You may remember the Beatles back in the 60's singing, "All you need is Love." There's a great deal of truth carried in those simple lyrics. If we were to look around the church today, it's clear that a good dose of love would cure many of the churches ills.
A survey of 8,600 people from congregations in 39 different denominations measured their "love quotient". The conclusion - growing churches are more loving to each other and to visitors than declining churches. Loving churches attract more people regardless of their theology, denomination, or location.
The Bible clearly teaches that the most important virtue we share in our fellowship as Christians is our love for one another. So, the Bible has a lot to say about the subject of love. Let's spend our time this morning looking at what Peter had to say about love:
1 Peter 4:8-11 (NKJV) And above all things have fervent love for one another, for "love will cover a multitude of sins." 9 Be hospitable to one another without grumbling. 10 As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. 11 If anyone speaks, let him speak as the oracles of God. If anyone ministers, let him do it as with the ability which God supplies, that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belong the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen.
When we realize the true character of some unsaved people, or the values they have, or the way they treat other people, why do we as Christians put up with them? We treat them nice, because we want them to like us. We treat them nice, because we want to have fun with them - or we want to have a peaceful holiday with all the relatives. We treat them nice, because we have to work with them or live next door to them or go to school with them. We treat them nice, because we want to give a good impression for witnessing.
But too often our treatment of other Christians is like that of which Paul warned the Galatians against:
Galatians 5:15 (NKJV) But if you bite and devour one another, beware lest you be consumed by one another!
We often treat other Christians like dirt - we ignore them, talk about them, fight with them. We've got it backwards. We need to treat believers better than we treat unbelievers. Many people are staying away from church, and they are ignoring the gospel because of the lousy way Christians treat each other.
How are we supposed to treat each other?
Galatians 6:10 (NKJV) Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith.
When an opportunity to do good for another believer arises, we should be ready and eager to help in any way possible. Isn't that what this verse teaches?
How are we supposed to treat each other?
Philippians 2:3 (NKJV) Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself.
Paul teaches that we are to have an attitude of humility that esteems others better than our self. John Calvin, commenting on this verse wrote:
Now, if anything in our whole life is difficult, this is the worst. Hence it is not surprising if humility is so rare a virtue. For as one says, 'Everyone has in himself the mind of a king, by claiming everything for himself.' What pride! Afterwards from a foolish admiration of ourselves arises contempt of the brethren. And so far are we from what Paul here enjoins, that one can hardly endure that others should be on the same level; for there is no one that is not eager to be on top.
The word of God says that we are to esteem others "better", huperecho: "to hold oneself above, to excel; superiority:, higher, supreme". This could be translated: "thinking of others as superior to yourself."
We all look out for number One, and most people are really only happy when they can look about them and sing, "O what a beautiful morning, o what a beautiful day, I have a wonderful feeling everything's going 'My' way."
The concern of each man for himself is so well ingrained in human nature that only a fool would deny it. But as Christians we are to think of others as superior to ourselves. Do we do this?
How are we supposed to treat each other?
Romans 12:9-13 (NKJV) Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good. 10 Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another; 11 not lagging in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; 12 rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayer; 13 distributing to the needs of the saints, given to hospitality.
How are we supposed to treat one another?
Christ said, "A new commandment I give to you..." His tone had changed. The disciples probably thought, "Here it comes. Here comes the hard part, the complicated part...beyond everything that Moses commanded and all the laws we already have to remember, here comes Christ with more to do." But Christ simply said, "Love each other." That's it? That's the new commandment. Love each other. As Peter repeats it in I Peter 4, he says, "Love each other; share with and care for each other; serve each other."
But, as Peter talks about this new commandment, he points out something very important: We are told to go the extra mile; we are supposed to go above and beyond the ordinary. Take your love to a HIGHER level. Stretch your hospitality BEYOND what you usually do. Serve each other BETTER than you treat yourself.
How does the passage state this higher level of fellowship and caring between believers? According to Peter, how are we to treat each other?
Love is to be fervent - "above all things have fervent love for one another" The word "fervent" here means: "to stretch or strain" (a Middle Age use of this word was a description of a body on the torture rack!) A better translation of it would be: "full strength or maximum effort." Holding nothing back. Giving it everything you've got.
