What's love got to do with it?
I want to talk to you today about love. I mean, do we even really know what love is? Most of our definitions of love have been shaped from various influences, maybe Disney movies like Snow White, Cinderella, or Tangled, romance novels, TV shows, Hollywood movies, our friends, our parents, and maybe even music.
Everyone has a song that either makes them happy they are in love or sad that they were in love.
In 1984 Tina Turner released the third single from her album ‘Private Dancer’, it was called “What’s love got to do with it”. It became a huge success for her and almost everyone has heard her song.
But does it really represent love in a positive way? Listen to some of the lyrics:
“What’s love but a second hand emotion”
“What’s love but a sweet old fashioned notion”
“It scares me to feel this way”
“Who needs a heart when a heart can be broken”
Tina’s question was “what’s love got to do with it” and her answer made love sound like something not important or something that only causes pain. Your experience with love may vary, it may be a really good thing or, like she sings a really bad thing, but still love has touched everyone.
Love sometimes causes us to do the craziest things, we dance, we get sick, we act goofy, sometimes we act like a different person, we suddenly learn good hygiene, we jump on couches on the Oprah show, and we do something like this…
(Arnaud begins to sing)
'Love, what a splendorful thing, what is does is make Arnaud sing,
or bust out in a real smooth rhyme, thinking of my loved one all the time,
the way she smiles, the way she talks, her sparkling eyes and the way she walks,
from her head down to her toes, and every day my love it grows.'
Now, that’s an embarrassing expression of love, but what do you think of when you hear of love, is it this?
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.
We all are probably very familiar with 1 Corinthians 13:4-8, but we can read about love, even know definitions of what love is, but do we actually know how important it is to show, give and live love, especially to others? Paul shared something just as good right before the words I just read.
If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing. 1 Corinthians 13:1-3
See, love is important, a lot more important than Tina Turner’s fans may have thought. In Matthew 22:36-40, Jesus was asked “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” He replied: “‘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.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
After all of that you should notice that to have and give love is MAJOR. Paul also said in 1 Corinthians 13:13 “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love."
Here’s a saying that I’m sure many of you have heard. Love the sinner hate the sin. Makes sense, but did you ever wonder how this saying became part of our Christian vernacular? Well, I did.
There are 2 sources and I want to take some time to give a little detail and background about them both.
First is St. Augustine, or “just Augustine” back then. who in a letter wrote “Cum dilectione hominum et odio vitiorum”, excuse my bad Latin, but translated it’s “with love for mankind and hatred of sins.” Ok, sounds good. But what was his context? Who was he talking to? The words come from a letter he wrote to a group of nuns at Hippo. It’s a letter of rebuke where he speaks to them about respecting a new leader of the monastery, about being humble and not thinking more or less of each other due to their prior lives or class they came from, then he addresses a specific problem. The nuns were eye balling some good looking guys and the nuns and the men were enjoying it a little too much. He, and I’m paraphrasing here, told them that men and women can get hot and bothered not just from a touch, but from a shared glance and they needed to not get caught up in something before it starts a fire. He reminded them that when they think they’re alone, God is watching, and he was trying to stop the nuns from any improper behavior that could get them evicted from the monastery. He wanted them to follow what’s written in Matthew 18:15-17, confront each other privately, but not go around watching each other just to be a jerk, do it out of love. Many have taken his writings and made doctrine out of them which is fine, but his main purpose here was to try to keep a bunch of nuns in line and wanted to get them cooled off before a cold shower was needed. The sad thing is that some of these women were likely never called by God to be under a vow of chastity in the first place.
Secondly this phrase is attributed to Mohandas Gandhi who said this:
“’Hate the sin and not the sinner’ is a precept which, though easy enough to understand, is RARELY practiced, and that is why the poison of hatred spreads in the world. Man and his deed are two distinct things. Whereas a good deed should call forth approbation and wicked deed disapprobation, the doer of the deed, whether good or wicked, always deserves respect or pity as the case may be. Those who seek to destroy men, rather than manners, adopt the latter and become worse than those whom they destroy, under the mistaken belief that the manners will die with the men. They do not know the root of the evil.”
