I need to be loved. Today I have a refrain to repeat. Whenever I say, “I love all of you.” You say, “We love you too Pastor Carl.” Let’s practice…
We are called to love others as God loved us. Love is the glue that cements relationships together. To love others is our high calling in Christ Jesus.
Did I tell all of you: “I love all of you.” [refrain] [get others to say it....]
You know what God’s unconditional love is like? Bible translators stumbled across a way to communicate the fullness of God's love to an African tribal community: "The verbs for a particular African language consistently end with one of three vowels,” explains the missionary. “Almost every verb ends in i, a, or u. But the word for 'love' was only found with i and a. Why no u?” In an effort to truly understand the concept of “love”, the missionary began to question the leaders of the tribe.
“Could you dvi your wife?” (don’t know how to pronounce it) [past love]
“Yes,” they answered, “that would mean that the wife had been loved, but the love was gone.”
“Could you dva your wife?” “Yes, that kind of love depends on the wife’s actions. She would be loved as long as she remained faithful and took good care of her husband.” [conditional love]
“Could you dvu your wife?” Everyone laughed. “Of course not!” they replied. “If you said that, you would have to keep loving your wife no matter what she did, even if she never got you water and never made you meals. Even if she committed adultery, you would have to just keep on loving her. No, we would never say dvu. It just doesn’t exist.”
The missionary sat quietly for a while, thinking about John 3:16, and then he asked, “Could God dvu people?” There was complete silence for three or four minutes; then tears started to trickle down the weathered faces of the elderly men of the tribe. Finally they responded, “Do you know what this would mean? This would mean that God kept loving us over and over, while all that time we rejected His great love. He would be compelled to love us, even though we have sinned more than any people.”
The tribal leaders were reduced to tears when they at last considered that the love of God is so great, so amazing, that God could love them unconditionally! ~ Cathy Drobnick
I Love all of you [Refrain]
The 12 ingredients. The wonderful thing about this recipe is that you can work towards perfecting the right mix of the ingredients. Only God’s love is perfect, completely unconditional, yet we are called to learn to love in the same way ~ by Paul breaking unconditional love down into 12 categories it means we can learn to love the Jesus way in smaller bites. How to apply this message: take 1, 2 or 3 of these ingredients that you don’t do so well and ask the Lord for you to grow in those areas. Another idea: take all 12 ways to love and consider Jesus and how he fulfills all of them.
1. Love must be sincere…. “genuine”. Real. People instinctively know if our love is insincere. People crave genuine love, not loved for what they accomplishments or how much money they have. Sincerity is at the top ingredient ~ take away sincerity and every other ingredient is flat. I once made a batch of chocolate chip cookies, doubling the recipe except I forgot to double the flour. Without sincerity love is flat!
2. discerning ~ “hate what is evil; cling to what is good.” We live in a world that loves evil. Love discerns and recognizes evil but loves anyway. I appreciate one person’s advice: “don’t ever get over being shocked by evil.” Unconditional love doesn’t mean you condone or accept all choices. ~ you still love even when the choices are bad. Here’s a good question one person asked in regards to discernment: “When’s the last time you blushed?”…. Do you get embarrassed when certain scenes come on tv and you are watching with your children/ friends/ even your spouse? Unconditional love does not mean anything goes, it means you have high standards and want the best for yourself and for others…
3. tender, “Be devoted to one another in brotherly love.” If you know me, and if you know my brother, you know we are different in personality….likes, dislikes... I was in grade school when he was in high school. Sometimes he’d come home at night when I was already asleep and I’d sit up and talk in my sleep. He’d ask me questions like who I had a crush on… with all our differences, there is nobody on this earth quite like my brother…. As adults I think he’ll agree there is a renewed appreciation.…
“brotherly” means “born of the same womb” or what is vastly more important, “nurtured by the same parents” Nobody quite like a brother. We are to grow in seeing each other like brothers and sisters, so what if we are different personalities, have different experiences; we have a common bond of being nurtured and sustained by one God, one Lord, one Spirit. Unconditional love does not force you to look like me or think like me, yet there is a respect and appreciation that you are your own person.
4. honor others, “Honor one another above yourselves.” Compete with each other to put others first. I’ll never forget after my grandfather died watching my mother and her two brothers sit around the table dividing the stamp collection, coin collection, etc…. as they each wanted the others to take more and have the best…. Harry Truman said, “It is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit.” Amen?
