It is impossible for anyone to do justice to our subject for today. However, let us go ahead and give it a try anyway. The subject is "love." This subject of love that we want to think about is primarily dealing in our message with the idea of love to man. You know, it's pretty hard to love some of us men. Of course, anybody could love a fine fellow like me, but it's pretty hard to love some people, you know. (Laughter by preacher and audience). And you know, some of these folks like Tom or Jack, why it's pretty hard to love them. But everybody could love a fine fellow like me with no trouble at all!
What I'm really thinking about, of course, is that we meet people everyday to whom we need to show love. And sometimes it's pretty hard to do, isn't it? I is sometimes really hard to do. We have visited some people this week (and almost every week when we visit), we visit some people who are very hard to love, don't we? It is really hard to love some people. But we must love mankind. We don't need to love his sin, in fact, we must hate his sin, but we must love the sinner, in spite of his sin! And it's a lot easier to say than it is to do.
Let's look at this subject for a little while together from the Bible. Thinking about love to man, in the first place, what is love? What is love? Tell me, just what is it? The idea that so many people have today about what love is bears little or no resemblance to real love. The word love is so abused today that it almost has no proper meaning anymore! Most of the people of the world when they use the word love, they really just mean lust, as I've said to you so many times before. The common idea of the meaning of love has nothing to do with the real meaning of the word love! As used today, it often just means lust, sensual lust! But that is NOT what love really is. So what is love?
Let's look at Matthew chapter 5, beginning with verse 43: "Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. For if we love them which love you, what reward have ye? -- For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? Do not even the publicans the same? And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? Do not even the publicans so?"
Now there's a particular portion of that passage that I want us to look at closely -- Verse 45. It has given us a rather rough definition here in this passage of what love is. Just a rough definition, but let's look at that verse 45 again. He says do these things, that is, show this love, "that ye may be the children of your Father which is heaven." Now what is He talking about there? He is NOT saying that if you love everybody you are going to be saved because of it, is He? That is NOT what He's saying. That would contradict everything else in the Bible just about, wouldn't it? And yet if someone who is totally ignorant of the Bible and they read that portion of that verse, it would almost sound as if that's what it means. That if you practice this love that you become the children of God. But let me illustrate what it really means this way.
You have heard this expression, I'm sure: a young child, a youngster of some sort, usually a pretty young one, he'll do something that looks just exactly like his daddy. A carbon copy of his daddy. And what do we usually say? We say, "He's the son of Jack," don't we? Or, "He's the son of his father," that's a very common idea and expression, isn't it? "He's the son of his father," when he does something just like his father does it.
That's what the real sense of this verse 45 is, of course. "That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven." In other words, act like His children. When people look at you and see that you show real love to man, then they'll say, "He's like his Father. Yes, he's like his Father, he's a child of God." Just as we say sometimes, "Yeah, he's a chip off the old block," you know. "He's the son of his father," because he did something just like his father does.
Now going on let's look at I John. First John, you know, is the love book, or one of the love books in the Bible. I preached to you from the book of I John some six or eight months ago. And we dealt somewhat with this idea of love but not in this manner in which we are tonight. In fact, most of the Scriptures we use tonight are different. First John chapter 3, verse 14 thru 17. It says: "We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not his brother abideth in death."
If you go on to verse 16, it says: "Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren." And then verse 17: "But whoso hath this world's goods, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him?"
Now the message is being repeated the same over and over in a sense and yet a slightly different version each time, that we should show our love to man. And in so doing, we are also showing the love of God to mankind. We're showing that we are a child of God. And when we love the brethren, then that's one of the principle signs of the fact that we are truly a child of God --- when we love the brethren. But we should love other men as well, not just the brethren.
The character of another man, or I should perhaps say it in a different way and not say "man". The character of another person may be hateful to me and often is, but a real desire for his welfare in spite of this is what we are talking about here. That's love, isn't it? A real desire for his welfare in spite of the fact that his character is hateful to me. That is real love. And that's the kind of love we need to show to men and the kind of love which is so difficult to show to certain people. That does NOT mean, of course, that we just fail to stand up for the truth. That's not what we're talking about at all. That is not love at all when you go along with a man in a lie just because he wants you to --- that is not love at all, is it? That is the opposite of love! But even when a man's character is hateful to us we still should have a real desire for his own best welfare. And if we do, then we are showing real love to him!
