Sunday, June 25, 2017
Living In The Spirit Of Love

First United Methodist Church

Glen Rose, Texas

 July 27, 2014

Series: “Life In The Spirit”

“Living In The Spirit Of Love”

(Galatians 5:22-25)

Rev. Billy D. Strayhorn

INTRODUCTION:

     A group of professional people posed this question to a group of 4 to 8 year-olds, “What does love mean?” The answers they got were broader and deeper than anyone could have imagined. 

     “Love is when you go out to eat and give somebody most of your French fries without making them give you any of theirs.” 

     “If you want to learn to love better, you should start with a friend who you hate.” 

     “When you tell someone something bad about yourself and you’re scared they won’t love you anymore. But then you get surprised because not only do they still love you, they love you even more.” 

     “There are two kinds of love. Our love. God’s love. But God makes both kinds of them.” 

     “Love is when your puppy licks your face even after you left him alone all day.” 

     “You really shouldn’t say ‘I love you’ unless you mean it. But if you mean it, you should say it a lot. People forget.” 

     “When someone loves you, the way they say your name is different. You know that your name is safe in their mouth.”

     “Love is when someone hurts you. And you get so mad but you don’t yell at them because you know it would hurt their feelings.” 

     “Love is what makes you smile when you’re tired.”

     Those are great aren’t they? How about a couple of more; these are my favorites actually:

     “Love is what’s in the room with you at Christmas if you stop opening presents and listen.” Bobby – age 7.

     “You really shouldn’t say ‘I love you’ unless you mean it. But if you mean it, you should say it a lot. People forget.” Jessica - age 8

     And my favorite one of all: “When someone loves you, the way they say your name is different. You know that your name is safe in their mouth.” Billy - age 4 (1)

     If you haven’t guessed, today we’re going to be looking at “Living In The Spirit Of Love.” Let’s listen again to the passage from Paul. Galatians 5:22-25 (NRSV)

[22] By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness,  

[23] gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things.  

[24] And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.  

[25] If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit.

     For me Living In The Spirit HAS to begin with Love. As Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 13, “Now faith, hope and love abide but the greatest of these is love.”

     I don’t know who to attribute this to but when talking about the Fruit of the Spirit, someone put it this way: “Love is the key. Joy is love singing. Peace is love resting. Patience is love enduring. Kindness is love's touch. Generosity is love's character. Faithfulness is love's habit. Gentleness is love's self-forgetfulness. Self-control is love holding the reins.” (2) Love is the key. It all begins with Love.

     The word we use for Love in English actually comes from four different Greek words with four distinct meanings. Those four words are Storge, Philia, Eros and Agape. Each of these words defines a different kind of Love. Briefly let’s look at the first three and then we’ll focus on the fourth.

I. STORGE (AFFECTION):

     Storge or Affection. This is the word we use when we talk about something we like intensely or have an AFFECTION for. “I love cheese popcorn. Or I love chocolate chip cookies fresh out of the oven and just barely cool enough to eat. I love pizza.” You’d probably never hear Eve say, “I love apples” but it’s that kind of Affection.

     This is also the affection we have for pets, for our jobs, our hobbies, for sports etc. “I love the Rangers.”  Or “I love playing golf.” Or “I love teaching.”

     While we talk about it being AFFECTION this is AFFECTION for things, and has nothing to do with Affection for another person, that’s actually two other kinds of love.

II. PHILIA (FRIENDSHIP):

     The first of which is Philia or Friendship. This is the Affection or love we have for a friend or someone of like mind and interest. This is the root for the city named Philadelphia, the city of “brotherly love.”

     Philia is the bond that holds us together as a congregation. It’s love we give. It’s like the old saying, "I set out to find a friend, but couldn't find one; I set out to be a friend, and friends were everywhere." It’s brotherly or sisterly love toward one another because of the love and forgiveness which we have experienced from God.

     Philia often seen as the most admirable of loves because it looks not at an individual or a feeling but at what is best for the whole group bonded together in this kind of love. Fraternities, sororities, and almost every organization is built on Philia. Political parties used to be based on this when they sought what is best for the whole country and not just themselves.

III. EROS (IN LOVE):

     Then there’s the love that is associated with emotion. This is Eros or Being In Love. This is the love which drives us together in mutual physical, emotional and sexual support of one another. Comedian Flip Wilson once said, Love is a feeling you feel when you're about to feel a feeling you never felt before.”

     Eros is that love which that allows us and even leads us to fall in love. It’s the author of romance. It’s the inspiration behind every love song ever written as well as most of the blues and country western ballads about failed love, longing and broken hearts.

     Hagar the Horrible, the Viking in the comics is sitting in his easy chair with a beer in his hand. His wife, Helga, is completely frazzled from cleaning. She stands there, mop in hand, looking at Hagar and says, "Remember how you said I'd live a life of luxury as soon as your ship came in?"

     Hagar says, "Yes?"

     Helga asks, "It sank, didn't it?" (3)

     We laugh at that partly because we've all been there and partly because of this form of love, "Eros." It concerns itself with and encompasses the passion of human love and describes the bond between a husband and wife. Eros concerns itself with being in love.

