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Author:Pastor Keith Davis
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Congregation:Bethel United Reformed Church
 Calgary, Alberta
Title:A Legacy of Love
Text:John 13:31-35 (View)
Occasion:Easter (Good Friday)

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Pastor Keith Davis, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

A Legacy of Love

Beloved congregation of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we hear the word legacy we ordinarily associate it with something that is handed down from one person to the next, or from one generation to the next. A legacy, for example, can refer to the values, the traditions, or even the accomplishments that one generation leaves for the next generation.  


We often talk about the legacy of the World War II generation -- often said to be the greatest generation. It was that generation that left a legacy of courage and bravery, of hard work and sacrifice; of perseverance and endurance the likes of which few generations before or after have ever seen or experienced.


But a legacy is also something we as individuals can leave behind for those who come after us. At funerals we often hear eulogies which speak of the legacy left behind by a parent or grandparent. It may be a legacy of faith and godliness. It is basically the lasting impression ( a life model) which that person made on his family members, co-workers, neighbors, on those who knew them well, and even on those who knew them only for a brief period of time.   


This morning we’re called to think about our legacy, and instead of waiting until the day we die and having someone else talk about it, we’re called to consider the legacy we leave behind right now, every day, and every moment, with everyone we meet. What is the legacy you leave behind as you converse with people; as you do business with people; as you interact with the people you meet every single day?


Jesus says something about that legacy in the passage we just read. In verse 35 he says All men will know that you are my disciples if you do what? He says: If you love one another. Jesus loved, and he left a legacy of love. And now he calls us (who follow Him) to do the same thing. To leave the same legacy. That’s our theme today: Jesus Calls us to leave a legacy of love.

  1. This is His New Commandment
  2. This is our Witness to the World  


1) This is His New Commandment

As I mentioned at the outset of our Scripture reading, by the time Jesus says these words to his disciples, Judas is already gone. Jesus exposed him as his betrayer, Satan entered into his heart and then Judas got up and left to carry out his dark deed.


Now, Jesus is alone with his 11 faithful disciples (even though one of them will deny Jesus in a few hours – more about that tonight). For our purposes this morning, we are going to focus on what Jesus says in verses 34-35. A new commandment I give you: love one another.


The context (briefly) is this: having announced his imminent departure, and having told his disciples that they cannot come with him, Jesus begins to explain how he wants them to live while he is away. This is what he expects from you after he is gone. 


I think a good parallel to this is to think of the parting words of a loving parent to his or her children. I know, if given the chance, I would want to encourage my children to continue to walk in the ways of the Lord; to love your spouse, be patient with your children; and to live each day to the glory of God.  


Here is the Lord’s legacy to his disciples (and to us): love one another as I have loved you. That’s how Jesus wants his disciples all believers to live and carry on each day. It’s interesting that Jesus refers to this as a New Commandment. What exactly is new about it?


Certainly the command to love is nothing new. The command to love was the summary of the law of God. Deuteronomy 6:5 says Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. Leviticus 19:18 says Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord.


If you recall, those were the two passages which Jesus quoted when asked ‘what is the greatest commandment’. So then, what’s the new part? Commentator DA Carson suggests that this newness is (in part) a reference to the dawning of the New Covenant. Jeremiah 31:33 prophesied of a coming day when the Lord will put his law in their minds and write it on their hearts.

Then there’s Ezekiel 36 which speaks of the very same day, the coming of the New Covenant era. Verses 26-27 I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws


So that could very well be part of what Jesus has in view here. But the most obvious answer is that the newness of this command points us to the new example and the new standard of love that was set by none other than Jesus Christ himself.


Christ calls his disciples and us to love as He loved them! And how did Christ love them? That’s what we’ve been talking about here in John 13. Jesus demonstrated the full extent of his love first of all by washing the feet of his disciples. And of course, that was just the beginning.


The greatest demonstration of his love was about to be shown. He would give himself over into the hands of sinful men; as he would allow himself to be beaten and whipped and tortured and spat upon; as he would allow himself to be shamed and humiliated, cursed and condemned, to suffer the anguish and torment of hell (all for sinner’s sake) as he hung on the cross, and as he was forsaken by His heavenly Father and left to die all alone in the outer darkness


Obviously, no one else can ever love as perfectly and obediently and as fully as Christ loved us. In that way the extent of Jesus’ love, and the efficacious nature of his love are totally unique and can never be duplicated. But remember, it is the principles of Christ’s love that are set before us.


We’re called to emulate and to model Christ’s love (to love the way Christ loved) which means that we are to love unselfishly; sacrificially; with humility; patience, kindness, tenderness, gentleness, forbearance, and especially with forgiveness (marriage example – Ephesians 5).


That’s the example Christ gave us. Another aspect of the newness of this command is that it comes in the context of the Gospel of grace. This is what Christ has done for us. He has redeemed us from our sins, he has made us into new creations in Christ, and Christ has put His Spirit into our hearts, and now this is how we are called to respond. We have been empowered and equipped by God’s himself (through His grace) to love as He loved us. 