5. enthusiasm. “Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.” I like root beer. If I let root beer sit and it loses it’s fizz, I like root beer so much I drink it even when it’s flat. It’s not as good. Not as much fun. May the love you have for others keep it’s fizz.
6. patient. “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.” We live in an impatient world. People instinctively need unconditional love and I am thinking that of all the qualities of unconditional love, people test our patience…. Will we stick with them no matter what… Love is messy because people are knuckleheads, so unconditional love requires patience. Aren’t you so glad the Lord is patient with you.
7. generous, “share with God’s people who are in need.” This can refer to sharing in the hurts and heartaches of others or it can mean helping those who have less than you. One of the many books I have in mind to write is about defining Christianity as giving away your power to those who have less than you. Sometimes it is by age, access to resources, money, abilities, opportunities… Generosity is certainly an ingredient of unconditional love. Unconditional love is active.
8. hospitable, “practice hospitality.” Unconditional love sees people. Hospitality means to invite people into your life who are different from you. real people with real needs and real personalities. On our cruise to Alaska in July Steve Lagerwey nicknamed a not very hospitable “friend” he made as “Mr. World Traveler.” Steve went early to a show and was saving seats for the rest of us when along came Mr. World Traveler who wanted to sit in those seats. When Steve explained he was saving them, Mr. World Traveler got all huffy and explained to Steve that if Steve only knew how many times he had traveled the world he would give him those seats, so when Steve offered the seats if it was that important Mr. World Traveler huffed off muttering something about not wanting to sit down near a common person like Steve. That is not hospitality. Contrast the friend Larry Nims made who was also named Larry. The two Larry’s loved spending hours hanging out together watching for whales and other sealife. We’d see Barb in our travels around the ship and we’d say, “Where’s Larry.” The Standard answer, “probably with Larry.” Our Larry was a content person, but it seemed obvious the other Larry needed a friend. And we were all blessed to see that Larry and Larry were friends.
9. kind, “Bless those who persecute you, bless and don’t curse.” Unconditional love takes into account the fact that we will be persecuted and we are to respond with kindness. If we were never hurt by anyone love would be easy. We respond by blessing those who hurt us. (More is coming in the sermon next week ~ the heaping coals…)
10. sympathetic, “rejoice with those who rejoice, mourn with those who mourn.” To see through the eyes of another person and respond appropriately is a gift. We worry about how we appear … learn to look through the eyes of others…
11. harmony, “Live in harmony with one another.” My father was a good singer. More than once growing up in this church he would talk my brother and me into singing a song with him. The plan was that Jim and I would sing the melody line and Dad would add the harmony. It happened every time. After we got a few lines into the song, Jim and I, as poor singers, would join dad singing harmony, so Dad would quickly figure that out, and switch back to the melody. Harmony implies a beautiful symphony. Unconditional love does not mean we all have to think alike, look alike, sound alike ~ yet there is a harmony that makes a beautiful whole …
12. humble. “Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.” One person summarized this verse succinctly: “Don’t be a snob.” Consider the people Jesus associate with…. Tax collectors, drunks and prostitutes. A “friend of sinners.” Some folks in B’ham think Sumas is the ends of the earth, backwards, second rate ~ too many people think even worse of Peaceful Valley, Paradise, Kendall, Maple Falls… I love people in Sumas! I love the eccentric, the addicts, the odd and strange. Maybe it’s because I am one of them. I think everyone, if honest, does not feel lovable. What gives me and you worth is when others love us, when God loves us even as mistake prone, sinful unlovable people.
Unconditional love. It’s the glue that gives us strength, gives us value, to know we are loved even in our unworthiness. Jesus Christ loves us, even while we are sinners. His love is unconditional. Our love for others falls short of the full love God has given to us, yet we are called to love others anyway and work towards that unconditional love that has the power to transform a life. Sincerity, discernment, tenderness, honoring others, enthusiasm, patience, generosity, hospitality, kindness, sympathy, harmony, humility ~ those are the ingredients of unconditional love. May we be a people who are committed to growing in our ability to love others unconditionally, just as Jesus Christ loves us.
I love all of you [refrain]