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I Corinthians 16:14-“Do EVERYTHING in love.”

John 13:35-“By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

Mark 12:31-“Love your neighbor as yourself.”

In addition to the statement that we exist to connect our community to Christ, we also want to make it known that people matter to us.  “You matter here” is on our Welcome Banner at the bottom of our drive.  It is on our business cards and other pieces of communication.  Why is that important?  It’s important because people mattered to Jesus.  They knew He was interested in them, that He saw them and their struggles, that He desired to be with them, that He wanted to help them, that they weren’t a burden to Him, and that He was there for them.  Isn’t that a wonderful definition of unconditional love?  Love is interested, concerned, available and involved.

I Corinthians 16:14 commands us to do everything in love.  John 13:35 says that love is the hallmark of a true disciple of Christ. Mark 12:31 says we are to love others the way we love ourselves.  We care for ourselves, don’t we?  We look for ways to enjoy life.  We want to live happy and contented.  We want to make progress and achieve goals.  The way we love others is supposed to show that we desire the same for them.

The greatest love of all has been demonstrated by God through Jesus.  How did Jesus love?  What were the practical ways He communicated love to other people?  How did they KNOW He loved them?  Let’s take a look at four ways Jesus loved people and how that impacted them.

  1. When Jesus loves burdens are eased.

When people experience the love of Christ, they gain access to a new quality of life.  Even though the trials of life remain, when you encounter the love of God personally, you receive supernatural strength and perspective to walk through them with confidence and hope.  There is a “life-lift” that you receive.  There is an elevated status.  There is freedom to rejoice.  God comes to those who are in a love-relationship with Him in practical ways to ease the burdens we have to carry.  This is the essence of the ministry of Jesus.

The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,because the Lord has anointed meto proclaim good news to the poor.He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,to proclaim freedom for the captivesand release from darkness for the prisoners,[a]
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favorand the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn,3and provide for those who grieve in Zion—to bestow on them a crown of beautyinstead of ashes,the oil of joyinstead of mourning,and a garment of praiseinstead of a spirit of despair.They will be called oaks of righteousness,a planting of the Lordfor the display of his splendor.

Those who live in poverty live without access to many facets of life that others enjoy.  Jesus said, “I have Good News for the poor.”  There would be access for the poor to the love and power of God.  They would not be on the outside looking in.  To those enslaved by the religious system or the ways of the world or the slave master of sin, Jesus said, “I am going to bring freedom like you have never known.  To those whose hearts are broken, I will give you a soothing balm.  I will walk you through the Valley of grief.  I will be present with you in transforming ways so that even your time of mourning turns into praise and will not lead to despair.”  Jesus said, “I have come that you may have an established life.  You will be like an oak tree. That which was being used of the enemy to crush you, topple you, impoverish you and enslave you will be removed from you, and you will become fortified and strong in Me.”

Who doesn’t want a friend like that?  How could a love like that be unattractive to anyone?  And in practical ways, Jesus went about meeting needs which eased the burdens they were facing.  Whether He fed them or took time to teach them a better way, He eased their burden.  In love, He lightened people’s burdens. He didn’t wait for people to say, “I have a burden, can you help me?”  He invited people to bring their burdens to Him.  He said in Matthew 11:28, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”

“Jesus went about doing good,” Acts 10:38.  He walked from place to place like, “Hey, can I help you carry that?”  “Excuse me, can I provide some healing?”  “Can I spend a few minutes blessing your kids?”  “Pardon Me, Do you need someone to talk to?”  “Hello, would you like something to eat?”  His love was so practical.  He helped people see things from a different perspective which freed them to become the people God had intended.  He spent time one-on-one with people that others had already written off as a lost cause.  Do you know it just took one encounter with Jesus to change everything?  One burden lifted, one insight gained, changed the whole trajectory of people’s lives. 

