This is a sharing prepared for cell group, adapted from Ps Daniel sermon. The text is from 2 Cor 5:14.
What is love? I put on some definition from The Guardian below:
Some say its just a mere chemical reaction. Some say its just a mechanism to ensure the continuation of our generation, to provide safety and shelter for our children. But,…
It involves commitment.
“Without the commitment, it is mere infatuation. Without the passion, it is mere dedication.” Julian Baggini
God’s love is the highest form of love. It is unfailing and everlasting, regardless of the circumstances for those who believe in Him.
“The paradox of love is that it is supremely free yet attaches us with bonds stronger than death. It cannot be bought or sold; there is nothing it cannot face; love is life’s greatest blessing.” Catherine Wybourne, nun
I often heard our Senior Pastor, Ps. Niko, said we will receive power to be a witness in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria. It represents that we will be a witness from our inner family to the world. As I reflect on that, ironically, I think that I have people whom I don’t like ranging from people in my family, like my auntie because she is so demanding and thinks highly of herself. Thus, I honestly believe that she does not deserve to be loved. Then I also have people who I don’t like among my soccer playgroup in Indonesia. I don’t like that particular person because his style of speech and the way they play, particularly if he did not pass the ball to me when we play together. Then, I also I have people whom I don’t like who are totally unrelated to me. Like the taxi drivers for example. I could say that my relationship with taxi drivers in Australia is pretty mixed. I knew a taxi driver whom I really like. He speaks the same language with me, a language of food. He understands pretty much about the same field as me in terms of which restaurants produce better food and which one are wasting your money. He knew good restaurants in Sydney as well as in Melbourne. It didn’t take long for me to gel with him as we share a common interest. In contrast, I also knew a taxi driver whom I dislike a lot. When I was picking my fiancée from airport, I told the driver to drop us at a specific point in the city, near my girlfriend’s apartment. He was initially stopped at the wrong place, insisting that he could not go through Swanston St. I argued with him that he could and yet he still dropped us at the opposite street of where I would like to be dropped off. He insisted that he only able to drop us there. Angrily, I got off and murmured of the way they treated customers. I emailed a long and harsh complaint to the bus company to express my disappointment. After calmed down, I asked myself how I could love that driver. It was easy for me to say I love the first driver and hate the latter. The latter was so offending on my perspective, thus I believed he didn’t deserve to be loved.
God plays no favouritism (Acts 10:34). He loved us all. He sent rain both for sinners and for the righteous. He cares for all of our needs. He showed mercy both to sinners and the righteous. God sets a perfect example of love that He does not discriminate us based on our characteristics, unlike us.
And does God find attraction, pleasure and suitability in us?
Do we find attractiveness, pleasure, and suitability with God?
We once don’t like God as well, but God still loves us despite we are not likable. On the other hand, we are nice to people only as far as they are likable. When they did or said anything that was displeasing to us, we ran away from them immediately. The elaboration of Like:
If I could love people, more often than not, it was because I expected something from them. It’s because I see value in them. I expect future benefits from them. It may be a bit because of the way my parents teach me, be good to others because there might be sometime in the future that you need their help. Thus, I have always been trying to be nice to people, particularly those who I see as potential business partners in the future. For example, I do nice things to them so they would remember me when we grow. For example, I helped Freddy packing and moving things before He went back to Indonesia. I did it because maybe, just maybe, he will remember my actions and could be helpful when sometime in the future I need business help. It’s not sincere. My love is limited and not sincere, it’s highly conditional and context-dependent.
But, for those whom I don’t see future value, it would be hard to love them. My love for them would be much more limited. It would be more impossibly harder for those whom hurt me. Like Gloria Chan for example, she was harsh on my eyes, so it was almost impossible for me to love them. I still try though because she was my boss. I expect at least she would be more patient to me if I do nice things to her. When I went for a mission trip with Weny and others to Nimbin, I was so daunted to see so many people living in a gypsy state and they traded marijuana freely. I was so intimidated with them and would not come to near them. I would prefer to stay away from them than conversing with them. I was thinking, how I could love them. They have never hurt me but they were just so not appealing. I found it’s hard to like people for two reasons:
