— The Preaching and Teaching Ministry of Kevin A. Pierpont

Loving God, Loving People – Part 8, Love in the Church – John 13:34,35

D.L. Moody once said,

“Show me a church where there is love, and I will show you a church that is a power in the community. In Chicago a few years ago a little boy attended a Sunday school I know of. When his parents moved to another part of the city the little fellow still attended the same Sunday school, although it meant a long, tiresome walk each way. A friend asked him why he went so far, and told him that there were plenty of others just as good nearer his home.

“They may be as good for others, but not for me,” was his reply.

“Why not?” she asked.

“Because they love a fellow over there,” he replied.

If only we could make the world believe that we loved them there would be fewer empty churches, and a smaller proportion of our population who never darken a church door. Let love replace duty in our church relations, and the world will soon be evangelized.” (Moody’s Anecdotes, Page 71-72)

I think that is the kind of church God wants us to be—A place where love replaces duty in our relationships with others.

Christopher Stinnett noted in an article in Leadership that,

Lee Iacocca once asked legendary football coach Vince Lombardi what it took to make a winning team. The book Iacocca records Lombardi's answer:  "There are a lot of coaches with good ball clubs who know the fundamentals and have plenty of discipline but still don't win the game. Then you come to the third ingredient: if you're going to play together as a team, you've got to care for one another. You've got to love each other. Each player has to be thinking about the next guy and saying to himself: 'If I don't block that man, Paul is going to get his legs broken. I have to do my job well in order that he can do his.'

"The difference between mediocrity and greatness," Lombardi said that night, "is the feeling these guys have for each other."  In the healthy church, each Christian learns to care for others. As we take seriously Jesus' command to "love one another," we contribute to a winning team. (Christopher Stinnett, Walled Lake, Michigan. Leadership, Vol. 15, no. 3. Bible Illustrator)

We must learn what love in the church is if we want to be the winning team God desires we be and as we continue in our Loving God, Loving People series this morning, we’re going to discover what love in the church looks like.

Let’s look at John 13:34-35 where Christ commanded us to love one another.

34  "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. 35  "By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another."

Commanded to Love

Those are words Jesus spoke to His disciples. Look with me at the first five verses of John 13 to see the setting in which these words were given.

13:1  Now before the feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that His hour had come that He should depart from this world to the Father, having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end. 2  And supper being ended, the devil having already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon's son, to betray Him, 3  Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He had come from God and was going to God, 4  rose from supper and laid aside His garments, took a towel and girded Himself. v5  After that, He poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples' feet, and to wipe them with the towel with which He was girded.

Jesus and the disciples are partaking of the meal we now refer to as “The Last Supper.” A beautiful picture of Christ’s love for His disciples is given to us as He washes the disciples’ feet. It is in this context that Jesus spoke the words found in verses 34 and 35.

Jesus says, “a new commandment I give to you.”

"New" implies freshness, or the opposite of "outworn" rather than simply "recent" or "different."(The Expositor’s Bible Commentary)

What is fresh about this commandment? We have been using as the basis for our Loving God, Loving People series, the words of Jesus recorded in Matthew 22:37-39.

Matthew 22:37  Jesus said to him, " 'You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.' 38  "This is the first and great commandment. 39  "And the second is like it: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.'

We are to love God with all our heart, soul and mind and we are to love our neighbor as ourself. Now Jesus gives fresh instruction to His disciples and the new commandment He gives them narrows the focus of loving our neighbor to specifically loving fellow disciples. Jesus is telling His disciples to love each other.

As disciples or followers of Jesus today, His commandment applies to us. We are to love each other. We are to love our brothers and sisters in Christ. The church—followers of Christ united together as a church—is to love one another. This applies right here at Higgins Lake Baptist Church. We are to love each other. Now we know that we are commanded to love others as well, not just fellow believers but the focus in our text this morning is on our love for each other within the church. And I want you to see how important it is that we love each other in the church and what that love looks like.

Notice that we are commanded to love each other. Jesus makes it very clear that this is a commandment. It’s not a suggestion. It’s not optional. It’s an order Jesus gives to His disciples and expects that it be followed.

It is required of us as God’s children to love our brothers and sisters in Christ. It’s something we are to practice whether we feel like it or not. We tend to add words like “if” and “but”. I’ll love if…and then we attach conditions to our love. We say things like, but you just don’t understand how difficult this person is to love. But he’s offended me—why should I love him?

