February 21, 2016
Pastor Joe Wittwer
The Main Thing
#4—Love One Another! 

Introduction:

ILL: Juan Carlos Ortiz led a church in Beunos Aires, Argentina, and wrote a book called, Disciple. At one point, he realized his church was educated beyond their experience. They knew a lot more than they were putting into practice. Many of them were getting 2 or 3 sermons a week, plus Bible studies in homes. Before they had time to digest and apply one message, they were getting another. He decided it was time for a change.

So one Sunday, he stood up to preach, opened his Bible and read these words of Jesus: “Love one another.” Then he sat down—he didn’t say anything else, just sat down. The congregation sat there, waiting. So Ortiz got up and said again, “Love one another,” and sat down. Now the congregation began to stir nervously—when was the pastor going to preach? So Ortiz got up a third time and said, “Love one another,” and sat down again.

A man on the first row leaned over to the man next to him and said, “I think the pastor wants us to love one another.” Then he asked him, “Is there anything I can do for you?” (Say it together.) When his neighbor admitted he was having some financial difficulty, the first man opened his wallet and said, “Let me help you.” Soon, all across the auditorium, people were talking and laughing and praying and crying and giving. They were loving one another.

For the next six months, Ortiz preached on one theme: love one another. Sometimes the messages were Biblical teaching on how to love; but other times they just practiced loving one another. For six months—love one another—until they not only knew it, but were doing it.

What do you think? Should I do that? I’m seriously considering it! Pastor Noel always told me it would be better to practice one verse of the Bible than to just know them all. And if we were going to pick one thing to do, here it is: love! Love is the Main Thing!

“Is there anything I can do for you?” (Say it together.) Hold that thought.

This is week four of The Main Thing. Jesus was asked what is the most important or greatest of all the commandments, and He said, “Love the Lord your God with all you’ve got—all your heart and soul and mind and strength. And love your neighbor as yourself.” What’s the main thing? Love. Love God with all you’ve got and love people.   So far we’ve talked about

  • Love your neighbors. Who is my neighbor? Whoever is near or in need.
  • Love your enemies. The way to destroy your enemy is to love him and turn him into a friend.
  • Love your family. You love your family best when you love Jesus first.
  • Love one another.

This command, love one another, is addressed directly to Jesus’ followers. Christians are to love one another. This doesn’t mean that we don’t love people who are not Christians. To the contrary, we are to love everyone always. We are to love our neighbors regardless of race, religion, age, political affiliation, and even whether they like Taylor Swift…or not. Love everyone always.

And we are repeatedly and specifically told to love one another as Christians. All those references on your outline are commands to Christians to love each other. Love one another. Why is it so important for Christians to love one another? Let’s see what Jesus says.

John 13:34–35 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”  

Let’s unpack how we love one another and why it’s so important.

 

  1. Love one another as I have loved you.

John 13:34 A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.

Jesus said this to His disciples gathered in the upper room on the last night of His life. He said to them, “Love one another. More specifically, love one another as I have loved you.” So how did Jesus love them—and us? John 13 begins:

John 13:1 It was just before the Passover Festival. Jesus knew that the hour had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.

He loved them to the end. The Greek words here are sometimes translated, “He loved them to the full.” Or “he showed the full extent of His love.” What follows is the story of Jesus washing the disciples’ feet.

On this last night of His life, as Jesus and His followers gathered for a final meal, an argument broke out among the disciples about who was the greatest. Usually, a servant would have been there to greet them and wash their feet, but on this night, it was just them—no servant. So they argued about who should do the foot washing—who was the greatest and the least. While they argued, Jesus got up, picked up the basin of water and the towel, and bent down to wash one of the men’s feet. One by one, he went around the table, silently, tenderly washing their feet, as they sat there in shame-faced silence. When He got to Peter, the silence was broken.

“Lord, You’ll never wash my feet.” Peter, who had been too proud to wash others’ feet, was now too ashamed to let Jesus wash his.

“Unless I wash you Peter, you have no part in me.”

“Then,” Peter said, “not just my feet, but my head and hands too. Wash all of me.” You gotta love Peter.

When He was done, Jesus said,

John 13:13–15 “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. 14 Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. 15 I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.

How did Jesus love them to the full, or show them the full extent of His love? By humbly serving them.   We’re to do the same for each other. We are to show our love by humbly serving one another. We ask one another, “Is there anything I can do for you?” And when we do it, we love one another as Jesus loved us.

