The Power To Love & Serve In A Church Community
In 1 John 3:16 we’re reminded that the power to love and serve others in a church community is actually grounded in the power of a greater love that we’ve first experienced. 16This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. Christian people love and serve because they’ve been loved first. The sequence is very important. We love not to be loved in return. We place no conditions on our love for others. We serve not to earn or secure the approval of others. We love not to be loved. Christian people love and serve unconditionally because they’ve have been drowned in a greater love.
The world we live in operates on the principle of conditional love and service. The world says, ‘I will love and serve you if I think you deserve it’, or ‘I’m loving and serving you to secure your love and approval’. The former loves and serves only it they think you deserve it. If you meet my expectations I will love you. I will only give you love if you perform. The latter loves and serves because it's looking to be loved and accepted. I will love you to gain your love and approval. Conditional love is actually crushing and crippling. Only the proud and self-righteous believe they are deserving so they place expectations and conditions before they will give love. And that’s actually crushing for the one you love because you’ll only love them if you think they deserve it or meet your expectations. So if they fail you, you withold your love – you stop loving them. But the guilt-ridden believe they aren't deserving so they live trying to earn love and approval i.e they love to be loved and accepted. And that’s actually crippling for you because you end up on an endless treadmill working to earn the love and approval of the one you love. So if they don’t return your love or when they don't give you the approval you seek – it devastates you. Conditional love where you stand on your self-rigteousness is crushing for those you love because you’re making demands on them before you love them, and conditional love driven by your guilt is personally crippling when those you love don’t return your love for them.
The reality is that none of us want to be loved conditionally. We all want to be loved unconditionally, yet so much of our love for others is actually conditional. Think of your marriage. Think of the way you approach your family and children. Think of they way you approach serving at church. Think of the way you relate to others here. Think of the way you view friendships. If your love is conditional it will ultimately destroy your relationships because it will either crush others or cripple you. But unconditional love radically changes your relationships. Your love will no longer crush others because you’ll no longer make demands on them before you love them, and you’ll no longer be crippled when those you love fail to love you back. Isn’t this a love we all want in our relationships?
Christian people are supposed to be marked by an unconditional love because they've first experienced God’s unconditional love for them in Jesus. If Jesus Christ has loved me unconditionally by laying down his life for me when I was undeserving and guilty, it must surely change the way I love others here in my church community. Our relationships can no longer be the same. The power to love and serve each other unconditionally comes from knowing God’s great unconditional love for you in Jesus.
Jesus Christ laying down his life for me reminds me that I am actually undeserving of love, forgiveness and acceptance, yet he loved me. The gospel humbles me in my pride and self-righteousness. I’ve no right to make demands on others before I love or serve them. I’m undeserving of love as much as they’re undeserving of love. I can love the undeserving because I was once also undeserving of love. But Jesus Christ laying down his life for me also reminds me that I am greatly loved despite my guilt, failure or shame. The gospel lifts me up in my guilt and shame. I’m no longer looking for love and approval because I know I’m completely loved because of Jesus. I can now love even when my love for others is not returned.
The gospel changes my relationships because I’m no longer making demands on others before I will love and serve them, and I’m no longer loving and serving them to earn their love and approval. Because of Jesus, Christian people, ‘ought’ to lay down their lives in unconditional love for each other.
Eugene Hor - Lead English Pastor