Sunday, March 16, 2014
Pastor Joe Wittwer
#1—Love is a Verb
ILL: A few weeks ago, my granddaughter Jenna (6) announced that she had a superpower! “What is it?” I asked. She said, “Love. Love is my superpower!” That’s a pretty cool superpower.
How many of you would like to have love as your superpower? That’s what we’re working on the next four weeks.
This is Love Does: a four-week series in which we’re not going to just talk about love, we’re going to do it!
I want to give credit to Tim Johnson, our men’s pastor and adult ministry team leader. Months ago, Tim gave me this idea. He suggested that we take a few weeks to do a “Love Offensive” and get all of us to come up with tangible ways to express love each week, and then do it! So that’s our goal. Each of us is going to do something each week that expresses love to others.
We all do this every day in countless ways, and that’s good. But in this series, we’re going to ratchet it up! I want you to go out of your way, and do something new and different. For example, Laina already fixes meals for me, so that doesn’t count (although I hope she’ll still do them). And I already give her sweet back rubs, so that doesn’t count either (but I’ll still do them). This is about going above and beyond. Stretch yourself. Let’s grow some new love muscles! Above all, we want to take the love into our community: to our workplace, our school, our neighborhoods, everywhere!
I told you last week that I wanted to call this “Love Commandos” but some people thought that meant we’d all be running around without underwear. So the title got nixed, but I like the idea. (BTW: The Love Commandos are an actual voluntary organization in India that help and protect young couples in love. Many couples are forbidden to see each other or marry due to caste or religious differences. The Love Commandos help them elope, shelter and protect them until they are on their feet and independent. There are 600,000 members in the Love Commandos and they receive 300 calls a day!) I want you see yourself as a love commando, or a love ninja, or a love superhero; you’re on a mission, bringing love everywhere in our community, because love is the ultimate superpower!
So we settled on “Love Does”, which is also the title of Bob Goff’s wonderful book. It’s full of great stories of the adventure of living this way. It’s available at our Info Center. Each week in this series, we’re going to share ideas and tell stories. And week four is going to be a big party—we’re going to share stories of what you’ve done, and what God did because of it. Love is the ultimate superpower! In fact, let’s start with a story.
ILL: A couple weeks ago, Rich King stopped at the Rocket Bakery on Argonne Road in Millwood for lunch. He ordered his coffee and sandwich and was waiting in line behind an older woman. The young ladies behind the counter put together a large box of incredible scones, muffins, and cookies and brought them to the counter for her approval. But when she pulled out her checkbook, the server regrettably informed her that the Rocket doesn’t accept personal checks. The woman became quite embarrassed and flustered as she rifled through her purse looking for some cash. She had inadvertently left her wallet with her bankcards and cash at home. “Well, I just can’t get them I guess,” and she started to close up her purse.
Without even really thinking, Rich blurted out, “I’ll take care of it. Put it on my bill today.” The woman turned around and insisted that was not necessary and thanked him. But Rich insisted right back. He told the woman that he’d been blessed many times by people he didn’t know and it was time that he passed it on. She remarked, “There really are good people in this world,” and insisted in a choked up voice that she would pay him back and started to tear up. Rich said, “Well, if we ever run into each other here again, you can buy me a cup of coffee.” She agreed, thanked him once again and left with her treats.
The two young ladies behind the counter were very quiet until one of them rang Rich up. She and looked at him and said, “That was very generous of you,” while the other nodded her head in agreement. (People are watching!)
Love does! Love is the ultimate superpower! Rich’s story is an example of a spontaneous act of love. There are opportunities every day for these. Here’s an example an intentional act of love.
ILL: Bob Moffitt loves to work in his yard. One day the Lord told him to clean up his neighbor’s yard, which was a mess. His neighbor had already told Bob that he did not like Christians. Bob cleaned his neighbor’s yard–and then kept taking care of it for two years! One day the neighbor came and asked Bob to tell him about Jesus. He was an alcoholic and had many problems. He opened his heart to the Lord that day.
Several years later this man invited Bob and his wife to come to his house for dinner (both families had moved). He said, “Bob, because you cleaned my yard for two years I came to believe in Jesus. I am now an elder at my church and am free from alcohol. On the weekends when I am not working I find people who have problems and needs like I had and try to help them. This all happened because you loved me with Christ’s love.”
Love does. Loves does what is best for another no matter what it cost. It can be spontaneous or planned, but love does.
Today’s talk is “Love is a verb.” Love isn’t primarily something you feel; it’s something you do! Here’s
The Big Idea: Love is doing what’s best for others no matter what it costs you. Love does…so do something!