ILL: We are getting ready to launch in the fall a new small group discipleship experience called Rooted. We’re taking our staff through it first. On Thursday, my Rooted group had its serve experience. We went to Christ Kitchen, which provides jobs and mentoring for women in poverty, and spent 5 hours enjoying a Bible study and then working alongside the women there. Christ Kitchen is doing amazing work!

All my group did a great job serving alongside the ladies and listening to their stories, but I want to give a shout out to Johnny who went above and beyond.   Some of you know Johnny—you can’t miss him: he wears a white shirt and tie, has tiny hair and huge muscles! On Thursday, Johnny did fix-its for Christ Kitchen. And then on Friday he went back and is going back on Monday to finish the fix-its he couldn’t get done on Thursday. He didn’t have to do that. But he wanted to do it. He went above and beyond to serve.

That’s how we love one another. “Is there anything I can do for you?”

Some scholars think that “the full extent” of Jesus’ love wasn’t shown in the foot washing, but in what happened next: His sacrificial death. And certainly the rest of Scripture points to Jesus’ death as the fullest expression of His love for us. Jesus said:

John 15:12–13 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.

There is the command again: love each other as I have loved you. How has He loved us? “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” There is no greater love than giving your life for someone. We define love this way: (say it together)

Love is doing what is best for another no matter what it costs.

The greater the cost, the greater the love. And there is no greater cost than your life. The greatest love is to give your all—your life—for another. Some have done that. They have given their lives for love of country, or love of family or friends, and we honor these people as heroes. But most of us will give our lives in a different way. Rather than a single heroic act of sacrifice, we’re called to give our lives away a minute here, a kindness there, a generosity there. We give our lives for each other in a thousand small ways every day.

ILL: Imagine it this way. Let’s say you have $1000, and you want to give it all for someone you love. We’d like to give it all at once, in a single great act of sacrifice. But God sends us to the bank or ATM and tells us to exchange the $1000 for quarters. Then we start giving it out one quarter at a time.

You stop to listen when you’d rather talk. You let the other person have their way when you’d really rather have your way. You concede the argument, not because the other person is right, but because it’s more important to love her than it is to win the argument. You do the dishes when you’d rather watch the game. You are kind to the other person even though he’s been a jerk all day.

Love one another…one quarter at a time. Give your life away, one quarter at a time.

What does it look like to love one another as Jesus loved us? It means we do what’s best for one another no matter what it costs us. It means we humbly serve one another. It means give our lives away one quarter at a time.

Here’s a thought. What if coming to church wasn’t about what you get out of it, but what you give away to others? What if the main thing wasn’t the worship and teaching, but loving one another—what happened before the service started and after it ended? What if you came each week praying, “God, who do you want me to love today?”

ILL: One of Coach John Wooden’s seven guiding principles was, “Make each day your masterpiece.” He believed that one way you did that was by helping someone else. “What can I do for you?”

So I’ve been starting each day by praying through my day and asking God to make it a masterpiece. I pray for each person and meeting that is on my calendar, and then I pray for the serendipitous encounters I’ll have—the encounters I’ll have that are unplanned by me but known by God. Praying this way helps me be more aware of the people I’m with and what God might be doing in them. I prayed that prayer this morning over all of you. “God who do you want me to love today?”

Can you imagine if we were all loving one another—if we were all asking each other, “Is there anything I can do for you?” The main thing is to love one another!

This is why I think listening to sermons online is a poor substitute for church. The very word “church” translates a Greek word that means “meeting.” You can’t have church by yourself. You can listen to a sermon by yourself. You can even worship by yourself. But you can’t have church by yourself—church is people meeting together because of Jesus, loving one another.

The early church was so good at this that it says in:

Acts 5:34 There were no needy persons among them.

If we all came to church to love another, there would be no needy persons among us. I’m not just thinking about material need. I’m thinking about our need for love, our need for someone to listen to us, to hear our story, our need for friends, our need to belong, our need for community. So here is my challenge: come to church to love one another, to give your love away one quarter, one conversation, one act of kindness at a time.

Tertullian, a church leader in Carthage, Africa around the end of the second century, wrote: “It is our care of the helpless, our practice of lovingkindness that brands us in the eyes of many of our opponents. ‘Only look,’ they say, ‘look how they love one another.’”

