If you were going to take all the responsibilities we have as church members, and pick just one word that summarizes them, the word the Bible would pick most often, is love.
For example, Ephesians 5.
Paul’s been talking about how huge it is to be a Christian, in chapters 1 through 3.
He’s like, it’s a miracle.
And then in chapters 4 and 5, Paul begins helping us work out the difference this miracle should make on the way we think and act.
And at the end of chapter 4, he gets pretty specific and talks about stuff like putting off lying and putting on telling the truth and putting off sinful anger and on and on he goes, until, he comes to what should be, really, the summarizing characteristic of genuine believers, the one characteristic that ties them all together and that is, radical and sacrificial love.
“Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”
It’s kind of like you could imagine showing up at a new job one day.
And you are sitting there in training and the guy pulls out a big stack of papers, with, it seems like, three thousand different responsibilities you have, and you are looking at that and you are overwhelmed, and then he says, I know that’s a lot, so you could read this or, to make it a little easier, here’s the one thing you need to do.
This is what you need to remember, because, if you do this, you will do all the others, which is so often, in the Bible, the way the writers talk about love.
I mean, it’s not just here in Ephesians.
You remember, Jesus in Matthew 22.
A lawyer asks Jesus a question to test him in Matthew 22, verse 36.
“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?”
And at first that might seem like a hard question because there are 610 of them.
Which one is the greatest?
But as you know, Jesus answers, quickly.
“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”
Which makes love, huge.
If you were going to pick two commandments the entire Law hangs on, you take them out, the Law falls apart, you put them back in, it all makes sense, they both have to do with love.
Loving God and loving neighbor.
In another place Paul puts it like this.
Romans 13, verse 8.
“The one who loves another has fulfilled the law. For the commandments, ‘You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,’ and any other commandment are summed up in this word, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’”
And so, if anyone ever asks why do you take loving others so seriously, it’s because it’s the one responsibility that summarizes all our other responsibilities as Christians, which is why, of course, throughout the Bible, you find, the authors of Scripture, emphasizing the importance of love, in some really extreme ways.
Check out some of these with me.
Just, to feel the weightiness of this.
Paul’s talking about all kinds of great Christian virtues.
Like compassion and kindness and humility and meekness and patience and bearing with one another, and forgiveness and then in verse 14, you know what he says?
“Above all these.”
And it’s that word above.
That shows the priority.
And I think, we’d place too much stress on the word, above, if we think Paul’s saying love is more important than all these other characteristics, and that wouldn’t even really make sense, anyway, but at the very least, it is a way of him saying, this is one characteristic, you have to place a major priority on.
And Paul does in 1 Corinthians 13, which, I know, is pretty familiar, but listen to what Paul says.
“If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.”
And that’s so shocking.
Because, imagine, if there actually were a church member doing all that?
I mean, imagine, you meet someone who is speaking in tongues, he can actually, talk to angels, he’s prophesying, and not making it up, he’s getting it right, and he’s understanding everything, he knows the whole Bible backward and forward, and he’s having miracle working faith, mountains are being moved, and he’s giving everything he has away, and then, you know what, he ends up dying as a martyr. He’s actually killed because he says he is a Christian.
What do you think about him?
For most people, I think.
That sounds kind of impressive.
And, you know, if someone asks, do you think that particular person was fulfilling their responsibility as a church member?
You would be like, are you kidding me?
But, Paul says.
Actually, if they don’t have love, then no.
You take all that and you add it up.
And, it’s all zero.
How important is it, we love each other as a church?
What kind of stress do we need to put on this responsibility?
It’s the characteristic that summarizes everything we are to be about as Christians.
We are to make it our highest priority.
Without love we are nothing. Zero.
One more, 1 John 4:7 and 8.
“Beloved, let us love another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God.” And, listen to this. “Anyone who does not love does not know God because God is love.”
How important is love?
Without love we are not even Christians.
As Richard Baxter once wrote,
“Love is the end of faith, and faith is but the bellows to kindle love. Love is the fulfilling of all the law, the end of the gospel, the nature and mark of Christ’s disciple, the divine nature, the sum of holiness to the Lord, the proper note by which to know, what is the man, and what is his state, and far any of his other acts are acceptable to God, without which if we had all knowledge and belief, all gifts of utterance and highest profession, we were but as a sounding brass and a tinkling cymbal. And if all our goods were given to the poor, and our bodies to the fire, it would profit nothing. Love is our foretaste of heaven, and the perfection of it is heaven itself, even the state and work of angels and of saints in glory. And he that is angry with me for calling me to love, is angry for calling them to holiness, to God and to heaven. Holiness which is against love is a contradiction. It is a deceitful name which Satan puts on unbelief.”
Which means, we really need to think about what it means to love. And we will!
But, next time.