Blog Archives

17 September 2017 Sunday Message: Triangles and forgiveness. (Romans series ctd.)

Readings:  Romans 13:8; Matthew 18:15-20

Message:

How were you with triangles? Not the musical instrument you played in the primary school orchestra. That usually meant you had limited musical skills. 😊

I was thinking geometry. Equilateral triangles are the only type I remember off hand.

And then there are the triangles you see in soap operas. They are usually more complicated.

Most of us avoid those.

School kids sometimes have friendship problems that involve triangles. Friend A likes you but then likes friend B more, and the poor kid who is friend C gets ditched by A.

So how are your friendships doing? Hopefully well. We do value friendships that are long-lasting and steadfast.

In this modern generation people have on-line friends too – because people are so mobile the internet helps us to keep connected.

On Facebook, you can unfriend them when you are fed up. Just a click of a button. Mind you, his generation of school kids break up by text anyway. Crazy world. No more Dear John letters.

In my generation, people are more likely to neglect people and just drift away. Or more move away. Usually to another continent.

Communities and families.

In close communities like a family or church there is a good chance that people can fall out over something rather trivial that grows and grows out of all proportion.

Or worse still, something really bad happens and it’s a painful separation or estrangement.

Jesus gives this method in Matt 18 to fix that. It obviously mattered to him when people wronged each other.

We fail in this most times. It’s the triangle that we often slip into.

  • We don’t go to the person directly when things have gone wrong.
  • We tell someone else.

If someone complains about someone, the first question we should ask is simply this: have you spoken to them directly? If not, its gossip.  (I’m sure you’ve NEVER had that happen to you.)

There’s a saying that goes – “don’t allow someone rest their gun on your shoulder.”

If you do:

  • Suddenly there are three people.
  • Your friend – their friend they are fed up with – and you.
  • And your friend drags you into something the two of them need to fix.

Of-course Jesus gives a way to sort it out if the person doesn’t respond.

The real challenge is for us not to get sucked into triangles.

Ironically – whether there are two or three who come together in His name – what does He say in verse 20? He is in the midst – with them. Where Christians are – Jesus is.

And if we took that seriously, we would watch what we said about people in general. We would certainly avoid gossip. Or scandal.

COMING TO THE TABLE

When we come to the Lord’s table it’s a good idea to reflect on relationships and perhaps resolve to make things right.

Paul in the reading from Roman 13 puts it like this:

Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law.(vs8).

And this is even more important:

Love does no harm to its neighbour. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law. (vs.10)

So what is the way forward? This is what Jesus says:

Mat 18:15  “If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. Mat 18:16  But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ Mat 18:17  If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector.

There is a place for a triangle or a quadrilateral setup. If they don’t respond to you appeal to sort out something that is wrong, you can take one or two others along to show it is serious. If they are unrepentant, you tell the whole community – mainly I think so they can pray about it and realize that it matters. If that doesn’t help -you cut them off. Treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector.

The wonderful thing is that Jesus always kept the door open for tax collectors.

The hope was always reconciliation and restoration.

Like a family, you’d want the estranged member to come back so when you have those family meals they are at the table.

  • For most things, I reckon we can resolve things.
  • The little foxes that cause trouble are often things we can compromise on. Or at least forgive.

And so – if I hear you mutter about anyone, I will probably not say – “have you applied Matthew 18 sister?” That’s a bit too weird.

I might say “please don’t rest your gun on my shoulder” just to remind you of today.

Paul goes on to say:

Rom 13:11  And do this, understanding the present time. The hour has come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed.

Rom 13:12  The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armour of light.

You might think – ah this is not so bad. Probably not considering what he deals with in the next verse: Rom 13:13 Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery…

Good point.

But he also adds at the end of verse 13: not in dissension and jealousy.

He ends this passage with this: Rom 13:14  Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature.

That’s quite good really. Jesus becomes our covering. It along with Colossians 3:12:  Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.

Clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ. After all – whatever you do to the least of his brothers you do unto him (Matthew 25).

That includes taking pot shots at each other.

Best have the right kind of triangles or groups with the right focus: “For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them.”  