Let your love be without reservation. Let your love be without hesitation. Let your love be without qualification.
Love is to be forgiving - "love will cover a multitude of sins."
The word "cover" means: "does not stir up or broadcast sins."
1 Corinthians 13:5-7 (NKJV) does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; 6 does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; 7 bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
"Love thinks no evil" - this translation gives an incorrect idea. The Greek verb logizomai implies: "keeping a record." It is a bookkeeping term that means: "to calculate or reckon", as when figuring an entry in a ledger. Love doesn't keep records of the wrongs done to it. Do you know people who are keeping a record of everything that someone has done to hurt them? Why do they keep a record of wrongs done them? So they won't forget the wrongs, so they will be sure that person gets the justice that is due them.
In Polynesia, where the natives spend much of their time in fighting and feasting, it is customary for each man to keep some reminders of his hatred. Articles are suspended from the roofs of their huts to keep alive the memory of their wrongs-real or imaginary. In the same way many people nurse their hurts, they brood over wrongs done to them until it is impossible to forget them. But love does not keep a record of wrongs done to it, it is quick to forgive.
Proverbs 10:12 "Hatred stirs up strife, But love covers all sins."
Love gives people the benefit of the doubt. Love doesn't expect people to fail, but understands that they might fail anyway.
From what I understand, you will never find an imperfect piece of Waterford Crystal (the real fancy stuff from Ireland). While others may sell imperfect pieces or seconds at bargain prices, there are no seconds in Waterford crystal. Any time an inspector finds even the slightest imperfection, the piece is crushed, melted, and made over entirely. The church, however, is made up completely of seconds. The church is filled with imperfect people who have all been forgiven by the grace of God.
In our relationships with others, often what passes for love is little more than a neat business transaction. People are kind to us, so we repay them with equal consideration. When they treat us unjustly, our negative response is really what they asked for. Everything is so balanced, so fair, so logical with this eye-for-an- eye and tooth-for-a-tooth kind of justice. But Christian love never settles for only what's reasonable. It insists on giving mercy as well as justice. It breaks the chain of logical reactions.
General Robert E. Lee was asked what he thought of a fellow officer in the Confederate Army who had made some derogatory remarks about him. Lee rated him as being very satisfactory. The person who asked the question seemed perplexed. "General," he said, "I guess you don't know what he's been saying about you." "I know," answered Lee. "But I was asked my opinion of him, not his opinion of me!"
Love refuses to stir up strife. Instead of reminding people of their sins and using those sins against them, love understands that we are all sinners, and we all need a little bit of grace, and for others to cut us some slack.
Hospitality is to be without complaining - "Be hospitable to one another without grumbling." The word "hospitable" means: "loving strangers".
Matthew 25:40 (NKJV) "And the King will answer and say to them, 'Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.'
If Christ were to come in here today and ask us to give him a pair of shoes or a hot meal, we'd have a stampede of people trying to give stuff to Christ. If Christ was to say, "Anyone here willing to come down out of your Zacchaeus tree and let me come to your house for dinner today?" We'd have people complaining that they didn't get a chance to do it first.
But Christ says, "Why not do it now to people all around you? Why not show that same hospitality to one of these the least of my brethren?"
And he say we are to love strangers "without grumbling". This implies that the demands on some people who were showing hospitality may have caused some hard feelings. The demands of hospitality were probably frequent and heavy. If they were the only ones doing it, there may have been resentment and complaining. But such opportunities to show Christian hospitality ought to (this is a command from God) be seen as a Christian privilege and a form of service to Christ himself.
Anybody want to take a guess at what the Greek word is that is translated here as "grumbling"? It is goggusmos. It means: "Without complaining, grumbling, murmuring." Why would we complain about having to help someone? Maybe cost, inconvenience, effort, nobody says, "Thank you", it seems like they're always asking for help.
Goggusmos is the same word that Paul used in:
Philippians 2:14 (NKJV) Do all things without complaining and disputing,
To serve without complaining will be a shining testimony to those people who live in a dark, crooked, and perverse world! People are turning away from Christianity because of the way Christians grumble and complain about each other and about having to help each other!
