Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Two Dimensional Love

"The Two Dimensions of Love"
Rev. Kevin L. Baker
October 26, 2008 Proper 25

On the whole, God's love for us is a much safer subject to think about than our love for Him. C.S. Lewis.

• Today, our Gospel reading calls us to think about our love for God and being like God by loving other people in life. There is a vertical dimension of love—toward God. There is a horizontal dimension—if you really love God you will love people like Jesus loves them.
• As CS Lewis said, it is always a nicer thing to think of God’s love for us than of our love for God.
• Why? Because all of us struggle with being unloving. We prefer to do what we want rather than what God wants—especially on Sundays.
• One of the greatest ways to keep us from God, or at least of weakening our faith, is to convince us—little by little—to trade REAL love for a counterfeit. The world offers many counterfeits.
• I hope to tell us about real love today so we can always recognize counterfeit love when we see it.
• "Teacher," they ask, "which commandment in the law is the greatest?" There were 613 of them in Hebrew Scripture. Which was the most important?
• Jesus responded to the lawyer’s question with two quotations from the Torah. The first quotation came from the Sacred Jewish Prayer called the Shema Israel. Shema = LISTEN
• This was a prayer contained in the sixth chapter of the Book of Deuteronomy 6:5 and recited by pious Jews every morning and evening, "Hear this, O Israel, Shema Israel, Listen up—this is huge.
• This is the most important thing—The Lord our God; The Lord is one. You shall love your God with your whole heart, your whole soul and your whole mind."
• The second quotation came from the Book of Leviticus, 19:18, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
• We can't just love God part time, we have to love Him with ALL—with everything we have. We can't just be good to our neighbor sometimes, we have to treat our neighbors with the same concern we have for ourselves.
• We hear these words repeated to us every week as we begin to worship. The summary of the Law as it is called, is right before the confession of sin. It is designed to cause us to ask ourselves—did I love God with my all and love my neighbor as myself since the last time I was in church?
• Since the answer is always no—we then move right into confessing our sins.
• I think the main reason we can never give perfect love back to God as he gives it to us is we still do not know what love really is.
• Let’s take the words Jesus says to us in what is known as his Great Commandment, the one commandment that summarizes all the commandments, this morning and look at them carefully.


37Jesus said to him, " 'You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.' 38This is the first and great commandment.

• The question was “What is the Greatest Commandment of all God’s laws?” Jesus said “If you love me, you SHALL keep my commandments. If we don’t, we fall short of loving God.
• Jesus directs his answer to all of us like he did to Peter after the resurrection. Do you love me?
• Jesus says the Greatest of all God’s laws—you shall love me. This is personal. Do we really love God?


You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.' 38This is the first and great commandment

• Well if we are to love God, we need to know what love is. What is love? Can you define it?
• Where we learn about love is from God. Love is God’s very nature. Humanity by nature is selfish and unloving. Everyone of us are unloving on a regular basis.
• We don’t love God and we don’t love others. We think love is a good feeling of pleasure. We think love is how we feel when people give to us. Some think love is sex or gifts.
• In reality, love is a willful decision to make a commitment to totally give all our focus and energy in life for the good of someone else other than ourselves even when we are wronged in the process.
• Since we are unloving by nature, God came to change our nature—to give us a new heart, a new will, and new miracle power to change the way we think and live from being about us to being about others.
• Love is a fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5. It is the number one character trait God wants to produce in us when we become followers of Jesus and he comes to live in our hearts and lives by faith.
• Greater love has no man than this—than he that will lay down his life for his friends. There is no love greater than the cross of Jesus Christ. Jesus left comfort and got involved totally to help us.
• That is why the ancient Church made sure every time worship takes place, that the love story of Jesus for sinful man is front and center at the altar as we offer up our thanksgiving for Jesus.
• Worship is about coming to love God in words, in actions, and in renewing our vows to him. I will always love you Jesus. I thank you for loving me. I give myself to you. Worship is loving God.
• It is not about being entertained, or technologically awed, or emotionally moved so we feel good, or about how good some ministry is or is not.
• Worship is about giving ourselves to God and loving him because he first loved us.
• The ISBE defines love this way: Love, whether used of God or man, is an earnest and anxious desire for and, an active and beneficent interest in, the well-being of the one loved
• That means when someone loves another person, it is serious concern; it is that longing and anxious desire to make sure the person we love is going to be okay.
• Love is the expression of this concern to the point of total sacrifice that we would give all we have including our very life without condition, and take nothing so the person we love is okay.
• We see this in real love stories—in marriages; in parents love for their children; in real friendships; and in people who give up their lives to the cause of taking the Gospel to the world.
• In 1 Cor. 13 St. Paul defines this kind of love, a love the Greeks called AGAPE, unconditional love. Total giving of ourselves without reservation for someone else.