Amen.

Advertisements

Sunday sermon 6 November 2016 – Reconciled to live for one another

READINGS:  2 Corinthians 5:14-21; Matthew 5:21-24;  Romans 12:9-18

SERMON                                                                    

There’s as great Scripture in Song item from 1977 by a man called Rick Ridings which goes like this:

Verse 1

Little children, Forgive one another, As I have forgiven you;
Cast all your bitterness, In the depths of the sea: Forgive like Me

Verse 2

Little children, Serve one another, As I have served you
Take off the robes of Your rights and your pride; Wash each other’s feet

Verse 3

Little children, Receive one another, As I have received you
Call not unclean, What I have called clean; Come learn of Me

When you look at all the passages in the New Testament which use the phrase “little children” most are Jesus’ words and refer to real little children. You know the ones I mean – like the King James version of “Let the little children come unto me..” which goes like this: Mat 19:14  But Jesus said, Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven.

Ironically too many children actually do suffer at the hands of adults. We know of course, if English is not your first language, that “suffer” in 17C English meant “allow” or “let”.

You may remember that Jesus also used the phrase for the disciples in John 13 – from last week. And then John uses “little children” quite a bit for Christians to whom he writes his first letter.

Even Paul, not known for sentimentality when he writes, as usually he is ticking off the Christians for their sins or heresies, uses the term in Galatians 4. It comes out in the NIV as “Dear children” but other translations have it like this:

4:19  my little children, for whom I am again in the anguish of childbirth until Christ is formed in you!

Children of course are not meant to get everything right. They’re always learning.

And I think that’s the secret of real discipleship. Being open to correction. And it is the one thing that makes adults very difficult.

We’re not always teachable.

One of my little sayings is that I want FAT people in church.

Faithful, available, and teachable.

I was reading this week that in on particular country children in their early years of school spend a lot more time working on getting on together than learning things.

Getting on is the main thing. Every drama – family violence – gang rumble – civil war – world war – is about people who stop talking and start shooting – one way or the other.

The bible narrative deals with broken relationships early on.

The first family – soon after the couple fall out with God – have kids that fall out with each other in a very dramatic way. Cain kills Abel as you know.

And God’s mission to people after that is a constant attempt to clean up the mess and get His people on track.

Okay it is a bit radical when he drowns most of them in a flood. (Noah)

And of course he saves key people along the way. Like Joseph who was also done in by his brothers – and ended up prince of Egypt.

They are rescued from famine by going to Egypt. And through Moses they are eventually saved from Slavery and given their own land.

(Look along the wall of the Family Centre and you will see the narrative visually in the collages we’ve done through the year at Messy Church as we’ve worked through the Old Testament.)

And it’s into that land that ultimately Jesus comes.

On Friday at Messy Church we focussed on Isaiah the prophet – who foretells the coming of a wonderful counsellor, mighty God, every lasting Father and PRINCE OF PEACE (Isaiah 9:6).

People who are peacekeepers who don’t keep the peace get fired. There was a big commotion this week over UN peacekeepers from Kenya who failed in their job. Their commander got fired and they are offended and all going home.

But Jesus the mighty warrior is the ultimate peacekeeper and the prince of peace. He sees the project though as He dies for us.

The CROSS is at the centre of this.

One of the important terms for what he does is related to his sacrifice. We talked about it last week – he dies in our place – he is the lamb slain and his blood is sprinkled on the eternal mercy seat of God. You may remember the verse: 1Jn 4:10  This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Atoning sacrifice is also translated as propitiation.

One of the other terms is REDEMPTION which involves a payment of a ransom. And of course Paul talks a lot about JUSTIFICATION. All these terms in the New Testament try to capture what Jesus has done for us.

It’s RECONCILIATION which is repeated a lot in today’s reading from 2 Corinthians. The prince of peace logically brings reconciliation.

It crops up in Ephesians in a peace-making passage too:

Eph 2:14  For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, Eph 2:15  by abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace, Eph 2:16  and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility.

