"Love One Another as I Have Loved You"#85-36
Presented on The Lutheran Hour on May 6, 2018
By Rev. Dr. Dale A. Meyer, Guest Speaker
(Q&A Topic:Love One Another as I Have Loved You)
Copyright 2018 Lutheran Hour Ministries
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Text: John 15:9-17
Your time is precious, and so I thank you for sharing these minutes with us. It is my prayer this message will be helpful for your daily life by assuring you that you are loved eternally, loved in a way unlike any other love you have known. To that end, I invite you to join me in prayer: Eternal and unseen God, You are our Creator and are forming us to live in You. You sent Your Son to offer His life in our place and You raised Him on Easter to assure us of eternal life. By the working of Your Holy Spirit, may we know Jesus as our loving Savior, and also as our example for daily living. Lord, we believe; help our unbelief. Increase our love for You and our love for one another. In Jesus' Name we pray. Amen.
Several months ago, there were changes in President Donald Trump's Cabinet. When Secretary of State Rex Tillerson left his position at the State Department, he gave a farewell speech to State Department workers and said, "This can be a mean-spirited town." Then he added, "But you don't have to choose to participate in that." Shortly after David Shulkin left his position as Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs, he wrote an op-ed article in the New York Times. He wrote this: "I came to government with an understanding that Washington can be ugly, but I assumed that I could avoid all of the ugliness by staying true to my values. I have been falsely accused of things by people who wanted me out of the way." A third example of mean-spiritedness is the sad case of Megan Meier. Megan was almost 14 years old when she committed suicide. Her suicide was attributed to cyber-bullying by the mother of a classmate. Those mean-spirited attacks were more than Megan, or many teens, can take. Indeed, there are mean-spirited people in the world, and you've encountered them in your own life. Maybe you're struggling with one right now. And to be fair, sometimes you and I can be mean-spirited, or at least people may see us as mean-spirited.
In the midst of that, Jesus says, "Love one another as I have loved you." That is a different spirit, a spirit that promises to give us joy. Jesus wants His followers to be different as we deal with difficult people. And Jesus wants His church to be a different kind of place than all the other places where you and I deal with hard people. For example, think about work. You're expected to produce. You probably have performance evaluations. That's stressful. Or think about the news. The national and international news show people and parties pursuing their own interests with little genuine regard for their opponents. When you turn to the local news, you see communities whose citizens can be at odds with one another. "Not in my backyard" is too familiar a slogan. Against all that, Jesus wants His followers and His church to show a different face to the world. "Love one another as I have loved you."
Here's part of what Jesus says, from John chapter 15: "As the Father has loved Me, so have I loved you. Abide in My love. If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father's commandments and abide in His love. These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may be in you and that your joy may be full. This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you" (John 15:9-13).
You think you've got troublesome people in your life? It wasn't in the middle of a Sunday school picnic that Jesus told His disciples to love one another. During Holy Week, Jerusalem showed itself a very mean-spirited city. You remember that on Palm Sunday Jesus rode into Jerusalem, rode in to shouts of "Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord."
In the hymn, "My Song is Love Unknown," poet Samuel Crossman describes that turn toward meanness: "Sometimes they strew His way, And His sweet praises sing; Resounding all the day, Hosannas to their King. Then "Crucify!" Is all their breath, And for His death, They thirst and cry."
Sunday's hosannas became "Crucify him" by Friday. It was just hours before things went south, just before His agony in the garden, just before the treacherous Judas betrayed his Master, just before the disciples fled in fear, just before He was condemned, mocked, and crucified, just before all that Jesus says, "Love one another as I have loved you." No one suffered at the hands of mean-spirited people more than Jesus. Amidst that, He asks His disciples, Do you follow Me? We answer, "Yes." Then He says, Love the troublesome people in your life, as I have loved you. Love the people who are not mean-spirited, but you just don't like them. Love them as I have loved you. "This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you."
