This week I have been examining what it means to love one another.  Jesus gave a new command to his disciples: “Love one another” (John 13:34).  This is repeated in John 15:17, “This is my command: Love each other.”  So I have always thought that this means be nice to each other, forgive each other, encourage one another.  I have seldom explored the aspect of love that involves surrendering to one another.

In 1 Corinthians 9:19 Paul says, “Though I am free and belong to no man, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible.”  Paul is willing to surrender himself to others that they might find Jesus.  This is love that puts aside self-concern for the sake of others.

The whole experience of life is how I exercise my free will.  I have free will.  This was given to all humans at the time of creation.  I can please myself, or I can please others.    

My closest relationship affords the opportunity to practice loving another.  This can be demonstrated simply. When I find that Bonnie, my wife and ministry partner, is annoyed with some habit of mine, do I surrender my will to her or insist on my way?   I love her by surrendering my right to continue the annoying habit.

Paul says in Philippians 2:3 “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.”  Putting someone else first is contrary to my self-centered nature.

Jesus’ command to love one another proves to be quite a challenge, but it is essential for his disciples.  In John 13:35 Jesus concludes, “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”



Last week in my blog “The Greatest Force” I quoted this scripture from Matthew 22:37-39, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.  This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself.”  Can anybody do this?  I’m going to take the liberty of answering for all of us and say “no” because in verse 40 of this passage Jesus continues, “All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”  The scriptures make it very clear that none of us have been able to keep the whole Law.

Houston, we have a problem!

Unfortunately, neither Houston nor I have the solution, but God does.  For God so loved …, that he sent Jesus (see John 3:16).  I believe that our ability to love God and others is rooted in our ability to receive God’s love.  Truly believing that we are loved changes us.  There is a peace that comes over us that counters our need to perform.  It takes away our need to earn love.  Living in the peace of God’s love supports us and opens the way for us to give love.

To genuinely receive God’s love is difficult.  We have to lay down our self-sufficiency.  “I can do it myself.”  Self-sufficiency is a part of our sinful nature.  Have you ever observed a toddler saying “I do it?”  It’s inherent.  God’s love given freely puts us in a humble place.  We don’t have to do anything to earn it.  God did it all.  It’s simply a matter of surrendering the pride of self-sufficiency.

Pride separates us from God, and allows us to do all kinds of unloving things.  Think of bigotry and abuse.  Aren’t these sourced in pride?  The pride that says I’m better than or more important than another.  Can a humble heart, that is truly receiving love from God, commit these acts against their neighbor?

I fall short in loving God and my neighbor every day.  Therefore, every day I have the potential to be ungodly.    I need to do something about this.  No, I need to humbly receive God’s love for me.  Loving God and others will flow from that.


Love is the greatest force in the universe.  The Bible tells us that God, the creator, is love (1 John 4:16).   The world and all that is in it was created in love.  It was love demonstrated by Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross that brought us salvation.  The redemption of mankind was accomplished by His great act of love.  In love then there is sacrifice.  As Jesus exhibited, love requires the laying down of personal wants and desires for others, or maybe just redirecting our personal wants and desires to others.  Jesus told us in Matthew 22:37-39, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.  This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself.”

We obviously have the right to use love, and we are commanded to use it.  First we are to love our God, and second to love our neighbor.  Our neighbor being anyone we encounter.

We have access to the greatest power in the universe!  How amazing is that?  Why aren’t we using this great power?  Oh, it requires sacrificing our own wants and desires.  Bingo!  The whole world could be changed by this great force that we have access to, but it requires sacrifice.

Taking a broader look, I find that there is little use of this greatest force in our world.   I’m not seeing a wide use of love.  Knowing that God is love, we can say there’s a lot of ungodliness being exhibited.  For those who like to blame this on God, perhaps a look in the mirror might clear their perspective.  I’m looking in the mirror, and I find much room for improvement.


I am a member of a small congregation.  I have attended this church for seven years.  Each week we gather together to share in worshipping the Lord, hearing the Word, and fellowshipping.  When one of our members is not present on a Sunday morning, they are missed.  Fortunately, there is no condemnation or judgement when someone is missing.  Actually, we all probable know why they’re not at church.  We are close.

Last Sunday during our worship time, the Lord led me through a review of the individuals in our congregation.  He showed me how everyone has a special and unique place in my heart.  I know them, and they know me.  They are not a mass of people, because I know each individual personally.   I am blessed to have a group of people I know so well.  They make my life fuller and increase my joy.  When tragedy strikes we are there to comfort one another. 

Every day we hear of great tragedies around the world.  The devastation of the masses sickens my heart, but I can’t relate to their suffering like I can when someone I’m close to suffers.  I feel deeply the suffering of those I know well.    I don’t know the individuals in the masses personal, so my compassion and understanding are inadequate.  I try to project what it would be like if I were in their place, but I am limited.

God however knows every single soul that traverses this earth, personally.  God feels deeply the tragedies of every human life.  I’m sure to God, the individual is not blurred by the masses.  When I pray for those in distant lands, I am sure that God knows those I pray for.  He is there and available for each one.  I am limited in my ability to see the individual in the masses, but I can partner with my God who is not limited.  When I pray for the masses, God ministers to the individuals.


The most important thing to remember about marriage is that two human beings are involved.  Now humans are created in the image of God, but they picked up an additional element at the fall of man.  This additional element is known as a sinful nature.  When thrown into a marital situation the sinful nature can wreak havoc.  Since we all have this destructive element, those of us who are married have an inherent obstacle to success.  How do we combat this obstacle?

I don’t claim to have the ultimate answer, but here are some thoughts that might help.  First, don’t be surprised when your partner sins; remember it’s inherent.  So, be ready with love and mercy.  In Colossians 3:12 &13 there is some great advice,

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourself with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.  Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.

Having trouble incorporating this into you relationship?  Help is just a prayer away.  God has always answered my prayers of “help me!”  When I fail to see the wonder and blessing in my wife, I ask God to fix my eyes. I recognize that the fault is in me.  My failing to see is found in the clouding of self-centeredness.  I’m thinking of me and not her.  God always helps me to alter my perspective and see clearly the wonderful gift of her presence in my life.

I’m writing here from the husband’s point of view, but I’m pretty sure this also works for wives.  If both partners look for the fault in themselves then God has an easier task.  He doesn’t have to wait till we own our part of the problem.  I realized early in our marriage that it was unfruitful for me to try and fix what I thought was wrong with my wife.  (Do I hear chuckling in the background?)  Yes, only God can fix me, and only God can fix my wife.  We both have that sinful nature to deal with.  Thankfully, we have a savior who is always ready to help.  All we have to do is humble ourselves and ask.


I would like to offer this morning that we are created not to contend with each other but to complement each other.    Can you imagine a society built on the idea of coming along side of one another?  Each person would be working toward a common goal, not trying to overcome but supporting others.  This is certainly contrary to our societal norms of “beat the competition”, “climb the corporate ladder”, and “don’t let others get ahead of you”.  Yet wouldn’t it be great if we could put aside our self-indulgent ways and be the body of Christ?

In Romans chapter 12 the Apostle Paul encourages Christians, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God –this is your spiritual act of worship.  Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”  How do we get our minds renewed?

As a member of the Body of Christ, I find in myself a desire to put aside contending with my fellow members.  I believe this desire is rooted in the love God has put in my heart.  Of course, this love wars against my sinful nature which often causes me to be contentious.  Romans 12:9-10 gives me guidance by stating, “Love must be sincere.  Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.  Be devoted to one another in brotherly love.  Honor one another above yourselves.”  Love is perhaps the key to being transformed.

I believe the ability to complement rather than contend with our brothers and sisters first requires a full understanding of God’s love for us.  We, the members of the Body of Christ, are loved in the deepest sense.  No one is a junior member.  We have all been given full rights as sons and daughters.  God will love us eternally.  When we understand that he loves us, we are transformed from who we were in the world into children of the living God.  Our mind is renewed; we view things differently.  The love that God has poured out on us naturally flows through us and joins us to one another.  Don’t let the lie that you’re not loved make you a contentious member of the Body of Christ.


“Be merciful to those who doubt; save others by snatching them from the fire; to others show mercy, mixed with fear – hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh.”

 Jude 22-23


The Church, the Body of Christ, has throughout the ages frequently missed the basic tenet of being merciful.    On the other hand the Church has been an instrument of mercy in society since its beginning.  It’s been a mixed bag.  In Luke 6:35-36 Jesus says,

“But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back.  Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked.  Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.”

God has shown us mercy, and he desires us to be merciful.  I believe our ability to be merciful depends on our ability to receive mercy.  Humility is the key.


To receive mercy, I must first recognize my need for mercy.  When I know that I have sinned against God, there is then the recognition of the debt I owe to God.  Secondly, I need to humble myself and become aware that there is nothing I can do to repay this debt.  God is willing and has made the way to grant me mercy by forgiving my debt.  I don’t have to work for it.  It’s free.  That is hard for me because in my pride I want to do something to earn forgiveness.  However, by holding on to this idea of earning forgiveness, I will never even understand mercy.


Now you can see why it’s a mixed bag for the Church.  Our pride often gets in the way.  In Matthew 9:13 Jesus says to the Pharisees, “But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’”  And again in 12:7, “If you had known what these words mean, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the innocent.”  The Pharisees were caught up in a ritual of sacrifice that fed their pride allowing them to condemn others rather than show them mercy.  They were trying to pay their debt to God on their own merit.  They were blinded by pride and did not understand mercy.   Therefore, they could not extend mercy.


Mercy proceeds from a humble, forgiving heart.  This is God’s nature and his heart toward us.  By surrendering my will to God and allowing myself to be forgiven, I take the first step in understanding mercy.  I feel the burden of gilt lifted and the exhilaration of being free.  But, I must remember that I’m free and not fall prey to the lie that I must do something for this freedom.  That lie feeds my pride.  I must remain humble. Then in humble gratitude, I live under God’s mercy.  A life that is continually bathed in mercy emanates mercy.