When I was asked to speak here this evening, I grabbed onto a theme that I’d already spoke to another group about. They’re going through a book called “Love Does” and discussing what it means to love people in a real, hands-on, practical, concrete, expressive, applied way. I really appreciate that theme and was excited to do a little studying about it – and want to share what I found with you guys.
I’m sure you’ve already talked about the importance of living out what we say we believe. That’s the opposite of being a hypocrite, right? A hypocrite is someone who says one thing and does another – or for that matter who says that they believe something, but it doesn’t change anything about their life that shows they really believe it. Let me give you a few examples of what I mean.
Someone says, “Wow, I really need to study more. I just failed a test, I’m failing my classes, the teacher has called my parents, and I’m in serious trouble if I don’t get myself together and start to study.” What do you expect them to be doing with themselves after school for the next while? Studying, right? But if they leave school and have no books, no backpack, and have made plans to play every day after school – and then when you talk to them they tell you about all the movies and games they’ve been playing – do you think they really believed that they needed to study? Of course not. Their behaviour – what they are doing – isn’t lining up to what they’re saying.
Or here’s another one. You’re picking teams for basketball, and a guy stands up and yells, “Hey! I want to be on your team! Pick me, pick me! I’m really good! I’m great at basketball!”. So you pick him – and when the game comes, he’s wearing the wrong shoes and is eating a box of doughnuts and a big pop right before the game. When he gets onto the court he keeps getting fouls for not dribbling, doesn’t know how to shoot, and keeps tripping over people because he’s out of position. So you go to him and say, “You said you were really good at basketball, but you’re terrible!” and they say, “Oh! Well, I watch it on TV all the time, know all the teams and rules, and even play it on the Playstation all the time.”
What do you think of that guy? He’s a hypocrite, right? For all he knows about basketball, it doesn’t mean he actually plays, does he?
Would you trust a doctor that has only ever studied the books but has never actually seen a sick person in real life? Would you trust someone to paint a picture for you who says they are an “expert in art”, but has never picked up a paintbrush? Would you call someone an expert chef if they’d only memorize a whole bunch of recipes, but had never actually been in a kitchen?
Of course not! That’s why your theme of “Love Does” is so important. It’s a reminder that a Christian isn’t someone who merely talks about loving people – but is someone that actually, practically, expressively, really takes time, effort and energy to love people. Let me show you a few verse about where we find this in the Bible – because we find the importance of love doing things all the way though.
Love Obeys God
When God was giving the Law to Israel he said this: “And now, Israel, what does the LORD your God require of you, but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to keep the commandments and statutes of the LORD, which I am commanding you today for your good?” (Deut 10:12-13)
In other words, God says, “The way that you are going to show that you are my people and that you love me isn’t only with your words – it’s with your obedience to what I’m telling you. It’s all for ‘your good’, but it’s also how you and I will know what our relationship is like. If you’re not obeying my commands, then I know you don’t believe me, trust me, obey me, or love me.” In fact, Jesus says the exact same thing to His disciples in John 14:15, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.”
One way that we show love to God in a practical way is to keep his commandments. That’s something love does.
Love Loves Others
We read it in another place a little differently in the prophet Micah. Micah speaks for the people of Israel who seem to be very confused about how God wants to be worshipped and loved. He says this, “With what shall I come before the LORD, and bow myself before God on high? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousands of rivers of oil? Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?”
What do you want God? How can we love you? How can we show that we want forgiveness? How can we get you into our lives?
And the very simple answer comes in Micah 6:8, “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” It’s almost like he says, “It’s not that complicated, guys! I don’t want your religion and your oils and festivals and feasts – I want your hearts.”
And how do you how God that He has your heart? By loving others in practical, real, ways. What does the Lord require? “DO Justice” –Love fights for people’s rights. “Love kindness” – Love shows people compassion and treats them gently. And then, simply “WALK humbly with your God.” Love walks with God. Those are all action words!
1st John, in the New Testament says this again. The actions of Love are all through scripture! 1 John 3:17: “If anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him?” James 2:14, says it simply this way, “What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works?… Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead”
What good is it to say you know you love God, but don’t show it when people need loving? What good is it to say you’re a Christian if you don’t love people like Christ? What good is it to say you love God’s word, if you don’t read it and obey it?
It’s like we said before? What good is it to say that you are great at basketball, if you have no idea how to play and never try? What good is it to say that you want to be a good student, but then never study? What good is it to say that you’re a great chef, if you never cook anything?
The answer is, “it’s no good.” There’s no point! That kind of faith – the kind that has no connection to what we do is dead! And that’s the point.
Known by Our Love
On the night before He is arrested and sent to the cross, Jesus looks at His disciples and tells them some extremely important things. One of the most important was this:
“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35)
Jesus told his disciples a lot of things that night – and continued to for a long time. He told them about how to get help from God, about the gift of the Holy Spirit, about the need to stay connected to Him, and about the dangers of following Him.
But He made a special point to tell them that if they want to be known as His people – Christians – then the number one way that the world would know, would be that they would love one another.
Our relationship with Jesus starts as we ask Him to be our saviour from sin, because we realize we can’t save ourselves. But our relationship with Him is seen by others –NOT by our fancy churches, or our cool Christian t-shirts, not even mostly by our words – but in how we love each other.
That’s what will make us different. That’s what attracts people. That’s what everyone wants. They want to be part of a group that truly loves one another – no matter what. A group that treats each other with justice, kindness, mercy, and patience. That forgives wrongs and puts others first. That serves people that can’t help themselves or ever pay them back. That goes out of their way to demonstrate love. That group is call the church of Jesus Christ.
That kind of love is what makes the world thirsty for Jesus. When they see His love, worked out practically in our lives, in big and small ways, every day.