Sunday, December 5, 2010

Love: Part Seven

This is the seventh installment in our series on Love.

Albert Einstein said, “Only a life lived for others is worth living.”

While studying this installment of the series on love, I was also, in my daily bible time, in the books of Romans. I try to walk at least a mile each morning and many times it is two to three miles. During my walks, I am listening to the Bible; hence, I tell folks that I am walking through the Bible. In my walks this week, I finished the Book of Acts, Romans, and in well into the books of Corinthians.

As I walked and listened to the book of Romans, it struck me stronger than ever before how the book refers to the legal aspects of Christianity. My dad used to say, “You can’t legislate holiness.” This is true as holiness comes from an inward desire and not outward pressure. Now, there are those that do the acts of holiness for other motives, but I will let God sort that out. Holiness is not now, nor has it ever been intended to be a set of guidelines or rules. However, that being said, there are standards to which God expects us, as children and citizens of His kingdom, to adhere.

Just as dad used to say about legislating holiness, he also told me, “If you can just get folks to love God, they will do what is right.” This is not to say that any church does not have the right to apply a code of conduct to which its members agree. This is not legislating holiness; it is merely applying a code to become a member. Being a member or not being a member of a particular church, does not affect your place on the Lamb’s Book of Life. It does not affect the condition of your soul or your salvation. It merely aligns you with like believers in a local body, working toward, and supporting a common goal.

As you know, the book of Romans is Paul’s letter to the church at Rome, as the books of Corinthians are his letters to the church at Corinth, and so forth. Rome was the capitol of the Roman Empire. It was the place where Caesar lived and the Senate convened. It was the equivalent of our Washington, DC. It was the seat of the government. It was the place where laws were written and discussed.

The population of Rome at the time of Paul’s letter was approximately 1.2 million. It is estimated that nearly half of these were slaves. There appeared to be no middle class and no free industrial population in Rome. There were Jews, brought there in captivity, but made free man living within and around the city.

To this great city was Paul brought and stayed for several years. To the patrons of the church founded there at Rome, did he address his letter, now known as the book of Romans.

It is to this church that Paul addresses many aspects of the legalities of serving God. There are places throughout the book where one could see Paul as he addressed what had to be a church filled in part with lawyers and politicians. Yet, even here, in his legal argument about salvation, Paul addresses love.

Romans 13:9 For this, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Thou shalt not covet; and if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.”

In my years working in labor as a union electrician, I was bound by a contract. A contract binds both sides to an agreement of condition. Simply stated, it said, I will do this, and you will do this. In the contract, however, was what I called a ‘general purpose’ clause. It was obvious that every situation and every circumstance could not be addressed. (There is a law in Alabama that states you cannot chain your alligator to a fire hydrant. Do you know why this law exists? It exists because someone chained an alligator to a fire hydrant, and being told to cease, said, “There is no law against it.” Well, now there is.) The clause in my contract with the union covers that with a clause that states; “No one shall do anything that is detrimental to the welfare of another member.” It covers the things not covered.

Paul stated in Romans, after giving a brief recap of the commandments, that anything else that could occur was covered by the commandment that, we love our neighbors as we love ourselves.

Even in the legal aspect of serving God, love covers it all.

  • Does not seek its own

Love takes care of others.

One need only look at a mother’s love to see this kind of love in action. A mother will deny herself for the sake of the children. We are all familiar in some capacity with this love. It is part of our foundational belief in the inherent goodness in all men, for all men had mothers.

To have the greatest example of a sacrificial love, you need look no farther than Calvary. On the cross on the hill called Golgotha, the creator of the this world and countless other worlds, gave His Spirit to reside in a human shell, to live and walk among His creation, to suffer the indignity of mocking and scourging, to bear the agony of stripes to His back, to endure the cruelest of deaths at the hands of those He came to save, to be marred above anyone ever, all for love. It is impossible for our minds to comprehend that depth and breadth of that love. We say we understand it, but we will never be able, in our flesh, to really take hold of it. We cannot, in this flesh, fathom the pureness of His love.

