We are going through our newly adopted values. Values are deeply held biblical principles that guide who we are, our vision and decisions. These biblical values define who we are at Reedy.
Andrew started the series by looking at our first value “We Seek”. Jesus plainly taught us to “seek first his kingdom and his righteousness” (Matthew 6:33 NIV). We are to seek His kingdom through prayer (Matthew 7:7); We are to seek God’s presence (Psalm 27:8). We are to seek Christ in repentance and for forgiveness (Act 2:38); We are to seek dependence on God (2 Chronicles 7:14); And we are to seek to make God known as Jesus commanded in Acts 1:8.
And so, our first value as a community of believers is We Seek. Next is We Hope. The Bible is full of hope. From creation, there was hope. During slavery in Egypt, to the prosperity of the United Kingdoms, through the suffering of being in exile, to the birth of the Messiah and His resurrection, and the promise of His return, the people of God hoped. As Christians, we are people of hope.
So, we are people who seek God and we put our hope in God. We are also people who care. As a church We Care. We are to care for each other as Paul told us to do in Galatians 6:2, we care for our community, particularly for the vulnerable Micah 6:8 challenges us to do, and we care for the world and instructed by Jesus in John 3:16.
We also value learning. We Learn from each other as Paul taught us to in 1 Thessalonians 5:11; We Learn from our mistakes as Proverbs 28:13 indicates; and we must certainly learn from God’s Word as 2 Timothy 3:16-17 specifically points out.
Our next value is “Honour”. You see the Bible talks a lot about honouring. Honouring God, one another and even our families. The word honor means to “respect” and to “esteem at the highest level” or “to add weight to”. It comes from the biblical time when coins were weighed to determine their value. The heavier the coin, the greater it’s value. Honour works in the same way: The greater the value we place on God, people and things, the greater their weight/influence in our life. By honouring, we deeply value and respect the object of our honor and elevate it to a place of influence. As church, we value honouring God and one another.
Last week Tony shared about our next value – We Grow. We value the importance of growing in our faith as Peter taught us to do in 2 Peter 3:18; we value growing as a community as the Early Church showed us in passages like Acts 2:46; we value growing by welcoming everyone as Jesus taught in Matthew 25:35. We are to be a welcoming culture. And we value growing leaders to be godly so that the body of Christ may be built up as taught in Ephesians 4:12.
Today we are looking at our final but not least value – love. Rightly or wrongly, when the Leadership Team were discussing where to place this value of love amongst the other values, we saw how Jesus taught us to first seek His kingdom. So, seeking comes first. We decided to place it last because we are to undergird all things in love. We got to build on the foundation of God’s love, as like what Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 13, “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love” (1 Corinthians 13:13 NIV). Love ought to undergird all that we do. And so, as Augustine of Hippo - a Roman African and early Christian theologian of the third century has written: “In essentials, unity. In non-essentials, freedom. In all things, love”. What Augustine was saying is that amongst churches, there ought to be unity about the foundational beliefs of our faith, but where there are some teachings that can be interpreted different, there ought to be freedom to work out how they apply or mean? But he says, in all things, there ought to be love shown to one another.
Augustine is right, in all things there ought to be love. And it’s the value of love that Jesus taught and showed and told us to go and do likewise.
Love – what a huge issue! The Beatles sang, “All you need is Love”. Dr Phil who can solve anyone’s problems in five minutes wrote the Number 1 best seller “Smart Love: Fix the One You Want - Fix the One You Got”. We are all affected by love or the lack of.
Anthropologist Dr Helen Fisher of Rutgers University has written “Why we need love”. She said on “Good Morning America” “I've at looked at poetry all over the world, even as much as 4,000 years ago. People live for love, they die for love, they sing for love, they dance for love."
