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About this series
Love One Another
Ten Keys to Experiencing Life in a Supernatural Community
We've all heard the thought-provoking challenge to face life's decisions asking, "What would Jesus do?" But what if we were to live each moment in light of Jesus' "new" commandment to "love one another" - as He has loved us? What would happen within our homes and churches if we took seriously His instructions to foster authentic, caring relationships? This series explores the powerful possibilities of lives lived according to the radical "one anothers" of the New Testament.More from this series
And look at the relationship between Ruth and Naomi. It’s family love. It’s a daughter-in-law who has lost her husband; it’s a mom who has lost her boys, her husband. And there is family love.
And notice that as you read that story out of the book of Ruth, their family love transcends race, she’s a Moabite, Ruth is. Naomi is a Jew. Transcends culture and even geography. They are willing to relocate, if necessary.
Or another good Old Testament example is Jonathan and David, 1 Samuel 20. Awesome, awesome passage of connection, love, family, brotherhood.
I mean, these are two men that love each other at a level and it is wonderful.
And notice the things it transcends – power – Jonathan is the king’s son. He should be threatened but he’s not. Privilege, he’s got all the money, he’s got the family, he’s got the name. But he lays all that aside, in fact, there’s a very special moment in their life where he gives away his sword, his robe, and very specific things that communicate, “We’re on level ground, David.”
And then finally, the last one, family relationship. This love is so deep when Jonathan has to choose between his father’s wrath for David and his own love and brotherhood for David, he chooses God’s way over his own family.
See, that’s the kind of love we’re talking about. We’re talking about the real thing.
In fact, the third example is just read through the book of Acts. Chapter 2, chapter 3, chapter 4, chapter 6, chapter 13. Just read through the book of Acts. Brothers and sisters loving each other.
It transcends money. They just pool their money, it’s such a crisis early on, they just pool their money and just meet each other’s needs. It transcends socioeconomic barriers. You read carefully, you’ve got people in the household of Herod and you’ve got slaves.
You’ve got Jews and you’ve got Gentiles, you got people who hated each other’s guts that wouldn’t go under the same roof, that wouldn’t eat a meal together, all this stuff, and then when there’s this family love, it transcends all that.
What did Jesus say? He said, “Love one another.” How? “As I have loved you.” Sacrificially, from the heart, tenderly, as a family. That can’t happen if we don’t know each other.
The clarity is we are members of one another and now, the first command, “Be devoted to one another.” So, let me ask you that second question. The first one was, remember? “Do you feel connected like that?”
Do you have a sense, that sense of moral responsibility, that sense of from the heart, are you devoted to other believers in brotherly love?
I mean, does it matter how they are doing? Do you feel the moral weight toward other believers like you would someone who is a physical brother or sister, relationally? Or to a mom or to a dad or to a niece or to a nephew?
See, what I want you to understand, the Bible talks about this supernatural community. He is saying that we each move toward one another in connection and I need to own the moral weight of saying, “If you’re not loved, I may not be able to supply it, but I need to be a part of the process of you getting connected and loved.”
And so then the question is: What is it that keeps you, what is it that keeps me, from experiencing this authentic devotion? This supernatural community? And so with that, follow along, get your pen out, if you will, I’m going to make you work a little bit.
Because what I want to do is just do some things that are very, very simple but let you know, first, what keeps us from experiencing this authentic devotion to one another? One, it doesn’t happen automatically. It’s not magic. God didn’t design the body where you just come to church a couple times and all of a sudden, ooh, ooh, ooh, something happens inside, “I’m just devoted to everyone in brotherly love.” It doesn’t happen that way!
In fact, it so is non-automatic that multiple times in the Scripture, we’re commanded, we are reminded to make this the focal point, lest we end up with just some sort of intellectual relationship with God and with others.
Notice what it says in 1 Thessalonians 4:9 and 10. “Now about brotherly love we have no need to write to you,” Paul says, “for you yourselves have been taught by God to love each other, and in fact, you do love all the brothers throughout Macedonia. Yet, we urge you, brothers, to do so more and more.” See, it’s not automatic. We all need urging.
The second passage, 1 Peter 1:22 and 23, “Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for your brothers, love one another deeply from the heart, for you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God.”
