Loving the brethren as Christ Loved me
By Pastor Michael Olawore
New Wine Church, London
Foundation Scripture: John 13:34-35, 1 John 3:14-15
Sunday 30th November 2014
We began a new series last week, titled ‘Walking In Love’, with a message titled ‘Lord, I Love You’. We agreed that agape, God’s love should be our priority, and not phileo (love between friends), eros (romantic love) and sturge (parental love). Agape love is a choice made unconditionally. It is a love that is both irrevocable and eternal. Agape love, being God’s nature explains the reason why we experience God, where agape love is expressed. In expressing our love for God, we must be obedient to His commands. The benefits of obeying God include the following; enjoying the blessings of being a friend of God, guaranteed answered prayers, blessings released by God and lastly, all things working together for our good.
From our foundation scriptures in John 13:34-35, we read: "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”
I strongly believe that God is preparing us for great things by bringing down the mountains of ‘the absence of love’, making crooked paths straight, filling the valleys so that His glory can be revealed. He is calling us to love each other, just as Christ loved the church and gave His life for her. The scripture actually makes it clear, that this call is a command, and not an opinion or suggestion. Even though the Church is the custodian of this truth, sadly she is most guilty of violating this principle. So much so that within the body of Christ, there is a lot of conflicts, war and hatred.
Christ’s final say regarding this command is consistent though: ‘This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you' (John 15:12). As spouses and parents to children, it is important that we avoid unnecessary conflict within our homes as any attitude or behavior that breaks the harmony and communication within the home is tantamount to atrocious abuse. It must be noted that without love, we cannot experience God’s power amongst us, as it will be contradictory to His nature. Hence, we must do all that lies within our jurisdiction to maintain the love of God in our homes and in our church as a whole.
So how did Jesus love us? He loved us sacrificially and unconditionally, when we were unlovable. Sadly, we’ve regulated our minds to love only those who are in our good books. Isn’t it disgraceful that the same person you’ve esteemed and spent a few moments with on one occasion suddenly becomes an object of ridicule, scorn and defamation when speaking to other people about them? We must not forget that love is a choice we make in Christ, and it must remain that way. Just like a fish cannot survive for too long outside water, we cannot survive without Christ. If we tried to be relevant outside of the fold, it would backfire. We are loved by Christ, even though we are not perfect, so we cannot afford to demand perfection from our brothers and sisters in Christ before we love them.
His love for us is genuine, honest and compassionate. His love is not driven by emotions and it knows no limits. His love is not defined by gender, race, background or colour. This love was exemplified in laying down His life for us. This love is unconditional, irrevocable and eternal. Romans 5:8 put it this way: ‘But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us’. He became a man and lived in this world in order to ultimately die for our sins, because of His love for us. He bled and died on the cross for our sins, because of His love for us.
So you may be wondering and saying within yourself: ‘Well, that’s Jesus, not me…I don’t have that kind of love’. Can I submit to you that within you is the capacity to love just like Jesus did? You need to remember that God will not ask you to do what He has not empowered you to do, otherwise this would be unfair. Hence the reason why he says: ‘This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you’.
1 John 4:19 reads: ‘We love Him because He first loved us’. We’ve been given the capacity to love God right from the moment when we gave our lives to Christ, activated by the Holy Spirit. Romans 5:5 explain further: ‘Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us’. Sadly, even though we’ve been given God’s love, we’ve refused to walk in this love. Believers have fallen short of walking in the love of God. It’s in the church that we find backbiting, slander and malice. As the home is the building block of the church, we have to address some of the issues in the home too: A couple may be sleeping in the same bed and still be miles apart, in fact sharing intimacy sometimes does not secure closeness, a requisite in marriage.
Back to the church, we’ve heard stories of some churches that have perfected the campaign of drawing members of other churches into their fold. What a shame! Yet, Jesus made it categorically clear in John 13:34-35, saying: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” Church members have hurt each other, including their leaders and have no fear of God anymore. We must be careful how we relate to our leaders, including our Pastors. The scriptures put this bluntly: "Do not touch my anointed ones; do my prophets no harm" (Psalm 105:15 NIV). Despising our leaders is tantamount to despising God, and we must avoid this. The story of David comes to mind when he had the opportunity to kill King Saul. “He said to his men, "The LORD forbid that I should do such a thing to my master, the LORD's anointed, or lay my hand on him; for he is the anointed of the LORD" (1 Samuel 24:6).
