Love - the Real Deal

   There are no more days left - the day is here. Valentine's Day... a day devoted to love. Whether you choose to take it, or leave it, there's no denying it. Love is in the air. 

   Over the past two Sundays (and next two Sundays) we have been talking about love at church. Not just any kind of love, God's love. And let me tell you friends, I have been challenged. Challenged to love better. To love God's kind of love. To love my spouse better, with the kind of love that Jesus has. 
   Though I am not a pastor, and am not trying to be, I will try and sum up what I have learned, been reminded of, challenged with and encouraged for over the last two weeks. I feel that I cannot properly do this justice, so please follow this link to listen to the sermons for yourself.

   The first Sunday we talked about love as a verb. How do we see love? We were asked to write down what we think love is, and this is what I wrote : "knows no bounds" and "is surprising". He describes love as a verb, that gives itself SACRIFICIALLY. Jesus commanded us to "love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another." (John 13:34) He took the noun and made it a verb! This is not a suggestion, but a commandment! 

   He then described the four types of love used in the Bible: 
1) Eros {sexual or romantic; passion}
2) Phileo {brotherly love, friend}
3) Storge {familial love, natural love. Parents -> children; children->parents}
4) Agape {self-sacrificing; self-giving}

   Jesus called us to AGAPE YOUR ENEMIES! Wow... have you ever stopped to really think about what that means? Agape your enemies? AGAPE your ENEMIES.... The people you cannot STAND, the people who are MEAN TO YOU, the guy who talks slander behind your back, the neighbor who lets his dog poop on your lawn, the guy you who is abusive... the people you would not make time for - love them. Not only love them... AGAPE them. Love them with a self-sacrificing, self-giving love! Are you sure God? You really want me to AGAPE my enemies? The answer is a resounding YES! Not only yes, but I COMMAND you too!

   "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. 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? Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth." (1 John 3:16-18)

   Pastor Ray told us of the first few years of his marriage. They were difficult. I think many of us have similar stories, right? Moving in together and establishing our own family takes some adjustments and time to grow. He described to us that eventually, while on a trip, he realized his problem. He was trying to make his wife perfect. Letting her know where her pitfalls were and how she could make them better. He was not loving her for who she was, but who she could be. ZING! Ouch, that one hit a little too close to home. 

   He describes how we can make love a verb. Submission, where we put others' needs above our own. Acceptance, where we love unconditionally and trust where we believe in and believe the very best of the one we love. Wow... he also says there is a direct correlation between the degree we let God love us and the degree we love others. We need to believe it, receive it and give it away.

  Then yesterday Pastor Brent spoke about submission... submission in love. Submission to each other. He challenged me to my core when he asked that if Jesus made himself NOTHING, came to Earth as a servant for us...If this is how He displays His love, then what makes us think we can love any other way?

   "You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you should love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord." (Leviticus 19:18) Bear a grudge... wow. How many times do we bear a grudge. We get fed up and give up. Give up on those we love. We do unto them as they did to us. If they mistreat us, we give them so many chances and then we right them off. We give up on the relationship. "Then Peter came up and said to him, "Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?" Jesus said to him, " I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven." (Matthew 18:21-22) Does this mean we keep count? No it does not. Simply love each other with the love that Jesus has for us. We need to CHOOSE RELATIONSHIPS OVER BEING RIGHT.

   Jesus died for us. All of us. For you, for me, for Prime Minister Harper, for Eminem, for the suicide pilots in 9/11, for Saddam Hussein. He loves ALL OF US the same. He died for all our sins. He did not forgive me 70 times 7 times each day, but the countless number of times I sin daily. The many times I hurt him. He does not give up on me, He holds me in His arms and forgives me. Even if I don't repent. 

His love is a love that washes away all the guilt of sin.

   Christ called us, commanded us, to love one another. "Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples." ( John 13:35 ) How do we prove it? By showing people God's love by loving those around us. Again, that is everyone. It is easy enough to love the ones we want to love. But what about the parent that has hurt you one too many times, the sister that betrayed you, the cousin that hurt you, the friend that talked behind your back... those ones are the hard ones to prove God's love to. The ones we want to love from afar. How about the guy we flip off when he cuts us off? The lady we judge when she leaves her kids in the car on a sweltering hot day? The people we think are "pigs", "disgusting", or "rude".those who don't fit into our image of society? What about them? How are you proving to them God's love?

   The point is that we cannot love people (all people) the way God called us to unless we are filling our lives with CHRIST. This will show, this is evident, this is the proof. Pastor Brent used the image of pouring water into others lives. He had a big pitcher (God) full of water. He filled a pitcher (me) with cold, refreshing water (His love). With His love filling me up, I can only pour out cold, refreshing water into the cups (people) around me. The cold, refreshing water fills my pitcher, leaving no room for that luke warm water that has sediment in it. 

  "Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain concern. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking for your own interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature of God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death - even death on a cross!" (Philippians 1-8) When we think of greatness, we think of something big. All-access, V.I.P. pass, sky box... Jesus, God's own son, took the likeness of a SERVANT. Submission and humility go hand in hand. They compliment each other. They are a key to understand God's love.

We can say many times "I do love them. I love those people."
But are you making that love a verb?

Do you commit to humbly submit?
Do you commit to real love?
Do you commit to putting others first?
Even if the others are people we
only want to love from afar?


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