I want to love like that.  I want to find ways to shoulder someone’s burden, to take an interest in their family situation, to provide something they need to make life a little easier for them. 

Jesus didn’t isolate Himself.  Jesus didn’t insulate Himself from other people’s problems.  He inserted Himself into them.  It didn’t matter if it was a despised tax collector, thief, prostitute or shady religious leader, His heart was open to them.  He went to their houses.  He sat and talked outside in the heat.  He walked miles and miles to teach and encourage people.  He didn’t care about their reputation or limitation.  If there was a burden to ease, He moved in.

Can you love like Jesus?  Check on your neighbors.  Reach out to the lonely.  Sit with the grieving.  Ask to help the single parent.  Share your resources.  Drop off food to someone who needs encouraged.  Send a card.  Lend a hand.  Love like Jesus and say to someone this week, “Let me help you carry that.”

  1. When Jesus loves shame is eliminated.  Listen to this account of the way Jesus took shame out of the equation in a woman’s life in John 8.Jesus went to the Mount of Olives.At dawn he appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered around him, and he sat down to teach them. The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him.  But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. 10 Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”11 “No one, sir,” she said.“Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”

Obviously, Jesus had gotten under the skin of the religious leaders.  They had no regard for the woman they “caught” in adultery. She was a pawn in their scheme to trap Jesus.  She was a casualty of their pride and hard-heartedness.  They loved to spout off about the laws, but they liked to pick and choose which laws fit their agenda.  They talked about stoning the woman according to the law of Moses, but they forgot the Old Testament Law of God that says we are to act justly and love mercy (Micah 6:8).

Jesus knew their hearts.  He knew they were the ones in the wrong.  Even though the woman was guilty of what they said she was guilty of…She didn’t deny it…Jesus didn’t deny it nor did He overlook it…Even though she was guilty, the religious leaders were the ones in the wrong in this situation with Jesus and Jesus isn’t about shame.  It’s not His agenda.  Why do you think He went out of His way to talk to the Woman at the Well in private?  Why do you think He went at times to people’s homes where they could discuss things without broadcasting them to others?  Jesus came to cover our sin, not to embarrass us and shame us.  I John 4:8 says, “Love covers a multitude of sins.” John 3:17, the verse that follows the greatest LOVE verse in the Bible, the one that says God so LOVED the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him will not perish and have everlasting life, that next verse, John 3:17 says Jesus didn’t come into the world to condemn the world but to save the world through Him. 

This poor woman had been publicly shamed. Jesus, wanting to take the spotlight off of her, placed it where it rightly belonged, on the religious leaders.  And when He did, they dropped their stones and left.  And Jesus lovingly engaged the woman.  If someone did have a right to stone her because they were without sin, it was Jesus.  He was without sin.  He did have a perfect record.  But there was no stone in His hand.  He told her He wouldn’t condemn her. He didn’t tell her she should go and be ashamed of herself. No.  He told her to go and sin no more.  He pointed her in the direction of a brand-new start, a new way of life, a life without sin.

Here is what God showed me this week: Shame is rooted in a lack of concern for a person.  It is the opposite of love.  People who are shame-based don’t care how they hurt the person whether that person is guilty of something or is just in distress over a situation.  Jesus will never have a lack of concern for you.  Shame and love can never be part of the same experience.  Shame condemns people to death, spiritual death, psychological and emotional death and more.  Love points people to the open door, to a way to recover, to a new way of life.

Romans 8:1-Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death.

I want to love like that.  I don’t want to hold people hostage to their high school reputation or their sin and mistakes.  I want to show people the way out of bondage.  I want to help people learn to forgive themselves and move on.  I want to be discreet, someone others can entrust their story to.  I want people to be so filled with God’s love that there is no room to house shame.  I want to point them to the special future they can have with Christ.

