Loving others is the next aspect of love I want to look at.  The Beatles sang “All you Need is Love,” and then they broke up, but because love is such a massive area for us, I want to develop it further. I don’t care who you are, every single one of us wants to be loved, and sadly our churches have been bigger on judgement than they have been on love for a long time. While love does not condone softening our stance on the issues that matter, we can still stand for what is right and still love people unconditionally.

But Paul’s great chapter on love finishes this way…

 

1 Corinthians 13:13 (ESV Strong's)

So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

Had I been writing this, I probably would have said they were all equal. I see people of great faith and I admire them. I hear stories of great hope and I’m inspired. Yet somehow in all this, love is the greatest of all, that is agape love, God’s unconditional love.

 

So why elevate love above the rest? Why is love number one? Certainly those who love are love back by others, but expressions of love often go unnoticed, whereas great faith and incredible hope seem to move mountains and change the world.  Why should we be loving others?

 

1.      LOVE IS THE EXPRESSION OF GOD

 

1 John 4:16 (ESV Strong's)

So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.

 

John does not just say God that loves us, he says that God is love. God and love cannot be separated because God is love. When we ask Jesus Christ into our hearts, we receive God and His love at the same time. His love starts to show in our lives because He is in us and He is love!

 

John’s point is that you cannot be a Christian and not be loving others. God is love and therefore more important than any other virtue.

 

2.      LOVE IS THE BANNER OF GOD

 

Sometimes you get kicked around by life (or people, even other Christians), hurt so much that you begin to doubt that God loves you.  Never doubt that God loves you

 

Song of Songs 2:4 (ESV Strong's)

He brought me to the banqueting house, and his banner over me was love.

 

D.L. Moody tells this story…  A young man who came to the US from England, became naturalised and went to Cuba, and was there some time. When civil war erupted in 1867, he was arrested as a spy, and taken before the military court and ordered to be shot.

 

Then the man sent for the two consuls of the US and England, and told them his case, that he was neither a spy nor a politician. They found he was perfectly innocent, and had nothing to do with the war, so they went to the Spanish officers and said: “This man is an innocent man; he is not guilty of what he is accused.” The officer said: “He was found guilty by the Spanish government, and he must die.”

 

They brought this man to the execution site, and the black cap was drawn over him, and the Spanish soldiers were all ready to fire. But just before they received the command to fire, who should rush up but the American and English consuls. These men each took their respective flags and wrapped the flags around the young man and said, “Fire on these flags if you dare.”

 

They did not dare to fire, because behind those two flags were two powerful nations.

 

Think of the flag of Heaven! God says, “My banner over you is love.” Come under the banner of Heaven today. Do not go out of this building until you are sheltered under this precious banner. If you are under His blood, under His precious banner, you are saved for time and eternity.

 

3.      LOVE IS THE POWER OF GOD

 

Christians want God’s power to live a victorious life. They want to be people of faith, people of the Word, people who see answered prayers, who powerfully change the world around them.

 

Love is that power!

 

2 Timothy 1:7 (ESV Strong's)

for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.

 

Some years ago, Dr. Karl Menninger, noted doctor and psychologist, was seeking the cause of many of his patients' ills. One day he called in his clinical staff and proceeded to unfold a plan for developing, in his clinic, an atmosphere of creative love. All patients were to be given large quantities of love; no unloving attitudes were to be displayed in the presence of the patients, and all nurses and doctors were to go about their work in and out of the various rooms with a loving attitude. At the end of six months, the time spent by patients in the institution was cut in half.

 

Love has true power!

 

4.      LOVE IS THE BADGE OF GOD

 

Love is the badge of God the believer should wear. It’s what makes us different and what makes people notice us.

 

John 13:34-35(ESV Strong's)

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.”

 

For too long the Christian Church has had legalism and moralism as their badge, and people in the world call us arrogant and bigoted, often with good reason. Our desire to see the morality of God’s Word upheld in our society is admirable, but our implementation of this desire has been flawed, because we have failed to temper our stand with love.

 

Sometimes what we do speaks so loudly others cannot hear what we say! It grieves me that the world sees Christians as legalistic and self-righteous, because we more than anyone else should realise how sinful we really are! We don’t have to compromise our standards when we show love, but love speaks far louder than condemnation!

 

At home I have a kettle. If I am wondering how much water is in it, I don’t have to pick it up or open the top. No, there’s a slim, clear window up the side. When the water in the window is low, I know the water in the kettle is low. That gauge shows the water level within. Our genuine love for others is the window by which people gauge the love of God within us.

 

THE CHALLENGES OF LOVING OTHERS

 

I’m not going to sugar coat this. There are definitely challenges in loving others, as you well know!