I agree with Gandhi, I don’t believe that it’s something we can successfully follow. You’re free to disagree but I don’t believe any one of us in this room, or in the church as a whole is capable of hating sin and loving the sinner.
Listen, Christians haven’t even gotten the “love” part down, to even try to do the hate part.
Let me restate that, I believe we as the Body of Christ have not reached an adequate place of love to place any emphasis in our lives on hate when it comes to another human being.
Now that’s a strong claim for me to make, so let’s do an informal poll. How many of you believe you really can pass the test of love/hate. You can raise your hand if you want.
Ok, Jesus said to love God, we’ve all done things to dishonor God that’s not really loving Him is it? No, so we failed that one off the bat. Look how quick that was.
But let’s see if maybe we can go 50-50.
Jesus said love our neighbor, without making light of evil or painful experiences, how many of you love Osama Bin Laden? Hitler?
Too evil? Ok….
How many of you love someone who fires a weapon in a school filled with children? How many of you love someone who sexually abuses a child?
Still too evil?...
Who loves the person who just cut them off? The person who stole your parking spot? The person who bullied you all through high school?
If you’re honest most of you, myself included, actually find it dang near impossible to separate hating the sin and loving the person no matter how much we claim otherwise.
We’ve all failed the test of love/hate.
Listen, if you are completely set on wanting to love the sinner and hate the sin then, even though you’re a Saint, go ahead and love yourself and hate your own sin, let God deal with everyone else, you deal with you. Jesus pretty much said that in Matthew 7:3.
I’d like to share this from A.J. Thomas, Senior Pastor of St. Paul United Methodist Church, he said
‘Rather than hating sin, whether that is our own or someone else’s, let me suggest a response to sin that is more faithful to the Biblical tradition. When it comes to sin, we should mourn our own, and forgive others. Mourn our own because we are deeply grieved at the distance between ourselves and God, forgive others because we are deeply grieved at the distance between them and us. Mourning and forgiveness keeps us from feeding the wolf of hate and stunts the growth of hate within us. It’s a much different emotional response than giving into hate, but the results are much more faithful to what God desires from us. We don’t have to hate sin in order to take it seriously. Indeed, mourning and forgiveness are both hard work – infinitely harder than simply giving in to hate. Hate is the easy way out. Mourning our own sin and forgiving the sin of others requires that we cannot gloss over sin or ignore it. Sin, and its emptiness, its brokenness, its great separation from God and all the effects that come with it are very real. The reality of sin forces us to do the hard work of mourning and forgiving, in order that whatever distance there is between us and God, and us and others, is closed.’
People do messed up things. To love someone unconditionally, regardless of their actions, although God says to do just that, sometimes makes us feel like we’re supporting their behavior, but do we not show ourselves love and grace even in our darkest moments? C.S. Lewis shared these very wise words.
‘There is someone that I love even though I don’t approve of what he does. There is someone I accept though some of his thoughts and actions revolt me. There is someone I forgive though he hurts the people I love the most. That person is …… me.’
Let that sink in.
Listen, people have seen enough bad examples of Christian “love” and good examples of Christian “hate”, they see Christians as a group that espouses love, but can be so darn nasty to those that don’t jump in line.
How do you think they really feel after some of our preaching, guilting, judging, and hypocrisy?
Why not just love them?
Now, just imagine if you treated everyone you meet, and include yourself in there, like you do the people you see Sunday at your local church. On Sunday we’re not loving Francis but hating that Thursday he had too many beers watching the game, loving Marty and hating that he yelled at his wife on the way to church, loving Phillip but hating that he was watching dirty movies last night.
If they shared this stuff with us we should be in place to love them and show them a different way, not thinking about hate at all.
But, on Sunday we don’t care about any of that, we just love each other. Think about that, how often do we praise the environment at our local church, and what’s the secret? We just love each other.
What would happen if we stopped being the policeman and started being the nurse?
Just love and care for your neighbor the same way you would those you serve on Sundays. We all share the same kinds of struggles. Love the sinner, forgive their sin, and treat them like God did when He gave His son for them while they were still sinning and continue to.