May that be said of us! “Look how they love one another!” May we be known not as the big church, or the church with great music or good preaching. Instead may we be known as the church that loves one another!

Which leads to #2…

 

  1. Love one another so everyone will know you are my disciples.

John 13:34–35 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”  

By this everyone will know that you are a Christian: by what? Your love for one another. Here is the mark of a Christian: it’s our love for each other. If we don’t love each other, Jesus says it is safe to assume that we’re not Christians.

ILL: Did you follow the tempest surrounding Pope Francis and Donald Trump this week? Pope Francis had just left Mexico and was asked what he thought about Trump’s proposal to build a wall along the US-Mexican border in order to keep illegal immigrants out. The Pope responded, “A person who thinks only about building walls, wherever they may be, and not building bridges, is not Christian. This is not the gospel.” Trump fired back, calling Francis’ comments disgraceful. “No leader, especially a religious leader, should have the right to question another man’s religion or faith.” A political commentator jumped in the fray and said, “I think that’s the Pope’s job!”

The whole thing is a tempest in a teapot, and within 24 hours it blew over, but it does illustrate what Jesus said. People expect Christians to love. The mark of a Christian is love, particularly how we love one another. If we don’t love one another, Jesus says it is safe to assume that we’re not Christians. Love is the mark of a Christian.

We must love one another—it’s an absolute necessity. As Christians, we are to love our neighbor, regardless of race, religion, or any other distinction. And we are to love our enemies, those who hate us and want to harm us. We are to love everyone always. And we are to love one another. Of all the people we love, the easiest ought to be other Christians—people who share our faith and values. If we can’t love each other—our own brothers and sisters in Christ—then the gospel must not be very powerful. If we can’t love one another here in the church, how will we ever take that love out into the world? Why would the world want Jesus if we can’t even love each other? Loving one another is an absolute necessity.

Jesus said that they will know you are Christians by your love for each other. He took it even farther and said that people will see our love for one another and know the gospel is true.

John 17:20–23 “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21 that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one—23 I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.

How will the world know and believe that God sent Jesus? They will know that the gospel is true when they see us loving one another. Jesus prays that we may be one and live in unity. That will never happen because we all agree on everything—that’s impossible. It will happen when we love one another in spite of our differences.

When we fight and argue and treat each other poorly—when we don’t love one another—we are giving the world all the evidence it needs to conclude that Jesus isn’t from God, that the gospel isn’t real. If it was, surely we’d love each other.

Can you see why I said that loving one another is an absolute necessity? It is the ultimate evidence for the truth of the Christian faith. We must love one another if we hope to convince others that Jesus is real and worth following.

Love one another so everyone will know that you are Jesus’ followers.

 

  1. Love one another so others can see God.

I saw something in Scripture this week that I’d never seen before, and I’m excited to share it with you.

1 John 4:7–12 Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.

Love one another—there it is again. If you love, you have been born of God and know God.

8 Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.

If you don’t love, you don’t know God, because God is love. This is the main thing: if you love, you know God; if you don’t love, you don’t know God.

9 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.

John points us back to Jesus: this is love—that God sent His Son as a sacrifice for us.

11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.

God’s love for you should motivate your love for one another. We love because He first loved us. Love one another!

12 No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.

No one has ever seen God. But if we love one another, God (who is love) lives in us and His love is made complete in us. Said another way, when we love one another, the invisible God becomes visible in us. When you love one another, other people can see God in you.

Here’s what I’d never seen before.

John wrote, “No one has ever seen God.” He wrote the exact same words in the beginning of his gospel.

1 John 4:12 No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.

John 1:18 No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known.

No one has ever seen God, but Jesus made the invisible God visible. John said that Jesus “has made him known.” Jesus said, “If you have seen me, you have seen the Father.” No one has ever seen God—until Jesus came along. Jesus made the invisible God visible.

John then applies the same thought to us. No one has ever seen God, but if we love one another…we make the invisible God visible. We are carrying on the ministry of Jesus. The incarnation of Jesus made the invisible God visible. Now we are the body of Christ on earth—we are his hands and feet and voice—and when we love each other, we carry on the work of the incarnation and make the invisible God visible.

When we love one another, we make the invisible God visible. We do what Jesus did in His incarnation!

Love one another!