It’s so easy for us to get caught up in letting our emotions dictate our behavior. We don’t feel like loving so we don’t. We feel like others are unfriendly so we don’t love them. We get easily offended by other people and we choose not to love those who have offended us.

We often decide not to love the people who rub us the wrong way. We are self-serving in our love at times and choose to love those who give us something in return. We put conditions on our love. We find reasons why we just can’t love “so and so.” We claim we just can’t help the way we feel.

But Jesus didn’t leave any room for our excuses. He didn’t give us any wiggle room by say, “can I make a suggestion?” This is no suggestion. He commanded us to love one another. It is not an option. It doesn’t matter whether you feel like loving your brothers and sisters in Christ or not. It is commanded. It’s not up to you to decide which people in the family of God you are going to love. Jesus commanded you and I to love each other. No exceptions.

I’m afraid we act as if it’s optional at times.

“In his book Mere Christianity, C. S. Lewis wrote,

“Do not waste your time bothering whether you ‘love’ your neighbor act as if you did. As soon as we do this, we find one of the great secrets. When you are behaving as if you loved someone, you will presently come to love him. If you injure someone you dislike, you will find yourself disliking him more. If you do him a good turn, you will find yourself disliking him less.” (Our Daily Bread, February 14)

That is the key. Act as if you love others in the church. Be loving to your brothers and sisters in Christ whether they deserve it or not. Love those who have hurt you or mistreated you. Love those who may not give you the time of day. You initiate the love. You love regardless of how you feel. As the slogan goes, “just do it!” We are commanded to love one another. When you choose not to love you are disobeying a direct order from your Master. We are commanded to love.

Not only is this commandment of Jesus fresh in the sense that it narrows in on fellow believers, it is also fresh in another respect.

Jesus had previously instructed us to love our neighbor as we love ourselves. Now He gives us a new standard for loving one another in God’s family. His love is the standard.

Christ’s Love is the Standard

Look at the words in verse 34,

as I have loved you, that you also love one another.

The love that Jesus has for us is the standard by which we are to love one another. His love is one that was willing to serve even in menial ways. We looked earlier at the first five verses of chapter 13 and saw how Jesus demonstrated His love for His disciples by washing their feet.

In those days when you were a guest in someone’s home typically there was a servant who would remove your sandals and wash your feet. Jesus takes the role of a servant and washed the feet of His disciples.

In the summertime my children like to wear sandals outdoors. When they come in at the end of a full day of fun their feet are filthy to say the least. I imagine the disciples’ feet were dirty and smelly. And in an unselfish act of loving service, the Lord Jesus washed those dirty feet.

During the American Revolution a man in civilian clothes rode past a group of soldiers repairing a small defensive barrier. Their leader was shouting instructions, but making no attempt to help them. Asked why by the rider, he retorted with great dignity, “Sir, I am a corporal!”

The stranger apologized, dismounted, and proceeded to help the exhausted soldiers. The job done, he turned to the corporal and said, “Mr. Corporal, next time you have a job like this and not enough men to do it, go to your commander-in-chief, and I will come and help you again.”

It was none other than George Washington. (Today in the Word, March 6. 1991)

That’s the kind of love that Jesus had. He was far greater than any king or ruler or commander-in-chief that has ever lived. He was God.

Listen to these words about Jesus in Colossians 1:16-17.

Colossians 1:16  For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. 17  And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist.

Think of it! Think of the vastness and splendor of our universe. Think of the majesty and power of God. Think about His might displayed in His creation. Then think of Jesus through whom and for whom all things were created. Picture Him demonstrating His love for His disciples by the humble act of washing their feet.

Now look at verse John 13:15.

"For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you.

When Jesus washed the feet of the disciples, He was giving us an example to follow. There are churches that literally practice foot washing. They wash each other’s feet just as Jesus did with the disciples. But note that Jesus is giving an example. Here’s an example of the way you are to treat each other.

I believe His example is broader than the act of foot washing. He gave us an example of loving each other in such a way that we would be willing to serve each other even in the most humbling ways.

If we love one another and follow the example Jesus set, we’re not going to be concerned with how prominent we are or whether we’ll get recognition for what we do. We’re going to be compelled by love to serve each other in ways that may not be very glamorous. We’ll take a turn in the nursery and change a diaper. It won’t be beneath us. We’ll scrub a dirty toilet. We’ll teach that class with the unruly little boy who needs his nose wiped or his shoe tied.

