A sermon preached at New Hope Lutheran Church, West Melbourne, FL on July 22, 2007 by Pastor Dale Raether What Is Love?Luke 10:25-37Here’s a picture of a mom and a baby. Do you think this baby would be easy to love? I suspect so. But what if it’s 3:00 a.m. and the baby is screaming and has a poopy diaper, would he still be easy to love? Probably, especially if he were your baby. Next we have a picture taken from Brevard County’s Most wanted. This man is wanted for false imprisonment, battery, and grand theft. Do you think this man would be easy to love? Maybe if you’re his mother, because moms don’t stop loving their children, even when they do something bad. But what if you saw this man or someone like him begging for a dollar along side an intersection? Would you roll down your window and give him one, or would you make sure all the doors are locked and switch over to the far lane? Some people are hard to love. Some people we wonder if we should love at all, and if are supposed to love them, in what way are we to do that? Let’s talk about that this morning. What Is Love? 1. Love comes from a heart that sees God’s love. 2. Love learns how to love guided by God. We read, “On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. "Teacher," he asked, "what must I do to inherit eternal life?" That’s a good question everyone needs to ask and have it answered correctly. However, the man in our text wasn’t really asking. He was testing Jesus. In a verse just before our text, Jesus had said, “All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows who the Son is except the Father, and no one knows who the Father is except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him." This man’s reaction to what Jesus said was, “Yeah, right.” And so, just to see if Jesus could tell him anything he didn’t already know, he asked, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” Let me tell you a little more about these experts in the law. They believed that they would get to heaven by obeying God’s commands and loving Him with all their heart. They were correct, if in fact any can do that. But the problem they soon ran into was trying to figure out what exactly God’s will was in all the gray areas of life. For example if this guy were your son (show picture of most wanted), what is truly the most loving thing to do? Do you turn him into the police, or do you help him relocate in another part of the country, hoping that he’ll turn his life around? This is the kind of thing the experts in the law would sit around and debate all day. And then they would write out their conclusions, and make keeping them equal with God’s Law, if you want to go to heaven. We don’t go along with adding or subtracting to God’s Word. But we still struggle with: what is love? In our text Jesus shows the expert of the law what love is by telling a parable. If I may now summarize it: The road from Jerusalem to Jericho was quite dangerous. It was through rough, desolate country with lots of places for robbers to hide. Anyway, they attacked a man, beat him, stole even the shirt off his back, and left him to die. A priest and then a Levite, who was an assistant to the priests, came along, saw the man lying on the side of the road, and decided that the best thing to do was to keep going, because he was probably going to die anyway. The robbers might still be around, and it wouldn’t be very loving for their families if they got themselves killed helping this guy they didn’t even know. Can you put yourself into the sandals of this priest and Levite? If you took a wrong turn and ended up in a bad part of Miami, and if you saw a beaten up guy on the side of the road, would you stop and help him? Or, would you keep going and look for the nearest freeway entrance, while dialing 911 on your cell phone? I think that’s what I’d want to do. But what if there were no cell phones or even police? Then what would you do?Getting back to Jesus’ parable – after the priest and the Levite, a Samaritan came along. Now the Samaritans were the ancestors of today’s Palestinians, and they hated the Jews as much as the Jews hated them. So, this Samaritan sees a dying Jews by the side of the road. But he doesn’t keep going, neither does he stop to kick him one more time. Rather he binds up the man’s wounds and puts him on his donkey, while he walks. He takes him to an inn and cares for him. And when he has to leave, he gives the inn keeper a blank check to keep on caring for the man, for as long as needed. Now, in all this keep in mind the risk this Samaritan was exposing himself to, the time it cost him, and the money. Yet he freely helps his enemy for no other reason than his enemy needed help. After telling this parable, Jesus asks the expert in the Law, “Which of these was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?" The expert in the law replied, "The one who had mercy on him." Jesus told him, "Go and do likewise.” Now we know what love is. Now we know the standard of love that God expects of us, and this is the standard we must keep, if we want to enter heaven. But perhaps you’re thinking to yourself, “I can love my family. I can love some of my co-workers and neighbors. But there are others, who are horrible human beings, and I cannot