 Who are the “two” he has made one? The two out of which he makes one new man? Gentiles and Jews of course. That’s a major peace project. You see it being worked out in the life of Peter who needs a vision from God to get him to go to the house of Cornelius.

This event is picked up in the last line of the song – “little children” – “call not unclean what I have called clean.” Which means the Jewish Christians could mix with Gentile Christians and the two groups could form one new family in Christ.

And then in Colossians the reconciliation is broader – he speaks about all things needing this reconciliation:

Col 1:19  For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him,  Col 1:20  and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross. Col 1:21  Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. Col 1:22  But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation— Col 1:23  if you continue in your faith, established and firm, not moved from the hope held out in the gospel. This is the gospel that you heard and that has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven, and of which I, Paul, have become a servant.

Reconciliation – made possible through the cross of Christ – is actually the theological foundation of all this “one another” loving, serving and forgiving.

Paul spells it out in our reading from 2 Corinthians 5:

2Co 5:17  Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! 2Co 5:18  All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 2Co 5:19  that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.

Reconciliation is central to our faith and we need constantly to make peace and restore relationships. You may remember the old saying “love means never having to say you’re sorry”. “Yeah right” – is our response to that.

So here are two practical outcomes of this.

Jesus speaks about reconciliation as well. We read the passage from Matthew.

  1. Before you offer your gift to God (Jesus) – get reconciled

Jesus gives us this angle on reconciliation – sort out your relationships before you come to offer yourself and your gifts to God in worship. The thing that needs to be fixed? The same thing that messed up Cain and Abel’s relationship – and caused Joseph’s brothers to sell him into slavery (remember they planned to kill him initially). Anger.

So Jesus says:

Mat 5:22  But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to his brother, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the Sanhedrin. But anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell. 

Mat 5:23  “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, Mat 5:24  leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.

The interesting thing about this verse is who is responsible for fixing the bad relationship – who needs to initiate reconciliation?

Who is it? Yes – the one who is probably wronged – the one who realises that his brother has something against him or her.

If you have any sense of a broken relationship and someone being mad at you or resentful of you – says Jesus – sort it out. It must be asked – why would they be mad at you anyway? Probably because YOU made them mad. 🙂

In other words – it doesn’t matter who started. Fix it. Because you can’t offer true worship to God if you are in a bad relationship with your brother or sister.

John backs this up in his first letter, especially in Chapter 4:19-21:

1Jn 4:19 We love because he first loved us.
1Jn 4:20 If anyone says, “I love God,” yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen.
1Jn 4:21 And he has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother. 

We are to constantly make peace by walking in the light (see 1 John 1:7-10).

And then, secondly – we are to

  1. Keep up the one another focus

We’ve talked about serving, loving and forgiving one another.

All of these are the consequence of reconciliation with God and one another.

There are a host of other “one another” commands in the New Testament.

  • Bear with one another
  • Be kind and compassionate to one another
  • Be devoted to one another
  • Honour one another above yourselves
  • Accept one another
  • Agree with one another
  • Encourage one another
  • Spur one another one towards love and good deeds
  • Do not slander one another
  • Offer hospitality to one another
  • Clothe yourselves with humility towards one another
  • Submit to one another (specifically in marriage)
  • Live in harmony with one another

And of course –

  • confess you sins to one another.
  • Teach and admonish one another.

These last two especially require trust in a  community.

We have to be open to learning a new way of doing things – to be like little children as we trust God and take the risks of opening our lives to one another.

And we have to give time to relationships for any of this to happen!

So I remind you of my invitation a couple of weeks ago.

How do we achieve these things in our Christian community? We talked about them in the context of serving one another. Here they are again:

  • Join a home group – best place for really growing and making friends.
  • Stay for tea and meet some new people. Invite them for coffee through the week.
  • Pitch in to help – share the load. We need everyone rowing on this waka. Offer to help in practical ways. When you’re not on the roster.

Most of all – if you need to make peace and be reconciled with someone – just do it. Again -like little children – we too need to get on together.

Do something about those relationships that need fixing. Otherwise none of this will really matter – or happen.

Amen.

