I remember being a smart-alecky church kid. Whenever we were asked if we had memorized any Bible verses, there was always one we could cite. Not chapter and verse, mind you, but at least the verse itself. It was this one. It’s easy. Two words. Nine letters. Eleven digital characters in total. Anyone can memorize Bible verses. You’re welcome. But as short and simple as this verse is, there’s a whole lot of truth packed into if we are willing to sit long enough to see it. Let’s talk about it.
“By this everyone will know that you are my disciples. If you love one another.” (CSB – Read the chapter)
Have you ever looked at another person and just known who they were? You didn’t need any information more than a single glance. You just knew. You’re not sure how you knew, but you knew. Now, making those kinds of assumptions about people can be dangerous. It can also be deeply unfair. Too much hatred and strife in our culture has come because people have made snap judgments about strangers that were wrong and hurtful. That being said, sometimes a first impression is the right one. America’s favorite summer reality competition show, still going strong after its 16th season, America’s Got Talent, finished up this week. The winner was magician Dustin Tavella. This morning let’s talk a bit about his story and why I picked him to be the winner from his first audition.
“This is my command: Love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this: to lay down his life for his friends.” (CSB – Read the chapter)
Our world is broken. There is darkness everywhere we turn. It manifests itself in many different forms, sometimes masquerading as light, but it is always darkness. As the prophet Jeremiah wrote about 2600 years ago, “The heart is more deceitful than anything else, and incurable – who can understand it?” No human culture has ever been exempt from this. If all people were saints there would be no need for laws. But we aren’t. So there is. That’s not the end of the story, though. Having laws in place is meaningless unless people follow them. But we aren’t saints. Thus we are not going to follow laws meant to restrain our behavior unless we are motivated to do so by the threat of a consequence that is more inconvenient to us than our desire to have whatever the law has forbidden. Even these consequences, though, are meaningless unless there are people who are committed to upholding the law and enforcing the consequences for violating it. In other words, we need law enforcement officers. That is, we need police officers. Let’s talk today about what a blessing they are.
Our culture is changing. Quickly. Christianity has not been the dominant worldview for a long time, but a clear alternative is rising fast to take its place in ways we haven’t really seen before. This new alternative is aggressive and intolerant and it increasingly has access to the levers of political power. What this means is a number of things, but perhaps most significant among them is that for followers of Jesus it has never been more important that we have a clear and firm handle on exactly what we believe and why those beliefs are better (that is, more in line with reality) than the available alternatives. This week we kicked off a brand-new teaching series aimed at addressing this very matter called, You Believe What? For the next few weeks we’re going to be talking about some of the most basic beliefs of the Christian worldview and why those matter so much. In this first part we start at the top with God. What is He like and what does that mean for us? Let’s talk about it.
When I was a senior in college, I had to take biochemistry. Other than advanced courses focusing in on one particular branch of chemistry or another, biochemistry was the hardest chemistry course there was at the school. It took all the hard parts of both chemistry and biology and combined them into one challenging package. And the big project for the course was to write a research paper on some biochemical molecule. I still remember my molecule: cisplatin. It’s one of the earliest-discovered chemo drugs. I worked my tail off for that paper. I spent hours in our library. I took a day and drove down to the University of Missouri to use their much bigger and more equipped library to find some really obscure old journal articles so that I could cite original sources accurately instead of merely referencing them from other articles. I think the final project came in at something like 25-30 pages with a bibliography that ran for 5-6 pages. I did really well on it too. It helped that Dr. Nagan was a great teacher.
As we come to the final part of our conversation about how to love like Jesus, this morning we’re taking a look at one more example of Jesus’ love so we can understand it better. We know that loving like Jesus is important. We know that it requires both grace and truth. But how exactly do we get the one another part right. This story answers that question. Thanks for tuning in this week. Next week we’ll kick off a brand-new series looking at just what exactly followers of Jesus believe called You Believe What?
I like getting what I want. Don’t you? That’s just a sign things are going like they should be going. You’ve perhaps had those days before when everything was falling into place just like you envisioned it would go. Those are good days. You know what I don’t like? Not getting what I want. Anyone with me? Have you ever not gotten what you wanted? That’s more of the rule for how life goes than the other way, isn’t it? What really creates a conundrum for us, though, is when you getting what you want and me getting what I want are mutually exclusive outcomes. In that kind of a situation, what are we most likely to pursue? Well, if we’re being honest, it’s probably going to be our own interests. Why? Because we want what we want more than we want what somebody else wants. If we wanted what somebody else wanted, it wouldn’t be what somebody else wanted, it would be what we wanted and there would be no problem. But when it’s not? Well, that’s where things can get tricky.