The Love Challenge

Peninsula Community Church

June 24, 2012

Displaying the Life of Christ: The Love Challenge

John in the passage before us today makes some important notes about this subject of love. First and foremost he intimates that love has always been the focus of God’s plan for redemption. The message of love has been subscribed to from the beginning.

1 John 3:11-18 For this is the message that you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another. We should not be like Cain, who was of the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own deeds were evil and his brother’s righteous. Do not be surprised, brothers, that the world hates you. We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death. Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him. By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.

John reminds us of this fact by relating the story of Cain and Abel who exemplifies what happens when one is motivated by an evil heart rather than a heart motivated by God’s love. If you remember the story of Cain and Abel, Abel offered his best offering to God while Cain offered some of his crops. In the end, God accepted Abel’s offering but rejected Cain’s offering. Because Cain allowed evil to enter his heart, he sought to kill his brother which he did even after being warned by God. It is this story that John describes the work of love in our lives. From this story we can note a couple of lessons that bear discussion.

The first lesson learned is that love unites but hatred divides. The fact is that when one who is motivated by love they will seek to bring unity rather than division. You can measure one’s passion for God by looking at their actions when issues arise in one’s relationship. When trouble comes do they respond by looking for ways to bring healing and change or do they seek to put a wedge in the relationship by their words and their actions. You see love is best measured by what one does rather than by what they say.

We are reminded in 1 Peter 3:8 and 1 Peter 4:8 how important love and unity is. Peter says “Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind.” And he states that we should “above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.”

The second lesson learned is that anger is love disappointed. Someone has said that love disappointed becomes anger and anger left to its own course causes us to do things that we would not do under normal circumstances. When we have been disappointed the mind can be used to conjure up things that are not based on truth but rather on presumption and conjecture. Disappointment can so easily lead to anger which can cause us to be out of control in our actions and our words. How many times have you been angry because someone has disappointed you?

I spoke to you last week about some of the issues in my life where I thought my story was over. I have to be honest with you that a part of the reaction I had was because of disappointment in people I trusted and believed in. I trusted my son to do the right thing. I trusted the Senior pastor of the church in Virginia to do the right thing. I trusted the church to do the right thing. I trusted Michelle’s body to not become sick. As I dealt with another lesson that I learned was that when all was said and done the reality is that I was disappointed with God and was therefore angry with Him. I thought God had let me down and that hurt because I had been called to trust God in this adventure and He was not keeping His end of the bargain.

The third lesson learned from this passage is that true love never settles for mediocrity. When we are motivated by God’s love we never settle for mediocrity but we always give our best. Excellence is the hallmark of our actions and everything we set our hands to do. When we are angry we can tend to do just what it takes to get by.

The fourth lesson learned is that love is a decision and not an emotion. The truth is we must make a choice to walk in love because there will always be people in our lives that will hurt or wound us. There will always be times that we will face disappointment.

The fifth and not necessarily last lesson is that Christ is the ultimate example of love. If we want to know what love is we must go to the ultimate example of love. Christ is the greatest example of His love for us. He gave His all for us. Rather than being disappointed at His disciples, the people of Israel, the religious leaders and the roman government he set his face toward the cross and went willing. Not in anger or defiance but as a lamb led to the slaughter whereby mankind would be forever freed from their sin and from death itself.

As I was preparing for this message I came across a great illustration called “the Watch War”: Johann and Hans’ dad possessed a beautiful gold pocket watch. This watch had been handed down to their dad through three generations. While the watch in itself was not valuable it was a mark of their heritage. You see their grandfather used to tell stories about how he had come to the United States with nothing more than this gold watch in his pocket.

The day came that the father died and the battle over the watch began. Hans the older brother by rights should have taken possession of the watch but Johann entered the dad’s house the night before the funeral and took the watch and placed it on his mantle in his home. The watch instead of being in Han’s possession now mocked him from the mantle of Johann. After the funeral, the brothers argued over the watch, they shouted, they swore at each other and they said things that brought hurt and pain to each of them. That night Hans went to Johann’s house and took the watch. Johann immediately called the police and had him arrested. Hans reluctantly returned the watch with the agreement that Johann would not prosecute him for stealing the watch. That was the last time the brothers spoke for twenty years.

But Fred, Han’s son and Annemarie, Johann’s daughter, met in college and struck up a friendship. You see they had never met before that time even though they only lived about 2 miles apart from each other. Through their youth Fred had heard the stories of the stealth raid on the watch even before the body of their father had been buried. Annemarie had heard the stories from her dad about the raid on his mantle. Fred and Annemarie were not as emotionally vested in the argument so they developed a very close friendship. At Christmas, Annemarie finally told her dad about her new friend. Her dad, upon hearing this, demanded that she break this friendship off immediately.

Annemarie being a bit rebellious refused to do what her dad demanded and continued to build a relationship with her cousin. At the end of the semester, she admitted to her dad that she had continued her relationship. At first, Johann was angry but as she talked about the positive characteristics of Fred he had to admit that he was exhibiting some of the many positive qualities of his brother. Shortly after this, Hans and Johann met in line at the DMV and as you know about the DMV (at least in the old days) there was a long line. They were cordial with one another but the conversation ended with harsh words once again as they neared the end of the line.

When Johann got home he related the activities of the day and spoke to his family about the harsh criticism that his brother had levied at him. Annemarie asked him if he thought any of the accusations were true. After some contemplation he had to realize that yes some of them were indeed true. At that moment, he agreed to stop criticizing Hans and to speak only positive about him. On a whim Johann invited Hans out to lunch and they began to cordially meet on several occasions. Finally, Hans invited Johann to dinner at his house and even with a moment of harsh words they continued to be cordial and began to build their relationship.

Three years later upon Fred’s graduation, Johann and Annemarie gave Fred the watch as a gift as they agreed that he was the next rightful heir to the watch. However, she removed from her neck a beautiful necklace that had been made from the chain that once held the watch. Now both would have a piece of the heritage of their family and in the moment the war was over.

Can you imagine how the wasted years might have been different if they had allowed love to be the basis of their actions rather than disappointment and hatred at their brother? What are the issues in your life that need to be revisited? What areas of your life need to molded and shaped by love and not anger? Will you allow God to bring healing today so that you are freed from past failures and past hurts?

The Love Challenge: The question at hand here is how different would this relationship have been if there life had been motivated by love rather than hate and decision.

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