In Albania, hospitality is evidently very common. It is part of their culture. It stems from the fact that before Communism, most Albanians were Moslems. A guest, even if he is a total stranger, is offered some tobacco to smoke and given a seat next to the hearth - a place of honor. If he has traveled far, the woman of the house will wash his feet. He is served coffee and after that invited to the table to eat. Every house is supposed to keep special food ready in case there are guests. The key to it all is an old Albanian saying - "an Albanian's house belongs to God and His guests."
If we are only taking care of God's house and God's food for Him, we need to be ready to share hospitality with His people.
Service is to be used for the good of God's people- "As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God."
Good stewards - you've received God's grace, right? You know what it means to be forgiven, right? You want to serve your Master, right? Well then, unless you use that grace and mercy and love to serve each other, you are a bad steward because you are hoarding it and not using it to bless other people. That's what the verse says. Get busy serving.
If you want to be a good steward and have your Master say, "Well done, good and faithful servant..." then you need to ask God for the strength and power to love others.
Corrie Ten Boom shares this true story in her book, The Hiding Place:
It was a church service in Munich that I saw him, the former S.S. man who had stood guard at the shower room door in the processing center at Ravensbruck. He was the first of our actual jailers that I had seen since that time. And suddenly it was all there -- the roomful of mocking men, the heaps of clothing, Betsie's pain-blanched face. He came up to me as the church was emptying, beaming and bowing. 'How grateful I am for your message, Fraulein,' he said. 'To think that, as you say, He has washed my sins away!' His hand was thrust out to shake mine. And I, who had preached so often to the people in Bloemendaal the need to forgive, kept my hand at my side. Even as the angry, vengeful thoughts boiled through me, I saw the sin of them. Jesus Christ had died for this man; was I going to ask for more? 'Lord Jesus', I prayed, 'forgive me and help me to forgive him'. I tried to smile, I struggled to raise my hand. I could not. I felt nothing, not the slightest spark of warmth or charity. And so again I breathed a silent prayer. 'Jesus, I cannot forgive him. Give me Your forgiveness'. As I took his hand, the most incredible thing happened. >>From my shoulder along my arm and through my hand a current seemed to pass from me to him, while into my heart sprang a love for this stranger that almost overwhelmed me. And so I discovered that it is not on our forgiveness any more than on our goodness that the world's healing hinges, but on His. When He tells us to love our enemies, He gives, along with the command, the love itself.
Service is to be God-glorifying - "...that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belong the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen."
We need to take our eyes off ourselves and our schedule and our abilities and our wants and needs and comfort - and serve God for His glory.
Philippians 1:15-18 (NKJV) Some indeed preach Christ even from envy and strife, and some also from good will: 16 The former preach Christ from selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my chains; 17 but the latter out of love, knowing that I am appointed for the defense of the gospel. 18 What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is preached; and in this I rejoice, yes, and will rejoice.
Paul says, "Stop your grumbling and complaining about who is doing what, and for what motive and understand this - the gospel is getting preached and people are getting saved".
Peter says in verse 11, "...that (this is a purpose statement) in all things God may be glorified..." This is to be the purpose in all that we do!
Some one is bound to be thinking, "Hold it. I thought coming to church was so I could get something out of it. I thought I was supposed to have my needs met. I thought I was supposed to be fed. I thought I was supposed to be blessed by the music. I thought I was supposed to feel welcomed and wanted. I thought the church existed to help me! I thought people were supposed to invite me over. I thought God put teachers in the church so I could grow. I thought the nursery workers served so I could worship without crying babies."
But Peter says, "....that in all things God may be glorified..." God is not glorified unless you are more concerned about others during your participation in the church than you are yourself.
God is not glorified unless you are serving in His strength.
God is not glorified unless you hold this message so precious and dearly that almost nothing would prevent you from sharing it. God is not glorified unless you treat members of the household of faith better than you treat people outside the church.
A local church asked members to donate money for a new building. The building committee made one stipulation: no plaques or recognition of any kind would be placed in the building to honor the givers. The response was mediocre at best. When the committee withdrew their requirement and allowed for a memorial registry with a listing of donors, the building was easily subscribed. What had changed? At first, the building committee was appealing solely to people's charity and generosity. Later, they offered an appeal to their egos, and the egos won. Christian service that is worthy of Christ's name is for God's glory and not for personal gain. Let's put our egos aside and in love serve each other.