Do you get the idea? You have the ability, I have the ability because I have a new birth, to love people. But there’s a command, “Therefore love one another,” how? Superficially? When it’s convenient? No. Authentically, from the heart.
The final passage, 2 Peter 1 verses 5 through 7, “For this very reason,” he talks about what we already have in Christ, “make every effort to add to your faith, goodness; and to your goodness, knowledge; and to your knowledge, self-control; and to your self-control, perseverance; and to your perseverance, godliness; and to your godliness, brotherly love; and to brotherly kindness, love.”
Notice the little word, “add to, add to, add to.” There are certain things God has already done for us, but we cooperate. You see, it’s not automatic. Learning to love one another takes real effort, it takes real focus, it takes a plan.
In fact, number two, what keeps us from experiencing authentic devotion to one another? Number two, it takes time, effort, and intentionality. I want to let you know up front, it takes time. The payoff is awesome. It takes effort. And it takes real intentionality.
Someone is not just going to necessarily – I hope it works this way and I have heard some good stories like this. But as you walk out of the church, I don’t know what the probability is of someone just stopping you and saying, “Hi, my name is Bob. I’d like to have a deep, authentic relationship. How about you?” You might be a little concerned if someone did it like that.
The fact of the matter is it’s probably not going to happen quite like that. It’s going to require some intentionality on your part.
Well, the third reason that we don’t experience this kind of authentic devotion to one another is that it is especially difficult for some of us to share at the feeling level. I think there are three reasons. There are just some of us that this whole emotional side of life period, let alone Christianity, it just makes us nervous.
The first reason is because we fear rejection. If you have been in relationship somewhere along the line and you have been rejected, what do we all know? You’re just like me. You don’t have to reject me much, I’ll avoid you. Won’t you? But to get loved you have to take risk. If you never take risk of rejection, what happens? You can be safe and isolated.
The second reason that for some of us it’s hard to relate at the feeling level, is we come from poor family backgrounds. When I say, “The family of God,” and for some people even when I say, “God is your Father,” you think, “Yuck. If He’s anything like my dad,” and it’s implanted in your mind and it’s hard and there are emotional barriers and blocks and it’s just hard for you to say, “Hmmm, you know, it’s hard.” I understand that.
Recognize that as the barrier, though, rather than unconsciously not know why and pull back from people.
The third reason it’s hard to relate emotionally is we have had negative church experiences. Some of the things I’m talking about, if you have been in a church situation somewhere, sometime in the past and they talked about loving each other and you got set up and you got burned, you’ve got a little light that is going off, a little antennae that’s up like this thinking, “Not going to happen to me here!” Right?
Summary: If you have a hard time at the feeling level, recognize these barriers but don’t let these barriers keep you from taking the risk to get loved. Okay? Don’t let them hold you back.
The fourth reason we don’t experience authentic devotion to one another is personal unresolved anger and bitterness. I don’t know if you realize it but people who have real anger and bitterness in their heart, they are not a lot of fun to be around!
You see, if you have unresolved anger, whether it’s toward an ex-mate, a family member, a boss, a situation, and you have unresolved personal issues of anger and bitterness, you are not a fun person to be around and we will probably not get – we will figure out ways… that’s your defense mechanism to keep people away and we want you to know, it works.
So maybe what you need to do is find out why you’re angry, ask God to help you, and get some help.
The fifth reason that we don’t experience authentic relationship, this devotion to one another, is excessive preoccupation with ourselves.
I remember a good friend he said he spent a number of years here mad at everyone because they were all a bunch of cliques. And he said he tried to break into groups, break into groups, and they were all in a bunch of cliques, he was really hacked off and so then he went on a trip with a team. He came back and he said, “I was a clique too. I just didn’t realize that I was a one-person clique.” He said, “My focus was always on me. Why don’t they invite me? Why don’t they do this? Why don’t they do this?” What honesty, incredible honesty. And he said, “On that trip I realized, ‘I’m not going to be a clique anymore, I’m going to ask what’s going on in their lives.’” And he came back and he said, “I experienced more love on that trip, and it began with I got my focus off me.”
