Our church has been blessed with a number of new babies of the last year or so.
When a baby is born, the doctor checks all the vital signs.
Love is a vital sign. It is the most vital sign we have in life.
When a Christian is born and growing, we also check for vital signs: is there love?
‘Loving the Unlovable’ sounds like poetry and in a sense it is but it MUST become reality in our lives if we are truly surrendered to the Holy Spirit. If we are not capable of loving the unlovable then we MUST question the presence and authority that the Holy Spirit has in our lives.
Because when we become Christians, we receive the new heart and spirit that God promised in Ezekiel 11. This new heart and spirit is nothing less than the Holy Spirit living in us. This is the Holy Spirit of God and God is love, so the essence of the One dwelling in us is divine love.
So John 13:35
Love plays no favourites. James talks about this. 愛にはえこひいきがありません。
I think our church is pretty good in this regard yet there have been many who have come in our doors and never returned. Did they not find love? Did they feel we played favourites and they felt they were not one of the favoured? It’s worth examining.
How are we to love others? This might sound like an odd question but if love is the key and the vital sign, then we ought to know how to do this. 私たちは人をどのように愛すればいいのでしょうか？
1 Thess 2:6-7
– like a mother caring for her little children 母がその子どもたちを養い育てるように
(reflects Jesus’ words ‘O Jerusalem…’)
Yet the love of God goes deeper and further than even this analogy might suggest.
* Love reaches beyond its own kind. 愛は同じようなものどうしの壁を越える
Regardless of colour, language, gender, age, social status, education, wealth – love mixes with and reaches into the loves of those who aren’t the same ‘kind’.
* Love reaches beyond set times. 愛は決まった時間を越える
We don’t just love on Sunday mornings and Thursday evenings.
* Love reaches beyond comfort zones. 愛は快適な領域を超える
1 Thess 2:8 We share our whole lives. 私たちはすべてを分かち合います。 Why would we want to do this – share our whole lives – with other people? Because that is the nature of love. なぜならそれが愛の本質だからです。
It’s too easy to feel that we have done our duty when the ministry work is ‘done’ – whether it’s giving a message, writing up the books, teaching Sunday School or cleaning in the kitchen. Our real ministry work is loving others “like a mother caring for her little children”. If we lose sight of this then our ministry becomes cold and mechanical.
It brings us back to 1 Cor 13. If we don’t have love then our ministry works counts for nothing. Nothing!
Let me address something that is especially pertinent to our church. I have spoken to several members who have said to me, rather sheepishly, that they just don’t really feel comfortable with people. It’s not that they don’t like any individual people. It’s just that, personality-wise, they are more introverted and spending a lot of time with people is actually stressful. So they don’t really like ‘mixing with people’. I suspect that this is more common than even I’m aware of.
I don’t believe that receiving the Spirit of Christ and having a divine love operating within us suddenly makes us all extraverts.
Receiving the Spirit of Christ and having a divine love operating within us enables us to see people as God sees people and to feel what He feels for them, no matter what. The expression of that love comes back to personality but that is not the primary issue here. We simply allow the love of God to flow through us and be manifest in the way that God has created us. It might be in a hearty exhortation or a public act but it might just as much be a quiet word, a sympathetic ear and a gentle encouragement.
When God’s Spirit moves, we don’t become like other people, we become like Christ. And we are to live a life worthy of the love He has given us.
God is emotional. (Not emotionally unstable! but emotional – having emotions.)
It’s true! God is an emotional being – He experiences joy and sadness just as we do.
Think about this: our daily words and actions can cause Him grief or move Him to rejoice over us with singing. What an amazing thought! We can please the God of the universe!
What else but love could please a God of love?!
[The Power of Love]
Loving people and loving churches have great power to influence people for God. 人を愛し、教会を愛することは神に対する大きな影響を人に与えます。 There are many great things about church in general and our church as well. We have great music. We have great prayer times. Hopefully we have great sermons, too. But if someone comes into our church (or any church) and witness great music, prayer and teaching but no-one talks to them or cares about them, they won’t experience God. They won’t come back. Conversely – I know this to be true because I’ve seen it many times – when the music or message or the liturgy in a given service is not great, but there is love in the congregation, people are still touched by God. People stay.
In my years, I have asked many people what attracted them to a given church and I would say that the most common answer is ‘the love of the people’. They felt welcomed, they felt included, they felt received. They felt the love of God.
There is a key issue here I don’t want to just add as a footnote. It really is essential and it needs to be understood and experienced and practiced. Our love is not an earthly, human love. It is a “love in the Spirit”. It is a supernatural love that belongs to God, was demonstrated by Christ and is received by the Spirit.
Earth-based, human love can make us tired and weary. It can become a burden to love people in our own strength. We feel we have to love people so we try harder to love them but it can only become more exhausting. We try hard to overcome our tendencies to love those who are our ‘own kind’ and our natural distaste for cranky, obnoxious people.
“Love in the Spirit” is totally separate from human ability. It is a fruit of the Spirit.
It’s not a fruit of the world, it’s not a fruit of our own discipline, it’s not even a fruit of reading the Word.
It’s a fruit of the Spirit.
It’s the Spirit who works within us to do His will and to do loving things that are on His mind.
“Without the miracle of God’s love, life has a way of hardening all of us. We become cynical, crusty senior citizens without the glow of the “first love” we experienced at the beginning of our life in Christ. This is not only bad for us but also for the cause of Christ to a watching world. But it doesn’t have to be that way: “They will still bear fruit in old age, they will stay fresh and green” (Ps.92:14).
Let’s ask for a fresh baptism of God’s love. Let’s then walk in that love so everyone encountering us can have a peek into the heart of God.”
Prayer time for a fresh baptism of God’s love.