At Gateway Church in Austin we continued a new series called “The One Anothers”
Relationships are a wonderful thing. We find companionship, comfort, wisdom, strength, intimacy, and so much more with other people…until conflict happens, that is. But when others hurt or anger us, we sometimes feel excused from loving them if that means speaking the truth with gentle grace, which God has commanded us to do. So is it worth it to push through our fear, hurt, and anger to pursue reconciliation in our relationships? How does God want this process to look in our lives?
Audio of the Message I Shared:
Here are the message notes by John Burke:
We’re finishing our series on the One Anothers series today talking about how to Love One Another. Last week, Hurricane Harvey tried to take us down, but we didn’t let it. You think Hurricane Harvey has caused destruction—that’s nothing compared to the human toll of not dealing with hurt and anger and conflict the way Jesus taught.
Now here’s the problem with Loving One Another—everyone wants love and wants to be loving—but there are different definitions of love. In the New Testament of the Bible, there are 3 Greek words used to define love. English just has 1 word, love, where the Bible has 3.
The first is EROS LOVE – This is typically what the world means when it says “I fell in love” or “I just feel so much love for you.” The Greeks called it Eros, from which we get the word “erotic” but eros was more than just sexual love—it’s the kind of love I give in order to get something I think will satisfy my desires. Eros is found in the Song of Solomon in the Bible. A love that celebrates the beauty or strength of the beloved. It’s a love that comes from desiring the attractive qualities of the other. It’s love that looks for someone or something of great worth to increase our security or worth. We learn to value this kind of love early on. Eros without a Higher love can use others for its own pleasures, which does great damage to One Another. Eros by itself leaves us all fighting to prove we’re pretty enough, smart enough, worth enough, strong enough, have brains or bucks enough to be of value.
But God calls us to a higher love. We’re talking about how God invites us to become his children, in a New Family (the church) with New Family Rules (these One Anothers) that help us all grow up spiritually into loving, healthy, adults. In the church, we can love each other with only Eros love. Not in a sexual way, but we only look to associate with those who can do something for us. You’re just like me, you make me feel good about myself, you have something of value to offer me. Maybe you’re here just for business contacts, or because you don’t want to feel alone, or at it’s worst, just to hook up. The world is full of examples of this kind of love. I stay married to you until you don’t meet my needs. I do for you as long as I like what you do for me. Eros love is constantly tuned into WIIFM—what’s in it for me.
God calls his followers toward a Higher Love. It’s defined as PHILEO LOVE– a brotherly, sisterly kind of love—where Philadelphia gets its name (the city of brotherly love—unfortunately, Phili was also ranked the most dangerous city in America last year—so a name does not a loving city make). Phileo Love is a love that doesn’t look to take but cares for the other, a true friendship, a truly other-centered kind of love. The One Another passage we’re going to focus in on today, Roman’s 12, defines Phileo Love: 10 Be devoted to one another in [phileo] love. Honor one another above yourselves… Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality…Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. Romans 12:10-16
The Higher love God calls us to is not self-centered, but other-centered. It’s a devoted-to-one-another kind of love. I looked up synonyms for devoted—it means dedicated, faithful, devout–you’re committed to showing this brotherly, sisterly kind of love. Paul gives some illustrations of Phileo Love—honor one another more than you seek to be honored. Think about that—we all secretly want to be honored, or lifted up high, put on a pedestal (come on…you do, or call it “valued” if that helps you be honest)…and the world secretly clamours and manipulates it’s way to be honored. God wants us to Love One Another by finding ways to Honor, lift up, celebrate one another. That’s Phileo love.
Romans 12 says Phileo Love “Shares with the Lord’s people who are in need, practices hospitality.” We do this as a church—10% of every dollar goes to our Community Care and benevolence and helping other churches—a volunteer team uses these funds to help meet crisis needs by empowering people in crisis to make a plan to get on their feet. We’re using that to respond to Hurricane Harvey immediate needs as well. But this sharing and hospitality happens in informal ways around here.
Now—we can’t show Phileo Love for 1000s of people, can we? This kind of love takes time, devotion, commitment—and you can probably only do this for a small group of people. You can’t help everyone move. You can’t open your home or financially help everyone in crisis, you can’t visit every person who is sick or make meals for every family with a newborn. Jesus couldn’t even do that. That’s why Jesus called 12 to be with him. And he demonstrated this Phileo Love—he served them, he taught them, he shared meals and was vulnerable with them. But he didn’t do this with everyone. Jesus revealed the very character of God as the Son of God, but he was also the perfect human. Yet as a human, he felt the limits of time and space we struggle with.
