Monday, March 30, 2015

Loving Deeply From the Heart

    As we finish up 1 Peter chapter one today, I would like to let you know that verse 22 caught my attention at the very outset of this sermon series.  I don’t know why, but the vision of a community of people loving one another deeply from the heart made me pause and say, “What a beautiful thing.  What a beautiful idea that people would gather together with genuine love; real love; and they would love one another deeply from the bottom of their hearts.”  I don’t know if that picture grasps your imagination, but it grasps mine, and I don’t know about you, but it grasps mine because very, very few of our relationships in this day and age even come close to this kind of relationship.

    You might wonder why I say that–especially those of you who are in a relationship with a significant other who you love and cherish; especially those of you who are parents who dote on your children and would die for them.  Aren’t these relationships from the heart?  In one sense, yes, but let’s delve a little bit deeper into what I think it means to love another person deeply from the heart.

    Just what does it mean to love another person deeply from the heart?  I think this: entering into a relationship with another person even if you know you will get nothing out of it.  Think about that for just a moment.  Loving another person deeply from the heart means that you knowingly love another person and support another person and care for the well being of another person without getting anything in return.  I want you to think about that for just a second here, and I want you to think about the relationships you have in your life.  I want you to think about the people you love.  I want you to think about the friendships you have.  I want you to think about the people you hang around, and I want you to be honest–blatantly honest with yourself.  Do you receive something from these relationships?

    I think, if you are brutally honest with yourself, you would answer yes.  You would affirm that in every relationship you are a part of, you benefit in some fashion from that relationship.  You get something out of that relationship.  Theoretically, you receive love and affection from your spouse or significant other.  You receive joy from watching your children grow and develop.  You receive companionship, laughter, and a sense of camaraderie from your friendships.  If you are in a business relationship, you receive money for your time or for your goods.  If you are helping another person out, you receive joy and satisfaction that you helped someone in need.  In just about every single relationship we have, we receive some sort of benefit.  And here is the question: if you received absolutely no benefit what-so-ever from a relationship, would you still stay in it? 

    •    If you received no love and affection from your significant other, would you stay with him or her?
    •    If you received no satisfaction from raising your children, would you continue to provide for them when they yelled and screamed at you?
    •    If your business partner paid you nothing for your time and efforts, would you stay at that job?
    •    If you paid for a product and the company refused to send what you paid for to you, would you order from them again?
    •    If you did not feel a sense of satisfaction from helping others in need, would you continue to do it?
    •    If your friends continuously kept taking advantage of you and your good nature, would you continue to hang around them?

    Most of us, I think, would not continue in such relationships.  Most of us would, at some point, realize that our love, our energy, our time, and our money is being thrown down a vacuum which literally sucks the life out of us.  We would wake up to this realization and say to ourselves, “I don’t get anything out of this relationship.  I am tired and worn out from giving and giving and giving and getting nothing in return.  I am out of here!” 

    And yet, if we were truly loving others deeply from the heart, we would not exit such relationships.  We would not walk away from those who take advantage of us. We would not turn away from abuse or neglect.  We would stay even at great risk to ourselves.  It’s terribly hard to really and truly love another deeply from the heart.  In a very real way, we simply are not built to have this kind of love.

    But there is One who indeed had this kind of love.  There was One who implemented it at great cost to Himself.  Today is Palm Sunday, and we are reminded of Jesus who came riding into Jerusalem triumphantly on the back of a donkey.  The imagery is priceless as it hearkens back to the Old Testament prophecy that the Messiah would enter into Jerusalem riding upon a donkey.  Those who were spreading their garments and laying palm branches knew this.  They understood the imagery.  They understood the prophesy.  They were terribly excited given the burden of taxation and rule they had experienced under the Greeks and then the Romans.  They knew of Jesus’ acts of power and might.  They knew He claimed power and authority from God.  It was only a matter of time before He would call down God’s mighty hand to deliver them from oppression.  They would soon be free!  It is no wonder they shouted “Hosanna!”

