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Author:Rev. Jeremy Segstro
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Congregation:Cloverdale Canadian Reformed Church
 Surrey, BC
 cloverdalecanrc.org
 
Title:The One Another Commandments: Love One Another
Text:John 13:34-35 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Love
 
Added:2021-10-12
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Reading: 1 John 4: 7-21

Text: John 13:34-35

  1. Psalm 107: 1, 4, 12

  2. Psalm 25: 2, 5

  3. Psalm 133: 1, 2

  4. Hymn 23: 1-6

  5. Psalm 16: 1, 4

  6. Hymn 52: 1, 4, 5

 

Words to Listen For: beanbag, yesterday, Paris, swordfight, merch

 

Questions for Understanding:

  1. What do you think of the 2 Andy Stanley quotes?  Is he right or wrong?  Why?

  2. What is love? (answer twice: once at the beginning, once at the end of the sermon)

  3. How is love:

    1. A commandment?

    2. New?

  4. Is Jesus Christ an example?  Why is this such a serious question?

  5. Why do we love?

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Jeremy Segstro, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Brothers and sisters, loved by our Lord Jesus Christ,

As we begin our fall sermon series on the one-another commandments in the New Testament, there are two interesting statements made by Pastor and Author Andy Stanley that I would like to lay before you this morning.

First statement: The primary activity of the early church was one-anothering one another

And the second one: When everyone is sitting in rows...you can't do any one-anothers

 

The primary activity of the early church was one-anothering one another.  There’s a lot to unpack here.

Some people might say that the primary activity of the early church was to fulfill the Great Commission - what we heard in our call to worship this morning - Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.

They would say that the primary activity of the early church was OUTWARD - GO make disciples, and not INWARD - LOVE one another...but what we have to see is that outward and inward activity are two sides of the same coin.

The church’s inward love and care and “one-anothering” acts as a billboard that draws in passersby.  The inward leads to the outward.

People from all nations are drawn in, and then, they have to be encouraged, they have to be loved, they have to be taught and cared for.  They have to be discipled through, you guessed it, one-anothering.

 

And as for sitting in rows, or sitting in pews limiting, or even making the one-anothers IMPOSSIBLE...this is true...from a certain point of view.

To be clear, I’m not advocating replacing the pews with chairs that we put in a circle, replacing the pulpit with a beanbag chair to make everything a bit more cozy and welcoming.  The issue is not the setup of Sundays...but rather, the issue is that the church seems to only exist on Sundays!  It’s hard to “one-another” in a pew, and impossible if you think that “church time” is exclusively “pew time.”

 

Remember, beloved...we don’t GO TO church...we ARE the church.  And we go to this building to meet together AS the church.  We are the church, just as much on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, as we are on Sundays.  It is our duty as the church, the body and bride of Christ to love our God, not only through the 12 songs we sing together on the first day of the week, but in our working, in our parenting, in our schooling, in our every action.

And the same is true for the second greatest commandment - loving our neighbour...loving one other...we are to do this every day.  Love is not like a once a week pill that you pop - take once a week with a side of peppermints.  It’s so much more than that.  It’s so much greater.

So this morning, let us further examine this commandment that affects and rules every day and every moment of our lives:

[THE ONE-ANOTHER COMMANDMENTS:] LOVE ONE ANOTHER.  We will see that 

  1. We are Given a Commandment

  2. We are Given an Example

  3. We are Given a Reason

 

We are Given a Commandment

A couple of years ago, in 2017, 30 strangers were stopped on the street and asked to define love.  After an awkward silence, time spent processing the question, sometimes verbally explaining how it was such a difficult question, the answers started pouring out.

Love is...my wife and my cat.

Love is...something terrible and amazing at the same time

Love is...being happy

Love is...something like dance

Love is...eternal energy and sparkles that goes on forever

These are direct quotes.

 

Now, it’s easy to scoff at some of these answers, but honestly, if any of us were put on the spot, we probably would answer in a similar way.  Because love is something very hard to define.

So let me ask you, now, at the beginning of the sermon...what is love?

Think about your answer.  Write it down...what is love?

I’ll ask you again at the end of the sermon, and hopefully you will have a fuller definition.  A fuller understanding.