A website that I endorse is womensforumaustralia.com. There are excellent articles mostly written by Melinda Tankard Reist. One of the articles that was printed in the Papers recently talked about how “body dissatisfaction is on the rise, harming self-esteem and feelings of self-worth”. It says that: About one in 100 adolescent girls develops Anorexia nervosa; Five percent of Australians suffer Bulimia nervosa; Girls as young as eight are being hospitalised for eating disorders. Magazines and television tell us that to be loved you must be skinny and blonde – the look that many struggle to achieve leading to body dissatisfaction”.
Love – it can be so painful, and it can be so beautiful. It can produce hurt and it can give hope. Love can be abused, and it can nurture.
Why is there that deep desire to be loved? Is it fear of loneliness? Is because society tells us we need to? Is it because we want to be accepted and valued?
It’s none of these. God create us to love – to be loved and to give love. God created us to be loved by Him and others. And it was very good – until this love was abused with Adam and Eve – where trust was broken – and it knocked the emotional wind out of God. Many of us have experienced love and many have experienced the emotional wind knocked out of us by a person we love.
We were created to be loved by the God who is love. That’s why we have a craving to be loved.
And so, when Jesus told us that the greatest of all commandments are to love God (Mark 12:30) and love one another (Mark 12:31), He knew that we were created to be loved and to give love. When we don’t feel love, there is a profound emptiness. That’s why we need to be giving love to one another.
This is why it has to be a value of who we are. The person who you work with has a need to be loved. So, to is the new person who comes to our church – they want to be loved. We may call it other things – to be accepted, to be valued, to be cared for – they are all aspects of love that the we desire.
This is the reason why we are to love – God created to be loved and Jesus commanded us to give love.
Let’s go a bit deeper about the biblical value of love. The Apostle John wrote so much on love. One of his phrases is this: “We love each other because He loved us first” (1 John 4:19 NLT). This is a most amazing passage. It says, “He loved us first” (v19). God first loved us. This brief but profound passage says a few things. One of which is that God is the source of love. Two words “he loved”. At little earlier in verses 8 and 16 John says, “God is love”. God is the author of love. He created love. He is love. And because He is love God is Compassionate, Forgiving, Merciful, Redeemer. It is in His character to love.
God is love. Out of His love God created the world. Out of His love God created humanity in His image. Out of His love God sent His only Son Jesus to redeem humanity. Out of His love God will one day send Jesus to rescue the Church. In 1 John 4 John highlights God’s love for us: “This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins” (1 John 4:9-10 NIV). God loves us. He created us to love us. We can’t earn nor work for His love because He loved us first. God, who is love, loved us first.
Now it needs to be pointed out that our God is holy and just. Because God is holy He hates sin. And so there are examples, particularly in the Old Testament that makes God anything but love as He destroyed cities and people. But what most forget or are just ignorant of the truth, is that this was always His very last step. You see God would always go out of His way to give people chances, then another and then another but as usual people would snub God and do their own thing. And because God is just He does judge. But first He goes out of His way to love. God is love and He gives us new opportunities to accept His love.
Knowing our deep felt need to be loved, Jesus gave what was then radical teaching. In verse 28 our reading a teacher of the law overheard another group of religious leaders known as the Sadducees debating with Jesus. Now this Teacher of the Law was impressed with Jesus’ answers and so he wanted to dialogue with Jesus. Anyone who knows a good philosopher or theologian or academic knows they like to wrestle through issues that relate to their field. It’s not that they are trying to be painful. It’s just who they are. Some of us couldn’t really care less but they do. It’s just who they are. And so, it appears that this teacher of the law wanted to dialogue with Jesus.
Most would know the original Ten Commandments that God gave His people to follow. What happened in time is that the law makers had developed 613 laws - 365 negative laws coincided with the number of days in the year and 248 positive laws equal the reputed number of generations of humanity. Attempting to make this mess meaningful, some religious leaders tried to distinguish between major and minor laws, and some taught that all laws were equally binding and that it was dangerous to make any distinctions. And so when the teacher of the law asked Jesus, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?" (Mark 12:28 NIV), I wonder if he had this challenge in mind? At least, Jesus' answer makes that assumption.
