Sermon as preached by Hayley Solich on 4 May 2014 Living Grace Dianella.
WHAT DOES LOVE REALLY LOOK LIKE?
Play the video – What does love look like?
Many of us struggle with problems in our relationships. We are misunderstood. We misunderstand others. We are judged and we judge others. We speak before we think. At times we forget that we can never really know what it is like to walk in another person’s shoes and we hold up against an almost unachievable code and so conflict is ever trying to divide and conquer us. We sin against each other and so there is a need for forgiveness, for grace and for mercy. There is a need for a demonstration of unconditional love.
So how do we combat this flow of anti-love in our lives? What does true love really look like? What does living God’s unconditional love look like?
How do we turn the tide that is the wave of anti-love in our society? How do we create family and community that will stand the test of time and trial; how do we create personal relationships and a community that is lasting and nourishing?
In the past couple of weeks, I have found myself snapping at my husband. I confess it. Life has been stressful and we’ve both been venting on each other. In fact, I think our whole family have been venting on each other. This has greatly saddened and challenged me and it has made me re-think my position and my behaviours and has prompted me to share this message today, first as a challenge to myself and second as a challenge to us all to find that deeper place of love that is occupied by God’s spirit within each of us.
QUESTIONS TO PONDER
I want us to take a moment and to close our eyes and to individually reflect on our own behaviours this year. Ask yourself this question: (SLIDE 1)
Are my behaviours powerfully constructive or powerfully destructive?
Are my words, thoughts and actions creating life in myself and others?
Would they say that they feel loved by me in all that I am saying and doing?
Am I building others up or tearing them down?
Am I actively seeking to love my neighbour as myself?
I was on Facebook and I spotted this post from a friend of a friend. It was a quote from Brad Pitt, talking about his wife’s decline in health.
“My girl got sick. She was constantly nervous because of problems at work, personal life, her failures and children. She lost 30 pounds and weighed about 90 pounds. She got very skinny and was constantly crying. She was not a happy woman. She had suffered from continuing headaches, heart pain and jammed nerves in her back and ribs. She did not sleep well, falling asleep only in the mornings and got tired very quickly during the day. Our relationship was on the verge of a break up. Her beauty was leaving her somewhere, she had bags under her eyes, she was poking her head, and stopped taking care of herself. She refused to shoot the films and rejected any role. I lost hope and thought that we’ll get separated soon…
But then I decided to act. After all I’ve got the MOST Beautiful Woman on earth. She is the idol of more than half of men and women on earth, and I was the one allowed to fall asleep next to her and to hug her. I began to shower her with flowers, kisses and compliments. I surprised and pleased her every minute. I gave her a lot of gifts and lived just for her. I spoke in public only about her. I incorporated all themes in her direction. I praised her in front of her own and our mutual friends. You won’t believe it, but she blossomed. She became better. She gained weight, was no longer nervous and loved me even more than ever. I had no clue that she CAN love that much.
And then I realized one thing: the woman is the reflection of her man.
If you love her to the point of madness, she will become it.”
This quote got me thinking about love and what it really looks like. This quote got me thinking about my attitude to my husband and to my family and it challenged me to ask the question is there more dying to self that I could be doing that could see a greater level of life in my children and husband that I am not already giving? This quote got me thinking about Jesus and all that He did for us to demonstrate God’s love.
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” – John 3:16
This was an act of total self-sacrifice, just as Brad Pitt’s loving on his wife was also an act of self-sacrifice. Both of these acts brought about a transformation in the object of their love.
For us, it has brought about salvation and acceptance with God that empowers us to live life fully.
For Angelina, it was about transformation of her health and self-esteem. What a powerful gift Brad gave his wife. Both of them achieved the same thing: they liberated the other person to be able to give and receive love in a deeper way.
With regards to the act of Brad Pitt, it reminds me of where Paul told the Ephesians:
“that husbands should love their wives as Christ loved the church and gave himself for her… and in so doing she is sanctified.” Ephesians 5:25 and further on in v28 “In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.”
But what does that word love here really mean? Does it mean eros – sexual love? Does it mean philos – friendship love. Does it mean Eunoia – love out of kindness. Or does it mean Agape love – love that is without payment in return?
Have you ever found yourself in the trap of sometimes giving love, acceptance or understanding and expecting the same in return?
I think the trap is to think that if you give more that maybe the other person will miraculously give as much back, however, this is not how Agape love works. Agape love gives expecting nothing in return.
And I think that perhaps Brad Pitt was acting out of agape love for his wife initially, although he certainly did get a big return on his investment of love. Initially, his wife was incapable of responding and isn’t this a picture of humanity and God?
So how does this notion of self-sacrifice versus the need for the other person to perform in a certain way resolve itself in our Christian walk?
We are called to AGAPE love. We are called to 1 Corinthians 13 love.
This adequately describes the behaviours of love.
1If I speak in the tonguesa of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast,b but do not have love, I gain nothing.
4Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
8Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. 9For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. 11When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. 12For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
13And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
This is our challenge to love like this.
I often feel this pulling inside me towards unconditionally loving others despite their behaviours, yet justice is often screaming out to me that it wants its day in court. Do you ever feel like this?
The challenge I think is to approach all of life from a position of humility, from a place of self-sacrifice and from a position of love.
“By this will all men know that you are my disciples by your love for one another.”
Unconditional love is undeserved. This implies that there must be things that are unacceptable or unappealing in our behaviours that require a deeper level of self-sacrifice to overlook them.
If God’s love remains despite our bad behaviours, then surely our love can also outlast other’s wrongdoings too.
I believe we are asked, beckoned, called to, encouraged, exhorted to live in a way that is pleasing to God, to walk the narrow path demonstrated by Jesus and also by the Apostles that followed Him.
Jesus demonstrated forgiveness despite serious wrongdoing through the story of the woman at the well, asking Zaccheus if he could come over for dinner and the story of the prodigal son, to name just a few.
Pauls sharing of 1 Corinthians 13 with the Corinthians as presented in The Bible Series brought home to me the context of this scripture. I saw Paul preaching this message to the Corinthians after he had his massive life change from persecutor to Apostle. It was almost as though he was re-framing what passionate service of God looked like from acts of religious piety to acts of humble servanthood.
I want to give us all a few moments to examine our hearts, to consider our relationships with others. To ask ourselves, “What does love really look like in my life?” While you are considering that I want to play this song from Misty Edwards and if you want to make a commitment to love unconditionally then I would like you to come up the front as an act of making that commitment. And if you need to ask forgiveness from a brother or sister because of something that has happened then go to them and put it right.
We want a church that is based on ‘LIVING GRACE’, that is a love response to God’s unconditional love for us.