What are the comments people make Sundays when they feel so loved, so welcomed, so cared for? Does Francis say now I feel like drinking twice as much, does Marty say now I feel like yelling at my wife even more, does Phillip say I’m going to go right out and watch ten times more porn? Why do people think if you love someone they will just go out and do more bad things? Love begets love, it may sound juvenile, but it’s true.
So what’s love got to do with it?
Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Colossians 3:12-14
I’m in a season where I have learned the joy of loving the unloveable. What’s the secret to living love daily and successfully? Simple. Less thinking, more loving.
I had to learn this the hard way. There were a few ways God taught me a deeper understanding of love. One way happened a while back, I thought it was pretty crazy.
There are some that believe that all are saved, everyone will end up in heaven when they die, that God has forgiven the world. Well when faced with this belief God wanted me to pay heed to my reaction.
I thought it wasn’t fair, thought that I have sacrificed and carried pain because He asked. Learning about love the way I’ve had to isn’t what I would say was on my list of “hey, this would be an awesome way to spend a few years getting treated like I’m not even human by someone God calls me to love unconditionally and forgive to no end and to top it off live like a monk.” I was angry and felt almost taken advantage of - I’m just being honest here. Who knows what your thoughts would be.
But it was an awesome experience because I learned something valuable. What were my motives? Was it really love? Was it fear? Was it to get something?
If I’m doing something out of fear, simply to be “obedient”, or to get something then am I really any better than someone doing something bad? My motive should be love. This isn’t behavior modification, it’s a heart transplant. If what I’m doing in my life is out of love and I wanted to live a life of loving others why would I be upset about what God chooses to do in someone else’s life.
I needed to understand that I needed to love – PERIOD. Just love.
Like I said, less thinking. Don’t think about all this other stuff, don’t think about theology, their religion, their actions, their words, just love, forgive, let go, love, and love some more.
What’s love got to do with it?
What is it?
It is everything, everyone, our entire life, our entire interaction.
God, me, you, all of us. Day in and day out.
If you don’t have love, nothing else matters. We all need love. Some don’t even love themselves enough to love others.
In your own life experience and journey through love, loss of love, and twisted love do you see how much of a problem not knowing and not showing real, true, Christ like love is?
We need more love and way less hate, even if it means no hate. And we as Christians need to be the LOVE DEALERS and HOPE DEALERS to a lot of needy addicted souls out there.
Love is so special to God, God is after all Love. Love changes your perspective, takes the focus off of you and on Him because you can’t love successfully unless He’s the one providing that love through you.
I’ll be honest with you, it feels so good to love people rather than hate them, whether it’s them or their sin, because hate is poisonous and I don’t like the taste in any dose.
To wrap this all up, and wrap it all together, I have to say again, what’s love got to do with it?
IT’S ALL ABOUT LOVE!
Jesus over and over made this point to all of us. Love put an innocent Son on a cross!
Love COSTS Blood, but Love GIVES life.
People NEED love.
Not a fairytale love, a make believe love, a date at the 5 and Diner sharing a milkshake love, a singing a goofy song kind of love, that kind of love is fun, but that kind of love doesn’t save someone from themselves.
They need LOVE, deep down love, from your Spirit love, unashamed, unabashed, scandalous love, paying attention love, listening love, feeling their pain kind of love.
They don’t need another argument kind of love. You can argue till you’re blue in your face over any theology or anyone’s actions, but you’ll never ever argue someone into eternity, you can only love them into eternity.
Fear is not love. Fear of hell is NOT love of God.
God set the example of how to save us, He saved us by loving us, and we find it so darn hard to trust that LOVE WORKS!
You love people exactly because you recognize how covered in mud and dirt they are because God loves that messed up person, that’s His kid! A messed up kid just like me, and you, and you, and you.
Faith. Hope. Love. It’s all about love!
People need restoration in their lives. They need forgiveness. They need compassion. They need love. They don’t need to know one more time how much of a failure they are. THEY KNOW! What they don’t know is how much they are loved in spite of that!
How do you heal a broken world? You heal it with love.
What’s love got to do with it???
What’s love NOT got to do with it?
So how’s Love going to change the lives of those around you?