Last Wednesday a couple of our trustees were here mowing the grass and taking down storm windows. In prayer meeting that evening we were able to enjoy some fresh air on a day that was quite warm because of the loving act of service of removing storm windows and we enjoyed the beauty of the lawn and the smell of fresh cut grass because of the loving act of service. It’s a way these men demonstrate their love for God and their love for others in the church. They don’t get paid to mow the lawn but we so appreciate the time they give to keep it looking nice around here. I’m so thankful for the many people around here who lovingly serve us in ways that don’t always get a lot of recognition. They follow the example of their Master, the Lord Jesus Christ and are willing to show their love for others in a myriad of servant like acts.

That’s the kind of love we need to demonstrate here at Higgins Lake Baptist Church. It’s a love that doesn’t say, “how am I being served?” but says, “How can I serve?” We get such a consumer-oriented mind set in the church. We look at the church for ways it meets our needs instead of looking for how we can meet the needs of others. And too often when folk decide they aren’t having their needs met they decide it’s time to look for a new church and I’m afraid that’s totally contrary to what Jesus had in mind for his disciples.

If we focus on serving one another in love, we’re going to follow the example that Jesus gave us when He washed the feet of His disciples. You get busy serving others in the church and you’ll be putting love into practice. And I think an amazing thing happens when we practice this kind of servant love—God meets our needs.

I think we often get it backwards. We say how can I be served? How can I get my needs met.

Instead we need to have faith in a God that created the universe—who’s powerful enough to meet all our needs even if we feel like we’re in a place where nobody cares—and say to ourselves, “If the God of the universe says I’m to love in the church with a servant love then that’s what I’ll do. And I’ll leave me needs in His hands.” God is big enough to meet your needs even in the midst of a community of believers you feel is overlooking you.

We’re commanded to love one another and our example is Jesus. Do you have a servant heart like Jesus did that communicates to others in the church your love for them?

Characterized by Love Notice what happens when we are faithful in obeying the command to love one another and when we love like Jesus loved. Look again at verse 35.

35  "By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another."

When we love in this way we will be characterized by love. Everyone will know that we belong to Christ if we love one another. The world is going to notice if we love each other.

How are we going to get the world’s attention? By building a multimillion-dollar building? By conforming to the world’s ways? By giving away a car to one lucky visitor?

No! Jesus says we get the world’s attention by our love for one another. If we are going to be effective in reaching the lost in our community, they need to see that we love each other.

A few weeks ago we studied 1 Corinthians 13 and took a look at what true Biblical love is. That kind of love should characterize the church. Love that is patient and kind—love that forgives and doesn’t hold grudges—love that isn’t self-seeking—love that bears all things.

That kind of love will cause others to notice. That’s not typical of the love the world has. Commenting on this passage, Matthew Henry said,

“whereas the way of the world is to be every one for himself, they should be hearty for one another.” (Matthew Henry)

In Matthew Henry’s day the way of the world was, every one for himself. Things haven’t changed at all have they? We see that in our world today.

But the church is to be noticeably different. We are to be characterized by our love for one another. Our love for each other authenticates that we belong to Christ.

If you are lacking in love for other Christians maybe it is because you have never truly trusted Christ as your Savior. We’re incapable of loving one another as Jesus loved us if we haven’t placed our faith and trust in Jesus Christ. If you haven’t trusted Christ you can confess your sins to God today and believe on Jesus Christ and be Saved from your sins. And then you begin to truly love.

Believer—do you love other Christians? Does a heart of love for other believers mark your life? If it is, it confirms the work that Jesus Christ has done in your life.

If you are lacking in love you need to make sure you have trusted Christ. But maybe you’re lacking in love because you’re living in disobedience to the clear command to love one another. Don’t let another day go by without getting your heart right with the Lord so that your life is characterized by love for others in the church and so others see the reality of Jesus saving grace at work in your life.

If we are going to be a church that is Loving God and Loving People, then we need to be a church that is characterized by our love for each other right here in the body of Christ.

Are we being obedient to the command to love each other? Are we following the example of Jesus in our love for each other? Do others know that we belong to Christ because of our love for each other?

Maybe you are sitting there today and there is someone else in this church that you have a problem with. You have been commanded to love that person. Are you going to be obedient to that command? Are you going to love like Jesus loved? Are you going to demonstrate your love for others by serving them?

Let’s make it our aim to obey the command to love each other here at Higgins Lake Baptist Church. Let’s follow the example that Jesus set for us. Let’s pray that others will see our love and be drawn to our Savior.