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Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » Allen Jackson » Allen Jackson - Love Each Other - Part 1

Allen Jackson - Love Each Other - Part 1

Allen Jackson - Love Each Other - Part 1
TOPICS: Let's Do Difficult, Love

It's a privilege to have some time together today. We're walking through a series on "Let's Do Difficult". Kind of the awkward reality of our faith, that it's gonna take more than a casual interest on our part in order to please the Lord. We don't earn our way to heaven, that's nonsense, but we do bring our very best to God or our hearts are inconsistent. In this session, we're gonna talk about the biblical direction to love one another. We all know that God loves us and that we're supposed to love one another, and we say it so casually. Well, I'm pretty good at loving the people I like, it's people I don't like. We're gonna get our Bibles out and see if we can understand with a little more clarity, enjoy the lesson.

We've been working on this series under the theme of "Let's Do Difficult". And I really, honestly think it's important, because what it represents in my heart is an adjustment in our imagination of our faith. I honestly, at least my journey, I haven't been present in a lot of places where I was coached, encouraged, even challenged to do difficult things in the context of my faith. We often describe it as if it's a joy and it's easy and it's just, well, it isn't always for me, saying no to ungodliness is not always a joy. Having to humble myself, or to repent, or to apologize, or to learn to be generous with your time or your treasure or your talent, whatever it may be.

Following the Lord, and sometimes when you stand up for the Lord, everybody doesn't applaud. And I think the result of this is that we have cultivated, in a lot of respects, kind of an anemic church. Well, I don't mean our congregation uniquely, but Church with a capital C. We're a Church that when somebody raised their hands and said they were offended by our faith, we were quiet. We've become a Church that, if someone wants to practice sin and still celebrate with us and act as if they're a fully engaged participant in the kingdom of God, we're reluctant to say anything to them, because we don't want to hurt anybody's feelings. Folks, if people you care about and love are living in such a way that it will disqualify them for the kingdom of God, it is not kindness to be quiet.

So the thesis has been the same all through this, we've already done easy, we used up all the easy. And from where we stand today, to a better place for the generations following us, we're going to have to be willing to do difficult. The good news is, the best things in life are on the other side of difficult. You take a job and you work hard and you find opportunities. If you wanna have a family, somebody's got to get pregnant and give birth, and that's just not a blessing, even with pharmaceutical assistance. I mean, it's just the nature of the way. If you want to lose a few pounds, you gotta eat less and move more. You know, if I designed it, the way to lose weight would be eat Oreos and sit still, but I didn't design it, so you got to move and eat less.

And in the church, we're going to have to have a little more courage. Every generation has to make a decision for themselves, regarding their faith and the impact it will make on the generation who follows them. I'm very grateful for the courage of a generation of young people and of parents who allowed their young people to wade ashore on the shores of France, into withering fire and intimidating numbers, into a day so horrific and brutal that we really can't look at a depiction of it, it would be beyond what we could bear. And they had the courage to do that and their families supported them in it, and because of that, we enjoy freedom today.

So there's a question on the table for us and that's are we going to have the courage to be the kind of people that will take a biblical worldview and those godly principles, and say these are worth standing for, even in the face of opposition. Or are we gonna decide we're gonna be covert operatives? I'm tired of that. So this is the Valentine version of "Let's Do Difficult". 1 Peter 4:8, "Above all", this is the fisherman. He's older now, he's got a lot more life experience under his belt. He's provided leadership for the church in Jerusalem and a voice of reason and balance for the church across the Roman world as it's emerging. And he says, "Above all," first priority, at the top of the list, "love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins".

Just a couple of observations, one is it's a first priority. So it's not one of those things that, you know, after everything else is sorted out, but I would submit to you that love as a theory is easy. Just the concept, you know, the principles. Maybe in a Hallmark movie. But to actually put it to love each other. Peter says, love each other deeply, that's almost impossible. You can love some others. We could translate that equally without any injustice to the text, love one another. Like, oh no, that's not, I don't even like to be friends with everybody.

So part of what I want to suggest is that we're gonna have to recalibrate how we've even approached this word, and the place we let it occupy in our culture, because it's been so manipulative, in the church and beyond, that it's caused us to embrace some very ungodly things. To love your neighbor as yourself, I mean, that's Jesus's instruction. That's only possible with God's help and a lot of transformation, because most cases, we look at our neighbor as an impediment or a hurdle or an obstacle or a competitor or something. To love them in the same way we would care for ourselves, no, it's not. Gotta be another verse to modify that one with. Well, part of the key, I think, I don't do a lot of word studies, because I don't think the world is waiting for me to do a word study from some other language, and my linguistic skills are not that great, they're good enough just to get me in trouble.

