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Loving the Unlovable

All We Need is Love  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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INTRODUCTION
We’ve come to one of the most important passages in the New Testament. Jesus reveals what He considers to be the MOST IMPORTANT commandment in the entire Bible—to love God. And He volunteers the second most important commandment—to love our neighbors as ourselves.
Everybody has a different idea about what love is. As Forrest Gump said to Jenny, “I’m not a smart man, but I know what love is.” Do you?
Here are some children’s definitions of love.
“Love is when a girl puts on perfume and a boy puts on shaving cologne and they go out and smell each other.” Karl, age 5
“Love is when your puppy licks your face even after you left him alone all day.” Mary Ann, age 4
“My mother says to look for a boyfriend who is kind. So that’s what I’ll do. I’ll find someone who is kinda’ tall and handsome.” Caroline, age 8
“I know my older sister loves me because she gives me all her old clothes and has to go out and buy new ones.” Lauren, age 4
“When my grandmother got arthritis, she couldn’t bend over and paint her toenails anymore. So my grandfather does it for her all the time, even when his hands got arthritis too. That’s love.” Rebecca, age 8
These last two are my personal favorites:
“Love is what’s in the room with you at Christmas if you stop opening presents and just listen.” Bobby, age 5
“You really shouldn’t say, “I love you” unless you mean it. But if you mean it, you should say it a lot. People forget.” Jessica, age 8
The context of our passage is Jesus in Jerusalem a few days before the cross. The religious leaders have been asking Him trick questions to try to get Him to incriminate Himself. But Jesus is too wise. Finally, someone asks Him a serious question.
Read Text:
This teacher of the law was probably part of the antagonistic crowd questioning Jesus. But when he heard how Jesus answered crooked questions with such straight answers, he decided to ask him a serious question. The Jewish Rabbis had isolated 613 different written commandments and another 1,400 oral commands. Jesus first quoted from  about loving God and then He combined it with a command from  about loving your neighbor as yourself.
Jesus first established Who God is: He is the One true living God. Then He moved on to reveal the main thing God expects of us. In other words if you could somehow enter into the throne room of heaven right now and kneel before your Creator and ask Him, “God, what is the MAIN thing you expect of me?” He would say, “I want you to love me with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.” If you said, “Okay, I’ve got that. Is there anything else I can do to please you?” God says, “There is one more thing. I want you to love your neighbor as much as you love yourself.”
Jesus was talking about three levels of love. He talked about loving yourself, loving others, and loving God. To me, it’s like climbing a ladder. You have to start on the bottom rung before you can climb up to the top. I don’t think you can truly others and love God until you understand what it means to love yourself. So let’s start at the bottom rung 

1.YOU ARE WORTHY OF LOVE: SEE YOURSELF AS GOD SEES YOU

At first, there are many Christians who have a negative reaction to loving themselves. They think, “Wait, aren’t I supposed to deny myself? Didn’t Jesus tell me to take up my cross and die? And you’re telling me to love myself? I’m confused.”
That old selfish, sinful nature that used to claim your life needs to be crucified and buried with Christ.
 But I’m talking about who you are right now; and Jesus said you should love your neighbors as you love yourself. I didn’t make that up.
You need to have a healthy self-image of who you are in Christ. 
I assumed most of you looked at yourselves in the mirror this morning. 
When you saw that person looking back at you in the mirror, what did you think about that person? 
Did you look that person in the eyes, or just at your face, teeth, and hair? Did you think how old, ugly, or overweight you were?
 Were you happy with that person looking back at you?
Among Christians, there are a couple of self-image mistakes you can make.