Let’s examine together what this short but very full text tells us about love for one another:  A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.  By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

 

When Jesus said this, the time was short.  The countdown to the cross was almost at zero.  This was Jesus’ Last Supper. As one commentator said “If the disciples were ever to hear His voice, they must hear it now.”

This Last Supper discourse continues for the next 5 chapters, and includes such powerful and memorable statements as:

  • I am The Way, The Truth, and The Life

  • I will not leave you as orphans, but the Holy Spirit will come to you

  • I am the True Vine, abide in me and I in you.

  • You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn to joy

All of these are amazing and wonderful statements, but none of them holds a candle to this enduring commandment to love.

 

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another.

Here is the final commandant of our Lord’s earthly ministry, and it is a very clear one.  “Love one another.”  It’s so clear!  And yet...it isn’t immediately obvious what exactly is meant.  It isn’t immediately simple.  So let’s examine it together, bit by bit, phrase by phrase.

 

A new commandment I give to you

Now, what first might jump out at us here is the term “commandment.”

 

Since when has love been a commandment?  A rule?  Can love really be regulated?  Love is just an emotion, something that comes up spontaneously and naturally...doesn’t it?

Well, if you’ve been married longer than a few months...or been in a long term relationship, or been around kids, or if you have friends...pretty much all of us...you realize that loving just when you feel like it isn’t practical.  Saving love for when it feels natural is a sure-fire way to destroy relationships and friendships because love doesn’t naturally bubble up quite so often.

And why is that?  It’s because of sin.  Sin destroys love.  It is your sin that makes you not feel like loving your spouse, your friends, your family, and it is sin that makes your spouse, your friends, your family, act in ways that discourage your love.

Instead of loving our God and loving our neighbour as we have been created to do, sin has turned that completely around.  By nature, our fallen sinful nature, we HATE God.  And we naturally HATE our neighbour.  And so, the thing that we were created to do, the thing that should be naturally working inside of us, naturally bubbling up all the time, has to come from outside.  Our minds have to be reminded of this, and our wills have to be commanded to love.

And so, love IS a command.  And this is how it has been since the beginning.  When Jesus gave the summary of the Law in Matthew 22, Loving the Lord, Loving your neighbour...He was not adding anything new to God’s law, but rather, drawing on the Old Testament commandments - Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might (Deuteronomy 6) and You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord (Leviticus 19).

Jesus is drawing these two commandments out of the Old Testament and revealing them, refreshing them, for His people that day.  Love has been a commandment in writing since Moses, and even before that in practice.

 

And that leads us to another difficult part of this seemingly simple text: A new commandment I give to you.

If the commandment to love has been around as long as we have...a response to the fall into sin...how can Jesus say that this is a NEW commandment?

Well, you see, the word that Jesus uses here for “new” isn’t the typical word used.  This word “new” carries with it, not the idea of brand new, never before seen, novel, but rather the idea of refreshing something.  You can think of it perhaps like a sunrise.  The sun rises every morning, it’s a new sunrise, but it’s the same sun.  Jesus here, in the last day of His earthly life, is, as He did all throughout His ministry, breathing new meaning into ancient words.  Breathing new meaning into ancient words

Now this is all well and good...I can move on now, I explained it, just like love...we hear a word, we nod our heads.  Breathing new meaning into ancient words, of course, that’s what Jesus did.  But what does this actually mean?  But what does it mean practically?  If I asked 30 of you walking in here this morning, “How does Jesus breathe new meaning into ancient words?” there would likely be some awkward silences and maybe the hopeful question “Maybe I’ll know in the next hour? This is what you’re going to preach on?”

So HOW EXACTLY is Jesus breathing new meaning into these ancient words?

HOW is the commandment to the remaining 11 disciples left in that upper room...how is it different than to the people of Israel at the foot of the mountain, all those years ago?

It is a new, it is a refreshed ancient truth because, it is founded upon our relationship with Jesus Christ.  Although God is the same, yesterday, today, and forever, He was never as clear with or as close to His people in the Old Testament, as He is with His church today.

The Old Testament church were God’s chosen people, they were desperately loved His bride...but they were never His body.  They were never called His friends.  They were never His temple.  God never sat across a table from them before.  God never knelt down and washed their feet.

