I have been preaching the Gospel for almost 50 years and with every year that moves by (and they are going quicker these days), I am more and more convinced that too many of us, me included, fail to focus on the main meal and get sidetracked on a side order of stupidity. I believe the main course of the meal is the love of God and that I need to be focused on that instead of the many “side orders” that come along regularly and systematically like waves on the shore of the sea.
I have seriously grown less interested in the side issues (orders), the niceties, and the doctrinal trivia. This world desperately needs for us to keep the main thing the main thing. So, I have determined that my central message must be God’s astonishing love. It is a message that is always new, never old, never dusty or musty.
In many ways I am inspired by John, the last living apostle or the original twelve. His great topic, needless to say, was love (see the daily blogs for the past ten days). He featured love in his Gospel, and love dominated his first epistle. They say that as he got older, he reached the point where he preached nothing else. Occasionally, some impatient member of the audience would interrupt him: “Brother John, you’ve already preached that one. Tell us something new!”
“Very well,” the beloved disciple would say with a smile. “A new commandment I give to you — that you love one another.”
John was not senile. He simply understood more deeply than the rest of us that there is one item of news that never stops being new; the life-changing love of God.
God’s love should flow from us in practical and real ways. In every relationship we have — with God, self, friends, neighbours, and enemies — Christians have a foundational, non-negotiable responsibility spelled l-o-v-e. There is no person in the world — including God Himself — whom God does not expect us to love.
And that is why I can say that God’s love changes everything. Think of it: What is life except relationships? And what are relationships without love? If we lack the ability to love, we lack the ability to truly live. Or, at least, to live the “more abundant” life God wants us to enjoy (John 10:10b).
So, let me note a few relational benefits of being loved by God:
1> Because God loves us, we can love Him
“In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins … We love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:10, 19).
2> Because God loves us, we can love ourselves
“You shall love your neighbour as yourself” (Matthew 19:19).
3> Because God loves us, we can love one another
“Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another” (1 John 4:11).
4> Because God loves us, we can love our neighbour
“And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbour as yourself” (Matthew 22:37-39).
5> Because God loves us, we can love our enemies
“You have heard that it was said, You shall love your neighbour and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is 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 … You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:43-45, 48).
So, let’s stop looking at all the somewhat stupid and pointless things that occupy our time and emotions and let’s go back to the main thing – that God loves us and then learn, as disciples of Jesus, to walk in love and give it away.