A. An inferiority complex

That’s actually a psychological term coined by Alfred Adler to describe people who think everyone else around them is better, prettier, stronger, and smarter than they are. 
Many Christians feel worthless and unworthy. 
The devil is called the accuser of the brothers and sisters and he wants to constantly keep you on a guilt trip making you think you are too filthy and wicked to matter to God.
The other self-image mistake is the polar opposite. I’ll give it the official theological term:

B. THE LOOK AT ME CHRISTIAN

it sounded more descriptive than narcissistic. 
Have you ever met someone who was in love with themselves? 
There’s a difference between loving yourself and being IN love with yourself.
 A person who is in love with themselves looks in the mirror and sings, “How Great Thou Art!”
We’ve all met arrogant, egotistical people who think they are better than everyone else. These people are sick, and pretty much make everyone around them miserable.
ILLUSTRATION: Abby, the advice columnist once got a letter from a guy like this. He wrote: Dear Abby: “I’m a guy who has everything. I’m smart and handsome. Women are always flocking around me and telling me how good-looking I am and what a marvelous personality I have I’m beginning to find this boring. How can I discourage these hopeful females?” C.W. Abby wrote back: Dear C.W., “Just keep talking.”
Of these two extremes, most of the Christians I know suffer from a sense of inferiority. 
They feel they are worthless and find it hard to love themselves.
 This world is a harsh place and there are plenty of people around you who try to tear you down. 
It starts when you’re a child in school. If there’s anything that’s different about your appearance or how you look or speak, mean kids will make fun of you. 
Bullying used to happen on the school playground, and now it usually happens in cyberspace.
Doesn’t stop there: it continues on into adulthood. In places such as work, at the gym, social events in the community, and dare I even say in the one place it should never happen and that’s in the CHURCH! 
The devil may accuse you, and people may try to belittle you. 
But no matter how people treat you, you should say, “I am not worthless, I am a blood-bought child of God!”
 When you see yourself as God sees you, you’ll be humble and grateful for the grace and forgiveness that God has given you.
The Bible teaches that you are fearfully and wonderfully made. You aren’t one-in-a-million; you are one-in-seven-billion.
There is nobody else exactly like you alive on the planet. 
Take a moment and look at the tip of your forefinger. 
There is a series of swirls and ridges there. 
That pattern is unique in the world; nobody else’s fingerprint matches yours. 
The design of your eyeball is a miracle, and nobody else’s eyeball matches the pattern of yours.
Yes, we are all sinners, and none of us is good in our fallen nature, but if you know Jesus you have been forgiven.
 Here’s how God describes you in : “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus…If God is for us, who can be against us?...Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen?” (, , )
Jesus said the very hairs of your head are numbered. 
That kind of attention to detail is only possible by our Creator. 
When God looks at you today, He knows you aren’t perfect. But He loves you in spite of your flaws.
ILLUSTRATION: Years ago a man was at a pastor’s conference and he heard a preacher say, “God loves you warts and all.” He had everyone turn to their neighbor and make that statement. He thought that it was a pretty good idea, so the next Sunday at his church in Alabama, I did the same thing. He said, “God loves you warts and all. Now turn to your neighbor and tell them that.” Everybody did. After the service, one of his friends came up to him and said, “Pastor, when you had us turn to our neighbor and tell them that God loves them warts and all, there was a guy sitting next to me that I didn’t know. As I turned to him I noticed that he had a huge wart on his cheek. So I just said, ‘God loves you … He really does!’” So I’m not going to have us say that, but turn to your neighbor and say, “God loves you in spite of your flaws!”
You will never be truly able to love others until you love yourself—in spite of your flaws. It’s like whenever you’re on an airplane and the flight attendants are giving a pre-flight briefing. They say if the cabin loses pressure, oxygen masks will drop from the panel above your head. They always say if you are traveling with a child, put your oxygen mask on first, and then help the child. That makes sense, because if you try to put the child’s mask on first, you might pass out from lack of oxygen and both of you would be in trouble. You really can’t love others until you see yourself as God sees you and love yourself.
Let’s take the next step up to a second level of love.