• The question today is do we really love the Lord? Do we give him our hearts—what we are committed to? Do we give him our soul—our emotions and will? Do with give him our mind—how we think about everything? Or, do we have idols—things that are more important than God.
• Notice Jesus says the word ALL. We are to love the lord with ALL our heart. ALL our soul. ALL our mind. ALL OR NOTHING.
• Funny, the Greek word there όλη (whole-ay), translated "all" really means "ALL", as in whole, complete, total, ALL. It means everything!
• Are we really most concerned to seriously give our whole life to God so that we really care about what God is concerned about? God is passionate about driving hate, sin, and death from the earth.
• Loving God is a question--are we willing to really commit ourselves without condition to seeing the Good News of God’s love reach every nook and cranny of this planet so love overcomes sin?
• If you are willing to try, then learn to love God as he defines it, and learn to love your neighbor.
• Now, do any of us actually achieve this kind of love, probably not. But we're moving toward it.
• And in order for me to love God with my WHOLE heart, I have to first let go of the piece of my heart devoted to ME! And it's a BIG piece.
• "Love the Lord" means to give up our own sense of lordship. This vertical love means that God is in charge, not us. Alright. That's the first part, the vertical love relationship. Love God.

Part two. This is the horizontal love relationship. Love your neighbor at least as well as you love yourself.

• The first and greatest commandment is to love God taken from Deuteronomy 6.
• The second greatest commandment, Mr. Lawyer, even though you only asked for the greatest let me also tell you the second greatest is Leviticus 19:18.
• Mr. Lawyer, if you really love God, the evidence is in how you love your neighbor.
• The way you love God most is by loving people like Jesus did. Love your neighbor.
• Not just your family and people who are nice to you, but the person next to you—on your street, at work, at the store, on the side of the road, in the hospital, the one who just lost their job or a loved one—those people. Do to them as you would have people care about you.
• Jesus is quoting everybody's favorite book of the Bible, Leviticus. Yes, there is some really good stuff in there. It's not just that all the talk of priestly duties and proper sacrifice techniques.
• Chapter 19 is pure genius. If you have a Bible turn there and look at it. If you only read one chapter of Leviticus, let it be that because God tells us how to love our neighbor here.
• Here is a quick summary of the first 17 verses of Leviticus 19--Be holy. Share what you have with others. Don’t steal from people, cheat people, or lie to people.
• Don’t make fun of people—especially the disabled. Don’t show favoritism. Don’t slander people.
• Don’t hold grudges and bitterness toward others or plot revenge but speak frankly about problems.
• I might also add from our first reading in Exodus today—caring about widows and fatherless kids, and lending money to the poor. This is what it means to love your neighbor as yourself.
• Last night God showed me a glimpse of LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR in Joe Drachhio as his mother died his main concern was not for himself but for his family. Tell the story… In his own pain, he was giving so others could be okay.
• I wonder if today we can step back and really look at what the focus of our lives is all about.
• Is loving God really at the center of your life every day? Are you really concerned about what God is concerned about? Look at the cross—what does it say?
• It says I care enough to leave the comforts of heaven to get directly involved in the lives of others.
• It means I care enough to commit myself, without conditions, to the point of self-denial and self-sacrifice to help remove the pain and hurt that sin has caused in them so they can be okay.
• 1 Cor. 13 AGAPE Love means I am seeking God to make me like him—to be patient and kind to people. To not envy people, to not boast which makes other people feel bad.
• To not be prideful and arrogant, to not be rude to people, to not be easily angered, to not keep a record of wrongs when people in my life screw up and hurt me.
• Loving God means I am learning to hate what evil does in this world, and instead to love The Truth—thy Word is truth; Jesus is the Truth.
• Love means I am learning to always trust God and people, to protect God and others, to always be hopeful even when things look bad, and to persevere in my relationships with the people God puts in my life.
• This is the Great Commandment. Two dimensional love. Vertical toward God, and horizontal toward others. Let us pray.

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