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Loving Others!

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Luke 7:36-50


            Almost 12 years ago there was considerable pressure in our family to get a cat. I did not want a cat because I did not want the work and responsibility and cost involved in owning a pet. I was not excited about a critter crawling into bed with me at night nor the messy surprises they sometimes leave. But when your wife and your daughter gang up on you and agree to meet all the conditions you set out, you really don’t have much choice, so we got a cat.

            Last December, that cat got sick and we had to put him down. It was a very sad day, not only for our daughter and for Carla, but also for me. Over the years, I had come to like the cat and when we had to put him down, I was sad. I was sad that he was gone, but also because Carla was so sad about it. Because I love my wife, I had come to care about the thing that she cared about. This is the way it is when we love someone. We will care about what they care about because we love them.

            For the last two Sundays, we have looked at the love that Christ has for us and we have been encouraged to respond in love to the one who first loved us. The question that remains is, “how do we express our love for Him?” Of course the answer to that question is to obey Him and to praise Him and to serve Him, but the answer which the Bible gives most clearly is that we need to care about the things that He loves. The thing that Christ loves more than anything is people. In Matthew 9:36 we read, “When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” In Ephesians 5:25 we are told, “…Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.” These and so many other verses remind us of the great love Christ has for people.

            Not only is this it a logical connection to make that we should love people because Jesus does, but the Bible also teaches us this. Listen to the words of Ephesians 5:1,2, - “Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”

Stowell says, “Christ knows we love Him by watching what we do with our lives. And as unsettling as it may seem, how we treat people is the first place He looks.”

Showing Love To Others

Who are the people Christ has put into our lives whom he wants us to love?

1. The Annoying Person

            In a church there was a person who was very annoying to a lot of people. The pastor tried to reach out to her and whenever he did, she had things to do and it never suited. Finally someone told him that she did not want him to visit. She was involved in some leadership in the church, but in the course of time it became clear that she antagonized a lot of people whom she worked with. She was very strong with her opinions and found it hard to see from another person’s point of view.

            One year, some of her friends found out that she was playing VLT’s. Although she seemed to want to change, yet she often went back to it.

            One time the church she attended was bringing in some changes. The leadership had worked through the changes and had checked with the congregation to make sure that what they were doing was in agreement with the direction they wanted to go. When the change had been thoroughly prepared the time came for the congregation to approve it. At this point, she mounted a significant lobby to oppose the change and succeeded.    How do you love such a person? Sometimes in church life we encounter people who just rub us the wrong way and are very hard to get along with. Yet if we understand that Jesus loves that person, then we need to find a way to love such a person.

            May I suggest a thought pattern that will help us move in the direction of learning to love such people.

            We need to need to remember that we are loved by God. We need to understand this truth, not merely as a concept, but as a reality that touches our heart.

            When the love of God touches our heart, it will naturally be our desire to respond to His love with a love for Him.

            Knowing that we love Him by loving others, we can make a choice to love such a person and ask God to help us love them as an expression of our love for Him.

2. The Next Door Neighbour

            When we moved to Manitou, we wanted to make an impact for Christ. Our next door neighbours had recently moved into the community as well and did not attend church and so we thought we ought to witness to them. Early on we invited them over for supper and visited with them and also tried to witness to them. Over the following years, we related as neighbours. We got along OK, but were not particularly close. We borrowed tools back and forth, we talked sometimes. When their son died in an accident, we visited them and expressed our concern. There were a few minor problems, like noisy parties that they had sometimes, but mostly we got along OK.

            All the years we lived there, I wondered how we could truly express love to our neighbours and I was never quite sure that we had done what we should have done. How can we be good neighbours who share faith and bless those who live around us.

            Stowell says, “the first test of authentic love for Christ is measured by whether we treat our neighbours as though they were us.”

            How can we do that?

a. I am loved by God.

b. In response I love Christ.

c. I show my love for Christ by loving others.

3. The Opponent

I heard about a Bible school teacher who was teaching peace and non-resistance. One day he invited an army officer into his classroom to explain the opposing point of view. He was so opposed to what the army officer was saying that he began to argue with him and eventually ended up mocking him and making the army officer look like a fool.

I can identify with that temptation. When we believe strongly in some truth and believe that it is supported by what the Bible says, it becomes very tempting to use any method we can to make sure the truth, as we understand it, comes out. Truth is very important. How can we show love to people who do not accept the truth? What if we find ourselves on opposite sides of an important issue?

This is a very real problem in the church because we do not agree on everything. One of the issues that has been a problem in many churches is the issue of music. People can become quite heated in their support of or opposition to a certain music style. Yet the reality is that people see things differently on this issue.

How can we learn to love our opponent?

Let me suggest a pattern of thought which I believe will help us in this problem.

a. I am loved by God.

b. In response I love Christ.

c. I show my love for Christ by loving others.

