Showing Jesus‘ Love: Agape in a Hate-filled World

May 5, 2024 – 6th Sunday of Easter | John 15:9-17 ESV

Promoting Love in a Hate-Filled World

Tweets can be charming, right? You might have initially thought I meant the world of Twitter, or perhaps X, as it's called now. However, I'm not referring to that. I mean the tweets from Tweety Bird, the adorable cartoon character from the past. Even when Tweety tweeted about the mischievous Cat Sylvester, his messages were more playful and endearing than harsh. 

However, today's digital posts on various social media platforms aren't always cute. They often carry negativity and hatred. Whether it's the character limit in tweets or the anonymity of online interactions, people feel emboldened to say hurtful things they wouldn't say face-to-face. Platforms like Twitter don't always promote love. 

This trend isn't surprising considering the state of our world. Jesus warned us about the growing coldness of human love, a chilling trend described by the Apostle Paul. Their words from centuries ago eerily match the present day. 

While John Lennon's quote, "All the world needs is love," sounds noble, his personal life paints a different picture. Yet, the core message remains true. The world needs genuine love, not fueled by lust but originating from heaven and radiated on Earth. This love, Christ's love, is what we should strive to exemplify each day.

The Essence of Jesus' Love: Agape, Friendship, and Sacrifice

To abide in Jesus' love, we must grasp its essence. This love, represented by the Greek term "Agape," isn't natural to our world. It's a love that's unearned and deliberate. It's an intelligent and purposeful love that extends compassion to those who may seem unlovable. 

We see this love embodied in Jesus Himself. He epitomizes Agape in human form. Jesus' statement, "Greater love has no one than this than to lay down one's life for one's friends," reflects His deep understanding—He sacrificed himself for all of us despite our unworthiness.

John's epistle repeats this sentiment, emphasizing that God's love for us isn't based on our love for Him but on His selfless act of sending His Son to atone for our sins. Jesus didn't just die for His followers; He died for sinners, even His adversaries. This love isn't self-serving; it's selfless, sacrificial, and unmerited.

Furthermore, Jesus' love is relational, mirroring the divine relationship between God the Father and God the Son. He says, "As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you," addressing His followers as friends, not servants or slaves. The term "friends" originates from the Greek word "Philia," denoting a brotherly love akin to the familial bond seen in cities like Philadelphia. This love binds like-minded individuals through shared experiences, interests, and kindred spirits.

In biblical examples like David and Jonathan, friendship is defined by mutual understanding, shared goals, and trust. Such friendships entail sharing feelings and intimate thoughts and supporting one another through life's challenges—a level of connection not often found in other relationships.

Deepening Your Relationship with Jesus: Obeying His Love and Commands

Jesus calls you His friends. This bond isn't accidental. He deliberately chose you. It's a relationship marked by intimate sharing, akin to the closeness between God the Father and God the Son. Jesus mentioned, "Everything I learned from my Father, I've shared with you." He made immense sacrifices for this relationship, making it the epitome of love.

Remaining in Jesus' love means staying in this established loving relationship with Him. We must hold fast to him and his love through faith. That entails valuing His love above all else, desiring His love more than anyone else's, finding comfort, hope, security, and strength in His love, and prioritizing this relationship above all others, including those with family.

Like any loving relationship, remaining in Jesus' love involves obeying His commands. He said, "If you follow my commands, you'll stay in my love, just as I've followed my Father's commands and remain in His love. You are my friends if you do what I command."

If we want to prove our love for Jesus, we must honor His words. Just as a spouse expects their partner to show love through actions, not words, our relationship with Jesus thrives when we obey and heed His instructions. It's contradictory to claim we cherish His love while disregarding or disobeying his commands. Our actions, not just our words, reveal the depth of our relationship with Him.

Obey Jesus' Command: Love One Another

So, what does Jesus command us? He instructs us to "Love one another as I have loved you." This command isn't optional or mere talk. It's foundational to remaining in Jesus' love. He loved us completely, with his whole being, and expects us to love sacrificially, putting others' needs before our own.

Loving others isn't just a duty; it's a response to the love we've received from Christ. We are loved to love. This love defines our identity and purpose. It's the fruit of our connection with Jesus, who is love personified and who sacrificed Himself out of love for us.

The Apostle John emphasizes in our reading that those who don't love don't truly know God, as God is love. Abiding in love means abiding in God, and vice versa. Jesus promises that our joy will be complete when we love one another, aligning with God's intention that His love flows through us to others, completing its purpose.

A Real-Life Example of Love and Sacrifice

Have you ever heard someone say, or perhaps found yourself saying, "I wish I could see God's love"? This sentiment often arises during trouble and pain when one may feel overwhelmed by what seems like God's anger. However, the crucifixion of Jesus reveals that even suffering stems from God's love rather than His wrath. These challenging moments become opportunities for God to minister to us through the compassionate service of others who sacrifice their time and needs to help us.

Allow me to share a story about a woman named Toni. She deeply loved her husband, who suffered a severe accident while working in the oil fields. A stack of drilling pipes fell on him, leaving him crippled and crushed. After spending 16 months in the hospital, including six in a coma, he returned home as a mere shadow of his former self. Doctors expressed that he would have been better off if he had passed away. Though he could barely speak, Tony understood his plea when he begged her, "Please, go away; I want you to divorce me." Amidst his struggles, he expressed love and concern for her well-being.

It would have been understandable for Toni to consider divorce and seek a different life. However, she never entertained that option. Her commitment to her husband, made in vows of better or worse, sickness and health, remained steadfast. Despite needing to place him in a nursing home due to his ongoing care needs, Toni continues to sacrificially spend much of her time by his side, exemplifying true love.

The Life-Changing Relationship Embodying Christ's Love

Our relationship with Jesus Christ reflects the words in John's first epistle: "We love because He first loved us. If someone claims to love God but hates their brother or sister, they're deceiving themselves. How can they love God, whom they haven't seen, if they can't love their sibling, whom they have?" Remaining in Jesus' love means loving others as He loved us, sacrificially and unconditionally.

God continues to reveal His love through the body of Christ, which is the church encompassing all believers in Christ. As members of this body, we represent God's love through our actions. When we feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and share the Gospel, God works through us to comfort, encourage, inspire faith, and forgive.

Loving one another is allowing God's love to flow through us. It's how we remain in Jesus' love—by embodying the love He has shown us and sharing it with others in His name, bringing glory to Him.

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