Unity In Times of Disagreement“Where did you get that?” That’s a statement that is most often connected to lots of energy and emotion. Most often, when we hear that question, there is body language that goes along with it. Eyes are wide open, body is leaning forward, and the pitch of the voice suddenly takes an elevator ride to the next octave. Don’t believe me? Well, when was the last time you heard that phrase spoken in a monotone, detached, apathetic way? Just doesn’t happen very often does it? There’s a reason for that. Most often when we hear the phrase someone has just spied something that is unique, out of the ordinary, eye-catching. Remember when the iPhone first came out? I wasn’t there, but I know the first kid that brought one to school heard, “Whoa! Where did you get that?” over and over again. The hottest shoes that boys are craving these days are the newest manifestation of the KD shoe line. The KD 7 won’t cause you jump out of the gym or hit jump shots from half court, but boy will they get folks to say, “Where did you get those?” And well they should for $145.00! To get a reaction from folks you don’t have to have the latest and greatest—you just have to have something that is unique. I’ll guarantee you that if you pull up in the parking lot some Sunday in a shiny 1976 AMC Pacer heads will turn and more than one person will smile and say, “Where did you get that?”
I want you to know that God is all for that which is “attention getting.” Just look at what He has created. How can you see the incredible beauty and variety of the colors and shapes of the creatures He has placed in the ocean and not be amazed? How can you stand on a snow covered mountain and watch snowflakes falling with the grace and elegance of a Baryshnikov and not be amazed? God has placed within us an attraction for the magnificent. He has placed within us a propensity for wonderment, but rather than being amazed at what is truly amazing, we’ve become amazed with stuff.
In Matthew 15, the people who were in the presence of Jesus were amazed at what He did for those who had debilitating needs. Read along with me from Matthew 15:30-31.
30 Great crowds came to him, bringing the lame, the blind, the crippled, the mute and many others, and laid them at his feet; and he healed them. 31 The people were amazed when they saw the mute speaking, the crippled made well, the lame walking and the blind seeing. And they praised the God of Israel. (Matthew 15:30-31 NIV)
What did they do when they broke out in amazement? They praised God. Our wonderment, our amazement, should lead us to praise God, to draw near to God.
In Matthew 5, Jesus was telling the people that they were the salt of the earth and the light of the world. He said that people don’t light a lamp and put it under a bushel. Instead, they set it where it can give light to the whole room. Then, in verse 16, Jesus said,
16 In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven. (Matthew 5:16 NIV)
Let your light so shine that others may see your good deeds. As a result they will… What will they do? They will praise your Father in heaven. We are to live in such a way that others are amazed at our lives and in turn they praise God, they desire to seek God. Turn with me to John 13:35 and let’s read together.
35 By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another. (John 13:35 NIV)
The distinguishing mark of the follower of Jesus is love, a unique kind of love. The distinguishing mark of a follower of Jesus is not their understanding of the difference between Dispensational Premillennialism, Postmillennialism, and Preterism, how many verses he or she can quote, how many conferences they’ve attended, or how many bumper stickers they have on their car. The distinguishing mark of the followers of Jesus is a unique kind of love. It is God’s desire that as we live out this unique kind of love, others will say, “Where did you get that?”
We’ve been taking a look at this unique kind of love for many weeks now since we began our study of Romans 12 and 13. How do we love our brothers and sisters in Christ? How do we love outsiders, those who are not followers of Jesus? How do we love our enemies? How do we love those in authority over us? Paul isn’t done yet. Let’s read our Scripture for today and we’ll get started.
7 Give everyone what you owe him: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor. 8 Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law. 9 The commandments, “Do not commit adultery,” “Do not murder,” “Do not steal,” “Do not covet,” and whatever other commandment there may be, are summed up in this one rule: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” 10 Love does no harm to its neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law. (Romans 13:7-10 NIV)
We covered verse 7 in our last study so we won’t go back over it. I’ve included it this morning because verse 8 is an extension of verse 7. Pay what you owe. “Let no debt remain except the continuing debt to love one another…”
I really debated this week about spending our entire time on five words from verse 8: “Let no debt remain outstanding…” Debt is suffocating. The average debt that Americans carry on their credit cards, per household, was $15,000.00 at the end of 2013. 13.9% of our disposable income went to pay consumer debt. I’ve heard it said, “As goes the people, so goes the nation.” We spend like there is no tomorrow and when we become smothered in debt we simply declare bankruptcy. Our nation is living the same way. We are over $17 trillion in debt as a nation. I know what the politicians say, but God says, “Pay what you owe.” In Proverbs 22 we read, “The borrower is the slave of the lender” (Proverbs 22:7 ESV).
