Love | Matthew 22:34-40; 1 John 3:16-18, 4:7-12

December 23, 2018 Speaker: Christopher Rich Series: Advent Words

Topic: Gospel Passage: Matthew 22:34–22:40, 1 John 3:16–3:18, 1 John 4:7–4:12

Introduction | What is Love and why don’t we understand it?

Good Morning Welcome to Damascus Road where we are Saved by Jesus Work,Changed by Jesus’ Grace, and Living on Jesus’s Mission. Today we are in a brief series during Advent (Arrival) where we are looking at good words that point to a greater God. The words area Peace, Hope, Joy, Love. These are individual words, but they are come together to help describe and bring meaning to what was/is/is being accomplished by the Arrival of Jesus into Human history. After Peace, Hope, Joy is this week, Love. Words have meaning. So we need to know what this word means if we’re going to understand it’s implications.

LOVE (Agape), Why do we struggle with the idea of love? It’s because we really use the word in weird ways. What is the oddest thing you think you’ve said you “loved”? How has that then impacted when you have a deep soul level connection and response to something. Before we describe and define what Love is, we need some clarity on how we are confused about how we understand this concept now. What love isn’t:

We confuse love with affinity/attraction -Like. Usually “Love” something or someone is when we really like stuff and so we use the word love and it cheapens it. This is the easy things and people in life that we are naturally attracted to. Maybe its because they are like us or maybe it’s because they are like what we want to be. Either way this definition of love takes no effort at all, conversely if there is no affinity there is no love, so this love only last as long as you share an affinity or have an attraction, then it’s over.

We confuse love with acceptance – I will receive you as you are. Not a bad thing necessarily, in general most of us would prefer acceptance to rejection. Acceptance can be conditional, I will have love for you as long as you meet my terms or what I find acceptable about you. If there is conflict, sin, or harm is experienced then there is a natural rejection. The “love” is based on the acceptably of the object love and determined exclusively by the giver of love. Are you worthy? If so loved. If not too bad. What if you just…

We confuse love with affirmation – I agree with everything you do! Regardless of your life, actions, etc. To love you is to affirm everything about you. This is when we over value ourselves or assume everything about us is “perfect” as it is. So if someone doesn’t affirm EVERYTHING about us then we are not being loved. We determine as the object of Love if someone else is affirming us enough or properly.

We confuse love with affection – Sometimes people do actually like or even love us! This defines love around how people respond to us. I “love” this person or am “loved” by this person because they have been affectionate with me. So I will respond with good feelings and maybe even actions. They are love able because they love me, in an active way. This is actually getting closer to a good definition, but what if someone isn’t affectionate with you, what if they haven’t acted in a way we deem loving? What then?

Now true deep authentic can (an at times should) absolutely include each of these things but these individually are all “less than” what “love” actually is. These are primarily subjective feelings our interpretations of events.We define love with an emotion or experience rather than an action or attitude. The biggest part of the problem is in each of these understanding of love are in response to or defined by us. We are the judge and arbiter of “Love” and usually these are fickle feelings rather than faithful actions and attitudes.

PART I | What Did Jesus Teach about Love?| Matthew 22:34-40

Matt 22:34-40 |34 But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. 35 And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him.36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”

Jesus Teaches LOVE on God’s Terms. Jesus is confronted about what does it mean to actually know and follow God. As Jesus answers and teaches about God He comes right out with the concept of “Love.” But not from a self-focused understanding “Do I feel LOVE?” But from another focused orientation. “Am I loving?” Who am I loving? And why?”Love starts with God. We are commanded to FIRST Love God. Why? He is the source of life and love. We are made to reflect and respond to the God who made us with Love. This is not just, have some nice feelings or a heart emoji. Love of God is comprehensive, in our lives. We are called to love God with our whole heart (affinity) we are called to love with God with our whole soul (worship) we are called to Love God with our whole mind (affirmation of what is true) Mark 12 says with all our strength (affection and ACTION) This is deep and full hitting who we are in comprehensive ways. We are called to love God comprehensively because…He is a comprehensive God! In being called to love God let me be clear, We are being called to love one who is PERFECTLY worthy of this deep Love.