 

1 John 4:20-21 (ESV Strong's)

If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.

 

If we claim to love God, then it has to be seen in loving others.

 

Yet even in the church this can be hard, because some people are difficult to love.  I have a friend who often says, “Yes, we are the body of Christ and we should love every part, but why is it that every body of Christ has to have an armpit?” Loving others isn't easy!

 

Some Christians are just plain mean… they look like they’ve been baptised in lemon juice! Mean, dispirited, judgemental, legalistic believers might be religious, but they know nothing of God! Jesus describes such religious people as being,

 

Matthew 23:27 (ESV Strong's)

like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people's bones and all uncleanness.

 

When Fiona was heavily pregnant, I remember watching her belly. It wasn’t perfectly round, but I could see bits of elbows, feet and knees poking out at various times. That’s what God’s love should be like, so full within that it just pokes out everywhere with everyone we meet.

 

Here’s some challenges that loving others will inevitably face...

 

1.      LOVE THOSE WHO HATE YOU

 

A pastor once asked his congregation, raise your hand if you have enemies. Everybody raise their hands except one old man. So the pastor asked, “so you do not have an enemy in the world?”

 

That’s right, he replied, I’m 98 years old and don’t have an enemy in the world, because they’ve all died already!

 

If you want to live for Christ, trust me you will always have enemies and have a challenge loving others. Jesus said,

 

Luke 6:27-28 (ESV Strong's)

“But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.

 

It’s hard loving others and wishing the best for those who throw it back in your face, but why not change your perception? Instead of asking Lord, why are they attacking me, why not say Lord, thank you for the opportunity to show Your love in the face of such opposition?

 

2.      LOVE THE DIFFERENCES IN PEOPLE

 

We are all different. Even as believers, we agree on the central things but possibly are different on many issues. As people, we tend to despise others when they are different to us, but I believe as Christians we should be loving others and loving the differences in others.

 

I often say to people, never love your doctrine, your ideas, your agenda more than you love other people. We must be loving others more than what we desire.

 

Paul calls us to walk,

 

Ephesians 4:2-3 (ESV Strong's)

with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

 

Look, I get it…. People can be irritating, and the things they do or say annoying. We get frustrated with them, intolerant, impatient, but if God’s love never fails, if God’s love sees the best in us, if we remember how many times have we let Him down, then we should be loving others with that same love.

 

3.      LOVE THOSE WHO OFFEND YOU

 

People offend other people all the time, in fact taking offence quickly is one of the hallmarks of this present age. Maybe it is how they dress, how they speak or what they believe. We are offended so easily, often taking offence to things that do not even affect us. Apparently these days, we cannot just disagree on something, we have to get offended, and if you are on Facebook, you will see people getting offended by things that do not even remotely affect them! They get passionately offended on behalf of others!

 

“Strive to be too big to take offence and too noble to give it”… Abraham Lincoln

 

Proverbs 19:11 (ESV Strong's)

Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offence.

 

Church, be loving others and be slow, very slow to get angry and take offence. Often no offence was intended, but we take things the wrong way and get offended. The Bible says this is unwise and immature, so just set about loving others!

 

4.      LOVE FORGIVING OTHERS

 

Forgiving others is God’s love in action. If you have been hurt by someone else, forgive them.  Not for them, but for you, because unforgiveness is bondage for you!

 

But come on, our forgiveness must have limits, right? I mean, should we be go back and be hurt again and again. No, but you must always, forgive. The disciples asked the same question, and Jesus said,

 

Matthew 18:22 (ESV Strong's)

Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times.

 

Unforgiveness is one of the most destructive forces in your life, and as true followers of Christ, we must be ruthless in eliminating unforgiveness from our lives! Beware if you feel outrage, offended or feel like you’ve been treated unjustly, because if you feel justified in your unforgiveness it entrenches it!

 

Ephesians 4:31-32 (ESV Strong's)

Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

 

A wife once saw a counsellor Dr George Crane, saying she wanted to not only divorce her husband but really hurt and devastate him like he had her. Dr Crane suggested she spend a month praising him, going out of her way to be kind, loving, considerate, generous and supportive. Then drop the divorce bomb, that will really hurt him.

 

She saw the counsellor after a month and he asked if she was ready to go ahead with the divorce. She said no, that she had fallen in love with him and never wants to leave him.

 

Proverbs 25:21-22 (ESV Strong's)

If your enemy is hungry, give him bread to eat, and if he is thirsty, give him water to drink,

for you will heap burning coals on his head, and the Lord will reward you.

 

Loving others means forgiving others, even when we feel justified in holding a grudge, because you might think you’re holding a grudge, but in reality it is holding you!

