Share The Love Of Jesus Christ

Pastor Rachel B. Livingston 

I. Our Mission 

This week we conclude our sermon series on our mission statement where we focus on the substantial pieces of this mission statement of ours.  We claim that this mission statement shapes our work as this body of Christ.  To Grow in Faith.  Serve Others.  And Share the love of Jesus Christ.  In these three weeks, we have covered that we are centered on the foundation that is Jesus Christ.  The foundation is the piece that reinforces the structure above it, pushing forces to hold it up, while dispersing the weight that presses down upon it.  If not for the foundation, a building will not be able to support its weight, it will not be able to stand up.  And we in the church are the same way, we cannot function, we cannot hold ourselves up, we cannot sustain ourselves if we do not first center ourselves on our foundation, Jesus Christ.  But as we have said for the past couple of weeks, our mission statement is the framework built upon the foundation of Jesus Christ, that shapes the ministry that we do, it is the thing that shapes how we, as living stones, come together to do work that builds the Kingdom of God.  So, we as the people of God, the Church, Cheltenham United Methodist Church, proclaim that the ways we will contribute to building the Kingdom of God are To Grow in Faith. Serve others. And Share the Love of Jesus Christ.  So, this morning, we focus on our task to share the love of Jesus Christ.  God has called us to function in love, and not just any love but the love that was modeled in Jesus Christ.  It is a task that all of us as Christians are called to do.  We are to love one another and be so connected to our God that we are perfected in God’s love, living in a way that God’s love intrinsically flows out of us. 

 II. Living in Lovelessness

Since the beginning, when humanity was separated from God, the God of creation, the God who crafted our very being – since sin ripped us from our maker, we have functioned in a world of lovelessness.  A world in which we are separated from love which is found in God and God alone, because God is love.  We could no longer function in the actions of love because we had been separated from our maker.  We function in a world in which we tend to prioritize ourselves over one another, a world in which we are uncomfortable with love, and quite frankly we don’t really know how define love.  We very rarely want to be vulnerable with one another in the way that allows love to flow.  Our difficulty to function in love is because we live in a world that is suffering from lovelessness, it does not know the love of Christ and as a symptom we often find it difficult to function in love.  We are separated in love and then reconnected to love through the loving sacrifice of Jesus Christ, we are restored and made whole.  And because of that we are called to Share the love of Jesus Christ, that the world may be transformed from lovelessness to functioning in God’s love.

As we come to the conclusion of one week and the start of a new week, and given this task to share the love of Jesus Christ, I have to admit that I am tired.  I am grieved and tired because as I look around the world, I can see the effects of a world plagued by lovelessness, a lack of love and quite frankly an inability or misunderstanding of how to function in love, a world that suffers from the symptoms of lovelessness in the world.  We see the symptoms of a loveless world when our Asian brothers and sisters have been harassed and assaulted, as people have justified their hate by a misconceived notion that they have contributed to the spread of this COVID virus.  We see the symptoms of lovelessness when a mass shooting happened this week in Long Island amongst many other shootings that have happened throughout the country over the past several weeks, and in the midst of a homeostasis of violence, our world barely batted an eyelash. We see the symptoms of lovelessness in the world when we witness the heartache and pain of communities ripped apart from trauma and the world just keeps turning without trying to rectify or treat the situation.  We live in a world that is fragmented because it has lost its sense of functioning in love. The lack of love has created a world that functions in chaos where we are more likely to see the symptoms of lovelessness before we see hope, transformation, and love.

We have witnessed such tragedy in our world this week because we suffer from lovelessness.  We see the symptoms of lovelessness in a world when a young teenage girl felt that the solution to her problem was to respond with violence in the use of a weapon.  But this also shows a lovelessness in our world where this precious young lady, a child of God, had to suffer death without anyone trying to de-escalate the situation.  We are ripped apart as a society that is lacking in love, when this problem that is rooted in hatred and violence occurred, that resulted in such trauma and pain for all involved.  And we received a verdict from a trial that shows how much we function in lovelessness that resulted in violence, death, racism, hatred, and devaluing of human life.  This situation has shown us that our world tends to function in these terms before they even consider to function in love.  We have seen a situation where justice was done with the announcing of a verdict, but the situation as a whole is proof that our world functions in a lack of love.  Lovelessness allowed the death of George Floyd that ruptured and broke a family, leaving them without a father, and leaving them functioning with a void. Lovelessness has even broken the family of Derek Chauvin as he made decisions that functioned in violence and racism that devalued human life.  Two families ripped apart because of the presence of lovelessness that exist within the world.  The world has been fractured and plagued by a lack of love and many people intrinsically function in ways that lack love, so we suffer and see such pain.