We, as followers of Jesus, should pay what we have agreed to pay. If you borrow money to buy a house then pay your mortgage and pay it on time. Buy a house you can afford and pay your mortgage. If you are renting an apartment, rent one you can afford and then pay your rent on time. If we have bills of any kind then we should pay them on time. If we borrow tools from a neighbor or a book from a friend—then we should return them in a timely manner. Many years ago I had an old brown Chevy truck; I called it “Brown Sugar.” It was like a community truck. People borrowed it all the time to move stuff and I was glad to let them use it. I have a friend who would borrow my truck quite frequently. Every time he borrowed it he returned it to me with a tank full of gas and cleaner than when he took the keys from me. Now, that’s a testimony. Let’s read verse 8.
8 Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law. (Romans 13:8 NIV)
We are to make a concerted effort to get out of debt, to owe no one anything, but there is one debt that will be perpetual, that we will never fulfill. We owe love to those God has placed in our lives. I mentioned to you earlier that the love we are talking about is a unique kind of love—it is “agape” love. It is love with no expectations, love with no strings attached. It never says, “I will love you if you love you.” Reciprocal love is the kind of love that we are accustomed to seeing in our daily lives. If you do me right then I will do right by you. If you love me then I will love you. The love that we are called to is rooted in the character of God who loved us when we were His enemies and continues to love us when we go astray.
When Paul began urging us to love and then addressing how we are to love the various groups of people that he has outlined in Romans 12-13, he began by giving us a view of “God’s mercy.” It is God’s mercy that serves as our model, our standard, not the love that we hear about and witness in the world around us. If left to our own to determine “who” and “how” we are to love then our circle will be quite small. We are no different than those who have gone before us.
In Jesus day, the people knew that they were to love their neighbor, but their definition of “neighbor” was quite different than Jesus’ definition. Jesus didn’t give them a list of who qualified for the title of neighbor, He told them a story. Turn with me to Luke 10:30-37 and let’s read together.
30 In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he fell into the hands of robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. 31 A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. 2 So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. 34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, took him to an inn and took care of him. 35 The next day he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’ 36 “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” 37 The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.” Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.” (Luke 10:30-37 NIV)
Who was the neighbor to the man who fell on hard times? Was it the priest? Hardly. He was too busy. Was it the Levite? Nope. He didn’t even stop to see the man in need. It was the Samaritan. A man who was not his “homeboy,” didn’t attend the same church, and didn’t live in the same neighborhood as the man who had been beaten. As a matter of fact he would have never hung out with the guy from Jerusalem, but he loved him enough to stop and help. In Matthew 5:43-48, Jesus said,
43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47 And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. (Matthew 5:43-48 NIV)
Can you see why I’ve been saying that this is a unique kind of love? Who loves their enemies and prays for those who persecute them? I can tell you. Those whose hearts have been captured by the love of God and who desire more than anything in life to walk in Jesus’ steps.
We often hear people in our society talk about the need for all of us to love one another, for us to, in the words of Rodney King, “just get along.” The kind of love that we are called to live out is impossible apart from the transformation that comes through knowing Jesus as Lord and Savior of our life. Let me give you another glimpse of the uniqueness of the love of Jesus. Paul wrote to the folks in Colosse and said,
12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. (Colossians 3:12-14 NIV)
We can find examples of each of these characteristics in the lives of people that we know. Compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, forgiveness—these are not uniquely “Christian,” but what sets God’s people apart from the rest of the population is that we are to be the embodiment of these characteristics regardless of whether things are going our way or not. There are experiences in life that cause even the most hardened to momentarily become compassionate. There are instances in life when even the most tight-fisted can exhibit kindness. There are moments when the toughest can be gentle. For the follower of Jesus these characteristics are to be the bedrock of who we are.
Because of the Fall, because of our sin nature, we are not naturally inclined in this direction. We are primarily and fundamentally self-preservationist. We are really good at looking out for number one. The only way for these characteristics to become part of the fiber of our being is transformation. We must be transformed through the invasion of our hearts by Jesus Christ. It is His kindness expressed through our living. It is His gentleness articulated through our actions. It is His compassion being manifested through our daily interaction with others. He is the one who has freed us from the bonds of self. He is the one who has liberated us from the agony of living life according to the pattern of this world. It is incumbent upon us to share with those who are still walking blindly through life trying to find relief, trying to find meaning and purpose, trying to find peace, and trying to make sense of it all.
Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones gives an illustration to help us understand our debt to those who need to know God’s unique love. There was a man who had been ill for many years. He had some kind of crippling arthritis that no doctor could diagnose or help alleviate his pain. One day the man heard about a doctor who, he was told, could help him. He traveled to the city where the doctor resided and once the doctor saw him he knew immediately what was the source of his trouble. The doctor prescribed him some medicine and said, “Now you take that and you will get rid of your pain. After a while, your joints will become loose and supple again and you will be perfectly well.” The man did exactly as he was told and, in time, he regained his health.
