Love of another kind – Series Theme Introduction
15th March, 2020
Over my 40 years in parish and locum ministry, I’ve come across many, many churches. Large churches and middle size churches and small churches. Inner city churches and suburban churches and rural churches. And – at least this is my experience anyway – there is one factor that sets some churches apart from others. A factor that raises them above the category of “ordinary” and places them in the “extra-ordinary” category. And this factor, it’s got nothing to do with church size or location. I’ve found these “extra-ordinary” churches in large, urban centres, and also in small country congregations.
So, what is this critical factor that sets some churches apart? It’s LOVE! Love! Love is at the heart of every vibrant, impacting church that I know! Bar none! Churches can have the best location and plant and multiple staff members, but if they don’t have love beating strongly at their core, they will never be the “salt and light” church that God calls them to be.
And what is this love? It’s the critical factor, the essential ingredient to an “extra-ordinary” church, but what is it? What does it look like? Where can you find it? Well, you won’t see it on TV – on “Home and Away”, or on “The Bold and the Beautiful”. You won’t see it demonstrated in the corporate or business world. Nor in the various levels of government. To see this kind of love, you need to go to another place. Or – more correctly – to another person. You need to go to Jesus. To Jesus. Because it’s another kind of love that he shows. It’s another kind of love that he offers. The only kind of love that makes a lasting difference in people’s lives. The only kind of love that can truly transform churches and communities.
So, can I invite you to join with me today – and over the next 2 Sundays – to journey through the 7th chapter in Luke’s Gospel and see Jesus interacting with various people. And as we journey with Jesus in these interactions, we’ll see clearly what this love looks like. And we’re going to do this under the sermon series theme of “Love of Another Kind”.
Love of another kind #1
15th March, 2020
In introducing the theme for this sermon series at the beginning of the service, I made this statement: “love is at the heart of an extraordinary church!” And that statement is so true! “Love is at the heart of an extraordinary church!” When a church is alive and effective and impacting, you can be sure that love is flowing through the lives of its members. And this love, it’s not an ordinary kind of love. It’s not a human kind of love. Rather, it’s “love of another kind”. The kind of love that Jesus showed as he rubbed shoulders with people as he went about his daily business.
And that brings us to the first person in Luke chapter 7 that Jesus rubbed shoulders with. He was a Roman soldier who had a sick servant. So this Roman soldier – who the Jews hated – he approaches Jesus and says; “I don’t have a problem, but my servant does. Would you consider healing him?”
Now let me ask you a question; what do you do when somebody you don’t know who has a friend of a friend of a friend comes to you and asks for a favour? What do you do? If you live a hectic sort of life – and many of us do – of if you’re an important kind of a person – your first reaction might well be to think to yourself; “I don’t have time to be bothered with this.” And so you’ll say; “I’ll have my people call your people. I’ll have someone in my organization contact someone in your organization.” …. Or what do you do when your neighbor gets a truckload of dirt dumped on his front lawn and he asks you to help him cart it round the back? …. Or when you’re asked to help some person in need in the community who you’ve never even met? What do you do? What do you do when you’re important or busy and people want some of your time?
Well, what did Jesus do? Did he fob this Roman soldier off? Did he ask one of his disciples to deal with him? You could excuse him if he did. I mean, Jesus is an important person. And he’s on an important mission. He’s on about his heavenly Father’s business. And there’s so much for him to do.
So, what did Jesus do? Jesus says; “Oh, there’s a hired hand you want healed? No problem!” And he heals him.
I’ve got to be honest; that’s not my natural way of operating. If somebody comes to me for help, I’m likely to throw up some filters and conditions. I don’t try to, but it just happens sometimes. I can find myself saying; “OK, let me check these people out. They’d better be legitimate. They’d better be this. They’d better be that. And if they fit through all these conditions and filters that I put up and run them through, well, I might respond positively to their request”.
My love …. my love at times can be so limited, so restricted. And then there’s Jesus’ love, and it has no filters or conditions. In its scope, it is unlimited and unrestricted. Jesus performs no background check to find out his credentials. He disregards conventional prejudice about this person’s race and occupation. He just helps him. In the midst of his important schedule, he shows “love of another kind”.