In a loveless world, there are no winners and losers, there is no us vs. them.  We are all plagued by the horrible trauma and the scarring wounds of lovelessness.  In a world of lovelessness, we see the perpetuation of racism, sexism, classism and the devaluing of human life without a second thought.  We see situations that cause the death of human beings, situations that cause the heartache of others, or situations that traumatize us. In a loveless world, we live in the midst of this horror and terror.  There are no winners and losers in all of this.  We are all functioning in this broken world ruled by lovelessness.  But in the midst of lovelessness it is imperative to reintroduce love within it, to reintroduce the love that is found in Christ.

 III. God IS Love

Our scripture this morning, in 1 John says that we must love one another, because God is, in fact, the very essence of love, without God we do not understand love, we cannot fathom love, because it is God that shows us love. No one has ever had the opportunity to lay their eyes on God, but if we love one another, we know that God lives within us and that love is perfected in us through God.  So, for the world to experience God, for the world to see God in the world and all the goodness that God brings, for the world to be transformed in the ways of God, we share that love of Jesus Christ because then the world can experience the essence of God.  For us to effectively respond to lovelessness of our society, to begin chipping away at the systemic issues present because of the lack of love in the world we must share the love of Jesus Christ. But what does the love of Jesus Christ look like?

 IV. Defining Love

As I was reading All About Love written by bell hooks, she claims that we tend to be confused of how to function in love because we do not have a working definition of love.  We approach it as if it is complex and elusive, something that cannot be grasped.  Quite often we all tend to have different working definitions of love, and it seems to shape shift based upon the person that is trying to define it.  The way that we interpret love determines the way in which we use it in friendships, romantic relationships, and how we interpret love from God.  Our failure to have one explanation for love has created a misunderstanding on how to appropriately love our friends, our lovers, and those in the world.  We are afraid to make ourselves vulnerable in love and we often see it as a sign of weakness, so we avoid saying I love you.  If we cannot show love to those we actually love then how will we show love to others? Most of my friends, if I have truly considered you a friend, I have told them that I loved them.  But many people are uncomfortable with that.

In English, we have one word for love, which means that our one word is supposed to encompass all types of love, which could be one reason why we think of love as so complex.  However, in the Greek context there were multiple words used for love.  You have philia, which is brotherly love or the love between friends, that is how we get the name Philadelphia which is the city of brotherly love.  You have eros, which is romantic love or the love between two lovers.  And you have agape love, which is the love attributed to God which is defined as unconditional love.  But as God is love, God is within each way we show love to one another be it in friendship, romantic love, or love throughout the world.  However, the love we show to the world should reflect closely the love that is attributed to God in unconditional love.  That means that the love that we show to the world should not change in any condition, it should not change because of the world’s misconceptions of someone based on race, gender, or class.  This means that when someone does something wrong the love we show should not fall short. It means that love is given without condition and is given continually.  bell hooks’s book All About Love  defines love as extending one’s self for the purpose of nurturing one another’s spiritual growth.  Therefore, love should be a love that is nurtures those involved and given without condition, it is sustained in any condition, and is continual.  It means to give of one’s self so that us and the one we give love to grow.  It means making one’s self vulnerable so that we can both more deeply live in Christ.  It means we care, show affection, recognize the humanity in others, respect one another, commit to one another, trust one another, and we are honest with one another because it shows the Christ that is within us – but we do in the midst of any condition and vow to remain unwavering.  It shows that we are born in God because the essence of God, the love of God resides within.  But we also must remember that in the midst of love, harm and abuse cannot exist.  Because within the love of Jesus Christ there is new life. Love exists when we nurture one another to grow, but that doesn’t mean that it won’t hurt at times because we must open ourselves in vulnerability.