Love is doing. When most people talk about love, they are thinking of feelings. We talk about falling in love, as though it were something beyond our control. You just fall into it. “Some enchanted evening, you may see a stranger…” Your eyes meet and it’s love at first sight. When you see her, your palms get sweaty, your heart beats wildly, you’re out of breath. Hey, you can run around the building and feel like that! That’s romance, that’s infatuation. But that’s not love. Love is more doing than feeling. Love is a verb. Love is doing what’s best for others no matter what it costs you.
How do I know love is a verb?
I’m so glad you asked! Let me give you three reasons.
1. You can command action, not feelings.
God commands us to love. God commands us to love Him with all our heart and soul and mind and strength. Love God with all you’ve got! That’s the first and greatest command. The second greatest command is to love our neighbor as ourselves. He commands husbands to love their wives. He even commands us to love our enemies.
Luke 6:27–28 But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.
Luke 6:35 But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back.
What are the first two words after “love your enemies”? “Do good.” That’s how you love them. When Jesus calls us to love our enemies, He wasn’t asking us to feel something warm and fuzzy for them, but to do something good for them. I don’t feel lovey towards an enemy; in fact, I can’t. But I can do something good for him.
Love is a command. Love God. Love people. Love your enemy. But you can’t command a feeling; you can only command action. If I command you to feel happy, what happens? Nothing. You can’t command a feeling. But if I command you to smile, what happens? Look around! Smiling is an action. And love is more action than emotion.
But aren’t feelings involved? Aren’t there feelings we call love? Of course. But feelings are involuntary responses to stimuli. You walk outside and the sun in shining; how do you feel? At last! It’s an involuntary response to a stimulus. You walk into a restaurant and smell the fajitas; how do you feel? Hungry! It’s an involuntary response to a stimulus. You meet someone who is beautiful and charming, and you feel attracted to them. It’s an involuntary response to the stimulus of their beauty or charm. The stimuli might be external, something that happens to you or something you see or hear or experience. Or it might be an internal stimulus, what you think or how you perceive something.
ILL: I was at a meeting, and when we broke for dinner, everyone left without me. I could interpret this as a slight, that no one wanted to be with me, and how would I feel? Sad. Or I could interpret this as a gift, that I’d been with people all day without a break, and needed a few moments alone. How would I feel then? Relieved. Same event, two different feelings. The external stimulus was the same; it was my interpretation, the internal stimulus that changed my feelings.
So please understand that feelings come and go based on external stimuli or your interpretation of them. Feelings are involuntary; love is a command. Don’t equate feelings with love. Love includes feelings, but it’s more about action.
If you want to feel good about someone, do good for them. Doing good for someone is a stimulus that can change your feelings.
ILL: Dr. George Crane tells the story of a wife who came into his office full of hatred toward her husband. “I 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 loved 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. For two months she showed love, kindness, listening, giving. When she didn’t return, Dr. 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.
I know that love is a verb because it’s commanded, and you can only command action, not emotion. Here’s the second reason I know love is a verb.
2. The Scriptures treat love as something you do.
I’ve listed lots of Scripture here; we’ll look at just a couple. Of course, the first one, John 3:16, says that God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son. God’s love wasn’t just something He felt for us; it was something He did. He gave. He gave His only Son—more about that in a moment.
1 Corinthian 13 is the famous love chapter, and verses 4-7 are Paul’s lyric description of love: love is patient, love is kind, and so on—15 descriptors of love. Here’s the interesting thing: Paul uses 15 verbs. Grammar 101: what are verbs? Action words. Paul tells us what love does. Love is a verb. Love is something you do. A couple more…
Romans 13:8–10 Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law. 9 The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not covet,” and whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” 10 Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.
Paul says that love is the fulfillment of the law, that all the commands are summed up in this one: love your neighbor as yourself. Notice verse 10: Love does. Love does no harm to a neighbor. That’s putting it in the negative. Put in the positive, we’d say, love does what is best for a neighbor. Love does good for a neighbor. Love does—love is something you do.
Hebrews 6:10 God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them.
How do you show love to God? By helping people. Parents: what’s the best way someone can show love to you? Help your kids! The best way to show love to God is to help people. Love is something you do!
1 John 3:17–18 If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? 18 Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.
Love isn’t just a feeling in our hearts. Love isn’t just some nice sentiments or words we say. Love is action. Love is doing what’s best for others no matter what it costs us. Love is seeing a need and meeting it.
ILL: Jeffrey Collins tells this story.
It had been a trying week at our Love & Action office. At five o’clock on a Friday, I was looking forward to having a quiet dinner with friends. Then the phone rang.
“Jeff! It’s Jimmy!” I heard a quivering voice say.
Jimmy, who suffered from several AIDS-related illnesses, was one of our regular clients. “I’m really sick, Jeff. I’ve got a fever. Please help me.”