Notice that it is a command Jesus gives us, not merely a wish. But how can we love this way? I love to take walks. That's my exercise, such as it is. A few blocks north of the seminary's campus there's a house with a sign in the front yard. The sign says, "We must start loving one another." I have no problem with that. Look how spiteful and filled with hate the world is all around us. Yes, we must start loving one another, but my question is how? How can we start loving difficult people and the people we don't like, who rub us the wrong way? My own instinct is to avoid them, or if I have to deal with them, to give them tit for tat. You know, here's a little of your own back! How can I-how can you-overcome this instinctive reaction? That kind of love is not naturally within us; it has to come from outside. Jesus says, "As I have loved you." Jesus initiates the love He commands. It started when He singled His disciples out of the crowd. In John 6, Peter confessed that Jesus is the Christ, but Jesus immediately takes Peter to the source. "Did I not choose you, the Twelve?" and then He took a jab at Judas: "Did I not choose you, the Twelve? And yet one of you is a devil" (John 6:70). Jesus not only chose the ones who returned His love. He also chose mean-spirited, treacherous Judas Iscariot. Jesus loves all people, even those who reject His love. This is a different kind of love than the world practices. Again, from John 13: "If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you" (John 13:19). For you and me to practice this kind of love, it has to come to us and through us from Jesus.
This distinction between the way Jesus loves and the way the world loves is very important. This is a key point in today's message. Ten days ago, was the 500th anniversary of the Heidelberg Disputation. On April 26, 1518, Martin Luther presented 28 theses, 28 propositions for theological discussion. In the last thesis, Luther distinguishes between the way the world loves and the way God loves. Luther wrote, "The love of God does not find, but creates, that which is pleasing to it. The love of man comes into being through that which is pleasing to it." In his commentary on that 28th thesis, Luther wrote, "The love of God which lives in man loves sinners, evil persons, fools, and weaklings in order to make them righteous, good, wise and strong. Rather than seeking its own good, the love of God flows forth and bestows good. Therefore, sinners are attractive because they are loved; they are not loved because they are attractive."
"You did not choose Me, but I chose you." God does not love you or me because we are so attractive and pleasing to Him. No, God makes us loveable to Him by sending His Son to live and die for you and for me. Jesus says in today's passage from John: "Greater love has no one than this, that someone lays down his life for his friends" (John 15:13). And Jesus arose because His sacrifice was accepted by the Father. Now He gives you and me His Holy Spirit through this Good News. The result of this love from outside of ourselves is that God makes us loveable by forgiving our sins, and now is leading us by His Holy Spirit to love Him with all our heart and with all our soul and with all our mind.
That is the first great commandment: to return God's love with our whole grateful being. Jesus then adds, "And a second (commandment) is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself" (Matthew 22:39). So now let's get back to the fact that people can be troublesome and mean-spirited. And honestly, how can we love people we just don't like? We all know people like that. They are not necessarily mean-spirited, but their personality rubs us the wrong way. Think of the people where you work. Get a picture in your mind, think of that person you just don't like. Maybe they've done you wrong. Maybe they just rub you the wrong way. Think of your neighborhood and community. Who is it where you live? Why do they irritate you? Think of your family. Those dislikes can be some of the strongest, the most enduring, the most bitter. And think of your church. When Jesus tells us to love as He has loved us, He's talking to His followers and to His Church, but we all know things that go on in the church that make it hard for us to love. Wherever and whoever these people might be, whether they are different personalities or difficult, mean-spirited people, the love of this world doesn't go to them. The love of this world avoids them, and you and I are guilty of that kind of self-serving love. Loving them as Christ has loved you is not easy, but the Spirit of our Lord Jesus Christ motivates us by the Gospel to do exactly that: "As I have loved you." Those words should echo in our hearts every time we have to deal with difficult people.
Let me share some words from Henry Ward Beecher, a popular 19th-century preacher. In the Yale Lectures on Preaching of 1872, Beecher was speaking to ministers, but what he says is true for us all. Listen. "Now, your congregation will be full of sluggish people. Somebody must bear with those dull and stupid ones. You will find, what is a great deal worse, people who know everything, and yet know nothing. You cannot teach them anything. They are conceited. They are conceited snips of men who are rushing up to you, and taking on airs in your presence, and you feel like smacking them, as you would a black fly or a mosquito."