Jesus defines love on how we engage with others. Jesus goes, 1A & 1B on what is paramount in following God. Love of God, yes! Love of other, also yes. Why is this so important. Because of who people are. People are made in the image and likeness of God. So they are worthy of dignity and respect. To love God must include loving people because people are made by God and for God. Because they are made by God, and in His image they have great worth. Yet in Jesus telling us to love others as ourselves, unlike His command to love God, He is telling us to love others that are NOT exactly as “loveable” as God. See God is perfect and infallible, so infinitely worthy of Love. People aren’t perfect, people are fallible, and even difficult to love given any definition. This is because people are broken. So we need good teaching on what love is. Love cannot be demanded but it is commanded. Why? You can command love in a way you cannot command excitement or affinity you can command and teach actions and attitudes you adopt. We need these commands because of sin. Love is from God, not us. Because of sin there is a break in how we love God, as we’ve switched the nexis of love from God ourselves. This has impacted how we love and respond to God and others. It has to be reset and redirected away from us and back to God and others.

It’s great that Jesus can teach us what we’re supposed to do “love God and others” But if we don’t know what love is or haven’t experienced it you can be told until you’re blue in the face to “love God” and still not know what that means. If we only needed this teaching, then there is no reason for Christmas (Christ’s arrival) because both of these teaching were already given to God’s people. If it was only a matter of knowing a concept intellectually we’d be good. We have to see it demonstrated, we have to experience it.

PART II| How has Jesus shown us Love?| I John 3:16-18

1 John 3:16-18 | 16 By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. 17 But if anyone has the world's goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God's love abide in him? 18 Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.

God’s love sacrifices. So we live lives of sacrifice. We know the love of God, because of the sacrifice of God. God saw our sin and brokenness. How it has caused us to more than misunderstand love, but misdirect it from something we receive from Him and reflect to Him and others to something we have perverted to be something we take from others or direct to ourselves alone. In our state of love sickness, it led Him to compassion and concern. This compassion and concern didn’t end with an idea it drove Him to active self-sacrifice. We are not merely to marvel at what Jesus did on the cross and think good thoughts about it and admire it for what it was. (though we should) for us but we are also to imitate the concept. We say we follow Jesus so we imitate Jesus in the ways we’ve been called to. This includes loving in more than attitude but also action.

#1 Love is not defined by us it is defined by God and God shows us what love looks like in the person and work of Jesus. Love in not an inactive emotion it is an attitude that leads to action. Love is not inactive. Love is tangible. I can be felt, but it has to be expressed in tangible ways beyond feelings. We define love not by what we feel about things but we SEE love in the life and sacrifice of Jesus. We have to see this as the definition of what love is as a something active pursuing rather than something passive. Part of our problem is we confuse what love is. We think "love" is "like." The natural feelings we have when we behold something we find attractive. No one has to tell you like something, you just do! Liking something attracts you to it. Loving someone leads you to pursue them. We KNOW love when we see Jesus sacrifice.

#2 Love is specific not general. It’s easy to love people in the abstract it hard to love specific people. Loving someone is treating them as if you like them even when they are not likeable. We’re not called to like everyone or like everything about everyone. Do you like people? No, that’s ok. You aren’t called to like everyone, but you are commanded to love them. This means you might find yourself investing in and spending time with people you don’t naturally enjoy but by God’s divine providence He has brought them into your life and your church. Don’t be a masochist and only hang out with people you don’t like and spurn those you do, but actively pursue relationships with different people. We can say Jesus loved us because he acted on our behalf even when we didn’t deserve it. We can say this is love and not “like” because, while we were yet sinners (unlikable and unlovable) Christ died for us. Romans 5:8

#3 Love of God includes love of God’s people. Who are the brothers and sisters John is talking about? He is talking about the church, the people of God, the adopted sons and daughters of the King who because we are sons and daughters we are now family. We are also called as Christians to do things like Love (treat them as if we like them) our enemies. These are people who actively don’t like you because you claim Jesus. How are we supposed to love our enemies if we’re not even loving our brothers? 

#4 Love is lived out more than a onetime event but a life time of selflessness.Jesus has laid down his life for our Brothers and sisters! He has given the most, nearly all of us will not be called to give our lives as a sacrifice for others. Most all of us will NOT be called, asked, or given the opportunity to give our lives self-sacrificially in a one-time act of heroism. Like I hope if you’re facing a ISIS death squad that you’d say take me over your bride, kids, etc. But yet John still says "BECAUSE Jesus has laid down His life for US, we ought (should be compelled) to lay down our lives for the brothers". We can lay down our lives, not in a onetime act but in a life disposition of setting aside our life our desires, for the good of other brothers. This is harder because the one time "to live is Christ but to die is gain" is easier to wrap our head around and believe we would rally up for that big moment. But all the little moments of our lives of selfishness betray what is really true about us. We love ourselves more than we love others and we love to live for what we like rather than the brothers and sisters we’re called to love. We are told to take up our cross daily.