1. They are not appealing to us. No qualities inside them that could make us happy.
2. They have offended us. Intentionally or unintentionally.
Despite our lack of attractiveness, God sacrificed His own Son for us. I am thinking what is inside us that made God willing to die for us. Good at evangelising to enlarge His kingdom? No. Love to pray? No. So then what? What qualities inside us that attract His attention? Sometimes, I think doing ministry at church would be incredibly good for God. However, Isaiah 64:6 says that our righteous deeds are like filthy rags in His eyes. Filthy rags here actually mean that it was like menstrual rags. Some religions consider that when women are in their period, they are unclean and cannot enter their temple. Just imagine how our righteous deeds actually look like the very heart of the uncleanness itself, the rags. So God hates our sins and our righteous deeds were like filthy rags. Literally, there is no way we could save ourselves. It was Jesus blood and sacrifice that makes us pleasing to God. Only our faith in His saving works is pleasing to God.
How can we find pleasure in them if we hate them? More often than not, we prefer to not seeing their face when we hate them. Then how we could find pleasure in that? Seemed no sense for me.
We too did no find God is pleasurable. At least, I often found prayer times are too boring, tiring, and not necessary. But, it was because my mind was distracted and veiled from seeing the Lord of our prayer.
Even more challenging for God I believe, how did He find pleasure in us? How can He take pleasure amidst our weaknesses and sins?
How to stay beside the one who disagrees with us? We like people whom agreed and confirmed what we think or say. More often than not, if we come to someone for sharing, we seek confirmation, not his or her solutions.
So this all summed why it was hard to like people. At Telechoice I preferred to do a task with a computer than answering call, because I did not want to deal with people from the stores. They are unique, sometimes they angry, sometimes they lied, which confused me. It was daunting and energy absorbing to deal with people.
It is nothing wrong to like people, as some are really likeable; but we cannot like all people; and if we love only those whom we like, we cannot love all people. If we only based our love on people’s likeableness, then we won’t be able to love our people. Because our limited nature in loving others.
Sacrifice is really hard. I prefer to not sacrificing at all if I could. Even for letting my time be used for the sake of others would be already so difficult for me. Even more to die for others! That would be so unthinkable for me. I loved my sister, but I don’t think I am willing to die for her, but for fighting for money from my parents, yes. But sacrifice for her no. And God sacrificed Himself and died for us while we are still sinners, while we are God’s enemies, literally. Sin is a great offense for His holiness. If God loves us for a reason, even for a single reason, then what would that be? I could not think for any reason that makes God loves us beside His real heart for us. If Jesus died for us because we had converted 3 unbelievers, then probably that was the reason why God died for us. But He died for us, while we were still sinners. He died for our past, present, and future sins. He died once for all (1 Peter 3:18; Hebrews 9:28; Romans 6:10). His eternal forgiveness is once for all.
We sing “Amazing Grace” and “Amazing Love”; what is so amazing about grace?
Grace is amazing because we once great offenders to God, perhaps we still are. Out of great offense to God, He still loves us and blesses us. We could only see it if we know who we are and who God is. For all our trespasses, He still accepts us. God’s love transcends all understanding. It surpasses knowledge (Eph 3:17-21). We cannot really comprehend the love of God. That is the way it should be. If we say we could define and describe the love of God, then it’s not the real fullness of the love of God. God’s love is demonstrated throughout the ages. Ranging from His love to Israelites who keep murmuring despite God’s faithful providence and stubbornness to Samson despite his disobedience, and David despite his glorious scandal. God was so angry at Israel. At the corner of Red Sea, they complained why they were brought out of Egypt just to die at that coast. Later on, they complained about the bitter water (Exodus 15), and then they complained that it would have been better stay at the land of Egypt because the food was plenty (Exodus 16), and complain because of thirst (Exodus 17). After all, God blessed them and fulfilled all of their needs with sweetness of the water, bread from heaven, and water from the rock. And yet, the Israelites were still did not believe God and instead, created a golden calf to be worshipped in songs and dancing. So stiff-necked as if Jacob’s DNA was so present, whom he wrestled with God a nightlong. Israel despised the Jehovah Nissi for the sake of golden calf. Instead of demolished Israel, out of His sympathy, He decided not to execute the fierceness of His anger (Hosea 11:8-9).