This is a love that had existed in God since before the foundation of the world, but it had never been shown in such a stark and clear manner.  This forms the foundation for this refreshed commandment - with his clothes and with their feet still wet...He speaks this new commandment.

This is not a commandment coming from on high, in smoke and fire, thunder and lightning, from a far-off God who did not allow His people to come close - only Moses.  This is a commandment coming from the Most High...but from when He came down.  This isn’t a commandment coming in fire, but through water and the word, from the God who came nearby and invited His people to approach Him without fear.

This is the brand new, ancient commandment.  Love - something as ancient as humanity itself, actually, even older, and yet something renewed and restored, something brought to intense clarity and precision through the command of Jesus Christ, and through His example.  Our second point.

There is no such thing, beloved, as “accidental love.”  Love is not something thoughtless or careless.  True love is not just being happy.  True love isn’t just a sparkle that goes on into eternity that we can’t really explain.

But love, the love that our God has for us, the truest and purest form of love - because He is love - it was prepared, it was well-thought-out...it was perfect.  And this is the love that we have to imitate.

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.

Just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.  Jesus Christ is our example.  He is our picture of what love truly is.

Now, I admit, I have some hesitancy in saying what I just said, even though this is the clear teaching of Scripture, the clear teaching of this particular verse.  I have some hesitancy here, because there are those who see Jesus Christ ONLY as an example.  He was ONLY a good teacher.  His life and death had NOTHING to do with sin - it wasn’t the propitiation for our sins as 1 John 4 says - He just came down to show us how we should live.  And this, very clearly, is heresy.  It is heresy - a belief that attacks the very truth of our salvation.

It’s heresy...and it’s blasphemy - a belief that speaks directly against what God has said, a belief that tells us that God was a liar and Jesus was not our Saviour.

Saying that Jesus was out example is a very serious and dangerous statement to be making, if understood incorrectly.

And yet...this is what Scripture says.  Jesus Christ IS our example.  He is not only AN example, but He is THE example of what love is.

 

And context here really says it all.  The beginning  of our chapter, John 13:1 - Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that His hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end.

Having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end.  THIS is one of the most beautiful and moving love letters that anyone has ever written.  And it’s 1 sentence.  1 sentence, 15 words.  And yet, it says it all.  Having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end.

 

And then compare this to what is widely recognized as the longest love letter ever written.  Maybe you’ve heard this story before.

The year was 1875, and the French Painter, Marcel de Leclure was feeling...rather amorous.  Inspiration struck him, and He wrote the words Je vous aime (“I love you” in French) 1 875 000 times - 1000 multiplied by the year that he wrote them - and had it sent to his love interest.

This was the whole letter.  Sheets and sheets of the same 3 word phrase:

    “Je vous aime”

    “Je vous aime”

    “Je vous aime”

Now, while even the most cynical of us can perhaps appreciate the effort he went to...know that he dictated this to his secretary who was the one who actually wrote the words.

 

If it was just about the words...then love would be quite simple.  But it’s not.  It’s about the meaning behind the words.  It’s about the actions of the person.  Reading the words Je vous aime almost 2 million times can feel quite empty, not to mention annoying, long and drawn out, superfluous.

But in the 15 words of Jesus’ love letter, describing His love, we learn more about love than in all the paper and ink used in Paris, all those years ago.  Having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end.

Love was the description of Jesus’ life, from emptying Himself of His glory and being born as a human, to lovingly submitting to His sinful parents when they rebuked Him, to suffering as the weight of the sin of the world fell on His shoulders every day of His life, to the moment when He knelt down and washed His disciples’ feet.

I know we touched on this very briefly in our first point, but I would like to revisit it, because there is something so amazing in what our Lord did.  Something so amazing in kneeling down and washing feet.

 

In preparation for the Last Supper, a meal where Jesus declared and inaugurated the New Covenant, where Jesus explained what was to happen in the next 24 hours -

His body would be broken, and His blood spilled out, and sins would finally be fully forgiven...in preparation for this meal that has meant more than any other meal in history...our Lord did something unthinkable.