Now we said we'd think a minute about what is love, now let's think for a minute about something a little further, the objects of Christian love. What should be the objects of Christian love? If we look at I Peter chapter 2, we find a good reference on this. We see the objects of Christian love in First Peter 2:17, where it says: "Honour all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honour the king." Now that is a whole group of very short and pointed admonitions to us! But the principle ones we want especially to think about are: "honour all men," and "love the brotherhood." Theese are the objects of Christian love. Now these objects of Christian love here actually we see are just about all men, aren't they? Because he says, "Honour all men," the objects of Christian love should be all men. We should have a love for all men no matter how much their character displeases us. We should still love them and desire to lead them to salvation in Christ and then their character wouldn't displease us so much anymore. We should have a deep sincere desire to lead them to Christ. So we see here that all men should be the object of Christian love.
He lists several different classes there --- all men, brotherhood, and fear God and then also honor the king. The objects of Christian love are mentioned further in Ephesians 1. Still thinking about the objects of Christian love, we see in Ephesians 1:15 the following: "Wherefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus," now what objects of the Christian's love is he talking about here? He says, "And love unto all the saints." So there he's telleing us that one of the prime objects of Christian love should be all the saints!
Then the next question is, who are the saints? We've talked about that before. The saints are not these people that the Roman Catholics put up on their icons and their idolatrous statues that they pretend are not idolatrous. That is NOT what it is talking about when it says saints in the Bible, is it? The Bible means "all faithful church members when it speaks of saints. And here he speaks of the fact that one of the objects of Christian love should be love unto all the saints. The saints, all the saints, should be objects of Christian love. In other words, we should love the brethren. We should love those born of God or all saints. We should have a special love for God's children, even above and beyond that which we have for others. But we should also show the love of God even to the wickedest man on earth.
If we look at Galatians chapter 6, we see a reference which shows that we should have a special love, a special care, a special desire to show love to and for the children of God. In Galatians 6:10 it says: "As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men." Now there is loving all men, isn't it? But then he goes on, "Especially unto them who are of the household of faith." We should have a special particular love for the saints, for the saved, for the truly redeemed of the Lord.
We should love our neighbor, the Scripture teaches. Now when you start talking about we should love our neighbor, the next question is, "Who is my neighbor?" Who is that? Just exactly who is our neighbor? And Luke chapter 10 gives us an answer to that! Luke Luke chapter 10, beginning at verse 29, we see here a disbelieving lawyer of the Jews had been questioning Jesus trying to trap Him in a wrong answer or in a silly answer or in a false answer. And he had asked Jesus, "What shall I do to inherit eternal life?" And Jesus said, "What's written in the law." "How do you read it?" And then the lawyer said, "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind: and thy neighbour as thyself. And he said unto him," (Jesus now speaking), "Thou hast answered right: this do, and thou shalt live." But then the lawyer, willing to justify himself rather than truly do what Jesus said, spoke back to Jesus asking: "And who is my neighbour?" The very question that we've just asked ourselves here. Who is my neighbor?
Then Jesus gave him this parable of the Good Samaritan answering the question, "who is my neighbor." "Jesus answering said: A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, which stripped him of his raiment, and wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead. And by chance there came down a certain priest that way: and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. And likewise a Levite, when he was at the place, came and looked on him, and passed by on the other side. But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was: and when he saw him, he had compassion on him, And went to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine, and set him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him. And on the morrow when he departed, he took out two pence, and gave them to the host, and said unto him, Take care of him: and whatsoever thou spendest more, when I come again I will repay thee. Which now of these three, thinkest thou, was neighbour unto him that fell among the thieves?'"
And then the lawyer had to answer and say: "He that shewed mercy on him. Then said Jesus unto him, Go, and do thou likewise.'" So the one to whom you are truly a neighbor is the one to whom you show mercy! The one to whom you show the love of God, the one to whom you display this Christian love which is sometimes so difficult to show but needs to be shown by all Christians at all times to all men!
If we look at I Thessalonians 3:12, we have another reference we want to read to you. In this reference it teaches us again that we should love all men. First Thessalonians 3:12 says: "And the Lord make you to increase and abound in love one toward another, and toward all men, even as we do toward you." Now that's a difficult one to fulfill, isn't it? To love all men is a real problem. It's not so very hard to love one another in the church, is it? That's relatively easy in spite of our teasing when we started. That is fairly easy to love each one in the church. But to love all men, that's really hard! It's very difficult to live up to, but it is what we need to do, and there is a way that can help when we look at these people whose character repels us so much.