I suspect that I’m not the only one who struggles with giving love, with giving time and energy and care to those who come in need. Many people struggle with it. They say; “I’ll love people if they’re white. I’ll love people if they’re middle class. I’ll love people if they’re educated. I’ll love people if they vote the right way. I’ll love people if they have the right tastes in music or in fashion. I’ll love people if they’re young, or if they’re old. I’ll love people if, if, if, if, if”. And it affects, it limits the quality of relationships we have with others.
For starters, it limits our relationships within the family unit. “If you put out the garbage, or if you do this job for me, then I’ll love you.” But that kind of conditional love, it stunts relationships between husbands and wives. It cripples relationships between parents and children.
What our families need, what they desperately need, is mums and dads and teenagers and children who have “love of another kind” … who love unconditionally – without filters or limits. Because when that kind of love is present in a family, people blossom and relationships deepen. It makes all the difference when kids and teenagers know that – despite their way-out hair style or clothes or body piercing, … that even if they bomb out in school or drop out of uni or mess up their relationships – it makes all the difference when kids and teenagers know that their parents still love them with everything they’ve got, … and that they’ll never stop loving them….. It makes all the difference when spouses know that – even if they’re depressed or out of sorts or if they’ve failed their spouse big time – it makes all the difference when a spouse knows that their partner will keep on loving and loving and loving them.
Not only does love of a human kind limit relationships in the family, but it also limits relationships in our community. Love of a human kind responds to pop stars and movie stars and sports stars. It makes time for the rich, the powerful, the popular. But if you don’t fit into any of these categories, then that’s just bad luck. If you happen to be unemployed or uneducated, if you happen to belong to the underclass or deviate from the socially accepted norm, it’ll probably mean that you’re going to be by-passed, over-looked, under-loved by the community.
What our community needs is “love of another kind”. … where people are treated equally – irrespective of their social standing … where people are given equal opportunity – irrespective of who they know or don’t know … where people are valued for who they are, not just for what I can get out of them … where people are respected and cared for because they’re people, not inconveniences or anonymous entities … where people can come to us with their requests – as did that Roman soldier – and we say – as Jesus did; “No problem. I’ll help!”
And then there is the church community. And where church communities run only on love of a human kind, they can be pretty tough places to exist in. I’ve been privileged to be connected with some wonderfully loving and caring churches in my time. But I’ve also seen the damage that happens in churches where the “in crowd” excludes the “out-crowd” or the new-comers …. where the hand of fellowship is extended only as long as people are prepared to conform …. where people place all sorts of conditions on their support.
This is the 3rd year that Beryl and I have been coming for a stint here at St Peter’s Lutheran Church, Port Macquarie. And I’ve got to say that we have felt welcomed and embraced and valued from day 1! You have something special here! But this church family – like any church family – needs to constantly be looking at the mirror and asking questions like: How serious are we about building relationships with those in our various communities so that we can share ourselves and our Saviour with them? Like, how open are we to newcomers when they do come? How much are we prepared to give, to serve, so that they might come to know Jesus and what it means to be a part of his family? Like, how prepared are we to put aside hurts and disappointments from fellow members so that we can move on to health and wholeness?
What’s needed in our families? What’s needed in our community? What’s needed in our church? It’s “love of another kind”. It’s Jesus’ love. It’s the sort of love he showed to that soldier’s servant, to that hired help. A love that has no filters, no conditions. It’s a risky kind of love, an unpredictable kind of love, because you don’t know who’s going to come around the corner, you don’t know who’s going to come your way with a request, a problem, a hurt. But if that “love of another kind” is operating in your heart and life, it’s awesome! It’s awesome! It makes an immeasurable difference to the quality of life in our homes and in our community and in our church.
This “love of another kind”, it comes from Jesus. And it’s available to you today. Over the next 2 Sundays we’re going to look at it more closely, but you don’t have to wait till then to receive it. It’s available to you right now. All you need to do is to ask Jesus for it … to acknowledge that your human love is too limited, too filtered, too conditional …. and that you need his unconditional love to fill you and to flow through you.
It’s worth thinking about and asking for, wouldn’t you agree?
Pastor Rob Paech.