Isn't that refreshingly honest? There are people like that, and you know them. Rev. Beecher goes on. "But somebody has to bear with them. If Christ died for the world, he died for a great many ordinary folks; and if we are Christ's, we must do the same thing .... You have to do it because there is that in your heart which makes you brother (and I add, sister) to such men. You have to say, 'He is worth bearing with. I would better suffer in his place than let him suffer. He must be enlarged He must be augmented and made more a man in Christ Jesus.'"
Beecher is saying you and I see difficult people through the eyes of God's love for us all. That's hard! That's why we sink ourselves into the Word of God, pray God's Spirit to root us more and more in the love of Jesus, and then follow His example day in and day out. But now let's say you get out of your comfort zone and try to show a little kindness, to say a gentle word, to make a friendly gesture, to show a bit of love to that difficult person, but you are rebuffed.
What should you do then? More from Rev. Beecher: "Then again, you have obstinate men whom you cannot start, men who are unreasonable. There is nothing in the long run that can withstand a wise tenderness, a gentle benevolence, and a sympathy that melts the heart by a genial fervor, and which is continued in season and out of season, in sickness and in health, year in and year out. Nothing can withstand that. How is the soil disintegrated? First, the ground is broken down by the grinding of the frost, then come the warmth of spring, the mellow rains, and then the after-sunshine. In such ways must a minister work-first by attrition, and then by the geniality of his own soul. You can make soil out of almost anything, if you will only give your time to it."
That may or may not change people where you work. That may or may not change people in your neighborhood or community. Can it make a difference in your family? I pray it will. But in contrast to the ways of the world, there is one place where the love of Jesus for one another should be manifestly evident: that is in the church. Remember Secretary Tillerson said, "This can be a mean-spirited town" but added, "You don't have to choose to participate in that." Jesus calls His followers and His church to be different as we deal with difficult people. The key is for you and me to spend time with Jesus. His love toward us changes our hearts toward others. Jesus says,
"Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are My friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you. You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in My Name, He may give it to you. These things I command you, so that you will love one another" (John 15:13-17).
Spend time with Jesus, and it will change you. Again, from Samuel Crossman's hymn about Jesus. :Here might I stay and sing, No story so divine! Never was love, dear King, Never was grief like Thine. This is my friend, In whose sweet praise I all my days Could gladly spend!" Amen.
Reflections for MAY 6, 2018
Title: LOVE ONE ANOTHER AS I HAVE LOVED YOU
Mark Eischer: You're listening to The Lutheran Hour. That was Dr. Dale Meyer. Now, Pastor
Ken Klaus joins us from his home in Texas. Hello, Pastor.
Ken Klaus: Hello, Mark. Good to be with you.
Mark Eischer: Well, we've heard Dr. Meyer's message about love. Your reactions?
Ken Klaus: Mark, it wasn't just a message on love. It was a good message on love.
Mark Eischer: Do you suppose there can be a bad message about love?
Ken Klaus: I think so. I know I find it difficult to preach on the subject.
Mark Eischer: Oh, really? Why is that?
Ken Klaus: For exactly the reasons that Dr. Meyer covered in the message. How did he say it? "There are mean-spirited people in the world, and you've encountered them in your own life."
Mark Eischer: Would you say you're dealing with a lot of mean-spirited people these days?
Ken Klaus: Well, not right now. But then again, I'm retired, and like Dr. Meyer, he says, "I give a wide berth to those people who have shown a nasty side to me." But, when I was back in the parish-that was a different matter. Pastors will tell you that you have to be nice to everybody, and I mean everybody.
Mark Eischer: And I suppose you had some of those mean-spirited folks.
Ken Klaus: Well, there was the fellow who called my children "brats," and said they were "typical preacher's kids." It was really tough pretending I hadn't heard him say those things, especially when my children were always as good as gold.
Mark Eischer: Always?
Ken Klaus: Well, maybe not as good as gold always, but certainly as special as silver.
Mark Eischer: I suppose there were others who rubbed you the wrong way.