We were not helpless strangers. We were enemies to the cross. We were working in concert to thwart the will of God. We were blinded by the traditions of our fathers. Our every action was in opposition to the plan of God. The Word tell us the there is no great love a man can show than to lay down his life for a friend. Yet, while we were enemies of Christ, He loved us and gave His life for us.

Napoleon expressed the following thoughts while he was exiled on the rock of St. Helena. There, the conqueror of civilized Europe had time to reflect on the measure of his accomplishments. He called Count Montholon to his side and asked him, "Can you tell me who Jesus Christ was?" The count declined to respond. Napoleon countered:

"Well then, I will tell you. Alexander, Caesar, Charlemagne and I myself have founded great empires; but upon what did these creations of our genius depend? Upon force. Jesus alone founded His Empire upon love, and to this very day millions will die for Him.

I think I understand something of human nature; and I tell you, all these were men, and I am a man; none else is like Him: Jesus Christ was more than a man. I have inspired multitudes with such an enthusiastic devotion that they would have died for me. But to do this it was necessary that I should be visibly present with the electric influence of my looks, my words, of my voice. When I saw men and spoke to them, I lightened up the flame of self-devotion in their hearts. Christ alone has succeeded in so raising the mind of man toward the unseen, that it becomes insensible to the barriers of time and space. Across a chasm of eighteen hundred years, Jesus Christ makes a demand which is beyond all others difficult to satisfy; He asks for that which a philosopher may often seek in vain at the hands of his friends, or a father of his children, or a bride of her spouse, or a man of his brother. He asks for the human heart; He will have it entirely to Himself. He demands it unconditionally; and forthwith His demand is granted. Wonderful! In defiance of time and space, the soul of man, with all its powers and faculties, becomes an annexation to the empire of Christ. All who sincerely believe in Him, experience that remarkable, supernatural love toward Him. This phenomenon is unaccountable; it is altogether beyond the scope of man's creative powers. Time, the great destroyer, is powerless to extinguish this sacred flame; time can neither exhaust its strength nor put a limit to its range. This is it, which strikes me most; I have often thought of it. This it is which proves to me quite convincingly the Divinity of Jesus Christ." quoting from Henry Parry Liddon, Liddon's Bampton Lectures 1866 (London: Rivingtons, 1869), 148.

What Napoleon marveled at so greatly was the love upon which the foundation of the empire of Jesus Christ was founded. It was this love, this self sacrificing love, which rallies the human heart to the savior’s side. When we consider that God knew the beginning from the end and all things in between, we must know that when He created man, He knew that Calvary loomed in His future. More than just the pain that His self clothed robe of flesh would have to endure, was the assault of His holiness taking on the sins of the world. He, who knew no sin, became sin for us. (2nd Corinthians 5:21 For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.”) Yet, His love compelled Him. The Word tells us that “for the joy that was set before Him, He endured the cross, despising the shame” (Hebrews 12.2.)

· What joy was there in Calvary?

· What joy was there in the death that Jesus faced?

· What joy did Jesus see when He looked at the cross?

I believe, and I am entitled to believe, as are you, that the joy that was set before Him was on the other side of Calvary. His love, which did not seek its own, saw the redemptive work that his death would bring. He saw the lives of sinners cleansed. He saw a lost and dying world without hope receive an infusion of hope.

What kind of love is this?

Love does not seek its own. When we are baptized in this love, we learn the truest meaning of sacrifice. We learn the height and the depth that love can take us. Love is a flowing emotion. In order for love to flow in, love must flow out. Love is not the hoarder that man is.

Love does not seek its own.

1st John 3.17but whoso hath this worlds good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him?

Jesus spoke to one group about their lack of caring when he spoke about when he was naked and they clothed Him not, hungry and they feed Him not, and thirsty and they gave Him not to drink. They questioned Him as to when they had seen these things and not came to His aid. He replied to them that in as much as they had done it to the least of these (speaking of those around Him,) you have done it also unto Me.

The Word tell us that if we love those that love us, what thank have we, for the sinner love those that love them. This implies that we, as children of Cod, should be doing something different.

I read a story about a man who had fallen on hard times and lost everything. He was reduced to begging to get the food necessary for his survival. He knocked on the door of one particular house and the man which answered agreed to give him food, but only if he came to the back door.