 

Sunday sermon at BBP – 29 December 2013 – Called to serve

Gospel Reading:  St. Mark 10: 42 — 45;  Preacher: Bill Davey

How are we to respond to the Incarnate One?

We know the Lord can change New Zealand ― if we each play our part!

We are, however, needed to help re-kindle the faith in the Christ of the Gospels.  We have a clear exhortation about our service among His people:

 Jesus called them together and said, “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all.

 For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to givehis life as a ransom for many.”  

Introduction

We will briefly review of some recent Advent Scriptures ― followed by a review of our Gospel reading this morning.

Advent

Every year we begin a great journey ― the story about God among His people: Meaning all humankind ― including you, me, indeed everyone is invited.

Advent (I) ― God’s Plan ― Journey’s End

Advent (I) began with a great thought ― our final focus on journey’s end:

Matthew 24: 44 So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.

Our Christian story runs from Genesis (The Creation) to Revelation and ends with the Return of Christ to the earth.

Revelation 22: 20 reads: He who testifies to these things says, “Yes, I am coming soon.” Amen. Come Lord Jesus. The Return of Christ at the end of the age is our ultimate target throughout life.

― sometimes called the Second Coming or
― the culmination or consummation of all things.

Be watching ― Be praying ― Beware of false teachers ― Beware of idolatry

Advent (II) ― God’s Plan ― A great starting point

Advent (II) followed with the first baptisms ― a great start point ― Baptism.

Matthew 3: 11 – “I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me will come one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not fit to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.

Advent (III) God’s Plan ― A New Way of living

Advent (III) Jesus demonstrated a new way of living and then He presented a eulogy to John the Baptist, with a paradox we find hard to understand.

Advent (IV) ― God’s Plan ― The Birth of Jesus

Advent (IV) The Joseph and Mary story.

Five days ago we celebrated the birth of the Lord Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God, who became our Messiah, Redeemer and Saviour on the Cross at Calvary.   Most of us have known this Christmas story ― about the Incarnation ― (“How God became man and came to live among us”) from our childhood. It has always been the cornerstone of our Christian culture and heritage.

Question: Is it still true ― for the children,  and children’s children in   New Zealand today?

During the family service we spoke of the ministry of John the Baptist. Our minister, Robin, recalled the words of Jesus to the people ― they are part of the eulogy to John the Baptist:

Jesus began to speak to the crowd about John: “What did you go out into the desert to see? A reed swayed by the wind? If not, what did you go out to see? A man dressed in fine clothes? No, those who wear fine clothes are in kings’ palaces. Then what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. This is the one about whom it is written: `I will send my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way before you.’

I want to focus on the final words of the eulogy in verse 11: I tell you the truth: Among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist; yet he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.

What do we make of the paradox in verse 11? I tell you the truth: I tell you the truth also translates as “Verily, verilly, I say unto you. I suggest that we do well to highlight or underline all such sentences and ponder them ― They are always the kernel of a significant truth.

Now the paradox declares:

Among those born of women. Nobody “greater than John the Baptist” has been born. We continue: there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist; yet he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.

Yet he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. What is this greater-ness of which He spoke?  I understand the Lord was saying, ′that He was demonstrating His leadership and authority ― not with military muscle or through conquest, but by being a servant of servants, and as a slave of the slaves′.

If you remain unsure of the meaning of the paradox, please do what the Baptist told his disciples to do, Go ask him yourself:  Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?”

Can you recall the response of Jesus? “The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor.”

Please note how giving the good news to the poor is valued by the Lord ― It is the equal of healing or raising the dead.  Surely we can all tell someone about the goodness of the Lord to us?

Now what is our Church response and direction going to be in 2014?

Returning to our Gospel Reading

Our Lord gave a very clear exhortation about humble service among His followers:

Jesus called them together and said, “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”  St. Mark 10: 42 — 45                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       Our Lord gave a very clear exhortation about humble service among His followers: Jesus called them together and said, “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

How will we respond the exhortation of Jesus?

Here are seven possible priorities for our consideration for 2014?

