Welcome to part two, about God’s love. Today we are learning about How We Love. You can read or listen to part one here: Part 1: Why Do We Love? And again, I remind you that this is edited out of the sermon first spoken by Dr. Garry Vermaas. Now that we know why we love, the next question is obviously:
How Do We Love?
1 John 4:13-18 13
This is how we know that we live in him and he in us: He has given us of his Spirit. 14 And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. 15 If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God. 16 And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. 17 This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus. 18 There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.
God Lives In Us
1 John 4:13 tells us that we know that God lives in us because He has given us his Holy Spirit. So the first answer to “how do we love” is that we must love through the Holy Spirit. But what does that mean?
Have you ever compared yourself to someone else? Lots of time Christians like to add rules which quickly turn into a tradition and then tradition turns into judgment. But we kind of like that, don’t we? We like to have a Christianity Checklist. This way when we work hard we can check things off the list and feel good when we get some things done. But then, it becomes easy to look around at other Christians and become judgemental and self-righteous because they are not living up to the standards we made and are doing.
Or we could be the opposite? Maybe we don’t do a good job at the checklist items and begin to feel guilty and anxious. We see all the other successful checklists and feel resentful or embarrassed. At this point, it is easy to “have a bad day” and feel discouraged and decide to sin. We know what we are doing. We’ll get snippy and selfish or maybe lustful and hateful. Then we’ll mess up and not want to talk to other Christians about it. We think “they won’t understand, they don’t know what I have to deal with.” We’ve all been here.
Comparison Is Not From God
So whether you are doing a good job with the checklist and becoming prideful or a bad job and struggling with sin, you are comparing yourselves with others. We all do that.
Well church, a comparison is not from God. John teaches us here that we should love through the Holy Spirit. The good news is this: The Holy Spirit is not measurable. John 3:8 says that Holy Spirit is like the wind. You know it’s there but is not sure when it is coming or going.
You are not able to measure how much or how little someone else is using the Holy Spirit. You can’t checklist it. It’s impossible to compare how much Holy Spirit love I have vs. how much Holy Spirit Love you have – and thank God for that!
This means no more checklists. No more comparisons. No more judgment of others and ourselves. We need to be loving through the Holy Spirit. Paul gives us this example in 1 Corinthians 4:3-4 when he tells us he doesn’t judge himself or others – he is allowing the Lord to do that and not taking over.
Relying On God’s Love
1 John 4:16 continues then to tell us that we rely on the love that God has for us. Therefore, if we love like God (with the Holy Spirit Love), then others will know our love and rely on our love for them. Does that make sense?
Think about this for a second. When was the last time someone really loved you? What did they do to make you feel loved? Maybe they just sat and listened to you? Maybe they got you something you really wanted? Did they just spend time with you or… maybe leave you alone? There are so many different ways to feel loved. And the Bible says if we love another person the way they need to be loved, those people will know our love and rely on it.
Personally for me, I feel loved when someone comes to talk to me and gets to the point. I usually don’t want a long-winded conversation with a side story or a back story. I certainly am not interested in theological debates. Just get to the point. Even better, bullet point it for me – the top three things! And another thing, I hate presents. You can love me by not giving me gifts. I don’t like thinking about gift-giving. I don’t want you to get me a gift. If you do, I probably won’t like it – but then feel burdened that I have to get you something in return. I can buy my things – please don’t give me gifts.
Loving Others Where They Are
On the other hand, my best friend loves theological debates. He wants to talk about the Bible and go back and forth, sharpening each other. And my daughter loves gifts! She loves giving them, making them, and receiving them. So, do you know how my friend and my daughter would feel loved by me? By engaging in what they like and putting my selfish self aside. That’s not easy. Love is not one-size fits. There are so many people, and they all give and feel love in opposite ways than you or what I might think about.
And what do we do about it? In our arrogance and stupid non-Holy Spirit-filled sinful nature, we try to apply the same strategy for loving every person. We create programs to love people and try to love them how we want to be loved or think they should be loved. We do this because we want to systemize love and make it easier. We want love to be predictable, manageable, and convenient. But that is not loving people. And when we systemize love, we feel like we are sacrificing. But Jesus says that he desires mercy, not sacrifice.