Once at the back the homeowner presented the food, but told the man he could only eat it after they had prayed. He told the homeless beggar to repeat after him, “Our Father which art in heaven.” The beggar said, “Your Father, which art in heaven.” “No,” the owner corrected him, “Our Father which art in heaven.” Once more the beggar replied, “Your Father which art in heaven.”

Frustrated, the man asked the beggar why he insisted on saying “Your Father” instead of “Our Father?”

The homeless man replied, “Well, if I say ‘Our Father’ that would mean we were brothers, and I don’t much think God would take too kindly to you making your brother come to the back door for a bite to eat.”

We will show the love we possess.

I have been told that the palm tree is a taproot tree. As far into the heavens it reaches is as far into the earth it reaches. It is for this reason that, when the hurricanes come, it will bow down nearly to the ground but not be uprooted. This is unlike the mighty oak tree, whose roots run nearly on the surface of the ground, but spread out far and wide, who is uprooted in the harsh storms. Though the palm tree may sway and bend, when the winds die down, it resumes its stand, all because of its root system. I have said this before and it bears repeating here. I do not know if palm trees were the only trees planted in some areas prone to violent storms, but they are the only ones that have survived.

Knowing this, you can now judge how deeply the root runs by seeing the height of the palm tree.

Let us compare that to the love we show. The love we show is directly proportional to the love we have in our hearts. As much as we are able to show it is as much as we have. For this reason, the Bible stated that sinners were able to love those that loved them. That was the love that they had inside and found it easy to exhibit.

It is when we get the deep abiding love of God living in our hearts that our show of love will increase dramatically. In this series of studies, it is not my intent to say that sinners do not possess the ability to love. It is inherent in all of us to love and seek love in return. It is in our makeup. It is how we are put together. Before we came to God, we all still possessed the ability to love and be loved in return. We showed the love we possessed.

When we came to Christ, we experienced a new depth of love. Love went deeper. Our love sprang up in return. As we knew greater love, we were able to love greater.

I wrote a piece some years ago about the cycle of love that applies somewhat here. It was about the love between my wife and I, but it makes a point about love that fits. It said:

I give my love freely and un-obligatorily. I send it wholeheartedly to the object of my love. That which is returned to me isn't my love. My love is accepted and what is returned is the love inside her. It mingles with mine (as mine did with hers). The cycle continues until the much mingling creates a ring, a bond, between us where our loves course, indistinguishably. It is at that point, where our two uniquely individual loves become one love. It becomes a fountain of inflowing and outpouring. It replenishes as it diminishes.

Now, we can apply that to the love that is shed abroad in our hearts. God gives us His love. We, in turn, send out the love that is within us, but it is no longer our love alone. It is our love, co-mingled with the love of God. it is to come to a place where the two loves are indistinguishable from each other. Our love and God’s love become one love. It replenished as it diminishes.

The story of the Good Samaritan illustrates the unselfishness of love. It was a lawyer that asked the question, “Who is my neighbor,” in response to Jesus’ command to ‘love our neighbors as ourselves.’

A certain man traveling (presumed to be a Jew) from Jerusalem to Jericho, was taken upon by thieves and left beaten, robbed, and dying on the side of the road. First, a priest, and then a Levite come by but both avoid the man. Finally, a Samaritan came along. Now, Jews and Samaritans were not on friendly terms. As the matter of fact, they despised each other. The Samaritan bound up the wounds of the Jew, sat him on his own animal, brought him to an inn and took care of him. When he left the next day, he gave the innkeeper money and told him to care for the man and if there were additional expenses, he would cover them when he came back through that way.

It is from this Bible parable that we derive at the term, “Good Samaritan” to mean someone that shows kindness to strangers. It is someone that will show love without cause other than the love within him.

This is the love that Jesus tells us that we must, not only possess, but exhibit.

This is the selfless love that Christ showed to us while we were still sinners and enemies of the cross.

This is the love that binds the wounds of broken travelers on the “Way of Blood.”

This is the love that sits the weary on our own seat of reast.

This is the love that takes in the injured and cares for them.

This is the love that takes from its own purse to meet the need of those in need.

This is the love that does not seek its own.

Next: Love is not easily provoked.

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