I Love My Church
Dennis, from Katy, Texas, needed some same-day dry cleaning before he left on a trip. He remembered a store with a huge sign, “One-Hour Dry Cleaners,” on the other side of town, so he drove there to drop off a suit. After filling out the tag, he told the clerk, “I need this in an hour.”
She said, “I can’t get this back to you until Thursday.”
“I thought you did dry cleaning in an hour.”
“No,” she replied, “that’s just the name of the store.”
Likewise, we who say we are Christians but fail to act like the one whose name we bear create confusion and disillusionment for those who have yet to believe.1
Love one another
““I give you a new command: Love one another…” (John 13:34, CSB)
Jesus was asked about the nature of the commands of the Old Testament. He summarized it in one word: love. It is directed in two different directions.
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. The second is, Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other command greater than these.”” (Mark 12:30–31, CSB)
I have a vertical relationship. I love God. I also have a horizontal relationship. I love others. It is like a cross. Jesus is the center of that cross of love.
Love is the fluid that keeps relationship working. The love of God keeps the relationship between Jesus and His Father working. Jesus said that if I am to continue in a relationship ith Jesus, I need to remain in His love. He said that if you keep His commands, then you will remain in His love.
What are the commands: love God and love one another. Love. Jesus said that there is a continuum of love:
God <–> Jesus <–> me <–> others
Notice that we see this relationship between love, Jesus, and me. Again, Jesus is the center of the love relationship.
The only command that Jesus gave His followers (including me) is to love. Love God. Love others. The basis of every act of a Christian is based upon love. Yet, this love is not selfish. It is a love based on the character and nature of God. God is love.
Who are the “others” I am to love?
This is the question that answers the BEHAVIOR of love.
THREE GROUPS OF PEOPLE WHERE GOD’S LOVE DIRECTS ME
The first group of people that God’s love will direct me is to my enemies.
“Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, because I came from God and I am here. For I didn’t come on my own, but he sent me. Why don’t you understand what I say? Because you cannot listen to my word. You are of your father the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he tells a lie, he speaks from his own nature, because he is a liar and the father of lies.” (John 8:42–44, CSB)
“But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,” (Matthew 5:44, CSB)
Jesus calls the Pharisees, those who claim to be Christian, as sons of Satan. They called God their Father. Jesus said that their father is Satan. At the same time, Jesus said that one should love their enemies.
Now there is a difference between LIKING your enemies and LOVING your enemies. Jesus says that one of the ways that you love your enemies is to pray for them.
Loving requires prayer. You can’t love if you don’t pray.
The second group of people that God’s love directs me to are the lost.
“For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save the lost.”” (Luke 19:10, CSB)
Jesus defined it as His purpose to look for and save the lost. He did that ultimately by dying on the cross. But before then, He could continue to make contact with the lost. He was always meeting with the lost. He was always healing the lost. He was always involved in connecting with the lost. He made personal contact with lepers, the sick, the poor.
“Then he said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.” (Mark 16:15–16, CSB)
Jesus said that we are called to go and preach the Gospel. What is the essence of the Gospel? The love of God in Jesus. We don’t convert the lost. We make contact with the lost. The lost have to come to accept the love of God in Jesus. Christians can’t make that happen. God does.
There is a direct link between reaching out the lost and how Christians love one another.
“praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. Every day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.” (Acts 2:47, CSB)
The first church was growing because they were loving. They were loving the lost. They were loving each other. God was adding to the church because the church was loving. That leads me to the last group of people God’s love directs me.
The third group of people that God directs me to love. This group are Christians. The brothers and sisters of this church.
I ran into a lady whom I knew but hadn’t seen in an extended period of time. I asked her, “How far along are you?” referring to an apparent pregnancy.
She said, “I’m not pregnant.”
That was one of my more embarrassing moments. Sometimes things look like they are happening, when really, there is not much going on.
You can go to church and look the part. You can look spiritually pregnant when there’s really nothing on the inside going on. A Christian is not known by how well they act the part. They aren’t known by how well they shout or how much they know or how often they are seen carrying a Bible under their arms. A Christian is not known by how much they say “hallelujah” or “amen” or “praise the Lord.” A Christian is not known by how much “Christian-ese” they know or how big their smile is. We know Christians because they have faith in Jesus Christ and because they love others.2
Love one another like Jesus loves me
““…Just as I have loved you, you are also to love one another.” (John 13:34, CSB)
“We love because he first loved us.” (1 John 4:19, CSB)
How can I love other people?
This is the question of the BASIS of love.
““As the Father has loved me, I have also loved you. Remain in my love. If you keep my commands you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love.” (John 15:9–10, CSB)
You know who the hardest group to love is? Christians. Loving your enemies requires prayer. Loving the lost requires contact. Yet, loving one another as Christians requires time.
Jesus was active showing His love for His disciples. He spent time with His disciples. The more time you spend with one another, the more love it requires.
If I am going to “have favor,” enjoy, and love one another, I have to spend time with one another. That means that there are some other people and things which need less of my time. You can’t build relationships by spending time looking at a screen. You have to be with others. God designed for this.
The more I spend time with others, I will discover more about them. God will reveal to me how I can love them better.
Everyone is watching how I love others like Jesus.
Why am I supposed to love others like Jesus?
This is the question that answers the BYPRODUCT of love.
“By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”” (John 13:35, CSB)
There is a difference between being a member of a church and a disciples of Jesus. The scope of my love is bigger than just a small group of people I meet once a week. People are watching me. How am I acting when I am with those who are part of the church.
The sign that you followed Abraham was circumcision.
The sign that you followed Moses was keeping the Sabbath.
The sign that you followed John the Baptist was that you were baptized.
The sign that you follow Jesus Christ is that you love one another.3
1 Craig Brian Larson and Phyllis Ten Elshof, 1001 Illustrations That Connect (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 2008), 77. From: Ed Rowell, senior pastor, Tri-Lakes Chapel, Monument, Colorado.
2 Tony Evans, Tony Evans’ Book of Illustrations: Stories, Quotes, and Anecdotes from More than 30 Years of Preaching and Public Speaking (Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 2009), 104–105.
3 Michael P. Green, ed., Illustrations for Biblical Preaching: Over 1500 Sermon Illustrations Arranged by Topic and Indexed Exhaustively, Revised edition of: The expositor’s illustration file. (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1989).