  1. When Jesus loves people are elevated.

Jesus always treated people with grace and respect.  Jesus elevated those He met. Philippians 2 tells us if we have been comforted by the love of Christ, then in humility we should live in such a way that communicates to others we consider them to be better than ourselves.  People who left Jesus’ presence all left with courage, encouragement, and better off than they were before they encountered Him. In order to elevate others, we have to place ourselves below them.  Serving others is the way to elevate them and to demonstrate the love of Christ.  Jesus demonstrated this aspect of love profoundly when He washed the disciples’ feet. 

In John 13:1 we read, “It was just before the Passover Feast. Jesus knew that the time had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he now showed them the full extent of his love.”  Jesus willingly placed Himself beneath the disciples in that moment.  He, their Lord and Master, became their servant.  He did the job of a servant to show just how much He loved them, how much He valued them.  It was so stunning of a display of love that it was difficult for some of the disciples to even accept His kindness.  They felt unworthy of that kind of love. 

It was always more than words with Jesus.  A demonstration always accompanied His words.  And in this beautiful account, Jesus even washed the feet of the person who would betray Him and set the events of the crucifixion into motion.

I want to love like that.  I want to serve people who have hurt me.  I want to be used of God to help people see how much He thinks of them.  I want to serve people so that they see how much God cares for them, so that they understand the great lengths He went to in order to rescue them.  If I can show others that I love them, no matter what they have done to me, perhaps they can see that God loves them that much and more. 

  1. When Jesus loves forgiveness is extended.

The crucifixion of Christ is another astonishing moment where the love of God was displayed without reservation.  It is one thing to love your enemy, it is another to want them to be off the hook for crimes against YOU.  That is next-level.  That is other-worldly.  When Jesus, from the cross, prayed that the Father would forgive those who had driven nails into His hands and feet, those who had mocked Him and humiliated Him, those who had beaten Him and falsely accused Him, those who had gambled for His clothes and jeered as if His crucifixion was some kind of perverted entertainment, He was helping us understand that love has no limits.  It is unconditional.

Jesus doesn’t love us because of what we do or don’t do for Him.  He just loves us. Jesus extended forgiveness from the cross not once but twice.  The thief on the cross only had moments to live when He asked Jesus for entrance into Paradise.  There wasn’t time for him to serve Jesus, to lead others to Jesus, or to live a life of righteousness that would be pleasing to God.  The thief admitted that he deserved to be there.  He was guilty.  His punishment was warranted.  When he spoke to Jesus, he had nothing to offer.  He came to Jesus empty, but none of that mattered.  In extravagant love, Jesus forgave the thief and assured him that Paradise would be his forever home.  Jesus didn’t treat the thief the way his sins would dictate that he deserved to be treated.  He showered him with love.  The thief deserved death, eternal death, but he was given love and eternal life.

Jesus’s love is a “no matter what” love and a “just because” love.In fact, Jesus loves the person in this room who loves Him the least just as much as He loves the person who loves Him the most.  That’s incredible, isn’t it?  Lots of people are suspicious about the love of God.  Because they equate it with the kind of love the world offers, it seems too good to be true. Many people believe God’s motivation to show love to them is because He wants something from them rather than the reality that God wants something for them.  Love wants the best and offers the best even to people we would consider to be the worst.  God doesn’t love in degrees or with conditions. 

I want to love people like that.  When people encounter me, I want them to encounter the love of God that can unite people with their Creator and the One who can empower them to change and become that same love. 

So much happens to people when Jesus loves them.  Perhaps I should say it this way, “Wonderful things happen to people when they allow Jesus to love them.” Have you experienced the love of God for yourself?  Have you accepted God’s love and forgiveness personally?  God wants us to be the beneficiary of all the love of God offers.  He wants to ease our burdens.  He wants to remove our shame.  He wants to elevate us to live according to the value and worth He has placed on us.  He wants us to live forgiven so that we can fully experience His love and correctly love ourselves and others.  And He wants all of His followers to love like that in an effort to point unbelievers to the greatest love of all.

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