Number six, failure to recognize our limitations and personal capacities in relationships. This is the other side. Some people don’t experience authentic family love because they are focused on themselves.
Some people don’t experience authentic family love in the body because they don’t know they have limitations and they don’t know their capacities. And so anybody who asks them to do anything, they always say, “Yes.”
And they’ve got nineteen thousand superficial relationships, they are tired, the church wears them out, they’re doing this, they’re doing this, they’re doing this, they’re doing this, they have no deep relationships, and they don’t feel connected. They look connected, they are not connected. Their heart is shriveled up inside. No one really knows what’s going on.
You know why? They don’t know their limitations and they don’t know their capacities. Some of you can handle five deep relationships, some two, some maybe one or two, some fifteen. We’re all different. Figure out yours.
But I’ll tell you what, it’s better to have two or three great, deep relationships than twenty or thirty acquaintances. When you’re in a jam, when your heart hurts, twenty acquaintances don’t do you any good. Two friends do.
The final reason why we don’t experience this authentic love for one another in God’s family is idealistic, unrealistic expectations.
You know what that means? They’re going to let you down. It means that in great relationships you do – what? Work through conflict. You have misunderstandings. People just, flat, drop the ball. They say they’re going to call back. They don’t. They promise you this. They don’t. Kind of like what I have done now and then.
You see, you know what happens? You take a risk, you combine a few of these, you have a little rejection over here, negative family background here, you have enough fears over here, and you step out over here, and you have these idealistic expectations, and you try it and then you see, “See, doesn’t work. Doesn’t work. I knew it. I knew it. I knew I shouldn’t have done it. I knew I shouldn’t have tried. No, no, no, no, no, no!”
You just need to get realistic. You need to move slowly, you need to trust God, and you need to let Him work, and you need to realize that, as I learned even as a seven year old, my best friend growing up was my best friend after he put a worm in my brand new felt cowboy hat and we went to blows, in the rain, rolling in the grass!
And I punched him in the face as hard as I could, it did seem to have a little impact. He sat on me and I could not get up. And we were best friends ever since. Some of the greatest friendships you’ll ever have are working through a disagreement, a conflict. It’s part of the process.
Now, let me give you another seven ways that you can develop deep family, godly, devoted to one another relationships. I’m just going to run through them. But this is where I want you to shift from, “I’m listening, I’m evaluating,” I want you to shift gears and I want you to put your little hat on that says, “You know, God, if You would want me to get closer connected, I’m open to that. I’m a little fearful, but I’m open to it.” So, as I walk through these seven things, specific ways to get involved, to get connected, so that you can start to give love and receive it, just keep your heart open. Ready?
First, honestly evaluate your level of connectedness. And just be honest. Mildly? Moderately? Deeply connected? Choose one.
Second, identify the top two factors that are keeping you from building warmer, deeper family relationships.
Number three, prayerfully determine which subgroup you might feel most comfortable. See, the fact of the matter is is there is a low probability that you’re going to go from being in a worship service to best friends with someone. You know what I mean?
Fourth, prayerfully decide on a specific time, event, or activity that would allow you to take the next step toward devotion and connection. And if possible, ask someone you know to go with you. Wherever it would be! Choose the time, the event, make a pre-decision, and then go for it.
Five, join a Growth group or ministry team for a specified, limited time.
Notice how I’m going to get you out of that. Six weeks, eight weeks, for that time, and at the end of that time, no one will say, “Oh, why are you quitting?” You’re not quitting, you fulfilled your commitment, way to go. No guilt. If you like it, we’ll let you sign up again. You’re in.
Six, be friendly even if it doesn’t come naturally. What can I say? There’s an amazing thing, try putting a smile on your face, reaching out to someone and saying hi! Amazing things have happened.
Finally, seven, ask God to let you find someone who feels less connected than you this week and love them. And when you do, something magic happens. The Spirit of God shows up.
What did Jesus say? Love one another. How? “Even as I have loved you.”
Question number one, do you want that kind of love? Join the family. If you’re here tonight and you’re not a believer in Jesus Christ, you can be loved, you can be a part of God’s family.
Secondly, do you want to experience more of God’s love if you’re already part of the family? Then be devoted to one another in a specific, tangible way, beginning this week. And God will show up.