Remember also that Jesus did not expose his disciples’ weaknesses; instead he washed their feet (John 13:5). We are encouraged in scriptures to do likewise: ‘Carry each other's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ’ (Galatians 6:2 NIV). We must resist the devil and push back his devices to stifle the love within the church. We must be reminded that where there is no unity, we are in danger of living powerless lives. If we’ve been created in God’s image, then all we do must be on the basis of love.
Sadly our churches are now known for divisions and strife where the ministers are disconnected from the congregation and vice versa, members of the same assembly have been pre-conditioned to love those who behave as desired. Cliques are now well established. Imagine what your body will be like if some body members were grouped against other ones. I declare today, that any cliques and groups not founded by God in our church, and stopping the flow of grace are destroyed in Jesus name.
Here is Philippians 2:2: ‘then do me a favor: Agree with each other, love each other, be deep-spirited friends’ (MSG). We must avoid taking advantage of our Christian brothers and sisters especially those who are vulnerable and have shared their difficult issues with us. God is displeased with such a behavior. Romans 13:8-10 says: ‘Don’t run up debts, except for the huge debt of love you owe each other. When you love others, you complete what the law has been after all along. The law code—don’t sleep with another person’s spouse, don’t take someone’s life, don’t take what isn’t yours, don’t always be wanting what you don’t have, and any other “don’t” you can think of—finally adds up to this: Love other people as well as you do yourself. You can’t go wrong when you love others. When you add up everything in the law code, the sum total is love.’ (MSG). The bible reiterates this that we owe each other love (Also see Colossians 3:14 and 1 Peter 4:8).
Apostle Paul talks about love in 1 Corinthians 13:1-9. Here are a few highlights from this passage: ‘Love endures long and is patient and kind; love never is envious nor boils over with jealousy, is not boastful or vainglorious, does not display itself haughtily' (V 4).
Here are some reasons to walk in love and some things you need to do in order to walk in love:
1. Walking in love attracts God’s presence: God is love. So whenever you see love, you are definitely going to experience God’s power. Fasting and prayer as good as it is may not necessarily attract God’s presence without love. The bible speaks of faith that works by love. Of the three virtues: faith, hope and love, love is still the greatest. In love is power, victory, peace and prosperity because this is where God dwells. 1 John 4:11 reads: ‘Dear friends, since God loved us that much, we surely ought to love each other. No one has ever seen God. But if we love each other, God lives in us, and his love is brought to full expression in us’.
2. Love fulfils the Law.
3. The place of love is the place of divine blessings and power: Psalm 133:1-3 reads: ‘How wonderful and pleasant it is when brothers live together in harmony! For harmony is as precious as the anointing oil that was poured over Aaron’s head, that ran down his beard and onto the border of his robe. Harmony is as refreshing as the dew from Mount Hermon that falls on the mountains of Zion. And there the LORD has pronounced his blessing, even life everlasting' (NLT).
4. Where there is love, nothing is impossible: We read about this in the account of building the Tower of Babel: ‘But the LORD came down to look at the city and the tower the people were building. “Look!” he said. “The people are united, and they all speak the same language. After this, nothing they set out to do will be impossible for them!"' (NLT).
5. Love Binds us up, perfectly: Here is Colossians 3:13-14: Be gentle and ready to forgive; never hold grudges. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. Most of all, let love guide your life, for then the whole church will stay together in perfect harmony (TLB). Love covers multitude of sins; when you are offended, you need to find the reason to continue relating with the person regardless (1 Peter 4:8).
God is calling us to love each other, just as He has loved you, sacrificially, unconditionally. This is not because we deserve it but because He chose to love us. Make a choice to love today. Let there be wellness and wholeness in our church – Christ’s body. I believe that God wants to manifest His glory. In order to allow Him to do this, we need to create the right atmosphere for His presence. Will you heed the call today?
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