One day the man was walking up and down the streets of his town when he saw a man who was struggling just to walk. Immediately, he knew that the man was suffering from his old ailment and that he had never heard of the prescription that brought him relief. Not only this, but he just happened to have some of the pills with him. He carried them with him everywhere he went since his health was restored. So what should he do? Dr. Lloyd-Jones says,
He must cross the road, accost the man and say to him, ‘Excuse me, sir, you don’t know me and I don’t know you, but I do know what’s the matter with you. Tel me, have you ever heard of this? And he must produce the prescription. (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Romans: Chapter 13, pgs. 169-170)
He knows the one thing that will bring the man’s suffering to an end. He owes it to the man to share the prescription with him. We, like the man in the illustration, know the remedy for what ails all of humanity, and we owe it to them to share the only “prescription” which can bring them relief.
We are indebted to the world which is walking in darkness trying to find the light switch. They may not look like they need a thing, but let me assure you that if they do not know Jesus, if they are not walking with Jesus, then they are living in the dark and their future is grim.
At the end of verse 8 and at the end of verse 10 Paul says, “Love is the fulfillment of the law.” I’ve been thinking about Paul’s statement this week. Love is a debt that we will never be able to stamp “Paid in Full!” and yet, if we live out of the love of Jesus we will fulfill the law. In Romans 7 we learned that the law shines a spotlight on our sinful nature. We just can’t keep it. We are law breakers. Then, in Romans 8, Paul tells us that God has done for us, in Jesus, what none of us could do on our own. Read verses 1-4 with me.
1 Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, 2 because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death. 3 For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in sinful man, 4 in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit. (Romans 8:1-4 NIV)
God, through Jesus, has set us free to live in love, to walk in love, to love the unlovable, to love our enemies, and to do all of this for His glory and the blessing of all of those He has led into our lives. In Romans 13:9-10 we read,
9 The commandments, “Do not commit adultery,” “Do not murder,” “Do not steal,” “Do not covet,” and whatever other commandment there may be, are summed up in this one rule: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” 10 Love does no harm to its neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law. (Romans 13:9-10 NIV)
Paul is quoting Scripture from Exodus 20 and Leviticus 19:18. “Do not commit adultery. Do not murder. Do not steal. Do not covet” are all from the Ten Commandments. “Love your neighbor as yourself” is a quotation from Leviticus 19:18.
The law was the end all for the Jews of Jesus’ day. As long as you did what you were supposed to do then you could feel good about your relationship with God. They became so consumed with the law that it became mechanical, simply something to make sure you did. When Jesus was asked which of the commandments was the greatest, He said,
37 Jesus replied: ” ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:37-40 NIV)
“Love.” Love God with all of your heart, soul, and mind and love your neighbor as you love yourself. God never intended for the law to become an endless series of mindless acts. Love breathes life into the law. Why do we refuse to take another person’s life? Why do we refuse to betray our marriage vows? Why do we refuse to steal what belongs to another person? Because it is wrong? Yes it is wrong, but an even greater reason is because our love for God compels us to love our neighbor in the same way that we have been loved.
We are to live our lives in such a way that an unbelieving world takes notice and says, “Where did you get that?” As I mentioned to you earlier, and I must stress again, the agape love that God calls us to live is impossible in and of ourselves. We can only be a vehicle of His love, a conduit of the divine love that seeks to bless others even when it is costly. I ran across a paraphrase of 1 Corinthians 13 this week that is so beautiful. Let me read it to you before we leave here.
If I [know] the language perfectly and speak like a native, and have not [God’s] love for them, I am nothing. If I have diplomas and degrees and know all the up-to-date methods, and have not His touch of understanding love, I am nothing. If I am able to argue successfully against the religions of the people and make fools of them, and have not His wooing note, I am nothing. If I have all faith and great ideals and magnificent plans, and not His love that sweats and bleeds and weeps and prays and pleads, I am nothing. If I give my clothes and money to them, and have not His love for them, I am nothing. If I surrender all prospects, leave home and friends, make the sacrifices of a missionary career, and turn sour and selfish amid the daily annoyances and slights of a missionary life, and have not the love that yields its rights, its leisures, its pet plans, I am nothing. Virtue has ceased to go out of me. If I can heal all manner of sickness and disease, but wound hearts and hurt feelings for want of His love that is kind, I am nothing. If I can write articles or publish books that win applause, but fail to transcribe the Word of the Cross into the language of His love, I am nothing. (Source unknown)
The love that God has modeled for us is a love that has captured our hearts has it not? Why do I do the things I do? That is so easy for me to explain. It is because God has showered me with His love, His mercy, and His grace. He has loved me in unexplainable ways. His patience with me is incomprehensible. I want to express my gratitude to Him with every breath I have within me. I want others to know His love. I want others to know the salvation and security that is found in a living relationship with Him. I want others to know the peace that surpasses all understanding that comes from sharing in an intimate relationship with Him. He says the best way for them to come to know these wonderful blessings is for me to love them with His love. Maybe someone here this morning has been looking for the love, peace, and purpose that I’ve been talking about this morning. The world and your own mind will try and convince you that what you are looking for is something, or someone, other than God, but I came to tell you that the Lord has brought you here this morning so that you might come to know Him this very morning. Won’t you invite Him in?
Britton Christian Church
922 NW 91st
OKC, OK. 73114
September 30, 2014