When I lived in Israel, we learned enough Hebrew to get by on the street, which means I could ask where the bathroom was, how much something costs, so I could buy groceries, I mean simple stuff. And by the time you've been there a few weeks, we lost enough weight and got tanned enough, we looked local. So if you didn't open your mouth, they didn't hear your southern accent, you could, so we'd be walking along the street and somebody pull over. This was before we had Siri to guide us, and they would roll down a window, and they would ask us directions on how to get someplace. And because I knew 11 or 12 words, I'd lean over and say in Hebrew, you know, how can I help you? Then they tell me where they wanted to go, and then I would say to them in English, I'm sorry, I don't speak Hebrew well enough to give you directions, and I guess they thought I was playing them, because then I learned a whole new set of Hebrew words that I didn't learn at the university.

So I'm going to do a little word study with you, in Greek, there is more than one word for love, there's actually four. In English we have love. You can love pizza, you can love your goldfish, and you can love your kids. Now, that's a confusing word, because you can throw the pizza out if you don't like it, you can flush your goldfish, but neither of those behaviors would be appropriate with your children, agreed? So in English, we have a bit of a deficit. In the Greek language, it's a far more specific, one of the words for, and I don't think the profile is, one of the words is about empathy, really like the love in the family. It's about that bond you would have amongst family members. So it's more about empathy and a bonding, that familial sense of the love.

Another word for love, is a word we use for friends, Philadelphia, Phila, Phil, it's the city of brotherly love. Philanthropy, the love of people, the love of men. So philos is that brotherly love, then there's eros, we get that, from which we get erotic. That's a physical love, sexual love. And there's one more word, it's agape and that's a God's love. Now it makes a difference how the words used in the context, because each of those has some pretty dramatic differences in them. I take a moment, because to understand what the Bible says to us, I think it's really helpful. 1 Corinthians 13, there's a kind of, there's a lengthy discussion about love. I don't know how many weddings I've done, and that's been included in the wedding passages or on invitations. I mean, I see it frequently on Christian greeting cards in a whole variety of settings.

You know, I'm not saying it's inappropriate, but I want to submit to you that what is presented to us in 1 Corinthians 13 is not easy. It's not even in the realm of easy. In fact, the passage is introduced in the midst of a larger discussion about the activities of the Spirit of God. Manifestations of the Spirit, things like the working of miracles and healings, and a word of wisdom and a word of knowledge, and how in community life, we make all of that stuff work. Now, we're living in a time where, apart from the power of God, not only will we not flourish, I don't think we will survive. And I don't believe you can rightly understand how the power of God can be demonstrated in our lives, in our community, and our families, apart from the understanding of love, that's why it's in the middle of this discussion.

You know, 100 years ago when I started college, I spent a lot of time in the basic sciences. And I think if love is the solvent, it's the liquids you're gonna put all these things in, which they can go into solution, and either catalyze as an outcome, or makes them more useful. In my imagination, love is that solvent, and all these things, all these expressions of the power of God require that solution in order to be able to make an impact in your life. So this love that we're gonna look at, it's not optional, and it really doesn't begin with any aspect of our carnal self, it doesn't begin just with our thoughts or our emotions, which is a stretch for our culture. We've all been told, you know, you should love everybody, don't be judgy, God loves everybody.

Well, that's true, and I mean, Jesus is our model, but he called somebodies a bunch of snakes, and he called other people blind guides, and to other people, he said, it would have been better if you'd never been born. To other behaviors, he said, listen, if you want to behave like that, go find a millstone, tie a rope around it, and throw the millstone into deep water. That will be better for you than when I get hold of you. All that wrapped up in the love of Jesus. So 1 Corinthians 13:8, and we're gonna start, I'm sorry, verse 2. He said, "If I have the gift of prophecy and I can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but I have not love, I'm nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and I surrender my body to the flames, but I have not love, I gain nothing".

Now, we've all learned that every text needs context. I think the context, before we start, these words affiliated with love, you need to, we need to hear what Paul is saying to the Corinthians. He's writing to a church, and he said, listen, if you give all you possess to the poor, but you don't have love, it doesn't matter. And if you offer yourself as a martyr because of your faith, to be burned in the flames, burned at the stake, and you didn't have love, doesn't make much difference.

Now, let me ask you a question: giving away everything you have to the poor or allowing yourself to be burned at the stake, to me that seems like, let's do difficult. I mean, that's worse than a long sermon, having to help pass the offering plate, and it's in that context he's talking about love. He said, listen, you can do those things, they're easier than what I'm about to say to you. Those can be accomplished with a minimal amount of disruption, compared to letting love flourish in your heart. He has my attention, I understand that what he's about to say to me is not on the simple list. It's not Christianity 101. It certainly isn't gonna be interpreted for us by people who haven't even yielded to the lordship of Jesus.

There's 14 things listed in these next verses. Seven of them tell us what love is, seven of them tell us what love is not. "Love is patient, love is kind, it does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, it always trusts, it always hopes, and it always perseveres". I've been trained, when you talk to people, about people, that you try to avoid saying always or never. Well, they always or they never, and yet when Paul is presenting this to the church, it's very strong language. Love is patient. See, if I'd been writing this, I would have put ellipsis... dot, dot, dot, most of the time. Or love is kind, when it's convenient. It does not envy, unless your friends get something that's really cool.