Jesus Christ, the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God...having already taken on the form of a servant in His incarnation, took the form of a servant again.  He shed His clothes, as He once shed His glory.  He knelt down...the God of the Universe kneeling before His creatures...and He washed their feet.  He washed their feet.  And at this point, remember...there were still 12 disciples in the room.  The Saviour of the world washed all 24 feet.

The feet of the 10 who would run away from Him

The feet of the one who who deny Him, 3 times, calling down curses from Heaven, saying “I never knew Him!”

And even the feet of the one who would betray Him, sell Him for 30 pieces of silver - the price of a slave.

And yet, Jesus washed every foot.  He loved each one of them.  He loved them all.

 

And the love here is the example.  The willingness to make yourself nothing for those around you.  The example isn’t the foot-washing itself, as some believe.  So I’m not going to give you that as a challenge this week - washing each other’s feet.

It isn’t the ACTION that is an enduring command, but rather, it’s the love.  Love one another: just as I have loved you - this does not mean - wash each other’s feet as I have washed your feet...but rather, the love that would compel God to become a servant, to become a servant to those who would treat Him so horribly in the coming hours...THIS is what we need to aspire to.  We must have that same love inside of us, constantly bubbling up.  And we know that this isn't natural.  We know that there is such a challenge to this because of our sin.

Because of our sin, there are so many excuses that we make.  We know that we’re called to love, but we make so many excuses.  Excuses so that we don’t have to show that kind of radical love.  We make even some very biblical sounding excuses.

Ephesians 4 is a wonderful excuse that we like to use - Speak the truth in love

We love to focus on the first part and do away with the second.  “Speak the truth!” we say.  Afterwards, we whisper, “in love.”  Because speaking the truth IS loving.  Some people, maybe all people just need some tough love, and I love them too much to mince words.  I will just outright challenge them and debate them with raised voices.  This, I can tell myself, is love.

But you know better.  You KNOW better...so do better.

Our Lord is the perfect example of this.  He washed the feet of Judas, but also told him that he knew he was the betrayer.  He told him to go out and do what he was about to do quickly.  With damp feet, Judas had Satan enter him, and he went out into the night.  He washed the feet of Peter, and told him that he would deny Him 3 times.  Speak the truth, in love.  Do that.

 

And Proverbs 27 is another wonderful excuse that we use- As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another

Being RIGHT, being theologically PRECISE has become so much more important than being loving.  When someone comes with a legitimate question, when someone doesn’t know how to interpret a passage of Scripture comes...do we shame him and tell him to read more Calvin?  If someone has different ideas, do we pound him into the dirt until he submits and says what is right?

"Oh I’m just sharpening him!"

The iron clashes again and again and again, until, instead of sharpening, instead of true love happening, a swordfight ensues.

You know better.  You KNOW better...so do better.

 

The rich young ruler, many of us know the story, he was a man who was properly sharpened by Christ.  We know he wasn’t sharpened unto salvation, at least from what we read, but he was sharpened, in love.  The rich young ruler, a Pharisee at heart, if not literally in life, he comes up to Jesus and asks a self-righteous, self-serving question.  What good deed must I do to gain eternal life?

He asked, but he didn’t really care about Jesus’ answer.  He asked so that he would have an excuse to tell the onlookers how righteous he already was.

But what do we read?  Jesus looked at him...and loved him.  Jesus LOVED this Pharisee.  And think about it too...when the church first blossomed on Pentecost, this was the Feast of Weeks in Jerusalem.  Who would have gone there?  It would have been all the Pharisees.  And Peter says “YOU crucified Christ!”  And they were cut to the heart, and became the church.  The first members of the church, other than the Apostles - PHARISEES.  We have to love, even Pharisees.

This is the love that we are called to.  This overwhelming, never-ending, radical love of God.  But unlike so many in the world think, unlike, perhaps so many of us think...love is not there, love does not exist, only for its own sake.  There is a greater purpose.  A higher purpose.  There is a reason for us to love one another.  Our final point.

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.  By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

This brings us back to one of the quotes that we started the sermon with - The primary activity of the early church was one-anothering one another

The love that the disciples were to have for one another was meant to be a shining light out into the world.  This one-anothering is for both the internal as well as the external.  Both for the health of the church, and for the growth of the church.

