Faithlife Sermons

Loving: Gospel Style

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Friday night my family and I went downtown to the First Friday event. We went because Aubreigh’s gymnastics had been invited to come and do some demonstrations for everyone who was attending that evening. We also went because it was May 4th and I was excited to see what kind of Star Wars themed activities were happening at the event.
Friday night my family and I went downtown to the First Friday event. We went because Aubreigh’s gymnastics had been invited to come and do some demonstrations for everyone who was attending that evening. We also went because it was May 4th and I was excited to see what kind of Star Wars themed activities were happening at the event.
One of the vendors that we stopped by after Aubreigh was done with her gymnastics was Victoria’s Sugar Shack. Now I knew that I wanted a cupcake so that was easy enough to narrow it down to that, but then they had 4 options of cupcakes to choose from. Now I didn’t take an exponentially long amount of time deciding, but it did take some thought to decide which cupcake I wanted. Which got me to thinking about the many things that we need to decide about and have a hard time doing. For example ask a group of friends where they want to go to lunch and see how long it takes for anyone to make a suggestion let alone the amount of time it takes to decide. That used to be my group of friends throughout high school and college. Or as a pastor any time I asked the youth what they wanted on their pizza it would take forever for them to come to any kind of suggestions, and then after there were ideas thrown out there then they would debate and argue about who likes and dislikes what kinds of pizza.
It’s true though, we have lots of choices in our lives and sometimes I can be hard to make decisions about things. Where should we go for dinner, where should we go on vacation this year, should we get a pet and what kind of pet should it be, where should I send my child to school, and the list goes on and on. We have so many options and so many choices in our lives that we can sometimes find ourselves and the people we hang out with riddled with indecision.
On the other hand there are times when we just know exactly what we want. For example if we do decide to go an eat at Humbertos then I can guarantee you that 95% of the time I don’t even look at the menu and walk up to the counter and order a carne asada burrito. It can be funny how there are times when we need a lot of help to make decisions and there are other times when we can just look at something or be asked something and we know exactly what we want.
Last week we had a number of youth make a choice or a decision about helping in worship and we are so grateful for the wanting to help with worship. We also have some youth that help every week and have decided that it is important to be in an active role in our serves and for that we are truly grateful as well. One of the youth that helped last week was Andrew and he was generous enough to give us the message for the week and to do it at all three services. The topic he chose to preach on was love because he believes that love is ultimately what the human experience is for him.
Today we have a text about love which lines up right along with Andrew’s sermon last week. In fact our text says the word love, meaning agape love, 9 times in just 9 verses which is a lot. We have both the verb and the noun here, but to give some perspective if we look at the all the 14 chapters that precede this one we see the the noun and verb form of agape only appear 14 times. So in 14 and a half chapters we see the word love 14 times, which means it appears once a chapter on average. Then we come to our text and we have it appear once a verse on average. From chapter 13 until chapter 17, we see agape (including today’s text) appear 30 times. With 1/3 of the uses appearing again in just 9 verses of today’s text.
I know that was a lot of numbers to throw at you, but I wanted us to really see and understand that today’s text has agape, God’s love, just jam packed into just a few short verses. Scholars believe that part of the uptick in uses of the word agape from chapter 13 through 17 is because chapter 13 begins what is called his farewell discourse. So Jesus has entered into Jerusalem for the last time and he spends his time teaching all of his disciples because it is his last time before he is arrested, dies, rises and ascends. So Jesus is trying to pack into his last times with them with as much as he can possibly teach them and a lot of it as we can see centers around this whole idea of God’s love.
Now we hopefully understand why Jesus is so focused on this idea of agape, God’s love, and now let’s take a look at what exactly he is saying about it. This is where it gets really interesting for me. The reason I say that is because the way Jesus talks about love is by keeping his commandments. He also says in the last line that he is giving us these commands so that we may love one another. Commands are things that we are told to go and do not decisions that we make on our own. We often see commands in the military or parents telling their children what to do, like cleaning their room or taking out the trash or maybe even feeding the pets. What further muddies this ‘love’ text for me is that Jesus also says in this text that we are no longer servants but friends, and that we are his friends if we follow what he commands us. Now I know that some friends that we have can seem bossy and tell us how to do things or where to eat, but I don’t think that is what Jesus is talking about.
So how do we resolve this command to love? I believe it all boils down to the fact that we are humans and we sometimes, if not oftentimes forget. We are forgetful creatures and it is not a bad idea that we are reminded/told to do things. We are also indecisive creatures as well. As I talked about in the opening of my message today we have a hard time deciding on things that we want to do even though we know they are minor decisions. I don’t know that Jesus is demanding that we love others, but that we should pay attention to the fact that we ought to because there might be a time or two when we forget to do that, because we have a lot of other options other than love on the table. In a perfect world we would love all the time and that would be the one choice out of the many that we would always make. But we don’t live in a perfect world so we need that reminder, we need that command to love each other.
Wash your hands, brush your teeth, eat your vegetables. We know, and so do children, that those are good things to do, but there are times when they need to be reminded of those things.
The final thing I want to say about today’s text focuses on verse 10 which talks about keeping Jesus commandments as Jesus has kept God’s. Jesus probably had a lot of choices in his life. He could have done a lot of different things we it and we see that most clearly when he is tempted in the wilderness by the devil, but he chose to follow God’s plan and God’s commands. Although our text doesn’t spell it out I believe when Jesus says that he has kept his Father’s commandments, he is referring to going to the cross and dying for all humanity. He could have made the choice to avoid that and lived a long life but he chose to follow God’s plan for him and for us, because even though it was God’s plan, the plan was for the benefit of all creation at the sacrifice of his son. Verse 13 shows us just how important that is, “ No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” God showed us what agape, God’s love, looked like by laying down the life of his son for our sake. God made the choice to not think about God’s own self but about all of humanity.
Agape Love is about making the choice to care for someone else instead of focusing on our selves and what we want, it’s about choosing to go counter to the mentality that self is the most important thing in this world. In fact Martin Luther said that if we focus on our own self we are living a life of law because that focus is on, ‘what I did’ or ‘what I want’. The gospel and grace instead focus on the idea and asks the question, ‘what does God want’. If we look at today’s text I would say that God wants us to love, love God and love one another. Even more than that, though, is to remember that you are loved. You are loved by God because Jesus followed his command to lay down his life for all our sakes. God made the choice to love us so much that he did anything and everything possible to make us aware of that love. No matter what choices you make in this life, know that God loves you, know that you are loved by God.
No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.
Amen.
The Holy Bible: New Revised Standard Version. (1989). (). Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.
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