And is there any better occasion to talk about this than today?  As we celebrate Pentecost, the pouring of the Holy Spirit; as we celebrate communion, the sacrifice of Christ’s body and the shedding of His blood all for the forgiveness of our sins. That’s our motive; that’s all the reason we will ever need for loving God, for loving one another, and even for loving our enemy.


Christ sacrificial love compels us; Christ’s living example compels us; Christ’s powerful Spirit of grace working within us compels us. That is the legacy He left us, and that is how He wants us to live each day.


2) This is our Witness to the World 

Which bring us to our second point: This is to be our witness to the World. Verse 35 says: All men will know that you are my disciples if you love one another. Like the song we learned in Sunday School comes to mind: We are one in the Spirit, we are one in the Lord, And we pray that our unity will one day be restored; and they'll know we are Christians by our love.


Just to be clear, it’s not as though Jesus is teaching us that we should love one another more to the neglect of the world or at the expense of the world. No. it seems to me that what Jesus is saying is that we are to love each other with a view toward showing the world the love of Christ!


So there is definitely an evangelical and missional element to the love of Christ – the way we love each other must appeal to the world; the way we love in all of our relationships – in everything from our marriages, to our family life, to the way we love each other as brothers and sisters in Christ here at church, there must be an attractive quality to our love such that others see it and wonder “What makes us different”? “What makes them love each other like that”? 


And this love must be real. It must be genuine. It can’t be a pretend love or an insincere love. It cannot be a love where we shake hands and greet each other with a smile, but inwardly we’re grimacing and loathing one another. That’s not love, and God knows that. And people who are unbelievers will see right through that. They’ll see that love in the church is really no different than love out there in the world – where people pretend to love in order to get along!  It must be real. And that’s why we so desperately need the grace and forgiveness of God.   

 Now, there is something we need to know about showing this love to the world. The world will not always respond favorably. In the first two centuries of the New Testament church, tens of thousands of Christians were ridiculed, mistreated and persecuted and killed for their faith.


Church historians observed that it wasn’t very difficult to pick out the Christians from everyone else because the Christians didn’t join in with the pagan religious practices like their neighbors. 

Not only that, but their noble character and their Christian love made them easy to notice as well.


In fact, Tertullian, an early Christian apologist who lived in Carthage, in North Africa (155 – c. 240) wrote these words to describe what people were saying about Christians in his day: It is mainly the deeds of a love so noble that lead many to put a brand upon us. See how they love one another, they say, (when they themselves are full of mutual hatred); (and see) how they are ready even to die for one another.


So it is clear that the early church was obedient to Christ – they were loving each other with a Christ-like love, and the world noticed. But in this case, it resulted in the world hating them and attacking them, which is exactly what Jesus told them would happen: if they hated him, if they were offended and enraged by his love, then the world would hate his disciples as well.


In that case, Christ’s legacy to love as he loves can come at a great cost to us. People will notice, and as a result, we may suffer greatly for it. But that’s not the only possible outcome. When we as a church love one another as Christ loved us, when we serve each other in sacrificial love; when we are gentle and kind to each other; when we are compassionate and forgiving;


When we refuse to hold grudges or engage in gossip and slander, when we speak kindly to one another, when we are eager to worship together and fellowship together and extend Christian hospitality to each other; when we visit each our sick and elderly in the hospital, in nursing homes, I can promise you that the world sits up and takes notice.


And do you know what the world says when it sees that? It says: I want what he has. I want what she has! I want to be part of a family like that. I want to have faithful friends like that who will pray for me and with me, who will care for me, who will help me when I’m in need; who will sit with me and hold my hand when I am sick, or dying or sad or just afraid. And they will talk to us and ask us questions – and that is when we can explain to them about the legacy Christ gave us!


Many of us here are life-long Christians, we don’t know what it is like to live in the world apart from the family of faith. We don’t know how lonely, how terrifying, how dark and sad it is to face trials with no one at our side; to go through heartache and loss and even to face our own death with no consolation, with no reason for hope.


That is a blessing known only to those who follow Christ. So you see, the very best advertisement we can give for the gospel of grace, the very best commercial we can make to promote Christ and our Christian faith is to simply live as we’re called to live. To live in love.


But of course the opposite also holds true: one of the easiest ways to destroy the witness of the church, one of the easiest ways to turn people away from following Christ is for us to treat each other with hatred and disdain. It’s for us to refuse to forgive one another, and to engage in ongoing disputes and quarrels.


It’s to have little or no regard for the Unity which Christ has established among us, and instead of personally working to maintain that unity in the bond of peace, and praying for that unity, and being willing to humble ourselves and do what it takes to protect that unity, we allow our pride and arrogance to blind us and to convince that it is acceptable to live in brokenness.      


But that’s not the legacy Christ left us. That’s not why he died and rose for us. I want to close with these passages about love: I John 4:7-8 says Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love


Romans 13:8 Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law. Romans 12:9-13 Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. 10 Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. 11 Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. 12 Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. 13 Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.



That’s the legacy Christ left us, and that is the legacy which we are to leave for the world. Not only so that the world may know that we are Christians, but so that the world may come to know Christ Himself. So that unbelievers who see and experience the love of Christ in us, may themselves be saved and know this love for themselves.



* As a matter of courtesy please advise Pastor Keith Davis, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2018, Pastor Keith Davis

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