Showing Love to Others

May 28, 2017

Norwalk First United Methodist Church

Our Vision

Ascension Sunday

Showing Love to Others

Romans 13:8-10

          Today, as we continue to understand our mission and vision for Norwalk First United Methodist Church, we will be digging deeper into our second vision objective, “Showing Love to Others.” If you remember last week, our first vision objective was “Knowing God.” When we truly know God and have a right relationship with him and his Son, Jesus Christ, then we can extend God’s love to others.

In the New Testament, the Greek word often associated with Christian love is “agape.” This Greek word is virtually a Christian invention. It is almost non-existent in scripture until the New Testament. Agape love draws its meaning directly from the revelation of God in Christ. It is an intense love that is a supernatural fruit of the Spirit as we read in Galatians 5:22. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Agape love is a matter of will rather than feeling and is the basic element in Christ-likeness. When we talk about God’s love and extending God’s love to others, it is “agape” love.

An unknown author penned these words about love:

“What is love? It is silence – when your words would hurt. It is patience – when your neighbor’s curt. It is deafness – when a scandal flows. It is thoughtfulness – for other’s woes. it is promptness – when stern duty calls. It is courage – when misfortune falls.”

As we move through out scripture today, I want you to notice what God says about love. First, it is a continuing debt. Second, it is a command of God. And third, it is the fulfillment of the Law. Would you pray with me?

PRAYER

While our scripture passage today deals with love, the passage in Romans right before our scripture deals with public debts. Both, Paul says, are to be fulfilled as Christians living under the rule of an organized government. For the Apostle Paul, Christians must conduct themselves “in Christ” and “in love.” On public debt, taxes, and tributes, Paul writes in Chapter 13, verses 1 and 7 the following: Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God….Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.

In the Roman Empire, there was a “ground tax” by which people had to pay one-tenth of all the grain, and one-fifth of the wine and fruit produced by their land. There was a “poll tax” which had to be paid by everyone between the ages of 14 and 65. And lastly, there was an “income tax” which was one percent of a man’s income. Paul insists that Christians must pay their tribute and their taxes to state and to local authorities, however galling it might be. It was for the good of the empire, which kept the area from turning into chaos. The empire offered safety and protection.

It was after these instructions to Christians to fulfill their obligations to the government that he turned to private debts in our scripture today. He writes, Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another.

You see, there were some Christians who twisted the Lord’s Prayer, “Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors,” into a reason for claiming to be absolved from all money obligations. Paul had to remind his people that Christianity is not an excuse for refusing our obligations to other people; it is a reason for fulfilling them to the utmost.

First of all, Paul points out to us that love is a continuing debt. Many times we hear people say that they love their favorite sports team, like the Cavs or the Indians. Or in reference to material things, they say they love their house, their car, their clothes, or whatever it might be. But we all know that is not real love. It may be a good feeling for something material, but what happens when that material thing breaks down or that sports team doesn’t perform well? That’s when our love may go out the window. Love should deal with people and relationships, not with things. Someone once said, “We often love things and use people, when we should use things and love people.” Do material things mean more to us than people? If so, something is dreadfully wrong with our hearts.

You can like things but you must love people. That is our continuing debt. Origen, the great third-century biblical scholar, said: “The debt of love remains with us permanently and never leaves us; this is a debt which we both discharge every day and forever owe.” Genuine love for others can be life-changing. For example, Aleida Huissen, 78, of Rotterdam, Netherlands, has been smoking for 50 years. And for 50 years she has been trying to give up her harmful habit. But she has not been successful, that is, until recently.

She has now given up cigarettes, cigars, and pipes. The secret? Leo Jansen, 79, proposed marriage last year, but refused to go through with the wedding until Aleida gave up smoking. Says Aleida now: “Will power never was enough to get me off the tobacco habit. But love did it.” Love can be life-changing.

We can pay off our public debts as Paul urges us in verse 7 of Chapter 13. Yet, you could be the richest person in the world, but you will still owe people the debt of love until the day you die. God put us here to love one another, to love our neighbors as ourselves. And we should love them any way we can, as often as possible and as long as ever.

