What is Love? (Sermon 7-10-2022)

We live in a world where we often speak of love. We seem to be obsessed with love. The Beatles told us that “All We Need is Love”. The world tells us that love conquers all things. Love is powerful. The Bible certainly speaks of love. As we live each day trying to be more like God, we are reminded of these words from John’s first letter: Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love. (1 John 4:7-8 NASB)

Love is from God and is core to the nature of God. So, what is love? Is love tolerating everything and everybody? Is Love accepting those with whom we do not agree? Is love accepting those who fail to live according to the clear commandment of God? Wait a minute preacher, you are about to cross a line. Surely, there is some point where we are not expected to love. We cannot be expected to love those who flaunt God and all of His teachings. That is not reasonable. Well, let’s see what Jesus has to say about love and how we live the love He wants to see.

Our scripture this morning is a very familiar one. We have all heard many sermons from this same passage. (If we are lucky. We may live to hear many more.) Let’s open our Bibles to the 10th chapter of Luke.

In the first part of this chapter, we see the Jesus sent out 70 disciples to visit towns in the area. This seems to be a training mission to help the disciples to have faith in God as they go about their visits to the towns. In verse 17, we see they are pleased with the results. They marvel at what God has done through them.

Jesus redirects their focus from the deeds that they did to the more important fact, Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are recorded in heaven.” (Luke 10:20 NASB)

So, as Jesus is talking about their names being recorded in heaven and the fact that God the Father has given knowledge to Jesus and thus to the disciples, an expert in Jewish law poses a question to Jesus.

And a lawyer stood up and put Him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” (Luke 10:25 NASB)

This is not a lawyer as we typically know lawyers. His expertise is the Jewish law. The thrust of his question seems to be a test to see if Jesus understands the Law. We really are not certain about his motive. Is he trying to trap Jesus or is he really seeking to find, in the law, eternal life? Jesus is alert to the possible directions of his question and so He turns it back to him.

And He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How does it read to you?” (Luke 10:26 NASB)

I can hear a sarcastic Jesus saying, “You’re the expert on the Law, you tell me what it says.” The lawyer answers with the quote from the Law.

And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.” (Luke 10:27 NASB)

First and foremost, the Law demands that we love God above all else. This love is an all-consuming love that requires every fiber of our being (heart, soul, strength and mind). Within this commandment, there is no room for suggesting that we might be anything less than totally committed. This is found in Deuteronomy 6:5. Added to this love for God in our love for our neighbor. This is found in Leviticus 19:18. As a side note, the context of Leviticus speaks of the treatment of others being the evidence of loving our neighbor. Thus, love is shown by actions.

We know that this matches up with the teaching of Jesus when we read His words from Matthew 22. On that occasion, Jesus is asked about the greatest commandment.

“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 22:36-40 NASB)

The lawyer has answered the question raised by Jesus.

And He said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this and you will live.” (Luke 10:28 NASB)

You want eternal life, then love God and love your neighbor. See how easy this is? Simple and to the point. But what if I have trouble with part of this? Where is that loop-hole that allows me to have eternal life while I mess up on part of these two points? Maybe I have no trouble loving God, but you know how those people are. Some neighbors are not easy to love.

So, the lawyer comes back with that question we all have in the back of our minds.

But wishing to justify himself, he said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” (Luke 10:29 NASB)

Who is my neighbor? If you expect me to love this neighbor, I want to know who that neighbor is. Afterall, I don’t want to love someone whom I am not required to love. I don’t want to waste love on the wrong person.

Jesus answered this question with the parable we have all read or heard before.

Jesus replied and said, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among robbers, and they stripped him and beat him, and went away leaving him half dead. And by chance a priest was going down on that road, and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. Likewise, a Levite also, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. (Luke 10:30-32 NASB)

If we pause right here, we could see two men who behaved pretty much as many of us would. I recently read through a portion of a sermon series called “Get Off the Donkey”. In this series, the preacher took several examples of people who stayed on their donkeys without taking action. In this series, the preacher points out that the two men may have had reasons for not stopping. They did not want to become ceremonially unclean from touching a bloody man. They did not want to invite the thieves to attack them when the stopped, or they may have been too busy to delay their trip by getting involved. All of these are good excuses. They resonate with us. We can certainly understand why they did not stop. So many times, we stay on our donkey rather than stopping to render the help necessary. Jesus does not end His story here. He inserts that BUT.

But a Samaritan, who was on a journey, came upon him; and when he saw him, he felt compassion, and came to him and bandaged up his wounds, pouring oil and wine on them; and he put him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn and took care of him. On the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper and said, ‘Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I return, I will repay you.’ Which of these three do you think proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell into the robbers’ hands?” And he said, “The one who showed mercy toward him.” Then Jesus said to him, “Go and do the same.” (Luke 10:33-37 NASB)

Jesus was very pointed when the hero of His story was a Samaritan. The hated “half-breed” stopped to help. The one person the local prejudice would suggest was not to be trusted or even to be included in their association is the only person who stopped. He is the one who got off his donkey and then placed the injured man on his donkey. Is this love?

We read those romantic books, we watch the Hallmark Channel and we see a storybook idea of love. Love is not a fairy tale. It is when we do those things for others that are not always glamorous. It may involve binding wounds and taking someone whom we don’t know to get the help they need. It may be spending money on people without doing a background check.

When Jesus stooped down to wash the feet of the disciples (including Judas), He demonstrated love. Love is usually dressed as a servant and not as a king. On that occasion, He told His disciples; A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35 NASB)

Do you want people to know that you are a disciple of Jesus? The answer is simple-love. Our love is shown by our actions and not our words. In Matthew the 25th chapter, Jesus described the judgement scene. It is a contrast to the scene Jesus used in Matthew the 7th chapter. In the 7th chapter, people are bragging about the great things they did and are told to depart (Matthew 7:23). While in the 25th chapter, the words are different.

“Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.’ (Matthew 25:34-36 NASB)

The young lawyer knew that love was necessary to receive eternal life. His own words tell us: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.”

The writer of Proverbs tells us: Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to do it. Do not say to your neighbor, “Go, and come back, and tomorrow I will give it,” when you have it with you. (Proverbs 3:27-28 NASB)

Who is my neighbor? To whom should I show love? How should I show love? If we paid attention to the words of Jesus, we know that our neighbor is anyone and everyone with whom we come in contact. Our neighbor is the person to whom we minister in times of need. He is the least of those whom we meet. He just might be God dressed as a man lying be the side of the road.

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