1.     Hospitality: Highlighting the dignity of being members of the Household of God.

2.     Caring: Helping any person in need, especially those experiencing misfortune or suffering from some disability.

3.     Reconciliation:    Seeking the recovery and restoration of those who have been separated in any way from God.

4.     Worship:   Guiding private and public worship. ― Time with God in prayer and study.

5.     Formation: Fostering the spiritual life of each member of our Fellowship and all who       wish to be associated in any way.

6.     Education: Providing appropriate learning experiences ranging from simple guided learning to advanced leadership training and studies.

7.     Evangelisation:     Pursuing opportunities to communicate the living vitality of our Lord Jesus with all in need of His love and care.

Summary

Our Lord’s new and living way is our example!

Are we willing to be a servant of servants and a slave of fellow slaves?

What will we consider the priority ministries in our own life this year?

Some thoughts as we finish:

Recall, the Lord can change New Zealand ― if we each play our part!

and we are all needed to help re-kindle the faith in the Christ of the Gospels.

It will work best ― when we gather one person at a time.   Amen!

Closing Prayer: May the Lord bless you and keep you. May the Lord cause His face to shine upon you and be gracious to you. May the Lord lift up his countenance toward you and give you peace!

Sunday 18 November @9 – Yes, God cares about your relationships

Yes, God Cares About Your Relationships

Preacher: Lester Simpson

John 13:1, 12-17, 34-35, 1 Corinthians 13:1-7, Philippians 2:1-5,

According to one story about Adam & Eve, after the honeymoon was over a bit of friction crept into their marriage, and Adam went to God and said:

“Lord, this woman you gave me, she’s very beautiful and all that, but she has some irritating habits that are driving me crazy.  Could you take her back, please?”

God agreed, and Adam reverted to the single life.   But within two or three weeks the loneliness got to him, and he asked God to bring Eve back.

God complied, and Adam & Eve settled down to married life again.

But after a few weeks Adam returned to God complaining, ‘Lord, this woman is so frustrating.  She talks all the time, and wants me to do this and do that.  I’d rather be without her.”

And God fulfilled his wish.

But after a week or two of silence, Adam missed Eve so much he asked God to restore her.

This happened several times until finally God said to Adam, “The trouble with you, Adam, is that you can’t live with Eve, and you can’t live without her!”

And that’s the way it’s been ever since!

Relationships – something we can’t avoid unless we go and live on a desert island all alone.

All too often human relationships are brittle and broken, e.g.:

– one in every 3 or 4 marriages ends in divorce, leaving behind a trail of scars, hurts, confusion and broken dreams.

– even within the family, relationships can be difficult.  Try living with teenagers!

– what about adult brothers and sisters who haven’t spoken in years?

– to say nothing about those awkward neighbours and the people at work who are hard to get on with.

Henri Nouwen said this: “The main source of suffering in North America has to do with relationships.’

When life is full of anger, hurts, differences and blow-outs, it becomes wearying, negative and depressing – causing us to ask:

Does God care about my situation,

my mediocre existence,

my struggle to hold things together?

Yes!  God does care about our relationships.  He made us to live in relationship – with Himself and with others.

He made us to love and be loved.

How important are relationships?  They are:

  • Creation’s goal – we’re made in the image of the Triune God, to relate to Him
  • God’s priority – first four commandments are about our relationship to God, and the next six about our relationship to others
  • Christ’s passion- “A new commandment I give you, that you love one another as I have loved you”.
  • The Apostles’ concern – 30% of the NT letters deal with relationships

This importance is underlined by the frequency in the NT of words like “together” and “one another”.

God shows relationships matter by the fact that the Bible contains so much teaching in this area – from Cain’s rhetorical question, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” through to John’s letters:

“Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God.”

The Bible is not the only place you can find teaching on relationships.  There is a plethora of teaching available in books, workshops, counselling sessions and online sources.

Much is sound and good,

but the basic principles are there in the Scriptures, in the Word of God.

We are wise to test all techniques, approaches and methods by the Word of God.

Let me suggest three Basic Principles for Building and Maintaining Stable and Healthy Relationships:

i.e. how to love other people, whether the love is in marriage or in friendship or neighbourly relations:

1. Recognise that to Love is to be Vulnerable:

CS Lewis: “The only place outside Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers and agitation of love is Hell.”