2. YOU ARE COMPELLED TO LOVE OTHERS WHEN YOU SEE THEM AS GOD SEES THEM

Jesus said we are to love our neighbors as ourselves. 
In Luke’s version of this conversation, the lawyer looks for a loophole. He asks Jesus, “Who is my neighbor?” 
He wanted Jesus to say, “Why your Jewish brothers and sisters. Your neighbors are people just like you.” 
But instead, Jesus responded by telling one of the greatest stories in the Bible. 
He told the story of a man who got beaten and robbed and left half dead on the road. A priest and a Levite pass him without helping him. But then a Samaritan man, who was considered a half-breed person, hated by the Jews, stopped and helped the man. He dressed his wounds, put him on his donkey and took him to an inn. Then he left money so the wounded man could be cared for. The Jesus said, “Which of the three men was a neighbor to the wounded man?” The lawyer said, “Uh…the one who showed him mercy.” Jesus said, “Bingo. You go and do the same.”
So the wrong question is, “Who is my neighbor that I have to love?” 
The right question is, “To whom can I BE a neighbor?” 
And anyone who needs your love is a neighbor to be loved.
The English word “neighbor” literally means “near dweller,” but the original word in the Greek New Testament means anyone around you at any time.
 You can’t restrict your love to any race,  any case, any place, or any space, because love is all about grace
We love others because God first loved us.
APPLICATION:
Let’s be honest, it’s so easy to love some people. 
We all know people who love us and show us kindness, and it’s easy for us to reciprocate. 
We love them in return. But there’s no grace in that kind of love. 
In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus said, 43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, 45 that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so? 48 Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.1
The humorist Will Rogers once said, “I never met a man I didn’t like.” 
Well I say he didn’t meet some of the people I’ve met! Because there are a lot of unlikeable people in this world. 
For years I used to say that some people are unlovable, but I don’t use that term anymore. 
Because God reminded me that nobody is unlovable because He loves them.
So I changed my terminology. There are some people who are unlovely. 
There are some people who are just hard to get along with. And some of them are Christians. 
Can you think of one person right now who you find it very hard to love? You may be tempted to think of four or five, but just focus on one person. 
This person just rubs you the wrong way. Maybe he or she has wronged you or hurt you. Are you thinking of this person right now? By the way, have your ever considered somebody may be thinking of you right now?
I want you to imagine Jesus Christ walking up to you and saying, “I want you to love that person for my sake.”
 What’s your response? You may be thinking, “But I don’t FEEL like loving that person!” 
Love has very little to with feelings.
there is an emotional component to love, but primarily love is a choice, not a feeling
When you add what we have heard today with what we heard last week then you understand what Jesus says next.

III. You are getting Closer to the Kingdom

What does it mean when a person is “not far from the kingdom of God”? It means he or she is facing truth honestly and is not interested in defending a “party line” or even personal prejudices. It means the person is testing his or her faith by what the Word of God says and not by what some religious group demands. People close to the kingdom have the courage to stand up for what is true even if they lose some friends and make some new enemies.
CONCLUSION
Jesus said, “If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.” () Here are four diagnostic questions – just answer a quick yes or no (1) Do I love/obey God emotionally (heart)? (2) Do I love/obey God willfully (soul)? (3) Do I love/obey God intellectually (mind)? (4) Do I love/obey God supremely (strength)?
Let’s go back to that person you consider to be unlovely. Does Jesus love that person? You’ve got to answer, “Yes.” Then why don’t you say, “Jesus I can’t love that person in my own strength. Will you love that person through me? That’s a prayer Jesus will answer every time you pray it.
What if I had the financial means to tell you I would pay you $5 million if you would even pretend you love that person for the next 12 months? Think you could do it? Well, our motivation to love others is more valuable than a billion dollars. It’s satisfaction of hearing Jesus say, “Well done, good and faithful servant!”
In his book, Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis wrote: “Do not waste your time bothering whether you ‘love’ your neighbor - act as if you did. As soon as we do this, we find one of the great secrets. When you are behaving as if you loved someone, you will presently come to love him.”
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