Love Grows Up

by Pastor Bob Miller

Our theme recently has been on loving others and what that looks like. In writing to the Philippians, Paul opens his letter with a prayer for this church. He prays, “that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight." When he wrote to the church in Thessalonica, his main prayer concern was the same. For Paul, “loving others” was a priority. Listen to his heart as he prays in 1 Thessalonians 3:11-12,

“…May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and everyone else, just as ours does for you.” May He strengthen your hearts so that you will be blameless and holy in the presence of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus comes with all his holy ones.”

I’ve heard people express the desire to grow deeper spiritually, but I got the impression that their spiritual growth had nothing to do with their love for others. It was all about “feeling closer to God,” or about what “new information” they were learning. I am amazed at how we so often want to divorce spiritual growth from our growth in love for one another. We fail to see that to grow up in Christ Jesus is directly related to our growth in love for each other and everyone else. Paul’s big desire is that their love will increase and overflow for each other and everyone else.

Now when Paul writes his second letter to the Thessalonians, he begins in verse 3 with these words, “We ought always to thank God for you, brothers; and rightly so, because your faith is growing more and more.” Have you ever wondered, what growth in faith looks like? What does Paul see that indicates a deeper faith?

He goes on, “and the love every one of you has for each other is increasing.” Our growth in faith is revealed in our growth in love for one another. Paul was bragging on them and of all the things he could have said, he didn’t say, “You’ve got a great pastor,” or “Your buildings were magnificent.” No. He said, “Your faith is growing and your love for one another is increasing.”

Here is a church that is growing up into maturity. Wouldn’t that be the ultimate compliment for someone to say about Kailua Nazarene? “You’ve got to go to that church. The people really care about you. They love just like Jesus loved!” Our goal should be to love as Jesus loved and that our love would grow more and more like His love.

But how does Jesus love? What did His love look like? We saw as we looked at 1 Corinthians 13, where Paul dressed love up by giving us a definition of what it does and does not do, that if we put the name of Jesus where love goes, the definition makes perfect sense:

“Jesus is kind, Jesus is patient. Jesus does not envy, Jesus does not boast, He is not proud, He is not rude. Jesus is not self-seeking. He is not easily angered. Jesus keeps no record of wrongs. He does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. Jesus always protects, always trust, always hopes, always perseveres. Jesus never fails.”trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Jesus never fails!”

Now if you would turn to Matthew’s gospel, Chapter 9, we get a glimpse of what ONE DAY in the life of Jesus looked like. In this one chapter, Jesus interacts with 17 different groups of people. And what an incredible day it is as we see Jesus engaged in the lives of others. He healed the sick, He ate with sinners, He raised a dead girl. In verse 33, the multitudes declared: “Nothing like this has ever been seen in Israel.” And you get the sense that this day was not unique but it was just ONE DAY in the life of Jesus as He loved others. Matthew summarizes what Jesus’ life was about in the next two verses.

And Jesus was going about all the cities and the villages teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every kind of disease and every kind of sickness. And seeing the multitudes, he felt compassion for them because they were distressed and downcast like sheep without a shepherd.

As I look at this chapter, there are three things we can learn from the way Jesus loved.

First, Jesus teaches us how to look at people. When Jesus saw people he saw them as they were but he related to them as to who they could become. He saw them as hurting, harassed, lonely, arrogant, doubting, questioning, rude, sick, unclean, lost, and afraid. And He always ministered to them as to what they could become.

When others saw them, they wrote them off, they gave up on them, they considered them a bad risk, beyond hope. Not Jesus. He saw Matthew, a man hated by nearly everyone and called him to be a disciple. Jesus saw potential. He loved them. He took time for all who came to Him. No situation was beyond His touch.

I heard this story of a man who while digging in some cliffs along the ocean found a box filled with clay balls. “How odd,” he thought, “that someone would save clay balls.” Well on his way home he began throwing these clay balls as far as he could into the ocean until one of them dropped, and the clay fell off. It revealed a precious stone beneath the dirt. The man quickly began to check all the remaining clay balls and found they all contained precious stones. To his joy and his dismay he realized, first, that he was a rich man; but second, that he had thrown most of the gems into the ocean not realizing the potential that was within each clay ball.