So, I took the list and I tried to put it either into the positive or the negative. I spent some time really thinking about it, and I wanted to take that list of 14 statements about love and make them all positive. So, there's a little bit of my opinion in here, because I've tried to give you some synonyms for what I thought was used in the Corinthians passage. The ones where it says what love is, I've just taken directly, so I've only monkeyed with a handful. Love is patient, Love is kind, Love is content.

Do you ever think with contentment as an expression of love? Content with God, content with one another. Love rejoices with others. Love is humble. It is thoughtful. It helps others succeed. It is understanding. And I think biblically, the best word for what that means, to have an understanding heart is wisdom. Wisdom is not about information, wisdom is about the right use of information. There's some very smart people, but they don't use the the intelligence they have to reflect God's understanding, which biblically, the category that puts you in is foolish. Love will help you be wise. Love is forgiving, and it holds no grudges. Love resists evil and promotes the truth. It is not love when you cover evil, when you become an ally with evil, when you encourage evil.

Love resists evil and promotes the truth. It always protects, it always trusts, it always hopes, and it always perseveres. That's a remarkable list. You know, if we took time and really pulled all the verses together and tried to fuel our imaginations on what it would mean to walk in that way, that is a transformational list. And then it's missing most of the words that we associate with love. Happy, comfortable. When I was a kid, I never saw the movie, but I remember the byline, 'cause even when I was a kid, I didn't, thought it didn't make sense. "Love Story," remember the movie? You have to be old if you remember that movie, Ali MacGraw and somebody. But the byline on the movie was, "Love is never having to say you're sorry". Tilt.

I mean, we've built a completely conflated idea around what love is that has very little, if anything, to do with scripture, and it has flourished amongst God's people as much as it has beyond us. We need to teach our children. We have to practice with one another. On the alternative, I gave you a list and I like it as a compare and contrast, that the opposite, the antithesis to love would be hate. I wanted a softer word, but it really wouldn't have been genuine or authentic to the language. If love is patient, hate is impatient. If love is kind, hate is unkind. If love is content, hate is envious. One of the principles I learned is that early in my journey was, when you're trying to cooperate with the Lord, practice repentance, and bring spiritual cleanliness to your life. You always wanna call your problem by the the plainest, simplest term. Call a spade, a spade and not an agricultural instrument, was the way it was told to me.

And that's where this began to be helpful to me, I thought, you know, if I allow envy to grow in me and flourish in me and make me dissatisfied with someone or my station, or whatever: I have given hate root in my life. That's not okay with me. Love rejoices with others. Hate is arrogant. Love is humble, hate is proud. I mean, there's a harshness to that, If you let it settle a bit on your heart. Love is thoughtful. Hate is rude. Love helps others succeed. Hate is self-seeking. Love is both understanding and wise. Hate is just easily angry. Love is forgiving and holds no grudges. Hate holds a grudge, it's feudal. In the best Tennessee sense of that word. We've been mad for four generations, and we're not letting go love. Resists evil and promotes the truth. Hate, it delights in evil and protects deception.

Again, it is not particularly confusing, it's just not the language, the words, or the thoughts that we associate with love. This is a biblical definition built out of that God kind of a love. This is what God's love towards you and me can be understood through, not group hugs. Love always protects, hate always betrays, love always trusts, hate is always suspicious. Love always hopes. Hate, it's never positive. Love, always perseveres and hate is never responsible. That's our assignment. He said it's more valuable, more important, more significant, should be more of a priority than our physical generosity, or even our willingness to sacrifice our physical comfort and convenience. Leaning to love, Peter said it slightly differently. He said, above everything else, love each other.

Now again, in Allen's translation, let's love the ones that are your friends, but in the biblical translation, we got to love one another, and that's not just a smile in some shallow way and then move along, so you don't have to talk to them anymore. It's to actually be patient with people and kind to people and content in the nature of where you are in comparison to them, to rejoice when there's something to rejoice with in someone else's life, humility and thoughtfulness, helping other people be better, because they interacted with you.

You give them an opportunity or an advantage or a bit of momentum, at the very least a kind word. It's understanding, it means it can see the world beyond just the pain we might be in ourselves or the needs or the desires that we have, the most immature expressions we have as human beings is when we start this journey, we only make noise when we want somebody to do something for us, feed me, hold me, I'm sleepy, I'm cold. If there's something uncomfortable, we make a noise and we learn it gets a response. And then we spend the rest of our lives trying to figure out how we can be as effective with our noises without looking like a baby.

Before we go, I wanna pray that you'll have a revelation of the value that God attaches to your life.

Heavenly Father, I thank you for your great love for us, for the sacrifice that was made that we might be redeemed from an empty way of life. And I ask it by your Spirit, you would cause that revelation to come alive within each and every one of us, in Jesus's name, amen.

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