John 15:9-15 (NLT)
“I have loved you even as the Father has loved me. Remain in my love. When you obey my commandments, you remain in my love, just as I obey my Father’s commandments and remain in his love. I have told you these things so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow! This is my commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you. There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you slaves, because a master doesn’t confide in his slaves. Now you are my friends, since I have told you everything the Father told me.”
I have a friend who is very dear to me. I love her very much. She is bright and funny yet will quickly put me in my place in a kind and loving way. We did not choose to become friends but it was friendship forged by fire. As we began to spend more and more time together, it became clear that our pathways through life crisscrossed many times figuratively though not literally. It is an easy relationship. The kind of friendship that you miss when not engaged. My friend is not a believer, yet she possess more passion, compassion, love and commitment to others than most Christians that I know. She will gladly lay down her life for another person giving unselfishly of herself in so many ways. She accepts others who they are and where they are. She believes in people and looks for the best in them rather than dissecting their life to make her plight seem better. She exemplifies the life that I believe we are called to live while much of the church would judge and condemn some of her life choices, her ability to love and capacity of love for all mankind comes from the measure of faith and hint of eternity hidden deep in her heart. She does not know Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord because those called to love have not loved her at all. How does someone who does not know the Lord, have the ability to “out” love those called to love?
Jesus told His Disciples to remain in His Love. What does that mean? How can we maintain a relationship with someone who is long gone? The purpose of loving others benefits us as lovers of God because it fills us with joy! If we will learn to love other people as Jesus showed us how to love, our life will become a fountain of overflowing joy. “This is my commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you.” Selflessness is not fashionable in the world in which we live, breath, work and play. Every game is designed to have one winner creating a competitive nature intolerable of those who do not perform at a high level. Every facet of the media is based on the dramatic qualities of life or it is not successful. We are so inundated with makeups and breakups that we have become callous to quality of love called commitment. We conduct our relationships via text messages and social media seldom diving into each other’s lives to lend a hand or a hug but rather reaching out from afar not to get too involved or inconvenienced after all we have our own problems right. This is has created a generation of giving and receiving without the benefit of human contact. I am just as guilty as everyone else. I would rather text than talk on the phone. I would rather engage in social media than take the time to find someone in person. It’s quick and easy. Yet the moment that I do find myself face-to-face with that person, it is clear that I have missed so much and long for more interaction. God wants us to be His Friend. Jesus Christ commands us to love one another as friends. His Spirit lives inside of us to facilitate such a lifestyle. It is time that the Body of Christ decided to be faithful to friendship once again.
John 13:34-35 (NLT)
“So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.”
Our love for one another and everyone else proves that we are disciples of Jesus Christ. It should be our trademark. It is the only “commandment” that Jesus Christ gave us. The Law of God is summed up in the statement “we should love others as we do ourselves.” Sadly this is not the case and even with the Lord giving us the directive to do so as a direct challenge of discipleship – the Body of Christ is still identified as judgmental and intolerant by the hurting world. The first fruit of the Holy Spirit is love. (Galatians 5:22) To attempt righteousness without love is pure folly. We know love simply because Jesus Christ first loved us, but rather than cultivating that love and letting it overflow from our life – we hoard it all. We want God to meet our needs but fail to recognize the needs of others. We want Jesus to forgive all our sins but are quick to judge and condemn others.
I Corinthians 13:1-3 (NLT)
If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing. If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing.
Our friendship with God is based solely on the fact that Jesus Christ died for our sins. (Romans 5:8-11) It is restored not by anything we do or say even the sinner’s prayer. It is a change of heart made by the Lord alone. Removing sin as a barrier in our life, we are now free. Our freedom has a purpose. We are free to love one another without needing anything in return. (Galatians 5:13-14) Not only is it our right but it is our obligation as believers to love one another as friends. (Romans 13:8-9) We owe it to the world to share the love of Jesus Christ which is not religious but the pursuit of relationships. The kind of friendship that lays down our life for others. (John 15:13) That means relationships can be messy, uncomfortable, inconvenient and uneasy sometimes but it doesn’t matter because our faith depends on our ability to love. Faith is useless if it does not produce love in our life. (James 2:22-23) God is love. If His Spirit lives inside of us than we have the capacity to love and must learn to love like Jesus does. The world is dying because there is no such things as faithful friends anymore. This does not necessarily mean faith-full but friends who are committed to love each other even to the death of pride and self that reaches past comfort and complacency to love all people as Jesus did. When the world is doing a better job than believers, we are in trouble.