#5 Love is costly and will really cost. Talk is cheap so be generous with your actions. These starts to get really clear in verse 17 how love for the brothers is to clearly be expressed in HOW you direct your goods, possessions/money towards others. So love cannot be merely defined by how you talk about or to others (but again talk to everyone in the body as if you like them) What you say can reveal part of your heart, but your actions always tell the truth about your life and how you love others. Verse 18 says don’t talk about loving people and the church, but in action what is true is revealed. Does how you spend your money reflect how you love others in your family and church family? Does how you spend your time show any concern for others in forming and investing in relationships and service? Are you generous towards God and others?

PART III | How is God Love and How do we Love in Response? | 1 John 4:7-12

1 John 4:7-12 |Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. 10 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.

We celebrate the Love of God at Christmas because it’s the arrival of Jesus. The Arrival of Jesus is significant because of His actions on Good Friday. Jesus is sent. Jesus is sacrificed. This this the Love of God.

GOD IS LOVE We get the “God is love” equation wrong because we don’t understand Love properly we end up not understanding God properly. We start with our wrong definitions of Love (ie, affection, affirmation, acceptance) and then work the equation backwards. So instead of God being an active God who brings, demonstrates and gives love, God is a being who agrees and affirms what we like about us. So we when we say something like "God is Love" what we really mean is "Love is God" and we’ve defined love as “like” so we’re really saying. "What I like or find likable is God or God likes me or them because we’re great and very like/loveable. God is love, not love is God when we define love as what we like. We are wrong if we think He accepts us and He fully approves of us at all times and never asks us to engage with the idea that there are parts of us that must change. NO, God’s love transforms. We are beloved.

Instead if we start with understanding who God is they we can better know what Love is. We know love and we know God when we know Jesus. God’s love is “manifest” in Jesus. Jesus is the embodiment of God and His love for His people. God choose and choses to love with presence and action. We are all incredibly insecure people.We are insecure in part because we know how we love others (imperfectly) how we’ve been loved by others (imperfectly) and so we struggle with God is love because all we know of love from ourselves and each other is love that is imperfect. We know we don’t love God as we should, so we think maybe God doesn’t love us the same way. So we doubt God loves us. Because we know our own unlovability and we don’t know God’s Love-ablity. So we wonder if we can be loved by God. We don’t have to ask “Does God love me? Does God love us? And wonder what the answer is. We are loved by God, we know it not because of how we’ve loved Him but because of what he’s done for us in Jesus!

Verse 10 We love what is loveable. God loves us when we are unlovable.We love what will love us back. We love our friends. God loves what is unlovable. God loves knowing we have already not loved Him. God loves His enemies. Because God’s love for us is not based on our lovability, but on His ability to love, God’s love for us in not dependent on us but is reliant on His character. God doesn’t love us because of us He loves us despite us. This is not bad news but good news because it means we can be and are loved.

Jesus is a gift to us because of what he’s accomplished for us!Propitiation equals wrath sponge. God says I know your unlovability, I know your insecurity. And straight up I know your sin. I know your rejection of me. I know your love of yourself over others and over God. I know all of and I am going to deal with it by Having Jesus absorb the just wrath of God we deserve on the Cross. The great news of Christmas is what Jesus did on Good Friday. Does God love you? YES! How do I know? Because of Jesus…. Not because of you.

God’s love empowers us to love others. We struggle in Gospel community because a bunch of “unlovable” people are brought together who are imperfect (or worse think they are) and then we all interact with each other. We’re called and commanded to love one another because we won’t do it naturally if it’s only based on our affinity or affections. So as a believer and follower of Jesus we say “I am called to love others, that is really hard!” “Guess what, they’re called to love you too. So it’s hard for them as well.” Thankfully we’re not left alone to just gut it out under our own will. We have God dwelling in us “ABIDING” in us through the Holy Spirit. So the God who is LOVE (Active and attitudinal) is actually IN us empowering us to love Him and love one another. God is in us and God is working in us to make us new. God’s love transforms us to make us more loveable and more able to love.

Loved people, love people… We have been loved by God Actively so we can actively love one another. You’ve heard it said, “Hurt People, hurt people” but what we see is “loved people, love people.” We have the ability and capacity for great love, because we’ve been greatly loved by God so we can Trust Jesus.

More in Advent Words

December 16, 2018

Joy | Isaiah 25:6-9 & James 1:2-5

December 9, 2018

Hope | Psalm 130, 1 Peter 1:3-7

December 2, 2018

Peace | Isaiah 9, Ephesians 2