4. The Needy Person

            Louie came to town when he was drinking. Otherwise he trapped and worked in the little village in which he lived, but when he came to the town, he was drinking. He often stopped in at the drop in center we had and would have a cup of coffee or a cup of soup. Often he was friendly and we could talk a little and we talked about all kinds of things including spiritual things. Sometimes, he was obnoxious and threatening and we had to escort him out of the building. One time, I escorted him a little too hard and he landed on the pavement and scrapped himself. I felt bad when I did that.

            Several times when we were driving in downtown Winnipeg this winter there was a man on the boulevard begging for money. One time we were ready to give him something, but then the traffic started moving and we didn’t get a chance. Other times, I wondered if I should give him anything.

            People at ICYA have developed a program of work education for people who have never been able to hold down a job and have been in trouble with the law as a result. Sometimes the people who sign up don’t show up and they have to go to their place and get them out of bed. It must be hard to continue to care about people who don’t care about themselves enough to try at least a little more.

            There are a lot of needy people in the world. Some are close to us and some are farther away and many are in desperate need in countries all over the world. It is amazing that when Jesus was on earth, needy people flocked to him. They saw in him someone who could meet their needs. The church today is not always a place where needy people go. Stowell says, “Evidently the down-and-out, who flocked to Jesus when he lived on earth, no longer feel welcome among his followers. In Jesus day people like (the woman we have been looking at) approached Christ and found refuge, comfort, and forgiveness. Has the church lost the heart of Christ?”

            In the parable of the good Samaritan in Luke 10:30-36, Jesus teaches us to love those who are in need, even if they don’t look all that attractive.

            I appreciate what the Crisis Pregnancy Center is doing for needy women who are pregnant and don’t want to be. I am also impressed with the ministry of Inner City Youth Alive.

            Stowell tells the story of his father who every Christmas day would go to visit a widow who was all alone. He wished her a Merry Christmas and prayed with her, hoping to lift her spirits. He writes “This was the kind of thing my father did day after day as part of his ministry. A holiday should have exempted him from the responsibility of bearing other people’s burdens. But for my dad, ministering to the needs of people was not a job - it was his way of living…”

How can we learn to love the needy as a way of living?

a. I am loved by God.

b. In response I love Christ.

c. I show my love for Christ by loving others.

5. The Chronic Nuisance

            We had one boy in our boys club who was such a nuisance. His mother had moved away from his father for reasons that I don’t really know and raised her four children by herself. One of her sons was trouble. When he was 9 or 10 years old, I saw him one day with a few friends weaving down the middle of the highway on their bicycles. That was the kind of thing he was always doing. He participated in our boys club, but whenever he was there, you had to watch him constantly. If you left the room, something would be spilled or someone would be on the ground in a fight.

            He also played hockey on the same team as one of our boys and in one game, he did something on the ice that was not nice. I think he was slashing a player from the other team. I still cringe when I think of how I went into the dressing room and let him know in no uncertain terms that what he did was unacceptable. It was really none of my business and I was pretty harsh, but that is how it was, you got frustrated with him and didn’t always know how to respond. Later, I went and apologized for what I had said.

How can we learn to love such people?

a. I am loved by God.

b. In response I love Christ.

c. I show my love for Christ by loving others - with patience

6. The Person Who Has Hurt Me

On November 12, 1999, while on an outing, two young offenders made a dash for freedom. In a flash, Steve Krulicki, one of the guards, pursued the boys while the other guard called the police and watched the rest of the kids.

The chase led him over fences and through backyards. While Steve was mounting a fence the teens lobbed things at him. A brick hit him in the head.” I tried to get up and I couldn’t,” Steve says. “I blacked out for a minute. I was seeing stars. I finally got enough strength to get up, and I started walking.” When the other guard and the rest of the kids caught up with Steve, he was in bad shape. His right arm was paralyzed, and he was babbling incoherently. No one knew exactly what had happened.
            Steve was quickly taken back to the youth jail where an ambulance met him and rushed him to St. Mary’s Hospital. Later, when his injury began to clot, they transferred him to McMaster University Hospital in Hamilton, Ont., which is better equipped to deal with head trauma. Surgery seemed imminent.
            “I couldn’t feel my arm for so many hours. I couldn’t even move it. It was just hanging there,” Steve recalls. A lover of sports, he thought he would never play hockey or baseball again.

Family, friends, co-workers and churches began praying for Steve shortly after the incident. Steve affirms, “You can’t underestimate the power of prayer, especially in that situation. I went from not being able to feel my arm to within a couple of hours the swelling going down and being able to feel my arm. I knew that I’d be back to normal in no time.”

In December 1999, barely a month after the incident, Steve agreed to meet with the two boys in a Family Group Conference. Incredibly, Steve was ready and eager to forgive the boys when they asked. “The Lord forgave me so of course I’m going to forgive them. I had no grudges or anything.”

How can we learn to love those who hurt us? Steve’s example teaches us.

a. I am loved by God.

b. In response I love Christ.

c. I show my love for Christ by loving others.