IV. AGAPE (CARITAS):

     A. And that brings us to Agape or Caritas. Agape Love is Unconditional and Sacrificial Love. This is the Love which drives the Church. This is the Love you and I experience from God through Jesus Christ. This is the Love which allowed Jesus to take up His cross and suffer for our sakes. This is the kind of love which has no conditions on it at all and is willing to lay everything on the line for God.

     This is the love which allows and motivates us to love our neighbor as ourselves and motivates us to love our enemies, even though that’s the last thing we want to do.

     Agape, or Unconditional and Sacrificial Love is what leads us, guides us, motivates us to acts and deeds of kindness without thought of the cost. Unconditional Love is what has prompted our involvement in such great missions projects as the Thrift Store, Food Bank and the Youth Mission Trips.

     Unconditional, Sacrificial , Agape Love is what allows us and motivates us to reach out and care for the women and children who have crossed the borders of our country illegally and sought asylum even though many of us disagree with their being here. Agape Love is what motivates, enables and empowers us, through the work of the Holy Spirit, to put politics aside and reach out in Christian Compassion. And that’s hard.

     The selfish world centered part of us cries out against any kindness, any understanding, any leniency or mercy because they have come here illegally and they might be a burden on our society or even on us.

     On the other hand, the Kingdom part of our life, that part guided by and filled with Unconditional, Sacrificial Agape love, guides us, encourages us, and compels us to reach out with compassion and do good in the name of Christ. It allows us to look beyond ourselves and look at others through both the eyes and the heart of Jesus our Savior. It compels us to act as He would act and as He taught us to act, with Grace and Mercy.

     Let the politicians sort it out, that’s what we elected them for and what we pay them to do but let us Christians do what Christians always do in time of disaster and crisis. We reach out with God’s unconditional love through acts of Kindness and Mercy. Through the power of God’s Holy Spirit, we rise above those worldly things (whatever they are) and attend to the things of God, the Kingdom things which make us who we are and what we are as we follow Christ.

     Unconditional, Sacrificial Love is what motivates us to get behind something like Nothing But Nets. And the Imagine No Malaria initiative. It empowers us to provide water buckets that give families clean water and solar lights so kids can study in homes with no electricity.

     B. This Unconditional, Sacrificial Agape Love is contagious. We are born to be compassionate. It is our inherent mode. It’s the setting we work out of. According to one of my favorite TV shows on the National Geographic Channel, titled Brain Games, Studies have been done with 6-9 month old babies who were shown three puppets; one cat and two identical dog puppets but with different shirts on. Also on stage was a clear box with a toy in it which the cat was trying to get out of the box. One puppy was mean and kept slamming the lid so the cat couldn’t get the toy. The other puppy helped the cat get the toy.

     Later, these babies were given their choice of dog puppets to play with. Every one of the babies, in every one of the test groups, went for the puppet that helped, that showed compassion. That’s the set up for this next clip dealing with an experiment with adults. Watch.

     I was fascinated that compassion is contagious. I always thought it was. That’s been my experience and it’s how I understand Scripture. That’s what the song “Pass It On” is all about. We are called to be like the Loaves and Fishes in the hands of Jesus, letting the Unconditional, Sacrificial Love of God multiply in and through us. In Jesus’s last teaching session with the Disciples, at the Last Supper, Jesus said, “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:34-35 (NRSV). I don’t think Jesus was talking about how well we love each other, though there is that aspect here. I think Jesus was talking about how well we love everyone else, especially those who are in need, those who are different, those who don’t know or haven’t experienced the love of God in Christ.

     Author and lecturer Leo Buscaglia once talked about a contest he was asked to judge. The purpose of the contest was to find the most caring child.

     The winner was a four year old child whose next door neighbor was an elderly gentleman who had recently lost his wife. Upon seeing the man cry, the little boy went into the old gentleman’s yard, climbed onto his lap, and just sat there. When his mother asked him what he had said to the neighbor, the little boy said, “Nothing, I just helped him cry.”

CONCLUSION:

     “If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit.” Living in the Spirit of Love is a challenge. It’s not easy. It never has been. But it is our witness to the world; more so than our words. People determine the validity of our faith, not by what we say but by what we do. Compassion, Unconditional Love is contagious. And there are a lot of people out there who have never experienced Unconditional Love. But they can through us; through how we treat them, through how we love them.

     The words of Dismissal in our wedding ceremony express this best: “Bear witness to the love of God in this world, so that those to whom love is a stranger, will fine in you generous friends.”

     And that’s the challenge. We are loved Unconditionally by God and we’re called to let God’s Unconditional Love be seen in us by how we love the world Unconditionally. Living In The Spirit of Unconditional Love demands grace and sacrifice that can only come through Christ living in us and extending that love through us.

     Remember what one of the children said “God could have said magic words to make the nails fall off the cross, but He didn’t. That’s love, Unconditional Love.” Can we live any less than that as a Thank You for our salvation?

     Live In The Spirit of Love, God’s Unconditional, Sacrificial Love.

This is the Word of the Lord for this day.

________________________________

Bibliography

1. The Autoillustrator, P.O. Box 336517, Greeley, CO 80633 1-877-970-AUTO (2886)

2. The Autoillustrator, P.O. Box 336517, Greeley, CO 80633 1-877-970-AUTO (2886)

3. "Hagar The Horrible" by Chris Browne, 5-28-91

Other References Consulted

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