I was angry. After a sixty-hour work-week, I didn’t want to hear about Jimmy. But I promised to be right over. Still, during the drive over, I complained to God about the inconvenience.
The moment I walked in the door, I could smell the vomit. Jimmy was on the sofa, shivering and in distress. I wiped his forehead, then got a bucket of soapy water to clean up the mess. I managed to maintain a facade of concern, even though I was raging inside.
Jimmy’s friend, Russ, who also had AIDS, came down the stairs. The odor made Russ sick, too.
As I cleaned the carpet around Russ’s chair, I was ready to explode inside. Then Russ startled me. “I understand! I understand!”
“What Russ?” Jimmy asked weakly.
“I understand who Jesus is,” Russ said through tears. “He’s like Jeff!”
Weeping, I hugged Russ and prayed with him. That night Russ decided to follow Jesus–a God who had used me to show his love in spite of myself.
What did Russ feel the whole time he was helping? Anger, frustration. But he did the loving thing despite his feelings, and Russ got it. It wasn’t about feelings, but doing. Russ understood who Jesus was by seeing love in action.
Here’s the third reason I know love is a verb.
3. Jesus is the example of love.
All the verses on your outline say the same basic thing. Do you want to know what love is? Look at Jesus. And specifically, look at Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross.
Romans 5:8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
How does God demonstrate or show His love for us? Supremely through Christ’s death.
1 John 3:16 This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.
How do we know what love is? Look at Jesus, who gave His life for us.
1 John 4:9–11 This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.
How did God show His love? He sent His Son to die so that we could live.
What is love? The Bible points to Jesus on the cross. There, Jesus did what was best for us no matter what it cost. And it cost Him His life. This is love in its most pure and powerful expression.
ILL: Author and speaker Brennan Manning has an amazing story about how he got the name “Brennan.” While growing up, his best friend was Ray. The two of them did everything together: bought a car together as teenagers, double-dated together, went to school together. They even enlisted in the Army together, went to boot camp together and fought on the frontlines together. One night while sitting in a foxhole, Brennan was reminiscing about the old days in Brooklyn while Ray listened and ate a chocolate bar. Suddenly a live grenade came into the foxhole. Ray looked at Brennan, smiled, dropped his chocolate bar and threw himself on the live grenade. It exploded, killing Ray, but Brennan’s life was spared.
When Brennan became a priest he was instructed to take on the name of a saint. He thought of his friend, Ray Brennan. So he took on the name “Brennan.” Years later he went to visit Ray’s mother in Brooklyn. They sat up late one night having tea when Brennan asked her, “Do you think Ray loved me?” Mrs. Brennan got up off the couch, shook her finger in front of Brennan’s face and shouted, “What more could he have done for you?” Brennan said that at that moment he experienced an epiphany. He imagined himself standing before the cross of Jesus wondering, “Does God really love me?” And Jesus’ mother Mary pointing to her son, saying, “What more could he have done for you?”
The cross of Jesus is God’s way of doing all he could do for us.
(Lee Eclov, Vernon Hills, Illinois; source: adapted from James Bryan Smith, The Good and Beautiful God (IVP, 2009), p. 142)
Love is a verb. Love does.
What are we going to do? Love does every day.
I am sending you out as love commandos or love superheroes to love people in Jesus’ name. Do it spontaneously! Do it intentionally! But do it!
And I want you to share your stories with me. Tell us what you did and what happened as a result. You can email your stories to firstname.lastname@example.org. You can tweet them using the hashtag #LClovedoes, or you can Instagram pictures using the same hashtag.
We’re going to have a little fun now. I want you to form groups or 3-6 people right where you are, and brainstorm ideas of thing you can do, because love does. You can tweet us your best ideas as you have them and we’ll put some on the screen. And if you have a super dooper idea, raise your hand and share it with one of our roving reporters who will share it with us. Let’s have fun brainstorming!
Brainstorm and share.
I’ll send you out with a story.
ILL: Shelley Wyrick told me that she has been teaching her children that love is doing what’s best for others no matter what it costs you. She sent me this story.
I was pushing all three kids on the swing set, when this conversation ensued with Matthew. He was giggling at me as I struggled to push all three children.
Matt, (3 y/o) asked, “Mom, is that hard?”
Matt: “Super Dooper Wooper Hard?”
Matt: “Are you doing what’s hard for you and good for me?”
Me: “Yes! What’s that called Matt?”
Matt: “Mom, that’s called wuv.”
I’ve been heard complaining about how much pushing I do on the back yard swing set. But now I see it through his little eyes. I’m loving him in the very simplest of ways.
Let’s go do it! Love does!
Go do it and send us your stories! Let’s create a love buzz in our town!