That’s the way it is with people that we look at sometimes. All we see is the external “clay vessel,” and we tend to think, “They don’t look like much, not worth my time or energy. We tend to discount them. We see that person as less important than someone more beautiful or stylish or well known or wealthy. We haven’t taken the time to find the treasure hidden inside that person. There is a treasure in each and every one of us.

If we take the time to get to know that person and ask God to show us that person the way He sees them, then the clay begins to peel away, and the brilliant gem begins to shine forth. May we not come to the end of our lives and find out that we have thrown away a fortune in friendships because the gems were hidden in bits of clay. May we see the people in our world as God sees them. Aren’t you glad he didn’t throw us away when we were but a ball of clay? Instead, He went to a cross on our behalf- to bring out our potential.

Second, Jesus shows us how to feel for people. Notice that in verse 35 that it says, “and Jesus, going about all the cities and villages and seeing the multitudes felt compassion for them.” He was moved with compassion. That word compassion is a strong word in Greek that speaks to the fact that there is a gut reaction. He saw the need, and it made him sick to his stomach. I guarantee you that as you walk with Jesus and let his eyes be your eyes his feet your feet it won’t be long until humanity touches you. Jesus didn’t build walls and insulate himself to keep people out so that he didn’t have to see the hurt around him. Too often we tend to live that way. Our motto is, “out of sight out of mind!”

Nor did Jesus let His heart to grow cold by the immense need that surrounded Him. Jesus, as he walked through their villages, wasn’t looking at the scenery or the architecture. Instead, His focus was on people, and He saw their need and He hurt for them and with them. He hurt because they hurt. Do you want to know where Jesus is when tragedy occurs? He didn’t cause it. He wasn’t the instigator of it but He is present, hurting with those who are hurting.

Third, Jesus teaches us how to respond to people. Jesus reached out and touched them by meeting their need. Notice in verse 35 that it says, “He taught in the synagogues and proclaimed the gospel of the kingdom and healed every kind of disease and every kind of sickness.” Jesus involved his life in the life of those he contacted.

Jesus summed it up when he gave us what we have come to know as the golden rule in Matthew 7:12. “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

He was saying, whatever you want others to do for you-you do for them. In our relationships with others, we are first to decide how you want to be treated. I heard it said that there are four things people want:

  • Most people want other people to encourage them. We look for it. We want to hear: “I missed you. Boy, you are looking good today!” We all need encouragement.

  • Most people want to feel appreciated. Ever see a child say, “Mom! Mom! Look at me! “Watch me!” We all want to be appreciated!

  • Most people need the forgiveness of others because we are all human. We all make mistakes and we blow it. People who don’t forgive are saying, “I’m perfect, and I don’t do anything wrong, and I expect you to be perfect too.”

  • Most people want people to listen to them. We all want to be heard and understood. We want to know that we count, that our thoughts matter, that I am valued.

People want encouragement, appreciation, forgiveness and to be understood.

Once I decide how I want to be treated, then I can begin to treat people in the same manner. The golden rule is positive and action-oriented. It is not passive and reactive. We don’t wait until we are treated kindly to respond in kindness. We take the initiative. As Christians, we decide how we want to be treated, and we act that way towards others. The more people we do that too, the more that we grow in love.

So let's take it one step further and apply it to our church. If we applied these principles, what would it look like around here? Let me make a few suggestions.

First, look for someone to encourage. Never take for granted the person next to you. Encourage them. Make their day when you come to church. Realize it's not all about me. It's about them. People come hurting, and they need a hug a handshake a word of encouragement.

What would have happened if Jesus only looked after his self-interests? How would his day have been different?

Second, exhibit a servants heart. This is merely being willing to go out of your way to make sure another person’s needs are cared for before your own. If Jesus visited us in the flesh, would he get any different treatment than the person sitting next to you? It means making room for one more! Where did he get the time? I don’t know, but when he puts others first, he had all the time to accomplish what God set him on earth to achieve.

Third, initiate good deeds. Don’t wait for the person next to you to speak to you. You speak up. You take the initiative. As a Christian, we step out of our box and say, “HI” and invite them to dinner.

Fourth, SMILE! It not only helps others but it makes us look better as well. I know I need to do that more.

My prayer is that you will grow in faith and that the love that we have for one another will increase and abound still more.

Never are we more like Jesus than when we love like Him. Never are we as close to the kingdom of God than when we love as Jesus loved us. “Somehow if we are loving, I believe all the other things will fall into place.