Secondly, Paul says that love is a command of God. Verse 9, The commandments, “Do not commit adultery,” “Do not murder,” “Do not steal,” “Do not covet,” and whatever other commandment there may be, are summed up in this one rule: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” This is God’s command, but do we always do what God commands? It is Paul’s claim that if people honestly seek to discharge this debt of love, they will automatically keep all the commandments.

William Barclay, in his commentary on the Book of Romans, writes, “People will not commit adultery, for, when two people allow their physical passions to sweep them away, the reason is not that they love each other too much but that they love each other too little. In real love, there is at the same time respect and restraint, which saves from sin. Christians will not [murder], for love never seeks to destroy, but always to build up. It is always kind and will always seek to destroy enemies not by killing them, but by seeking to make friends of them.”

Barclay continues, “Christians will never steal, for love is always more concerned with giving than with getting. They will not covet, for covetousness is the uncontrolled desire for what is forbidden, and love cleanses the heart, until that desire is gone.”

St. Augustine famously said: “Love God, and do what you like.” This is a wonderful quote. If love is the motivation within the heart, if a person’s whole life is dominated by love for God and love for other people, that person needs no other law.

Newspaper columnist and minister George Crane tells of a wife who came into his office full of hatred toward her husband. “I do not only want to get rid of him, I want to get even. Before I divorce him, I want to hurt him as much as he has me.”

Dr. Crane suggested an ingenious plan. “Go home and act as if you really love your husband. Tell him how much he means to you. Praise him for every decent trait. Go out of your way to be as kind, considerate, and generous as possible. Spare no efforts to please him, to enjoy him. Make him believe you love him. After you’ve convinced him of your undying love and that you cannot live without him, then drop the bomb. Tell him that you’re getting a divorce. That will really hurt him.”

With revenge in her eyes, she smiled and exclaimed, “Beautiful, beautiful. Will he ever be surprised!” And she did it with enthusiasm. Acting “as if.” For two months she showed love, kindness, listening, giving, reinforcing, sharing. When she didn’t return, Crane called. “Are you ready now to go through with the divorce?”

“Divorce?” she exclaimed. “Never! I discovered I really do love him.” Her actions had changed her feelings. Motion resulted in emotion. The ability to love is established not so much by fervent promise as often as repeated deeds. Love is a command of God. It is more concerned with giving than getting.

Lastly, love is the fulfillment of the Law. Love does no harm to its neighbor, our scripture says. Jesus told his disciples in the Gospel of John 13:34: A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you MUST love one another.” Notice Jesus uses the word, “must.” We must love one another. Showing love to others, is the fulfillment of Jesus’ new command.

A little girl said to her friend: “I’m never having kids. I hear they take nine months to download.”

Two other kids were talking to one another. One said, “I’m really worried. My dad works twelve hours a day to give me a nice home and good food. My mom spends the whole day cleaning and cooking for me. I’m worried sick!”

The other kid said, “What have you got to worry about? Sounds to me like you’ve got it made!” The first kid said, “What if they try to escape?”

Kids do have it made whether they realize it not! They may realize this once they get out and away from home. But once they are gone, are they ever really gone? Is the job of raising kids, helping our kids really ever over? In a sense, parenting is a job that is never done. We continue to help our children any way we can and even when they’re grown.

It is that way with love. It is a job that is never done. Ephesians 5:1-2 tells us, “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.” When love becomes an action, then it is the fulfillment of God’s law.

At the end of the great love passage in First Corinthians 13, Paul says that what remains is faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love. Love is indeed the greatest of these! Great as faith and hope are, love is still greater. Faith without love is cold, and hope without love is grim. Love is the fire which gives the spark to faith, and it is the light which turns hope into certainty.

Love is the life we must live. Love is never-ending. Love for God and love for others. Love is a continuing debt. Love is a command of God. Love is the fulfillment of the Law. And most of all, love is the completion of God’s work in our lives. Showing love to others. That is our vision.

 

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