    But I want to shift the perspective a little bit.  I want to shift the perspective to Jesus’ perspective.  The people believed they would benefit from Jesus’ arrival into Jerusalem, but I want to ask you this morning: what benefit would Jesus receive from His arrival into Jerusalem?  What benefit would Jesus receive from engaging the crowds?  What benefit was Jesus going to get from this whole ordeal?  Think about this very, very hard.  So often, when it comes to Christianity and the faith you and I espouse, we think about ourselves.  We think about what God has done.  We think about the resurrection.  We think about it from our perspective and the benefits we receive.  But now, at this moment, think about what benefits Jesus was going to get.  Think about what benefits Jesus stood to receive by riding into Jerusalem into the heart of His enemies strength and power.  Can you think of
any benefits to Jesus?  Can you think of anything good that He is about to get?
    You see, here’s what Jesus is about to receive:

•    He will be betrayed by one of His closest followers.
•    He will be deserted by all of His followers.
•    His closest friend will deny he knew Jesus three times.
•    He will be arrested.
•    He will be tried in a kangaroo court.
•    He will hear the crowd that proclaimed, “Hosanna” cry out, “Crucify Him!”
•    He will be beaten.
•    He will be forced to carry a cross.
•    He will be forced to wear a crown of thorns.
•    He will be bloodied and mocked.
•    He will have nails driven through His ankles and wrists.
•    He will hang and see His mother weeping.
•    He will see soldiers gamble for His clothing.
•    He will feel abandoned by His Father in heaven.
•    He will feel the wrath of God descend upon Him as payment for the world’s sin.
•    He will have a spear pierce His side.
•    He will die.

    This is what Jesus will receive.  This is what Jesus will experience.  This is what Jesus will get for being in a relationship with humankind.  This is what God will receive from you and me.  What benefit does Jesus get from being in a relationship with us?  Nothing.  Absolutely nothing.  He gets nothing from us, but He gave everything for us.

    For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son so that everyone who believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.  For God sent the Son into the world not to condemn the world but that the world may be saved through Him.

    You see, Jesus loved you deeply from the heart.  Jesus loved me deeply from the heart.  Jesus loved the world deeply from the heart–when we gave Him nothing in return.  He died for you when He received nothing from you.  He died for me when He received nothing from me.  When you contemplate this, you see just what kind of wondrous love Jesus has for us!  It truly is wondrous.  It truly is amazing.

    And when you begin to understand this kind of love; when it begins to capture your heart; when you know that Jesus died for you when you didn’t deserve it, you begin to experience deep transformation.  Your heart begins to change.  You begin to look at others and think, “Jesus died for them.  Jesus loves them, just like He loves me.  Maybe I cannot love perfectly; deeply from the heart.  Maybe I can’t enter into a relationship without receiving some sort of benefit.  Maybe I can’t give completely and sacrificially with no thought of return, but I will give it my best shot.  I will give it my best shot because Jesus gave me His.  Jesus gave me everything.  Jesus gave me Himself, and now I will strive to love another deeply from the heart.”

    And here’s the marvelous thing.  Imagine a community of people who understand what Jesus did for them.  Imagine a community of people who understand that Jesus poured Himself out for them.  Imagine they now pour themselves out into each other, but they never feel empty.  They never feel taken advantage of.  They never feel worn out or tired or upset that no one cares what they do?  Why?  Because, of a couple of things.  First, they realize they have an unending source of love and fulfillment.  They realize God, Jesus is still pouring Himself out for them.  They do not worry about being taken advantage of because they continue to be in a relationship that sustains them.  That’s the first point.  The second point, I’d like to put it in these terms to illustrate: I as a pastor, empty myself into you, and you as a congregation empty yourself into me.  We freely give to one another without thought of receiving anything, but we do so because we love one another deeply from the heart.  And this doesn’t just happen between pastor and congregation: it happens between each of you as you walk with each other.  We unceasingly fill one another with love and compassion.  Can you imagine a community filled with such love?  Can you imagine a community filled with such joy?  Can you imagine a community so transformed because of what Jesus accomplished on our behalf?  I can.  And it’s beautiful.   “Now that you have purified your souls by your obedience to the truth so that you have genuine mutual love, love one another deeply from the heart.”–because Jesus loved you deeply from His. Amen.


ACB70 said...

What a great sermon! I look forward to your blogs. I too can imagine a community like this, it would be grand!

Unknown said...

With All Due respect:

Oh my, it does sound grand. Sort of EDEN like, please pardon my cynicism, but with my own experience over the past 6 decades, with "Love" and all of it's numerous colorations, and manifestations, as a seeker after Love, Truth and Beauty, in their PUREST forms, I have been humbled on more Than one occasion when my own motives and notions upon Self reflection and further scrutiny proved to be less than PURE.

Gosh, I wonder if there might NOT be something in That arid TEJAS air... I recall a community striving for perfect Love... With LOTS AND LOTS of GUNS and Ammo, somewhere around WACO,and a United States AG named Janet Reno if memory serves.

This Sermon puts me in mind of John Lennon, and his imagining....

I believe it to be quite unlikely that said community will EVER be realized, prior to being shuffled off of this Mortal Coil.