New Year's Resolution of Loving Other People - As Seen on Sunday
Verse of the Week
We don't keep our promises.
Our word, which is supposed to be our bond, doesn't mean much either.
We are fickle, ambivalent, and prone to fail
But we confess, O Lord, that you are never changing.
Your love, compassion, and mercy for us never changes.
Help us love one another like you love us, because you love us.
I’m not much on New Year’s Resolutions. It seems like another opportunity to remind us of our failures to lose weight, read more, and become some better version of ourself.
I’ve become convinced that my life doesn’t need to be focused on making myself better as much as it needs to be on learning how to follow Jesus and making those who are around me better.
Those two things are what I am trying to resolve and implement in my life. I want my life to be defined by those two things.
I want to follow Jesus because I love him. I love him because since the foundations of the world he has loved me. I have been fickle in my love for Jesus. He has never wavered in his love for me.
So when I went searching for a sermon this week love and resolutions were on my mind.
I came across 1 John 4 and the commandment that closes the chapter:
“Whoever loves God must also love his brother.”
This my new year’s resolution - to love God and my brother.
But who exactly is my brother?
My Brother, My Familia
Being an only child the concept of siblings is lost on me.
I will never really be able to grasp the depths of a friend that sticks closer than a brother because I didn’t have a brother to stick to.
Naturally, I wanted to know who my brother is. If I am supposed to love him I should probably know who he is, right?
I asked Jesus and he said, “Whoever does the will of God are my brother”
And this seems to echo what John is saying in his first letter. Those that love God are my brothers and sisters. My familia.
And if I do not show love to my spiritual family than I do not have the love of God in me.
How do I love my family?
The first church was known by their extravagant love for each other.
It is hard to imagine that possessions, greed, and achievement were at the top of these folks core identity traits.
Sure there are those who were still in it for the glory (see Ananias and Sapphira), but the Bible describes a group of people whose general characteristics were purposefully lowering their own standard of living so the standard of living around them would be lifted.
Their daily routine involved:
- eating together
- worshipping together
- listening to Biblical teaching together
- praying together
Over the next few chapters in the book of Acts, it is revealed that this was done in light of some heavy opposition towards the church.
Not even tough times would hinder the collective joy and persistent worship of God in the early community of the church.
IS this how I am supposed to love my Christian brothers and sisters?
The answer is yes, but that is not the real question.
The real question is why don't we treat our fellow Christian brothers and sisters like this?
What about those who are not Christians? Do I have to love them?
It can be easy to love those who think like us, worship like us, and hold similar values.
It is an old teaching that we should love our neighbor as ourself. The term "neighbor" to many religious folks are the people that are close, those that belong to the same church and religion.
"Neighbor" closely equates to our "Brothers and Sisters" that we talked about a before. This seems to be the popular interpretation of Leviticus 19.
While it certainly is a joy and a Christian privilege to love one another, there is a command of Christ that we casually forget: Love your enemies.
In Luke 10, Jesus seemingly settles the debate as to who our neighbor is and how we should treat them. The parable of the Good Samaritan begins with a quasi-religious lawyer getting down to brass tacks about the definition of "neighbor." Let's read it together:
It was settled that the man who was the enemy was of the mugged man was the one that was fulfilling the law and knew the true definition of the word neighbor.
He also knew that the correct response was to show mercy.
Are we aware that Jesus' command was to "do and do the same thing"?
If we are aware, why do we continually disobey?
Preparing to Love Others the Way Jesus Does
Loving other people they way that Christ loves us demands that we be prepared to do so. We are to be actively looking for opportunities to love one another the way Jesus tells us we should.
Preparation comes in many forms, so I ask these questions of you:
Are you financially prepared to help others when the need arises?
Are you emotionally prepared to love others when it is tough and unrewarding?
Are you spiritually prepared to love in the face of strong opposition?
Are you mentally prepared to look for opportunities to love others?
Are you physically prepared to act when someone needs your strength and abilities?
The truth is we are rarely prepared to extend extravagant love toward others because we are increasingly worried about protecting ourselves.
As we draw to a close, I ask yet another question: Are you prepared to love people the way Jesus expects us to love people?
A New Year's Resolution
I admit that I am not prepared to love others in the extravagant way that Jesus calls me to.
And I hate New Year's resolutions because I am immediately reminded that I will probably fail at anything I decide to take on.
But I would rather fail at obeying God than succeed at obeying myself.
So my resolution this year is to prepare my life in such a way to be able to love others.
I will prepare:
In 2017, I challenge you to do the same.