So do we brothers and sisters, may be we don’t like some people, but shouldn’t their salvation in eternity stirred up our sympathy. So that we can decide to cannot let them go without knowing the gospel that is in us? Love of God is also fatherly love. When I was a kid, my dad love to prepare his work before, and because I was so naughty, I kicked out every stack of candies that he has prepared, and what astonished me, he remained silent and arranged back those stacks. He forgives me at that very moment, not any word or lashes came out from him. There’s a joy in forgiveness. David said how blessed whom the Lord does not impute iniquity (Psalms 32:1). Job 9:33 testify this that how great it is to have a mediator. It didn’t mean that he like his son to be naughty, but because of his love, he forgives. But at the other times, he seemed harsh, he disallows me to drive around until late because he loves me and want to protect me.
Actually, I want to tell a funny thing about Microsoft Word. You know that MS Word has a spelling suggestion feature right? As I prepared this message, I typed forgived, which has a red curly underline on it. I was wondering where I did wrong, and after I right clicked it to see the word suggestion, there was only one word: forgives. Yeah! Of course! How could I type the word forgive in a past tense. Forgiveness is present and continuous. Once God forgives you, His forgiveness is eternal. His love is the essence of His forgiveness on the cross.
Despite the sins, but He loves the sinners. He sit and ate with them: the tax collectors. That does not mean He condoned sins as in Psalms 1:1-3 God said stay away from sitting among the scoffers, the ones who does not believe in God or pessimistic about God’s power. He is not disgusted with the leper. At that time, a leper must be cast out into outside the town and live by the gate. They are outcast, nobody every touch and talk to them. When Jesus came down from the mountain, followed by great multitudes, a leper came to Him presumably in front of the gate before He entered the city. Jesus could heal him by only speak a word, but He showed them mercy and touch and cleansed the leper. A touch that was very much needed by the leprous. Years must had been gone by without a touch of a human for him. It was a scandal that must be shocking for the multitudes that followed Him. Jesus’ scandal is a scandal of grace; He invited the public enemy number 1, who is Matthew/Levi as His disciples.
Does God demand us to love ALL people?
- The ultimate sign of spiritual growth is love. 2 Pet 1:7
- God gave us the great commandment to go all over the earth and make all disciples. Matt 28:19
- Who doesn’t believe will be condemned, are we able to see them condemned? Mark 16:16. Perhaps, I can say no if that question being asked to me. But, in reality I don’t really think that way because once again, I don’t like them.
- Being a witness means being a testimony of His love. It means that loving our family, friends, and all people as a sign that we have received God’s love.
- God wants us to love people the way He loves us.
- Matt 5:43-46 that says pray for your enemies and love your enemies.
How surprising that commandment is. Perhaps, it would have been much easier for us if that sentence is not on the Bible. How impossible as it sounds to love and pray for our enemies. Even for my parents, I rarely do remember them on my prayer.
It is amazing to think about Jesus love. He even loves the His enemies, the ones who grieved Him the most. He loved the Roman soldiers, whom gave Him a drink of a sour wine on a sponge. A drink that is dangerous enough to be drink while your throat is dry of extreme thirst. The drink was offered, not on a proper glass, but on a sponge that according to some research was a sponge used as a toilet paper on a public toilet on Roman’s era. He loves Pharisees as much as He loves the tax collectors, prostitutes, and murderers. He loves all sinners. Jesus just hated the spirit of self-righteousness of the Pharisees. Nicodemus, who is one of the Pharisees leader, came to Jesus at night afraid of being seen by others. Jesus did not simply sent Nicodemus away because he was a Pharisee. Yet, Jesus welcomed him and responded in a manner that helped Nicodemus to ask questions to discover who God is. He long to gather all people inside Jerusalem, including the Pharisees like a hen gathers her broods under her wings (Matt 23:37).
“Father forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing”
Jesus Christ as recorded on Luke 23:34, while the soldiers were casting lots to divide Jesus’ only garment.
John 13:34 love people as Jesus has loved us.
Jesus asked us to love our neighbours, people surrounding us. He instructs us to love another as He has loved us. His love is the crucial and enabling power for us to be able to love others. There is an effect if we abide in God and knowing God, that we love our brothers and sisters (1 John 2:9-11). Forgiveness cost a price for God, the death of His own Son on the Calvary. The love of God is self-sacrificial love. There is no safe investment for love. Love makes you vulnerable. The closer you are to someone, the more prone you are to disappointment. It is even more if you love that person. But this is the true essence of love. If it not involves a certain degree of vulnerability, then it ain’t love at all. God becomes vulnerable to heartbreak as He decides to love us. When we did things that are displeasing to Him, His heart hurts. But, He chooses to still love us. Love is an act, an act of commitment. We can love despite we don’t like them. We can sacrifice and give something despite we hate them. How? By looking at the cross, magnifying His grace towards us. God hates the sinners’ nature in us, but He sacrifices and loves us fully.