God calls us to combat a loveless world by functioning in God’s love, by showing the love found in Jesus Christ to the rest of the world.  But in taking on Christ’s love we must understand that in Christ things are not like the world around us.  We may be in this world but the ways of Christ that lead us are not of this world.  Quite frankly, when we are in Christ we are transformed in ways where we function in God’s love.  Our scripture from Matthew, quite often called the Beatitudes, shows us that in Christ, things are transformed through the ministry of Jesus Christ.  Blessed are the poor in spirit, blessed are those who mourn, blessed are the meek, blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, blessed are the merciful, blessed are the pure in heart, blessed are the peacemakers, blessed are the persecuted for righteousness’s sake.  All of these people, in the context of the imperial structure are pushed to the margins of society and yet in Jesus Christ their lives are transformed. For theirs is the kingdom of heaven, for they will be comforted, for they will inherit the earth, for they will be filled, for they will receive mercy, for they will see God, for they will be called children of God.  In Jesus Christ things are turned around.  The blessings name the distressing consequences of Roman rule, but in Christ there is victory.  And as we the people of God we act in love as we work with God to deliver the things that are present to transform things.  Because we have claimed to follow Jesus Christ, we are the salt of the earth, we are the light of the world we are the hands and feet of God in the world that help to transform it as we carry the love of God throughout the world.  Food maintains its flavor with salt, it is preserved through the use of salt.  If it is not for salt, food is no longer good.  And if we do not spread Christ’s love in the world, the world will continue to decay in its lovelessness as we grow further and further from God.  So as we show Christ’s love we work to comfort those who mourn, to fill the those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, to provide mercy, we work to build the kingdom of God. 

If we need an example, we can just look to Jesus who shows us how to put love in action.  In an act of love God sent his Son for the atonement of sin.  In the name of love, Jesus Christ endured the pain of lashes for our sin, he endured the bruising for our iniquities, Jesus was stretched out on a cross for our lovelessness.  He hung his head and died, breathed his last and proclaimed it was finished.  He did all this that we might be reconciled back to God.  And then on the third day he rose from the dead that we might gain new life.  In this act of love Jesus Christ opened up himself that we might grow into new life and that he might grow in relationship with us, that we might be restored to the relationship we had been torn from in the midst of sin.  So we must do the same, we are called by God to share the love of Jesus Christ, and that means that we must make ourselves vulnerable in ways that bring about one’s growth, in this midst of sorrow give them joy, in the midst of violence give them peace, in the midst of destruction give them restoration, in the midst of darkness bring them light.  That is love. But what are we to do as we take our marching orders? How do we go about sharing the love of Jesus Christ? Well our scripture lets us know.

 V. What To Do

First and foremost, we must let God live in us. We must be intentional about out connection to God.  To come to God humbly and with purpose.  That means we pray, read, scripture, and do our devotions.  All so that we grow in our faith.  We gather together in community that we might help one another to grow in Bible Study and group discussions.  But we also open up ourselves to hear from God that we might be able to move where God moves and even think beyond the normal bounds of ministry that we have seen before.  But essentially what it means is that we work toward intimate connection and growth with God.

Secondly, we are to be perfected in God’s love.  That means that we must allow God to show us the ways of love.  We are to open ourselves in vulnerability that we might love God fully and love our neighbor as ourselves.  We become better Christians as we take on the ways of God’s love. As we love fully and wholly.  To have our ways change so that we are no longer functioning in the lovelessness of this world.  We need to be perfected in ways that we are no longer governed by the ways of the world that function in hatred, injustice, negativity, suffering, and violence.  But instead we learn the ways of God that have us function in love, justice, positivity, nurturing, and peace.

And finally, we must love one another.  We must love one another not out of obligation, because it should not be a chore or a task to express love. But we should be transformed in God’s love that it flows intrinsically out of us. Which means when the world teaches us hatred in the various means of oppression, where we look at people differently because of their skin color, their gender, their income, their sexuality, their gender identity, we look to see the human and work toward affirming their being.  We open ourselves in vulnerability to see their humanity and being and promote their personhood.  Chastising the systems that mistreat them.  We look at them as not flawed individuals but created in the image of God and nurture their being, be compassionate, and care for them.   We should be transformed in God’s love, that God’s love intrinsically flows out of us because when it does it shows that we live in God and God lives within us.  It shows that we are transformed by God. God is love, and in order to spread the good news of Jesus Christ we must begin by spreading the love of Jesus Christ. Amen.