It will help in loving them if, when we see someone like that, we think about this. Here is a man for whom Christ died! Yes, here is a man for whom Christ died! When we start thinking about it like that, it helps us to love them, doesn't it? It will always help us to love them if we must remember every time, this is one for whom the Prince of Glory died, even though he's a dirty bearded hippie, a rascally looking fellow, nutty as a fruitcake and a real scoundrel in everything that he says or does, yet when we look at him we need to remember he's one for whom Christ died. And when we do that it'll help us to love him in spite of what he is and what his character may be.
Going on a little further, we need to even love our enemies. Matthew chapter 5, verse 44 speaks of this in these words: "But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecuted you." Now that does not say that you should just lay down and put yourself in a position to allow them to continue to walk on you --- it doesn't say anything like that at all, does it? This does NOT teach pacifism! But it does say you should love them in the sense that we should remember that even for them Christ died, and they need salvation!
If we look at Romans again, in 12:20, we find another appropriate verse about loving our enemies, or how to handle our enemies. "Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head." Now that' is the hardest one of all we have read so far to really live up to!
If you saw your enemy out there in the street hungry and naked, I don't know how you'd feel but I know how I'd feel if I didn't control myself. And I suspect it's about the same way you'd feel if your enemies were out there. You'd say to yourself: "Aha, he's getting what he deserves, isn't he?" Now isn't that about what we'd feel if we didn't let real love control us?
The husbands should love their wives. The husband should love his wife. There's a good reference on this in Ephesians chapter 5. You may remember that here in Ephesians 5, a comparison is made of the love between the love of a husband for his wife. It is there compared to that love which Christ Himself has for the church. Ephesians 5:25 speaks plainly and says: "Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it." Now that's how we should love our wives, just as Christ loved the church. Just as Christ has a special, particular love for the church so also should the husband have a special and peculiar love for his own wife.
Wives also should love their husbands as the Scripture teaches. If we look at Titus 2:4, it speaks about the pastoral work now of a proper minister of God. Let's read there beginning with verse 1 of chapter 2: "But speak thou the things which become sound doctrine: That the aged men be sober," he's telling things here that a proper minister of God should teach to his flock, or should teach to his people. "Speak thou the things which become sound doctrine: That the aged men be sober, grave, temperate, sound in faith, in charity, in patience. The aged women likewise, that they be in behaviour as becometh holiness, not false accusers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things;" (and here's the crux of it) "That they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children." You may have noticed, there's an unholy situation in many homes (so-called) today in which the husband does not properly love his wife, the wife does not properly love nor respect her husband, and neither nor both of them properly loves the children. And there is just no hope in a situation like that until you can get this lack of love sorted out. The lack of love just destroys any possibility of a proper home life or a proper family life or a proper relationship between husband and wife and children.
Now another question we might ask is, how to love. Yes, how to love! Christ is the author of love and it is for His sake that we do love. So that's how to love, isn't it? He's the author of it and it's for His sake that we do love. We should love in Christ Jesus as I Corinthians teaches us. First Corinthians teaches us how to love. We should love in Christ Jesus. In First Corinthians 16:24 it says: "My love be with you all in Christ Jesus." Now that's the way we love, isn't it? Without the love of Christ in our heart we cannot love others. It's impossible. We cannot truly and properly love other men unless we have the love of Christ in our own heart to begin with. So, how do we love? We love or should love and must love in Christ Jesus.
Another answer to this question of how to love is not only do we love in Christ Jesus but also we must love without hypocrisy. Now, you know, I've seen people who were this ooey, gooey, gushy type of people who went around trying to pretend that they just loved everybody. And you could tell that the whole thing was hypocrisy from the bottom of their feet to the last hair on the top of their head. And there's nothing more disgusting or more easily visible than that, is there? It always shows when people try to pretend love when they don't have it, when they don't really feel it! There's nothing more quickly visible, more readily noticeable and more disgusting when you do see it than this idea of hypocritical love. Love which is not real love, not genuine at all but just a false pretense of love.
