5th Sunday of Easter
Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ! In the name of Jesus, dear friends in Christ, what is your definition of love? If you were to define what love is, how would you do it? Is love what you see at a wedding where a husband and wife stare longingly into each other’s eyes? Is love when a mom stays up all night caring for her sick daughter? Is love when a boyfriend and girlfriend walk hand in hand wherever they go? Is love when a husband or wife tends to every need of his or her chronically ill spouse? What is love? I would submit to you that we live in a “love” dominated world, but a world that has very little conception or idea of what love really means. I would also submit to you that even though we live in a “love” dominated society, the people in our world are starved and thirsting for true love.
What is the idea most people have of “love”? For many, when you think of “love” does your mind immediately go to emotions and feelings? As if love is primarily a gooey, gushy, sentimental feeling? “Look at those love birds!” or “I love ice cream!” or “I love your hair cut!” or the politician or the celebrity or the talk show host will tell you, “I love you!” But go ask them for $20 and see how much you get .
Today we are going to look at this concept of love. Love- the way God defines it – is a continuing result of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. Jesus’ resurrection from the dead enables, empowers, and motivates us to love from the heart. What I want to look at with you this morning are three things we see from this text: the meaning of love, the power of love, and the promise of love.
First, the meaning of love. In our day, “love” is often focused on emotions and feeling. But the love that Jesus demonstrated was not just a feeling but action. The time of this text is Maundy Thursday evening. The next morning he would be led out to die on a cross. At the beginning of this chapter we’re told that Jesus knew everything that was going to happen to him, He knew He had all power, and what does He do? He got down on His hands and knees and washed His disciples feet. His love for His disciples wasn’t found in just words and feelings, but in action. He even washed the feet of Judas the one who would betray Him. Then Jesus demonstrated the greatest love the next day when He laid down His life for His friends. The word “love” used here in the original language is “Agape.”
What I want to do now is give you a quick Greek lesson. In the Greek language there are essentially 4 words that are used for “love” Our English word “love” covers aspects of each one of them, but doesn’t fully define anyone of them. First, is storge love. This is the love of comfortability. This is the word for that old pair of blue jeans you have that have stains and holes in them, but you just love them, it’s comfortable. Next, is phileo love. This is the love of friends. It’s reciprocal. You do things with your friends, you hang out with your friends, it has a give and take aspect to it. Then is eros love. This is the word we get our English word “erotic” from. It is essentially the love of opposites, it’s the sensual, sexual love, which is reserved for marriage only. Finally, there’s agape love. This is a love that is in a whole class by itself. Agape love is a love of the will of the one doing the loving which says, “I choose to love you apart from any loveable characteristic in you.” It’s a totally unconditional, totally selfless, totally unilateral love. It is a love that is giving, it is a love that is willing to endure pain for its object, it is a love of action. It is a love that says, “I love you because I love you.” It is the love that is defined in 1 Corinthians 13.
And so, when Jesus says, “A new command I give you: love on another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” He is using the word “agape.” That is the kind of love that God asks not just of every married couple, but of every Christian toward every person. Are you filled with that kind of love toward others? Do you think first about the needs of others or your own needs? Do you first think about how your actions will help you or how they will help someone else? We all struggle to love others unselfishly and unconditionally. Why? Why are we so often self-seeking? Is it not because of a fear? I’m afraid that if I don’t look out for myself, no one will! “Who’s going to look out for me, if I don’t?” But what’s the answer to that? Look at the one who doesn’t just teach us love, but who is love Himself. “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. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins” (1 John 4:9-10). Why can we think first of others? Why can we be more concerned about others than ourselves? Because Jesus has already taken care of us, He’s already given us all we need for life eternal, He’s already sacrificed Himself for our sins and risen from the dead for our forgiveness. You couldn’t possibly be loved any more than you already are by God. In Him you already have all you need and all the love you need forever! You can’t force someone to love from the heart, but a heart that’s changed by God’s love and grace can’t help but love others.
And it’s when we’re filled with God’s agape love for us in Christ that our love becomes incredibly powerful. What is the power of love? Jesus said, “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” There is an evangelistic power of love. Someone once said that love is the “final apologetic.” In other words, the love of Christians is a visible verification of the gospel. People will see it, recognize it, and be attracted to it. It is recorded that unbelievers in the 2nd Century AD said, “Behold, how these Christians love each other! How ready they are to die for each other!” How much do you love the people sitting in the pews with you? Are you ready to die for them? Most associations in our world are marked by a common interest or outlook, right? Democrats generally like other democrats, republicans like other republicans, because they share the same ideals and viewpoints. But the love of a Christian is a love for anyone and everyone. It doesn’t matter what race, background, culture, age, social status, influence, religious background, moral history someone has. A Christian has a unique perspective to life – a Christian looks at anyone and looks past every outward difference that individual has and sees a soul, a soul for whom Jesus died, a soul who will spend eternity in hell unless they are brought to faith by the gospel of Jesus. You see, a Christian’s love stands out in a hurting world because it’s a love for people – not just people like him or her – but a love for all souls. There’s a power in displaying Christ’s love to a world thirsting for true love.
And finally the promise of love. The setting of this text is important. Jesus is about to leave. Soon His visible and tangible presence is going to be gone, but Jesus’ followers are going to become visible reflections of the love that Jesus showed them by loving others. 1 John 4:12 tells us, “No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.” You see, not only are we the face of love, the face of Jesus Himself when we love and serve those around us, but we are to see in the hurting eyes of the lonely, in the pained eyes of the sick, and in the searching eyes of the lost, in them we are to see Jesus’ face, and then serve them as we would serve Jesus Himself.
Jesus isn’t with us tangibly and visibly, but He’s still with us. And we see that He is in us when we serve others as if we’re serving Jesus Himself. And other people who might not yet know the love of Jesus can see in us the effect of Jesus’ saving love when we seek not to be served, but to serve, not to be understood, but to understand, not to be loved, but to love.
Do we do it perfectly? Do we love perfectly? Do we serve perfectly? No. We’ve failed. So we continually go back to the love of God, a love that sent His own Son to love us first, to die for our sins, to rise to show us without a doubt that we are forgiven. Then empowered and inspired by His love we strive to know it more and more and to show it in our lives. Imagine if we showed that kind of love to our fellow Christians, imagine if we showed that love to people outside of our church, then all people will know that we are Jesus’ disciples, if we love one another.