 

HOW DO YOU SHINE GOD’S LOVE?

 

Here’s the steps you can take to start to shine God’s love to the world…

 

 

1.      KNOW HIS LOVE

 

We are not like the sun, we are like the moon. We don’t produce the light of God’s unconditional love ourselves, we simply reflect it. So you cannot reflect His love unless you know Him, and experience it first hand.

 

1 John 4:7-8 (ESV Strong's)

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.

 

The more you know God, the closer you are to God, the more you cannot help shining by loving others!

 

Ancient silver smiths keep heating the unrefined silver repeatedly, up to seven times, each time skimming off the impurities which rise to the top. Someone asked how can you tell when it is ready, when it is truly refined and pure. The smith said, when I look into the molten material and I see my face reflected in it.

 

God will use adversity, pain, offence and Heat you up again and again, because His aim is to look at you and see Himself perfectly reflected.

 

 

2.      GROW HIS LOVE

 

Spend time with the Lord, every day, and you will grow closer to Him, and thereby grow in His love.

 

John 15:4-5 (ESV Strong's)

Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.

 

Coming to church is another way to grow in His love. That’s why Paul instructs us to not stop meeting together, because as we share His love here at church, we also grow in the love of God by loving others.

 

 

3.      SHOW HIS LOVE

 

As you grow into the Lord, you will grow into His love. As His love grows within you, as you give control of your life to Him, His love will begin to show up all over the place…

 

John 13:34-35 (ESV Strong's)

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.”

 

That’s how the world knows we are Christians. Not because we are more moral, judgemental or legalistic. Not because we can argue better than them, or make them feel more condemned, but because they see love in us… God’s love in us!

 

I’ve found that I don’t even have to try and drum up feelings of love when I am close to God, they seem to just happen because His love permeates every part of my life, and sticks out all over the place!

 

It is like taking a container and filing it with water. You do not have to pour the water out to wet everything around it, just keep filling it, because when it’s full it overflows effortlessly.

 

4.      BESTOW HIS LOVE

 

Loving one another does not happen by accident… it happens by choice. It happens because we choose to bestow God’s love upon others. Some people we meet, some people who have hurt us or put us down, we actually make a conscious decision to not show love towards them, to withhold love.

 

1 John 4:7-8 (ESV Strong's)

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.

 

My uncle Eric was a great guy, a godly man. He would walk to church every Sunday in his suit and every Sunday he would pass a neighbour who sat on his verandah. They would wave and exchange a few words.

 

One day, as he was walking to church, Eric noticed the man’s head just above the ground and asked what he was doing. “I’m fixing a broken grease trap,” he replied. This is one of the smelliest, most revolving jobs on earth. Eric stopped walking towards church, turned around, went home got changed into overalls and got down into the hole with his neighbour. A month or so later, this man made a commitment to Christ, because Eric showed love in a practical way.

 

In any situation, you can choose to bestow His love, or not. God will not force you to do it, but as you decide to reflect His love and shine for Him, you will be amazed at what He does with your love offering!

 

5.      SOW HIS LOVE

 

If you are a Christian, you should decide to sow His love all around you, all the time. If you love and love and love, it will yield a harvest in the lives of people you meet. You will be doing good, loving everyone and shedding His love abroad.

 

But sometimes it will be thrown back at you. If you offer God’s love to someone who abuses you back, I am not telling you to keep going back for more abuse. You might want to step away from them, but even this protective behaviour can be done in love. Showing love does not equal becoming a doormat!

 

2 Corinthians 9:6 (ESV Strong's)

Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.

 

This works for money, for love, for righteousness and even for evil. It is a spiritual principle that you reap what you sow, later than you sow and more than you sow. So Church, let’s sow love, let’s sow unity, let’s sow blessing, because we will reap, even if the odds seem stacked against us at present.

 

Galatians 6:9-10 (ESV Strong's)

And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.

 

LOVING OTHERS... PUT A LITTLE LOVE IN YOUR HEART

 

If you feel unloved, if you feel overlooked or abused or lonely, then it is hard to shed God’s love abroad when you have so little of it within you. Today, I want you to leave here filled with the Holy Spirit and filled with God’s love. If you’re filled, it overflows. If you’re empty, you have nothing to give and share with those around you.

 

You do not have to drum up love if you are filled with God’s love, it just overflows from you to everyone around you. But if you are lonely, if you are feeling rejected or unloved, you have very little love to share. So today, I want to pray for you if you have been hurt and feel unloved or rejected. Maybe your family has hurt or rejected you, maybe your ex, your friend, your work colleagues have mistreated you.

 

I want to pray today for those who have been hurt, upset or feel unloved, and your love tank is running low.