Romans 12:9 says: "Let love be without dissimulation. Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good." Now that word dissimulation there means about the same thing as our modern word hypocrisy. Dissimulation. "So, let love be without hypocrisy," we can say. Don't be hypocritical about love. Don't pretend that you love everybody when you know nothing about the love of God. You can't love everybody when you don't even know the love of God yourself. You can pretend to love everybody, and we've got a lot of people who do, and then we've got some people who like to pretend that everybody loves them. And that is oftentimes hypocritical as well. These people who so want everybody to love them that they try to pretend that everybody does love them, even though they don't. But love must be without hypocrisy, it must be genuine. We should not love merely in word, neither in tongue, but in deed and in truth, the Scripture teaches.
We should love not in saying but in doing. Not in profession but in practice. Saying to your wife, "Oh, Honey, I love you," but never bringing any food home for her to eat, never taking care of your children, that doesn't show much love, does it? That's hypocritical love. If you came home end of every month as some men do right here in the Republic (South Africa) and tell their wife how much they love her, YEt they don't give her enough money to run the house on but go out and spend the money on liquor or other women, that's not love! That's not love at all! Love must be not just in profession, not just in words, but in practice to be real love.
We should love from the heart --- way down inside where it really makes a difference to us. We should love from the heart fervently or intensely as the Scripture teaches us. If we look again at First Peter 1:22 it says: "Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit unto unfeigned love of the brethren, see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently." Yes, love one another with a pure heart fervently! That does a pretty good job of covering our we were just making, doesn't it? That we should love from the heart fervently or intensely. It should really be something. Real love is something that stirs you up.
There is nothing that moves people like real love. There is nothing that will improve your performance in witnessing for God like real love for the one to whom you are witnessing. There's nothing that will improve my performance in preaching or witnessing so much as if they can see that I really have a love for lost souls. It makes a big difference.
We should love aboundingly or abundantly. As it tells us in Philippians chapter 1, we should love aboundingly or abundantly. Paul here says, "And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and in all judgment." He's praying that their love, the love of the church there at Philippi, he is praying for the people that their love may abound more and more. That is what we need to pray for ourselves as well. Our love should abound or be abundant.
Look at I Thessalonians again --- we read there earlier - First Thessalonians 3:12. My Bible is coming apart so badly that I'm getting to where I can't find these places quickly because the loose pages overlap on the edges. I'm going to have to switch to my new one. First Thessalonians 3:12 says: "And the Lord make you to increase and abound in love one toward another, and toward all men, even as we do toward you." As I read to you a moment ago in connection with another thought.
Now in closing let's think of this, we should love the brethren even as Christ loved us. You say, "Well, that sounds pretty good. But how much was that? Just how much was that?" That is the question, isn't it?
In John chapter 15 we find the answer to that question, "How much was it that Christ loved us?" John chapter 15:12 and 13 says: "This is my commandment, that ye love one another, as I have loved you. Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends." Now what is the message there to us? That is showing us how much was the love of Christ for us, isn't it? His love for us was so strong that it brought Him to leave the glory of heaven, it brought Him to leave the throne, it brought Him to leave the tens of thousands of angels that came at His beck and call. It brought Him to do that, to leave all that glory that He had from eternity in glory up there, and come down here, become a man, and then lay down His life for us.
And in doing so, He didn't just lay down His life for a friend either, did He? He laid down His life for us when we were yet His enemies. While we were yet enemies, in due time, Christ died for the ungodly. While we were yet without strength, Christ died for the ungodly. So when we say how much was that love, it's beyond anything that we can even imagine or conceive, isn't it? And Jesus put it in language that men can understand here when He says that we "should love one another as I have loved you," and explains further with "greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends." But His love went even beyond that because He laid down His life for an enemy, the sinner.
So let's each of us pray for one another and try to practice and show this love. Even if we have it in our heart, it needs to come out so that others can see that we do love. We need to remember that the quickest way to touch someone for the Lord is just to show them that you truly care about them --- Real love, in other words! Not just a desire to overcome their silly objections. That is not sufficient, that is not enough to show real love, is it? Sometimes it's necessary to overcome their objections but that alone is not really showing sufficient love! The thing that counts is when they can see by the way you speak, the way you live, the way you act, the very thoughts that you think that show on your face, that you have a real love for lost souls and that you are concerned about them in particular and their relationship to God.
And that will have an effect on them when we can really show it! Not in a hypocritical manner, not in a gushy manner, but in a manner that really affects us down inside. And it will make a difference in our work for the Lord!