Jesus placed an incredible challenge on all those who would choose to follow him by saying..
So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. 35 Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.”
This isn’t just a gushy, brother/sister, how are you today, I love you, kind of thing…
Think about what Jesus is saying….first, this is not brotherly love, this is “agapao,” unconditional love….get this… he is challenging the disciples and all of those who would follow him to unconditionally love people and not only to unconditionally love but to love the way Jesus loved! He said it is this kind of love, radical love, that will prove to the world what it means to be a Christ-follower.
Here are a few ways he loved to show us how to love
Jesus gave up his life for us
Jesus was not afraid to speak the truth regardless of the cost
Jesus was willing to meet people at their level, their point of need
Jesus was not afraid to break from the crowd to be the light and hope to everyone
Jesus never compromised who he was but loved enough to mostly gently, reveal the compromise in others
Jesus focused on solving the problems
Sometimes when we talk about love we focus on the wrong things, Paul challenges us with that thought
1 Corinthians 13:1-3
If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing. 3 If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing.
Remember this chapter is written to one of the most radical on fire, moving in the gifts and Holy Spirit power, churches. He pauses in the description of the functionality of the gifts to speak about love.
Paul is saying I can move in every way that people think is spiritual, powerful, things that would make God happy but if we don’t have love we really aren’t pleasing God, we aren’t being the blessing we think we are…Because God is love and we represent Him…without real, radical love we aren’t representing him.
I believe the only limitation to our power, is the love we walk in….I believe God wants his church to shine, to be alive, to heal our nation, to bring hope to the broken, to set the captive free
It is going to take radical love to make that happen….I believe we are just the people to do that!
Here is what Paul continues saying about love…what does love really act like?
1 Corinthians 13:4-6
Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud 5 or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. 6 It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out.
Once again, this is a definition of the way God loves us…Paul seals it with this
1 Corinthians 13: 7,8a
(Love) bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
8 Love never fails… (NKJV)
We are to believe the best in people until we see otherwise and even when we do see the worst, help them to become the best by bringing them into truth…love doesn’t give up on people or God dreams.
Radical love needs to be understood for what it is
- It is not a something we necessarily feel
- It is not something done simply in response to an emotion we have
- It is a choice we make
- It is action we take
We make a decision to choose to love because God first loved us and God is love
It is agape love….loving someone who has just criticized you or embarrassed you in front of others…knowing because you are loved you are not insecure and can look through the words to see their pain
It is agape love to keep your temper under control when someone has just offended you or lost control of their temper at you…
It is making the choice to think what is the most loving thing I can do in this situation to help bring this person to freedom
Making a choice to take an action fully expressing love when I have every reason not to….that is radical love
That is radical because we are taught to always react out of our emotions, doing what you feel like doing rather than acting in the best interest of the other person
I know some are thinking if I do that, I’m enabling bad behavior…why would I want to do that?
- You want to do that because Jesus calls us to do that
- you want to do that because if we choose not to live a life of radical love, we will ultimately turn into bitter, uncaring people.
You see choosing not to love radically, actually means we are choosing apathy, choosing not to care. And once we choose not to care, that begins to spread into every area and every relationship of our life.
You may say, I wouldn’t choose to be apathetic…..And I think you are right.
I don’t think that is the conscious choice we make, but that is what choosing not to love radically leads to.
So our choice to love radically, our choice to take actions that express love even when we don’t feel like it, is a very important decision for our life if we don’t want to wind up bitter and apathetic and uncaring.
Ok, so let’s get practical. What does loving radically actually look like….
We are just going to begin today but there is so much to cover
Matthew chapter 5 is the famous sermon on the mount, where Jesus sat on a hill top and began to teach people what it is like to be a follow of his….he challenges the world’s way of thinking with God’s way of thinking….always learning to put God first and trust that his response to the way we are being treated will always be better than our response.
Matthew 5: 38,39 (NKJV)
“You have heard that it was said, An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ 39 But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also.
Well that doesn’t sound fair at all….in Deuteronomy 19 God speaks that there should be a limit to the punishment of others not further retaliation, that is the purpose of the eye for an eye…it doesn’t sound right for Jesus to say not to resist an evil person does it but what he is really saying is…people are evil but don’t retaliate against them…keep it in God’s hands not yours
Paul puts it this way…Romans 12:17, 19-21
17 Repay no one evil for evil…19Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. 20 Therefore “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; If he is thirsty, give him a drink; For in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
Those of you who are parents know what it is like when your child gets hurt how you feel….God is so much more loving and protective of us, when we get out of the way the Lord handles our problems and can bring people to repentance…the idea of the burning coals was a rite in the ancient world where a person guilty of an offense was to carry burning coals on their head as a sign of repentance…if instead of going after vengeance ourselves we pour out kindness to our enemies we will eventually bring them to conviction and repentance because the Holy Spirit will go to work for us on our behalf….
But is Jesus really saying to allow people to slap me??? No would be the answer, Jesus is not for abuse in any way, most theologians interpret this to mean a vocal slap, and insult….Jesus is saying doing return insult for insult instead ultimately, as Paul said respond to evil with kindness, I encourage people to pray blessings and what I mean is that you pray the blessing that they come to know Jesus, that they come to the knowledge of the truth, that they walk in freedom from their pain that they see Jesus in me.
I know what I am talking about is very radical and goes against the grain of our culture but let me ask you how has that….
Bitterness….Anger…unforgiveness…fear…vengeance…insecurity worked for you….I know this may be tough to swallow but God wants to be our protector, defender, justifier, he wants to be the one that brings the broken to healing, freedom, truth, and as we get out of the way….we grow in strength, we grow in security of who we are, we grow in peace, love and joy….with God as our defender we win every battle….we sing that we let him fight our battles but when we get out of the way, which is ultimately trusting him to defend us, we begin to live in His real peace
Which do you want, justice your way or God’s way?
Which do you want bitterness, apathy and anger or peace, security, love and joy?
Next week we will take this deeper