The answer given by Jesus was amazing. In recognizing the Law and its history Jesus quotes Deuteronomy 6:4, “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one” (Deuteronomy 6:4 NIV). Here Jesus confirms the foundational truth of the Shema which was used as the call to worship in the Jewish synagogue. From this basic premise, Jesus proceeds to the principle revealed in Deuteronomy 6:5, “Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength” (Deuteronomy 6:5 NIV). These are the words which are written on the doorpost of every Jewish home. It is a practice that can be found on many Jewish homes today (Mezuzah).
Jesus then applies this teaching by matching it with the commandment in Leviticus 19:18, “…love your neighbor as yourself…” (Leviticus 19:18 NIV).
Amazingly Jesus summed up the Law, the prophets, and the gospel so that He can say, “…There is no commandment greater than these” (Mark 12:31 NIV).
The brilliance of Christ’s answer is seen in other ways to. Jesus’ answer of loving God and one another summarises the entire Ten Commandments. The first part summarizes the first four commandments, which has to do with our love for God (Exodus 20:2-11). The second part of Jesus' answer summarizes the final six, which have to do with our love for humanity (Exodus 20:12-17). Also powerful in Jesus' double answer is that love for God and love for one another cannot be divided. This teaching had a powerful impact on the subsequent teaching of the Early Church. The Apostle John wrote: “Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister” (1 John 4:21; cf. Romans 13:8, 9; Galatians 5:14; James 2:8). It was also an amazing answer because Jesus’ command to love your neighbor "as yourself' was radical. None of the earlier teachings included this qualifying clause. We do love ourselves. We may not look at our muscles in the mirror every day, but we do take good care of ourselves – look at the amount of money we spend to feed ourselves and money to buy things to make us look good and feel better. Jesus says that we are to love others as equally as we love ourselves!
What powerful teaching this is! The way Jesus said it had never been put so well, or so Scripturally, as now! It was brilliant! It was perfect! It truly encompassed the whole Law. No wonder the Teacher of the Law (who was surrounded by the Sadducees) said back to Jesus – “Well said, teacher," the man replied” (Mark 12:32 NIV). Perhaps the best translation of what the teacher of the law said to Jesus is from The Message where it says, “A wonderful answer, Teacher!”
The teacher of the law continued: “You are right in saying that God is one and there is no other but him. To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices” (Mark 12:32-33 NIV).
As a church of Jesus followers, we love God and we love one another. That’s who we are. What does this look like?
I want to read out three passages that Paul wrote to three churches. First was to the church that met in Corinth.
1 Corinthians 13:4-13 NIV (4) Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. (5) It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. (6) Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. (7) It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. (8) Love never fails… (13) And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
Second is the church that met in Ephesus:
“Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:2-3 NIV)
Third, is the churches that were scattered throughout Galatia:
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23 NIV).
These passages weren’t written to individuals. They were written by Paul to groups of churches. He is saying “church, love each other by being patience and kind and gentle and caring and honouring. Don’t be easily angered at each other nor keep wrongs about each other. Instead, church show your love to each other”.
Over the years we have measured the success (or not) of a church by the numbers of attenders, how many are in Life Groups, the offerings, building programs. Some may even measure a church by the purity of its teaching and even its prayer meetings. Don’t get me wrongs, these are important. But the true measure of a healthy church is its love – love for God and love for one another. This is what Jesus commandment to be and do and value.
Unfortunately for the church at Ephesus, a few years after Paul had written to them about loving one another, they had forgotten that value. And so when John had that revelation from Jesus, he heard Jesus say to the church at Ephesus “You don't love Me or each other as you did at first! Look how far you have fallen! Turn back to Me and do the works you did at first. If you don't repent, I will come and remove your lampstand from its place among the churches” (Revelation 2:4-5 NLT). Even though Jesus praised them in verses 2 and 3 for all their hard work and endurance and not tolerating fake teachers, He was grieved by their lack of love.
As a church, we value love. Love of God and love for one another, and by this, everyone will know that we are followers of Jesus Christ (John 13:35 NIV).