Priority One Worldwide
Years ago, with some friends, I started a Priority One Worldwide nonprofit. I, personally, am no longer a part of that non-profit – but at the time (and may still be), one of the missions of the POW was a school of 100 students on a mountain in Haiti in a remote village. As we have been overseeing the school project, it has been a temptation of mine to jump in, fix the problems I see, and run the programs the way I think is best. I’m 100% sure I can do a more efficient job and get faster results.
But if we had stepped in and taken over, the leaders of that community would have been dishonored and discouraged. We would have loved them the way we thought they needed to be loved. So instead of that way, we work hard to support the leaders and ask how we can help them the way they need help. Because of this, the leaders have taken ownership. It takes three times longer to do anything, and there are still some problems, but it was the better choice. Loving them meant listening, thinking, and not forcing our agendas on them.
Becoming The Light
True love is not easy. It’s not predictable. It’s individual, messy, and takes time. Could it be that, as a church, we don’t really know how to love? Did love come to your mind when I asked you to think of the church in Part 1: Why Do We Love? I think we all have a lot to learn. If Christians are filled with the Holy Spirit and genuinely love others, we will be light.
When strangers see church people, they should see Jesus. They should feel love. But instead, they see in most churches agendas, programs, rules, checklists, and problems. So how do we fix this?
We need to be humble in our love. Ask your closest friends how you can love them better. Ask people you meet what they need or how you can help… and listen to them.
We need to engage with people. They must know that we love them just like God loves us. We must learn to stop judging people, slow down, reduce our agendas, and let the Holy Spirit Work. We need to say yes at the moment.
I have done so many things I would have never done just because I said yes at the moment and chose to love and spend time with people. Do you want to go whitewater kayaking? Yes. Do you want to visit Myanmar and eat the bones of fish? Uhm.. sure. Do you want to travel up a mountain for 10 hours to a remote village in Haiti to help some kids? Not really…but okay. Hey Ben, I had a tough day. Can we talk? Yes… I’m here for you.
We Love As Jesus Loved
We are all so busy. We have our lives, our programs, etc. we don’t have time to open up to people in front of us. We don’t have time to listen. If we genuinely love others as God loved us, then when people pass by your house, they should want to go in your house. They will want to know you. They will want to be with you.
1 John 4:17 says this is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world, we are like Jesus.
So how did Jesus love people? Some people he spent lots of time with, like the apostles, Mary & Martha, Lazarus, and some folks he just met one time: a woman at the well, the leper, Legion. Remember him? He felt Jesus’ love so strongly that after he was healed, he wanted to go with Jesus, and Jesus said, “Woah man, not so fast – I have crazy enough in my group – you go preach to Decapolis.” (Mark 5:20)
As Christians, you will be dedicated to a few people you love deeply, individually, and consistently, and everyone else you need to love when you meet them.
How Do You Make People Feel?
The last time I was in India, I lived near a market with 5-10 street kids during the day begging for money. When I first arrived, they would run up to me begging. Showing me their bare feet, asking for rupees and telling us it was for food. And when we offered them milk or bread or shoes, they would hiss at us, shake their fingers and get angry. They hated that we didn’t give them money.
What I started doing every day when the children would run up to beg for money, I would look them in the eyes, talk to them, hug them, and play with them. We would treat them like real children and not as beggars on the street.
After about a month, you know what they did when they saw me? Their faces lit up, and they came rushing over with huge smiles. They would get close, and I would tickle them, and they would squeal and be kids again. They loved it, and we loved them. I never gave them any money, I just loved them, and they wanted to always be around me.
When strangers encounter you, they need to walk away feeling loved. If we do these things, God’s love will be made complete in us. As a church, we must all work together to give each other and everyone else Holy Spirit Love.
Love Completes Us
1 John 4:17 says that love is made complete in us, the church – the believers. When one of us doesn’t know how to love, or we try to love to make ourselves better, or we don’t care to learn how to love the way others need to be loved, we hurt all believers and give the church a bad reputation.
But if the goal for us is to love as Jesus loves, and to be the world’s light, then I want to challenge you. Go to your closest friends and ask them, “how can I show you the love you need?” And for everyone else you meet, commit to loving them for just two minutes. Listen to them, and be present. Say yes when the Holy Spirit brings you an opportunity. If we did this, the next time you ask someone what people think of your church, only one word will come to mind. Love.
1 John 4:19: We love because he first loved us.
Bonus: Listen to the Audio of this message here: