LOVE IS….! Advent Reading #4 #1128 Romans 5: 1 - 8 Dec.20, 2009 Luke 6: 27 - 36 Today we are going to think about the most powerful force in the universe – no, not the atom bomb, not a sunburst, nor any other natural phenomenon (as powerful as they may be), but the power of God‟s love within us. It is the most powerful force in the universe because it has the ability to bring positive change wherever it shines forth. Some people will tell you that hatred is a powerful force, and they would be correct. But hatred is hurtful, and destructive wherever it is applied because it comes from the dark one, Satan. Love is of God, and since God is infinitely more powerful than Satan, it stands to reason that love is more powerful by far. 1. Love is Powerful – to Forgive: In the Christmas CD from the Ministry of Charles Swindoll, entitled “A Bethlehem Christmas,” Joseph goes to the Synagogue to talk to the Rabbi. He has a serious problem and needs wise advice. Word has been whispered in his ear that his fiancé, Mary is with child and this is surely not his doing! “Rabbi,” he says; “my fiancé, Mary has had sexual relations with another man and I don‟t know what to do. What advice can you give me?” “My young man,” he replies; “she has committed a grave sin against Almighty God and against you – the law demands that we stone a person caught in adultery. You have no choice, you must stone her immediately.” Joseph is in a quandary – he is devastated, he feels betrayed and humiliated, yet there must be another way that honours both the law of God, and the love they shared. He sees another Rabbi and approaches him with the same question; “Rabbi, my fiancé, Mary has had sexual relations with another man and I don‟t know what to do. What advice can you give me?” “My young man,” he says, “Justice must be served - but also mercy. That is my advice to you – treat her with both justice and mercy.” Joseph is even more confused; “If I stone her, justice will be served, but not mercy. She will be dead! If I forgive her, mercy will be served, but not justice. What shall I do?” We can understand Joseph‟s conflicted mind – his love for God and the laws of God demanded justice, but his deep love for Mary yearns for kindness. Finally, Joseph discovers a way to serve both justice and mercy, by tempering each with love. 2 He would divorce Mary – they would go their separate ways (justice would be served). But he would do so quietly so that she would not be exposed to public disgrace or harm (mercy would be honoured). When someone wounds us, in offended pride and rage, we sometimes forget the ways of God and instead go the way of Satan. Love is overshadowed by hatred, and God‟s justice is replaced by personal vengeance. In militant Islam, vengeance is taught as part of their theology. If you offend Mohammed, or even one of his followers, a Fatwa can be placed on your head and people will try to kill you. Christians preach love, but don‟t always carry it out when put to the test. Our love for Christ and one another, must be more than nice words, but lived out on the dusty roads of life‟s inequities. That night God solved Joseph‟s urgent dilemma by sending an angel to him as he slept. “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.” When Mary returned 3 months later, from visiting her cousin Elizabeth in the high country, she did not know what to expect. Would she be stoned? Driven from the village in disgrace? Shunned? Divorced? Instead she found Joseph busily constructing their family home. Love forgives – and when love forgives, peace finds a lodging in the fevered soul. 2. Love is Powerful - to Change Hearts: Pastor Richard Wurbrand tells the following story: “A new prisoner was shoved into a cell in Romania. At first no one recognized him. He was shorn, dirty and thin, just like the rest of us. But then someone exclaimed, „This is Captain Popescu!‟ The name was well known. He had been one of the worst torturers of Christians. We asked him how he came to be among us. In tears he said; „One day as I sat in my office, a boy of about twelve entered with a flower in his hand. He gave his name and explained: „Captain, you are the one who arrested my mother. Today is her birthday. I always used to bring her a flower on this day. I can‟t do so this time because of you, so I decided to bring a flower to the mother of your children. Take this flower to your wife and tell her of my love. My own mother is a Christian who taught us to love our enemies, to reward evil with good.‟ After that I embraced the boy and knew I could not torture anymore. I was no longer any good as a Communist police officer. That‟s why they threw me in with you.” “Captain Popescu may have been ruined as a Communist officer but through the actions of a small boy who was armed with love, he witnessed and became a part of Christ‟s love and eternal hope. We live in a world that cannot comprehend such love.” 3 Jesus tells us in our Gospel lesson from Luke 6, that we are to bless those who curse us and pray for those who mistreat us. This seems like rank foolishness. Why should we encourage someone who is mistreating us to mistreat us further, by our unwillingness to resist or retaliate? As some parents tell their kids, “If someone hits you, hit him back twice as hard and he will leave you alone.” And yet, we must ask ourselves, “if I combat bad behaviour by even worse behaviour, what kind of an example of Christ is that? If I combat hatred by even greater hatred, who do I represent? Jesus or Satan?” To bless those who curse you and to pray for those who mistreat you, clearly puts you in Christ‟s camp. Your actions will confound your enemies – your prayers will begin to positively affect their lives and may even save them, like Captain Popescu. But just as importantly, your actions will bring blessing into your life from God Almighty – God will smile upon your obedience. “Love your enemies, do good to them and lend to them without expecting to get anything back,” says Jesus. “Then your reward will be great, and you will be children, of the Most High, because He is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.” Hatred cannot save anyone, only love can do that. It is powerful to change hearts and lives because it comes directly from the Almighty to us, and through us to others. At the office of the Voice of the Martyrs, they receive a lot of mail, some of it very negative. One example: “You write too much about love for your enemies…Write that the persecutors will be tormented day and night in the Lake of Fire.” And they respond; “But how is the person who wrote the letter any different than a persecutor? Is he or she a worse sinner? Did Christ not also die for the ones who drove the nails into His hands? Perhaps no one has shown the persecutor Christ‟s love.” His love in us changes hearts and saves souls. 3. Love is Powerful – to Endure: In the love passage, 1 Corinthians 13, we are told that, “love is patient and kind – that it protects, trusts, hopes and always perseveres.” What is it about love that never seems to quit or give up even after everything else fails? It is my personal opinion, that when we walk with Christ in His love, we develop His confidence even when failure seems imminent – He is the maker of miracles and He uses weak and fallible people like you and I. “So, watch out world – I‟m walking with Jesus.” We develop His patient endurance in the midst of difficulties, even persecution, because we know (sense and feel) that He is present with us, in and through our suffering. Psalm 94 reminds us; “When I felt my feet slipping, You came with your love and kept me steady. And when I was burdened with worries, You comforted me and made me feel secure.” What‟s more, like Stephen, just before he was stoned to death, we are able to see into the very heavens and the promise of glory that is ours through faith, should we die. 4 Many people do not have that strength because they don‟t have the overcoming Spirit of Christ which leads to victory even in the most impossible of situations. In the book, “Tortured for Christ,” Maria, a Russian Christian, writes about how she led Varia, a Russian Communist girl to Christ. Varia, the Communist said to Maria the Christian; “I cannot understand what a being you are. Here many insult and hurt you and yet, you love all.” Maria replied; “God has taught us to love all, not only friends, but also enemies.” Before, this girl did much harm to me, but I prayed for her with special concern. When she asked me if I can love her too, I embraced her and we both began to weep. Now we pray together. Varia committed her life to Christ with great joy for the salvation that she had received. But she also was overcome with sorrow for having promoted atheism at the Communist gatherings. She decided to atone for her guilt by proclaiming Christ at their next assembly. She stood up bravely in front of all the people and witnessed that Christ was her Saviour, then asked for their forgiveness for having led them astray. Finally, she sang a Christian hymn: “I am not ashamed to proclaim the Christ who died to defend His commandments and the power of His cross.” When she finished, all was silent – then the police came and took her to prison. Maria went to visit and saw only a shadow of the robust young nineteen year old girl that had existed earlier – she was thin, pale, and beaten. She asked through the iron bars; “Varia, don‟t you regret what you did?” “No,” she answered. “And if they would free me, I would go again and would tell them about the great love Christ. Don‟t think that I suffer. I am very glad that the Lord loves me so much and gives me the joy to endure for His name.” Varia was never seen again. While in prison, Varia, like Paul, brought many others to faith because she could not stop speaking about the love of Christ. She wanted everyone to experience the joy of salvation that she knew. This Sunday we have lit the candle of love as we honour the Lord of love who came to this world over 2,000 years ago, and who comes once again in several days. May the Lord of Love be close to your heart as you trust in Him, and may He grant to you the power of His love that enables you to forgive, to change hearts and save souls, and to endure even in the midst of great difficulties.
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