What hinders us seeing and experiencing the gracious love of Christ?
Truly our pride is the main stumbling block to see the grace of God. We feel that we are worthy and deserved enough to earn God’s grace. Maybe its’ not full but a part of it, but we still we contribute something to our salvation, despite its just .001%. This seed of self-righteousness is very venomous. It prevents us like a fig tree that did not bear fruit, which later cursed by Jesus. Self-righteousness is the veil that prevents us from seeing grace. Not only that, it tires and absorbs our energy that leads to we tear apart for serving the Lord. Our own crafted motivation to serve God beside His love does not last long.
Hence, if we truly see the gospel of God that is the remedy of our deepest longing, it compels us to love others. Compels is bring about something because there is a force that drive us. It is driven in us to love others if we have the love of God. In KJV it is written as control. After I check on the original Greek word, synecho, it is actually mean to hold fast, hold together, and seize us. It is to hold something together so that it does not fall apart, not allowing to slip through one’s fingers. To not let escape. Paul said that Christ love completely control Him so he could not but to preach. His love dominates us. The tricky part is our tricky heart. Because our heart is deceitful above all else, sometimes we drift away from the love of God. Thus, our love grows cold. Only God’s love can fill us and drive us to love. Without His love, we cannot love. At times I felt that I really want to share the gospel for unbelievers around me. His love is the roof of our desire to testify. However, more often than not, I was too concerned with my image that I did not explicitly tell the Good News for them. I was afraid of rejection.
What can we see in the cross of Jesus? Why did Jesus have to die for us?
The nature of what we like is, we take sips from many sources of things to fill us, but at the end, it never fills us. We tried to fill our longing from small things that we like; like food, clothes etc. But they never fill us. Despite we are so unattractive, unpleasant, and unsuitable for God, He still decides and execute His love towards us. The greatest thing that God has ever done is loving us while we are still sinners. Why is this great? This is great because, God love us not because we are worthy and deserving, but because we are so despicable to God’s holiness and yet He loves us fully despite we are all sinners. I believe when we see the God’s love, it will drive us to love as well, because His love is too great and uncontainable.
Remember the parable of a man who sold everything he has to buy a piece of land with a treasure in it. Interestingly, it only appears in the gospel of Matthew 13:44. Matthew whom was tax collector, willing to “sell” his own people for the sake of greed. Lust of money. As if, Matthew was trying to tell us from his personal experience, how precious the pearl from Christ compared to the jewel of this world. All past gains is now counted as loss. Trust in myself and my merits have become nothing in the face of Christ and His Cross. This is the drive that happening inside our heart through the work of sanctification. So we cannot stand to love God and His people.
The cross is not a symbol of God’s pride. It is a symbol of humiliation. It demonstrates God’s humility, that Son of God willing to let go everything, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God (Phil 2:6) and yet to come down to this earth and died in the worst manner possible on earth, becoming a public mockery. The darling of heaven not only willing to come to live among us, but also died forsaken on the Cross, which He cried out, “O God, why you have forsaken me?” This is the sign of love. His mission to the world is to rescue the hopeless and the helpless. It was not because God was impotent; He could send a whole legion of angels to utterly demolish the Roman soldiers, Caiaphas and friends, Pilate and co. But, He knew He has to do the Via Dolorosa to bridge the gap. No matter how deep is the pit between God and us; God’s love is deeper still. His ultimate proof of His love is His continual acts of cleansing your sins through the blood of His sacrifice (2 Pet 1:9).
One word of encouragement. Maybe the people whom we intend to love or share about the gospel have already gotten their own ‘god’. But let’s not let this deter our spirit, because as in 1 Samuel 5: 1-5. The presence of the ark of covenant is so powerful that crushed Dagon, the god of Philistines. He bowed down before the LORD. The presence of God that’s in you and through you crushed other gods, and let no one walk in the way of their own god anymore. Actually, let’s pray that every time we see people, especially unbelievers, we see them in the spectacle of the prodigal son’s dad. A prodigal dad is a dad whom lavishly threw a party for a son who came home. He was waiting patiently at the corner of the window for the return of the beloved son. That’s a picture of God that patiently waits and eagerly anticipates each sinner to come home. So the celebration with whole heavens can be thrown.