7. The Clerk At The Store

            A few weeks ago I was in a large store looking for a certain item. I asked a person about the item and he didn’t seem to know very much about it, but pointed me to the section where the item was. I looked for a while in that section and didn’t find it and so I went and asked again. Again, I didn’t get a lot of help and I was getting a little frustrated with his lack of knowledge and his unhelpful attitude and so I asked him, somewhat impatiently, if he was going to help me or not. He did not give me the help that I thought I should be able to expect, but I’m not sure impatience was the right response.

How can we learn to love others even if they disappoint our expectations?

a. I am loved by God.

b. In response I love Christ.

c. I show my love for Christ by loving others.

8. The Business Competition.

            I heard about a Christian business owner who had sold his business to his employees. For a while, he did some other things, but they didn’t work out and so he was again looking for a way to make a living. The thing he knew best was the business he had been in before which he had sold to his employees. At that time, he had an opportunity to get into that same type of business, but in a competing line. This was a small town and he was setting up competition with those who had worked for him before. I wondered if that was the loving thing to do? How do we act in love in the many challenges that come to us in the business world. Sometimes something may be legal, but is it ethical. It may even be ethical, but is it the loving thing to do? Life presents us with many such challenges.

How can we learn to love in the everyday things of life?

a. I am loved by God.

b. In response I love Christ.

c. I show my love for Christ by loving others.

9. The Sinner

            He was a new Christian and he and his family had become quite involved in the church. They had become members and it was good to see how God was working in their lives. One evening, the church had its elections and he was up for election to a position in the church. On the evening of the church meeting, he was not there and since he knew that he was up for election, I wondered why he did not show up.

            After the meeting, I phoned him to let him know that he had been elected. As soon as he came on the phone, I knew what the problem was - he was drunk. Now we had to deal with the problem of what to do regarding the leadership position, but we also had to deal with the problem of his drinking and how it affected his faith walk.

            He continued to struggle with alcohol and we worked with him. Sometimes he was agreeable and sometimes he was resistant. Sometimes I lost patience and other times I was encouraged.

            How can we learn to love the sinners in our midst?

a. I am loved by God.

b. In response I love Christ.

c. I show my love for Christ by loving others.


Joseph Stowell says, “There is no telling what churches full of Christ-lovers can do when they commit themselves to show a Christ-like love to alienated and empty lives that surround them.”

            Leo Tolstoy has a wonderful story about Martin the Cobbler. I have found a poem version of the story. In the Tolstoy version, Martin is meditating on the story in Luke 7 about the woman who came and expressed her love at Jesus feet. He wonders how he would act if he had a chance to meet Jesus. In conclusion, I would like to read the poem to share with you how he experienced love for Christ.

How the Great Guest Came

Before the cathedral in grandeur rose,

at Ingleburg where the Danube goes,

Before its forest of silver spires,

went airily up to the clouds and fires,

Before the oak had ready a beam,

while yet the arch was stone and seam,

At the place where the altar was later laid

Conrad the cobbler plied his trade.

Doubled all day at his busy bench,

hard at his cobbling for master and hench,

he pounded away at a brisk rap tap,

shearing and shaping with tole and tat.

Hide well hammered, pegs sent home,

till the shoe was fit for the prince of Rome.

And he sang as the threads went to and fro,

"Whether tis hidden or whether it show,

let the work be sound, for the Lord will know."

It happened one day at the years white end,

two neighbors called on their old time friend

and they found the shop, so meager and mean,

made gay with a hundred bows of green.

Conrad was stitching with face a-shine

but suddenly stopped as he twitched a twine.

"Old friends, good news! At dawn today,

as the cocks were scarring the night away,

the Lord appeared in a dream to me

and said, `I am coming your guest to be.'

So I've been busy with feet astir

strewing the floor with branches of fir.

The wall is washed and the shelf is shined

over the rafter the holly twined.

He comes today! The table is spread

with milk and honey and wheat and bread."

His friends went home and his face grew still,

as he watched for the shadow across the sill.

He lived all the moments o'er and o'er,

when the Lord should enter the lowly door-

the knock, the call, the latch pulled up,

the lighted face, the offered cup.

He would wash the feet where the spikes had been,

He would kiss the hands where the nails went in,

and then at the last would sit with him

and would break the bread as the day grew dim.

While the cobbler mused there passed his pane

a beggar, drenched by the driving rain.

He called him in from the stony street

and gave him shoes for his bruised feet.

The beggar went and there came a crone

her face was wrinkled with sorrows sown.

A bundle of branches bowed her back,

and she was spent with the wrench and rack.

He gave her his loaf and steadied her load

as she took her way on the weary road.

Then to his door came a little child

lost and afraid in the world so wild.

Catching it up,

he gave it the milk in the waiting cup

and led it home to its mothers arms,

out of reach of the world's alarms.

The day went down in the crimson west

and with it all hope of the blessed guest.

And Conrad sighed as the world turned grey,

"Why is it Lord that your feet delay,

did you forget that this was the day?"

Then soft in the silence, a voice he heard,

"Lift up your heart, for I kept my word

Three times I came to your friendly door,

Three times my shadow was on your floor,

I was the beggar with the bruised feet,

I was the woman you gave to eat,

I was the child on the homeless street.

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