James 5:15-17 (NLT)
Such a prayer offered in faith will heal the sick, and the Lord will make you well. And if you have committed any sins, you will be forgiven. Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results. Elijah was as human as we are, and yet when he prayed earnestly that no rain would fall, none fell for three and a half years!
Next time you are in church, look to the right and left of you. Do you know their name? What is the first thing that comes to your mind when you see them? Do you want to know them? If you can say, yes I know my fellow church members – good for you! You probably are in better shape than two-thirds of Body of Christ today who have no idea who the people are that they worship with. Guilty as charged. What about your neighbor? The people who live up and down your street do you know who they are? Could you knock on the door if you needed something and would they answer the call? What about the people you work with? What about the person you see at store every Friday when you shop for groceries? You say “hello” and wave for years on end comfortable with the protective barriers that keep us distant and uninvolved while priding ourselves because we acknowledged them. We wonder why miracles don’t happen anymore? Why aren’t prayers being answered? “The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.” Righteousness resulting from faith in Jesus Christ commands us to love one another. Our faith should “grow into love”. The kind of love that is welcomed by other people. (Matthew 13:13-32) The seeds of good deeds become a tree of life as we attempt to “win” friends rather than convince them with our words that God is love. (Proverbs 11:30) Flourishing faith is not demonstrated in our ability to follow the letter of the Law but rather in the overflowing and unconditional love that we have for others. (2 Thessalonians 1:3) I believe that when we learn to love others like Jesus did and tells us to that the Power of God will flow in the Body of Christ once more. Righteousness is a selfless act of love on the part of Christ. We accept it as a free gift and have no right to place conditions on our love for the world. We fight and quarrel with one another because we are doubtful and unknowledgeable of God’s Love acquired fully by faith. We try to do the right things but keep a careful boundary around our heart as not to be hurt. When we decide to fully discover the Love of God available by faith in Jesus Christ alone producing righteousness – we will be considered friends of God. Friends of God know and understand that His Love is limitless. We will see miracles again just because we are praying for each other! “And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.” (Ephesians 3:18-19)
Hebrews 10:23-25 (NLT)
Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep his promise. Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.
What is love? “Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.” (I Corinthians 13:4-7) I have been walking this journey of faith as my son has battled cancer with this precious friend I have told you about today. I have many other friends so do not be offended if you are one of them. But with the exception of her, all the others are “believers”. I can read the definition of “love” in I Corinthians 13 and honestly admit that she has consistently demonstrated this definition every step of the way. She has been there sticking closer than a brother (or sister). She is my faithful friend. If she does decide to ask Jesus Christ to be her Savior one day which is my profound prayer, I believe that she will have won the war against her flesh because she knows how to love unselfishly and unconditionally already. She will always be my true friend because she loves genuinely. She has taught me how to love others by her example of love. We must never forsake the importance of relationships in our life and the purpose of them. Friendships are there to strengthen us when we become weak. (Exodus 17:11-13) Natural friendships provide protection and power because the Lord honors relationships of love and commitment. (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12) You cannot do it on your own and God never intended for you to. Our very lives should be “expressions of God’s Love” so that when pressed, stressed and pushed that is what comes out of us. (I John 4:10-12) We are to share our lives as friends or risk being labeled “lukewarm” and you know what the Lord thinks of that. (Revelation 3:15-20) The Lord is desperate to find those who will love others and fulfill His Commandment. Why? Love produces overflowing joy in our life. Our faith requires that we love others. We cannot help it because that is what has put us in right standing with God – the Love of Jesus Christ demonstrated when He laid down His Life to restore such friendships! Honor the Lord by being a faithful friend. Don’t let this world out love us church. We are the Body of Christ. He laid His Life down to make us friends with God again. We must love others as Christ loves us. It begins with you! (and me!)
I Thessalonians 3:11-13 (NLT)
May God our Father and our Lord Jesus bring us to you very soon. And may the Lord make your love for one another and for all people grow and overflow, just as our love for you overflows. May he, as a result, make your hearts strong, blameless, and holy as you stand before God our Father when our Lord Jesus comes again with all his holy people. Amen.