love them. So, does that make me a bad person? It makes us someone, who is in rebellion against God, because after telling the parable of the Good Samaritan, He says to all of us, “Go and do likewise.” However, while this command is easy enough to understand, obeying it is another matter. And that’s why love can only come from a heart that sees God’s love. We read again in our text, “What is written in the Law?" Jesus replied. "How do you read it?"He answered: "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind'" Here the expert in the Law is quoting from the Old Testament. However, as we read these verses we need to slow down and take a careful look at the “Love the Lord your God.” The name Lord in Hebrew emphasizes that He never changes and keeps His promises. The name God in Hebrew emphasizes that He is the almighty. By identifying Himself as the Lord YOUR God, He is reminding us that He loves us with an everlasting love. And even when He foresaw our sins and that we would make ourselves His enemies, He still loved us. And so, He more than risked His life for us. He GAVE His life for us to rescue us. He cleansed the wounds of our sins with His own blood. He carried us to the inn of His church and there nurtured our faith, so that flickering flame of our faith like we sometimes have on our candles, could become a bright flame of faith. All this He does with great patience; and because He is God, He uses His almighty power to keep us in His power and grace. As we continually focus on God’s love for us, suddenly what it means to love others becomes less complicated. And then, in stead of trying to do the least possible so that we still call ourselves loving people, faith in Jesus makes us WANT to love – period. However, once we have the willingness to love even those who hurt us, we still need some guidance in putting love into practice. But this too need not be complicated.Again we read in our text, “and, 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'” We love our neighbor when we’re as patient with him in his sins and weaknesses, as we would want others to be with us in our sins and weaknesses. Or, we love when we help our neighbor as freely and as non-judgmentally as we would want to be helped, if we were in trouble. In short, before we say or do anything, we are to ask ourselves, “Is this how I would like to be treated? Is this how I would like to be spoken to?” So, you see, this isn’t complicated. But it is hard to do, and that when we need to get back in the Word and let it be in our hearts by thinking about it throughout our day and by letting it be on our lips whenever someone needs to hear it, because speaking the Word blesses our faith also. However, what if we find ourselves in a situation where more than one of God’s commandments seems to apply, so that obeying one puts us in conflict with the other. As an example, suppose someone has a drinking or drug problem and is about to loose his house. Do help him this one more time, so that he doesn’t loose everything? Or, do you allow his life to go into free fall? Let God’s love guide us. In His love for us, He doesn’t always give us what we want. Sometimes He gives us what we need, even though it’s painful. The point I’m making, is love doesn’t always comfort. Love also takes a baby (show picture) to the doctor to get a shot, if you get what I mean. But again, how do we know when to apply comforting love and when to apply tough love? Love God first! Love God’s kingdom first! And as His love for us takes the long view, the eternal view, so let our love for others take the long view, the eternal view. Getting back to that example of helping a loved one with his mortgage – if we were in his shoes, we would certainly want someone to help us, and so loving our neighbor as ourselves may mean going ahead and helping him. But what if helping him means that his problems are just going to continue and get worse? Or, what if helping him means we won’t be able then to take care of our obligations? The Scriptures guide us, It says, “Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another – Romans 13:8.” Is it right to stiff someone else in order to help another? Certainly not. And so, in this case, loving God with all our heart would mean NOT helping someone monetarily, but recognizing that maybe God hasn’t enabled you to do that, because He wants your loved one to hit bottom. However, let me try to put this all a little more simply. What is love? It’s caring about our neighbor the way we would care about ourselves. Especially, it’s putting God and His Word first in every situation. And then whenever it seems there’s a conflict between treating our neighbor as we would want to be treated and loving God, love is obeying God first. In the long run, this will always be the most loving thing we could do for our neighbor as well. Finally, love isn’t going through life walking on egg shells and constantly splitting hairs on right and wrong, like the man in our text did. Love is constantly looking to God’s love for us and letting that be the starting point in, not what we have to do, but in what we want to do, all to the glory of God. Lord Jesus, fill our hearts with your love! Amen.

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