love our neighbor.  This changes how we look at life.  As we consider transitions in life, for young people new careers, often we only ask ourselves the question “will I be happy at this? will I be good at it?  Worthy and significant questions, but just as important and I think even more important is this  “How does this career , this decision, enhance my calling to love my neighbor.” 

          This love is also be a witness to others.  “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another”.    Back in the fourth century, Julian the Apostate charged the Christians with seeking to obtain followers by bribing the sick and suffering and needy.  He said “These Christians give themselves  to this kind of humanity.  So we see what it is that makes them such powerful  enemies of our gods.  It is the brotherly love that they manifest toward the stranger, and the suffering and the poor.” That’s quite a charge- a charge that I pray we are always found guilty.   

          This witness is both to fellow believers and to the world.     I’ve heard it said that we don’t go to worship for others, but for ourselves (explain)   Yet, in another sense we are here for others, in that we are called to serve and love and witness to our faith.  I wonder how worship in this community would be different before each service we got up and said “whom will God place in my path today that I can love and serve”.  Notice also he is not saying that love  isn’t happening, he just says make it increase all the more.  The Thessalonians were already giving to the Macedonians, they already met their “quota”, but he says do so all the more.  This reflects the storehouse of love and forgiveness Christ has won for you on Calvary. 

          To love our fellow believers and our neighbors means to honor one another above ourselves.  Rebecca age 8 responded to the same question “What does love mean in the following way.   When my grandma got arthritis, she couldn't bend over and paint her toe nails anymore. So my grandpa does it for her now all the time, even when his hands got arthritis too. That's love.”     There is an organization called the Rotary that gives out an award titled “Service above self”.  They get the flavor of what Jesus has done, and how he calls us to live.  Jesus on the cross, in the midst of his sorrow and suffering, was in the business of  providing for his mother, praying for his followers and his enemies.     “Jesus says   did not come to be served, but to serve and to give my life as a ransom for many” (Matt. 20:28). 

          We have received the ultimate in love and sacrifice in Christ Jesus.  He is our source, he gets the credit and thanksgiving when acts of love are seen and experienced.    Living a life of love is not an option, and is not based on the lovableness of the person involved.   Love of neighbor is a witness of our faith,  both to fellow Christians, and those outside the faith.    

          However, there is a challenge.  Just how does this happen?   The wisdom of carrying this out is what we pray for.  In the show “Everybody loves Raymond”, Ray’s mother Marie meddles into her family’s life,  but she sees it as love.  Sometimes doing what is best for someone means getting deeply involved, at other times it means allowing others to make their own decisions, and the most loving thing to do is to allow a child to make his or her own decisions.      While the principle almost goes without saying, applying it is what why prayer is to be involved.    There was a 4 year old child whose next door neighbor was an elderly man who had just lost his wife. When the child saw the man cry, the little boy went over into the man's yard and climbed on top of the man's lap and just sat there. When the boy's mother asked him what he'd said to the neighbor, the little boy said, "Nothing, I just helped him cry."  Lord help us make increase and abound in fervent love for one another”.   Amen.