Everyone Will Know
1 John 4:16-21
Several years ago, a minister heard about another preacher, who’d made it into the World Record Books by preaching the longest sermon ever (the sermon lasted 53 hours, 18 minutes)!
The minister knew he never be able to preach that long, or longer, without boring people to death - so he decided to attempt the complete opposite. He decided to preach the world’s shortest sermon.
So he thought, and prayed, and pondered what he’d say, in order to make his sermon legitimate... a genuine sermon... in as few words as possible. And when the time came, he pulled out his bible... stepped into the pulpit... and said, one word... “love.”
Of course, the bible has plenty to say about love:
Our first lesson reminds us that “God is love.”
Jesus said, “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13)
“Love is patient, love is kind, it’s not boastful, or self-seeking.” (The “Love Chapter” - our Call to Worship).
“These three remain: Faith, Hope and Love, but the greatest of these, is Love.”
We all think we know what love means... and what love is, don’t we? Because we’ve all experienced it... to varying degrees. And we’ve all offered it, or shared it... or at least we’ve tried. So we’re fairly comfortable in our understanding of what love is...
...When Jesus comes along, and says, “Love one another... as I have loved you.” IF he had stopped at “love one another” we wouldn’t have a problem. But he didn’t... Jesus qualified what it means to love... he set parameters... a standard by which we’re called, as followers of Christ, to strive to live up to.
Jesus even called it “A New Commandment.” Love not based on feelings... or emotions... or desires.
Love is to be expressed by loving others as Jesus has loved us! In other words, love is shown by humbling oneself... and becoming a servant. We’re called to love by thinking of the needs of others, first. After all, that’s what it means to love like Jesus.
When you and I experience conflict in a relationship... it’s quite often a sign that somebody - or BOTH body’s - are failing to humble themselves. They’re trying to control - or manipulate the other person... for their own benefit or desire. And underpinning that control or manipulation... is fear.
Of course, fear most often reveals itself in relationships as insecurity. And when you and I are insecure... it causes us to become self-centered, self-focused... and when we become so insecure that all you think about is what others think of you, it destroys your relationships and disables our ability to witness to the love of Christ.
It’s an amazing dilemma we have as human beings: We long to be close, but we also fear being close. We long to have intimacy with others, but we’re also scared to death of it.
Insecurity prevents intimacy and destroys your relationships. You can’t get close to somebody if there’s fear in the relationship. Insecurity destroys relationships, Love builds relationships.
The Bible says in 1 John 4:18, “There is no fear in love... perfect love drives out fear...” Because:
Love takes the focus off of you and puts the focus on others.
People ask me a lot of times, “Do you ever get nervous when you’re preaching?” The answer is, “Of course!” But you know what makes the difference? The focus is not on me. The focus is on Jesus.
If I stood here thinking about “me, myself and I” - if I worried about my voice, or my hair, or what I look like... fear and anxiety would overtake the point of our being here.
And I think it’s the same in our relationships. Taking the focus off self gives you & me the ability to cast our fear/insecurity aside.
The moment you & I begin to understand that you’re not the center of the universe... yet God loves you... Christ died for YOU... you no longer have to prove yourself to anyone, any more. You don’t have to spend your life trying to impress other people, because you already know that the One who loved us first, and loves us the most, loves us with an everlasting love, that nothing in this life (or the next) can ever stop. God loves you.
Do you know how freeing and enjoyable it is to live life knowing that? Your identity and self-worth are not caught up in what others might think of you. When you’re secure in your relationship with Christ, you’re no longer pressured by everybody else’s expectations. God’s love frees you to love others fearlessly.
Think about it: Jesus loved his disciples by serving his disciples. He stooped down, and washed their feet.
In what ways are we loving like Jesus? How do you and I set self aside... and put the needs of others first?
Let’s think about that 53 hour and 18 minute sermon again. You know, the fact is, that’s nowhere near the longest sermon ever preached. Because if you and I are followers of Jesus Christ, the moment we follow him... our life becomes our sermon. Every word, every action. So if you’ve been following Christ for 49 years... well, you get the picture... And the Good News is, God is taking all of it - the good, the bad, the beautiful and not so beautiful parts of our lives... and he’s working them out for our good... and for the glory of Christ.
May our lives preach the Good News in such a way, that everyone will know WE are disciples of Jesus.
May we love one another. Amen.