Life involves us in hurting and being hurt.

Once we accept this as true/realistic, we can use our energies learning how to deal with it, rather than trying to avoid it or deny it.

Brian Hathaway wrote this: “The true mark of a Christian community is not the absence of conflict, but the presence of reconciliation.”

No one likes being hurt, and one of the greatest fears in any relationship is the fear of being rejected.

Think of the way a couple at a certain point in their relationship start to hide feelings and information from each other, because they’re afraid it might sabotage their relationship.

But without risking knowing and being known, we cannot build close relationships.

Keith Miller describes in his writings how he struggled with this, and how as he grew in his trust in God and God’s continuing love for him, it helped him to open up and build close relationships.

The other side of the hurting process is forgiveness, forgiving the other person who has hurt us.

To refuse to forgive is to imprison ourselves behind a wall of resentment.

Forgiveness doesn’t mean brushing off the hurt as if it didn’t matter (which is a form of denial) or pretending we can just forget it,

but going to the other person,

speaking the truth in love,

expressing how we feel,

seeking reconciliation,

and showing forgiveness.

We read in Proverbs 27:5-6  “Better is open rebuke than hidden love.  Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses.”

To love is to be vulnerable – just as God, in loving the world through Jesus became vulnerable to the world’s rejection and hatred.

2.  Love with Self-Giving Love, Not Acquisitive Love:

i.e. love that seeks to give, rather than to get.

When Paul appealed to the Philippian church to adopt the same attitude as Christ, it was in the context of dealing with (note this) strained relationships:

“Do nothing out of selfish ambition…Look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.

Have the same attitude as Christ, who although He was God, did not cling to his prerogatives, or claim His rights, but gave up His heavenly glory, and became a servant… going even to the cross” (Phil. 2:3-5)

Self-giving love is servant love, e.g. Jesus washing his disciples’ feet.

Cf. the Servant Song: “Brother, sister let me serve you,  let me be as Christ to you.”

In 1 Corinthians 13:4-5 we read: “Love is patient, love is kind, it does not envy, does not boast, is not proud, or rude, or self-seeking

(Or in JB Phillips’ translation: “Love does not insist on having its own way”)

The love that builds relationships is not expressed in claiming rights or insisting on its own way, but in mutual submission.  (See Ephes. 5:21)

Jonathan & David provide a model of self-giving love in their friendship.

Jonathan honoured David above self, he risked his reputation for David, and was faithful to him, no matter the cost.

That cost was considerable – because supporting David meant that David would become king, not Jonathan.

3. Don’t Retaliate:

Peter, in counselling his 1st century readers how to cope with persecution and suffering, reminds them of the example left by Jesus:

“When they hurled their insults at Him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats.  Instead He entrusted Himself to Him who judges justly.”  (1 Peter 2:23)

As in the Golden Rule – Jesus practised what he preached, He exemplified what he taught.

The source of this kind of love is God.

1 John 4:7 “Friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God”

If you’ve read “The Shack” (W. Paul Young), you’ll recall there are some wonderful passages about the love of Father, Son and Spirit who dwell in a circle of love and mutual submission in the Godhead.  At one point Papa tells Mack they want him to join their circle of love.

God’s love is giving, not manipulative (“God so loved the world that He gave His only Son…”),

constant , not fickle (i.e. covenant love)

In an age when commitment is at a low premium, we need to focus on covenant love, love which is the expression of commitment and loyalty.

That’s the only foundation for the right kind of love, for enduring relationships.

The greatest chapter on love in the Bible is 1 Corinthians 13.

Someone doing a study on this said afterwards they felt like giving up, because the study asked lots of questions that only served to drive home how much the person had failed.

Pity, because the purpose of God’s Word is not to put us down, but to lead us to Him, to experience His forgiving, affirming, liberating love, and to enable us in turn to love others.

Yes, God’s Word does convict us of our failures, for we can’t follow Christ in our own strength.  But as we yield our lives more and more to Him, His Spirit will change us into His likeness and we will manifest his love in our relationships.