By THIS, all people will know that you are my disciples.

And history tells us that the early church followed this commandment well.

Tertullian, a Christian author, writing in AD 200 says -  it is mainly the deeds of a love so noble that lead many to put a brand upon us. “See,” they say, “how they love one another,” for themselves are animated by mutual hatred; “How they are ready even to die for one another,” for they themselves will sooner execute.

When the church loves each other, the world takes notice.

And we must see that this is what the commandment is.  Sometimes we get this wrong.

Though, as Christians, we ARE to love the world as God did - this is a commandment just to the 11 disciples sitting around that table, and now to us.

Jesus is saying, in essence...I know that it’s hard to love THE WORLD.  It is too daunting of a task, and so I will have you start small.  Start right here.  Start right now.  In this very room.  Love one another.  You 11 disciples, start by loving one another.

And this is the commandment that comes to us today.

In one sense, it’s hard to love the world...to love everyone...but in another sense, it’s quite easy - too easy.  It’s easy for us to feel pain and anguish and agony in our heart over the suffering citizens of Afghanistan...it’s easy for us to say that we love them.  We could write them a letter of 2 021 000 “I love yous” 1000 for each year.  That wouldn’t be hard.  But that wouldn’t actually DO anything.

But instead, what about loving the people at the end of our pew?  Turn to the right and to the left.  Who’s sitting there right now?  Can you say that you love these people?  That you would GIVE YOUR LIFE for them?  Loving the people who we sit with?  The people who we live with?  The people who are all too real - people with different opinions, people with bad breath, people who leave dishes on the counter or who interrupt us when we are speaking...well...then we are confronted with the challenge of real love.

Because love that costs nothing...love for those overseas, for whom we can do nothing at all but simply feel warm feelings in our hearts…eternal sparkles...

Love that COSTS NOTHING...MEANS NOTHING.

But the costly, everyday kind of love?  That is rare, that is powerful, and that shines a bright light into the darkness.

It is as John says in our reading: No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and His love is perfected in us.

BY OUR LOVE, we are showing the invisible God to the whole watching world.  Our love REVEALS GOD.  The world IS WATCHING beloved, and what will they see?  Will they see a church, that week after week proclaims love, but practices hatred?  Will they see a church that proclaims unity but is divided?  Will our example to the world make God a laughingstock, or will they see us, and want to worship Him?

God has set His church up like a billboard that is meant to draw in passersby.  God has set us up as the thing that should bring unbelievers in through the door.

It has been said so many times that it may have lost its meaning, but please, try to hear this as though you’re hearing it for the first time: your life is your witness.  How you act, how you speak, how you interact with those you meet...you are showing God to them.  You are a Christian, so let it be emblazoned on your mouth with the words that you speak, let it be emblazoned on your hands with the way that you serve, let it be emblazoned on your feet with where you go and how you move.  Your witness cannot just be your cross necklace.  It can’t just be a shirt that talks about Jesus, or a hat with the name of your church on it.

As one minister said, MERCH is no substitute for ACTIONS.  Merchandise.  What we wear is no substitute for who we are supposed to be.

We are to love as Jesus did.

 

When Jesus knew that His hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end.

The end was not in that upper room, beloved.  The end was not in washing the feet of those who had no right to have their feet washed.

The end was being flogged.

The end was being mocked.

The end was having a crown of thorns placed on His head

The end was being stretched out on a cross, with nails in His hands and in His feet.

The end was being rejected by God, descending into Hell, right on that cross as the world was plunged into darkness.

And what did this love do?  This love set us free from sin and Satan, this love forgave our sins, this love transformed enemies to sons and daughters, and we see, that this love, at the moment of His death, caused the pagan Roman centurion to say “Surely this man was the Son of God.”  It was love.

 

So...let me ask you again...what is love?

THIS IS LOVE.  This shining light in the darkness of our weakness.  The darkness of our insecurities and anxieties.  The darkness of our hatred and sin.

THIS IS LOVE, and this is what it does.

THIS IS LOVE, and this is what we must do.

 

So, little children...beloved...love one another.

AMEN.

 



* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Jeremy Segstro, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright, Rev. Jeremy Segstro

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