Ken Klaus: Yeah, there was the fellow who hated change, no matter how necessary those changes were, but he always expressed his attitude by attacking people, not discussing the idea. Then there was ... how long does this segment run?
Mark Eischer: I suppose not nearly long enough.
Ken Klaus: Probably better get back to the topic.
Mark Eischer: Yeah, that sounds good.
Ken Klaus; Still there's one more mean-spirited person I would like to mention.
Mark Eischer: Okay. One more.
Ken Klaus: That would be me. Now you've always known me as a benevolent, kindly, gentle, teddy-bear-kind-of-fellow, you know, Mr. Rogers with a clerical collar.
Mark Eischer: Yeah, that sounds like you.
Ken Klaus: At any rate, I do have a short fuse, a powerful temper, and don't always love everybody all the time. In fact, I don't even like all the people all the time.
Mark Eischer: So, how did you handle that?
Ken Klaus: Simple. You do what you have to do. And when I say that, I'm resurrecting that old concept: WWJD.
Mark Eischer: You mean, "What would Jesus do?"
Ken Klaus: Yeah, now WWJD doesn't mean you put up with everything or that you never condemn anything. Remember, Jesus used a homemade whip to get rid of those money-changers in the temple, and He verbally turned the tables on people who were trying to trip Him up.
Mark Eischer: And He didn't hold back on His remarks about the Pharisees. He called them "hypocrites," a "brood of vipers." Pretty strong words.
Ken Klaus: Exactly. Loving people means you do what is best for them, and that may-or may not-be what they want done. A good parent disciplines his or her child. Parents do that out of love, but it may not be what they want to do, and it almost certainly isn't what the children want. You do what is best.
Mark Eischer: Where would you begin doing that?
Ken Klaus: To answer that, I'm going to go wandering a bit. Mark, have you ever watched any of those TV shows where people go shopping for a new home and renovate it?
Mark Eischer: Oh, yeah-some of our favorites. But how does that apply?
Ken Klaus: A few months ago, I watched such a program and was surprised by what I heard. Since then, I've listened and heard the same thing repeated, again and again.
Mark Eischer: Okay. What was this revelation?
Ken Klaus: It was the vocabulary of the home shoppers.
Mark Eischer: The vocabulary?
Ken Klaus: Yes, the words they used. They would walk into a house and they would evaluate what they saw. But that evaluation is expressed in two words: "love" and "hate." They love the hardwood floors; they hate the stairs; they love the natural light, but they hate the countertops; they love the finished basement, but hate the small closets.
Mark Eischer: So, it sounded like it was one extreme or the other.
Ken Klaus: Nothing like "dislike" or "not pleased" or "looks wonderful." It was one extreme or the other. And it came to them so naturally. I wouldn't be surprised if the people used those same words in their thinking about people: "I like Dick." "I hate Jane." But there's more. The love or hate these people express is based completely on whether those things please or displease them.
Mark Eischer: And if they were to do that with people, then they've got-in their mind-the justification for being mean-spirited.
Ken Klaus: Exactly. How did Dr. Meyer say it: "How can I, how can you-overcome this instinctive reaction? That kind of love is not naturally within us; it has to come from outside."
Mark Eischer: That would mean it comes from emulating the Savior who, even from a cross, was able to forgive those who had put Him there.
Ken Klaus: You've got it. I heard a parent explain that kind of love once to his child who was afraid he had done something so bad his father would stop loving him. Dad said this: "You are my child, and I will always love you. When you do something bad, I love you with a sad love, and when you do something good, I love you with a happy love. But I will always love you." That's what we mean-spirited folks have to do and say to those other mean-spirited people around us.
Mark Eischer: Thank you, Pastor Klaus. Tell us about your sermon for next week.
Ken Klaus: Next week, were going to talk about Jesus and how He and His people don't fit into the mold the world has made for us.
Music Selections for this program:
"A Mighty Fortress" arranged by Chris Bergmann. Used by permission.
"Dear Christians, One and All, Rejoice" From The Concordia Organist (© 2009 Concordia Publishing House)