But there’s a Higher kind of love still—it goes beyond brotherly or sisterly love. The greek word is AGAPE LOVE. It’s love that only comes from God. It’s a love that goes beyond what humans have the capability to exhibit typically. This is the love that the world needs most. Love of Another kind. Think of that person hardest for you to love, your ex, your obnoxious in-law, your enemy. Romans 12 also talks about Agape love: [Agape] Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good… Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse…17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil…On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
Some of you hear that and think, “That’s Crazy—help my enemy, bless those who curse me? I like the Heap Burning Coals on their head part—can we hear more about that?” See, This is the love God has for each of us. He wants us to receive it from Him, so we can give it to a world in desperate need. Agape is love of another kind—a Divine Love that makes no sense to this world. But it heals the world.
THIS is the essence of Love. This is love of another kind — the kind that flowed out of Jesus as people nailed his hands and feet to a bloody cross and He said “Father forgive them, they don’t know what they do.” It’s the kind he wants to give us if we’re willing to take him as our Lord, teacher and guide and learn from him. To learn how to be filled up with the love and security that comes from God, so that we don’t feel the need to take or defend or justify, but instead we have something to give that can bring worth and value and beauty to those who don’t deserve it at all. But That kind of love, must come from a source outside of us. We need God’s help. It’s the kind of love that loves the hard to love person, the spouse or ex who keeps hurting us. It’s the kind of love that seeks to bless rather than curse the co-worker that’s out for us. If you still think you don’t need God, just try to love those who hurt you, wrong you, attack—bless when cursed. You’ll see why you need God.
We all have those Hard to Love people. we all have adversaries or opponents who we feel animosity toward. Isn’t that true? It may be the owner of a competing business who’s stealing away your best customers. And if you’re honest, you hate him for putting your livelihood in jeopardy. It may be the fellow salesman who’s fighting against you for advancement. It may be the person who’s firmly entrenched above you in the corporate structure, and you resent her for blocking your path to the top. It may be the person who holds an opposing view in politics or some issue. Or it might be the teacher who refuses to cut you any slack. It may be a former spouse who’s trying to get custody of the kids. Or the girlfriend who broke your heart. Or the father who trashed your self-worth. Or the loud obnoxious neighbor. Or a former friend who spilled your secrets to others. It may simply be that obnoxious Person you serve with at church, or who joined your Lifegroup that you really can’t stand.
Have that person in mind? Here’s how you begin to love with Agape love. 1 John 4:7 Dear friends, let us [Agape] love one another, for [Agape] love comes from God. Everyone who [Agape] loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Whoever does not [Agape] love does not know God, because God is [Agape] love. 9 This is how God showed his [Agape] love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 10 This is [Agape] love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to [Agape] love one another [how?] … 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. 1 John 4:7-16
Agape love is not humanly possible. It comes from God. This love is the very essence of Who God is—a love that’s unconditional, a love that loves the undeserving, a love that heals an evil world. Today we’re celebrating Baptism. Baptism is going public with your faith—and this is the essence of that faith. God demonstrated his Agape love toward you, toward every person, so we can reconnect to the Source of all Love.
We’ve all rebelled against the One who Created us. If you’ve ever know right from wrong, yet did wrong. If you’ve ever broken your own moral code. If you ever sensed Gods will or ways but chosen your own—you rejected the rightful CEO of life, the Source of all love. Yet God’s Agape love sent Jesus, His son, to demonstrate a sacrificial love that lays down everything, His own life—to pay for all our wrongs, sins, rebellious thoughts—all of it can be forgiven, past, present, even future. So we can become Spiritual Children with a New Father, growing up as Brothers and Sisters in a New Family, learning a New Kind of Love.
And all it requires is Acknowledging – acknowledging what? [God] sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins… ]If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God. You acknowledge that you didn’t deserve God’s love any more than those people who have wronged you deserve your kindness. And yet, His Agape love sent Jesus to pay a price you owed—the price of God’s justice to take us back. You can stand forgiven, loved, adopted by God into his family forever—but he won’t force you into His family. He waits for you to acknowledge “I need what Jesus did to count for me. I need your forgiveness, I need your Agape love.”
Then, if you’ve reconnected to the source of all Love, when hard to love people come your way, thank God for them – Ask him: “what are you teaching me about Your love for me? And Help me rely on Your love to love this person.” See, you ARE that hard to love person. Humanly speaking, God should feel the same way about you and me—yet he doesn’t. So He allows this hard to love person, so You and I can learn more about His great love for us… And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.…to love them. We learn to RELY more and more on His Agape love to help us love beyond ourselves.
Frederick Beakner, a very insightful author, says these words. He says that “the love for equals is a human thing — a friend for a friend, a brother for a brother. It is to love what is loving and lovely. The world smiles. The love for the less fortunate is a beautiful thing — the love for those who suffer, for those who are poor, the sick, the failures, the unlovely. This is compassion, and it touches the heart of the world… Then there is the love for the enemy — love for the one who does not love you, but who mocks you and threatens and inflicts pain; the tortured’s love for the torturer. This, Frederick Beakner says, is God’s love. It overwhelms the world.”