Sunday Night Live Sermons
WHAT YOU NEED MOST OF ALL
30th November 2003
I was walking down Pitt Street Mall when a young man's T-shirt caught my eye. In large letters it read: "If you really love something, set it free." That made me feel good. But there were smaller letters underneath, and in the moment of reading as a person passes you, I realised the full statement read: "If you really love something, set it free. If it doesn't come back, hunt it down and kill it!" This week four young men were found guilty of violent pack rape of young women, and two other young women are missing with only articles of clothing left behind, I shuddered for a generation that confused love with lust, violence and cruelty.
In tennis, love means nothing, but in Christianity love means everything! Our greatest need is to learn how to love. People seek security, possessions, status, wealth, fame, all in order to buy love. People try to gain love, achieve love, possess love, people are on a desperate search for love. Sexual and romantic love are used by advertisers to persuade people that purchasing the product can obtain love. We indulge ourselves in acquiring possessions in the hope they will enable us to be loved. We indulge ourselves in alcohol, sexual fantasies, video-dreams, and credit-card debt trying to satisfy our desire to be loved. Prof. Eric Fromm says: "Man's happiness today consists of 'Having Fun'…the world is one big object for our appetite, a big apple, a big bottle, a big breast…we are the suckers, the eternally expectant ones, the hopeful ones, and the eternally disappointed ones." Ours is a world that sees millions dying of starvation at the same time as we live with the greatest affluence, and there is no hope for the dying except through the love of the affluent.
We live in the age of greatest scientific technology and at a time of nuclear extinction for without love for our neighbour man has no hope. The reality of the future is that man cannot exist without love. As the poet W.H. Auden said: "Hunger allows no choice, we must love one another or die!" The only thing to survive will be our love. We will find the true meaning to life if we can discover how to love. Yet in our sophisticated, scientific, secular world, we do not trust such a simple solution. Our lives seem too complex for such a basic human response. In a hard, cruel world we expect only hard, cruel answers. Yet the most sophisticated of our ways have brought us only nearer our destruction. John Lennon and Paul McCartney were closer to the truth when they sang "All you need is love".
In the sensual pleasure-mad city of Corinth, the Apostle Paul taught our need was love. To the hard commercial city of Ephesus, Paul wrote our need was love. We still need to learn how to love. Paul's emphasis upon love runs throughout his letter to the Ephesians. As he outlines how we need live the Christian Lifestyle, so he constantly returns to love as the root of the Faith, and the fruit of our Faith. In every chapter he speaks about Christian love:
1:4-5 Because of His love God had already decided that through Jesus Christ He would make us His children. 2 4-6 But God's love for us is so great, that while we were spiritually dead in our disobedience He brought us to life with Christ. He did this to demonstrate for all time to come the extraordinary greatness of His grace in the love He showed us in Christ Jesus. 3:17-19 I pray that you may have your roots and foundation in love.
So that you, together with all God's people, may have the power to understand how broad and long, how high and deep, is Christ's love. Yes, may you come to know his love-although it can never be fully known-and so be completely filled with the very nature of God. 4:2 Show your love by being tolerant with one another. 4:15-16 By speaking the truth in a spirit of love, we must grow up in every way to Christ, who is the head. So when each separate part works as it should, the whole body grows and builds itself up through love. 5:1-2 Your life must be controlled by love, just as Christ loved us and gave his life for us as a sweet-smelling offering and sacrifice that pleases God. 5:25-28 Husbands, love your wives just as Christ loved the church and gave his life for it. Men ought to love their wives just as they love their own bodies. A man who loves his wife loves himself. 6:23-24 May God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ give to all Christians peace and love with faith. May God's grace be with all those who love our Lord Jesus Christ with undying love." Such is Paul's emphasis upon what we need most of all.
1. WHAT THE WORLD NEEDS NOW IS LOVE.
Burt Bacharach taught us to sing it, but Jesus showed us how we need to practise it. The world's search for love is documented in a never ending series of books, romantic novels, TV soap operas; movie heart-throbs and every other artificial substitute for real love with a real person. Teenagers anguish more over the discovery of true love than any other matter. Adults in mid-life are led to make more foolish mistakes with their families, careers and public image over a desire to know they are loved than any other action they may take.
Senior Citizens worry about whether their family still loves them. Psychiatrists agree: Dr Karl Menninger: "Love is the medicine for the sickness of the world." Dr Carl Rogers: "We can train in our University psychotherapists who have "love" but without love, no amount of training can make a man or a woman effective." Dr Alfred Adler: "All human failures are the result of a lack of love". Dr Sigmund Freud: "Mental and emotional health is the capacity to work and to love." Dr Viktor Frankel: "A thought transfixed me: for the first time in my life I saw the truth as it is set into song by so many poets, proclaimed as the final wisdom by so many thinkers. The truth that love is the ultimate and highest goal to which a man can aspire. Then I grasped the meaning of the greatest secret that human poetry and thought and belief have to impart: the salvation of man is through love and in love".
The Apostle Paul told the Corinthians the world does not need more eloquence: "I may be able to speak the languages of human beings and even of angels, but if I have no love, my speech is no more than a noisy gong or a clanging bell." 1 Corinthians 13:1-3 for where there is love even the silence can be eloquent. The world does not need more education: "I may have all knowledge and understand all secrets; I may have all the faith needed to move mountains-but if I have no love, I am nothing." The Japanese have the highest rates of education and also the highest rate of suicide in the world. The world does not need more endowments: "I may give away everything I have, and even give up my body to be burned if I have no love, this does me no good." For no gift is valued unless it comes gift-wrapped in love.
What the world needs now is love! People do not become fully alive without love. Without love, living is just existing. Once a pretty girl felt pity for a cold frog croaking on a lily pad. She picked up the frog and kissed it! The frog went ZAP! And turned into a charming prince. That is no mere fairy tale. It has great psychological insight! Many of us need the kiss of life to turn us from cold existence to real living. Jesus comes into a life, loves the person, and cold frogs become princes! That conversion occurs daily when a person discovers that they are loved! Love transforms existence to living.
2. EACH OF US MUST LEARN HOW TO LOVE.
Loving a person does not depend upon their qualities, or appearance or intelligence or personality, but upon yours. We do not love because a person is pretty, nice, intelligent, sexy for you can even love them if none of these apply. You can even love the ugly, stupid, cruel, beastly enemy! False love says: "I will love you if you do…" "I will love you because you…" "I will love you when…" But true love says: "I will love you in spite of what you…" God doesn't love us: if… because … when … but "anyway!"
To learn to love requires these qualities within you:
YOU MUST BE LOVABLE. You learn to love by loving. You must show the characteristics of love in your lives. Your deeds and words must be sincere and caring.
YOU MUST BE OBTAINABLE. Some people are remote, distant, frigid to touch, afraid of personal contact. You must be obtainable if you are to be loved. If you remain aloof, you will never accepted as you are.
YOU MUST BE VULNERABLE. That is the difference between lust and love: one gets the other gives; lust controls but love yields; love involves a willingness to be hurt, lust desires to hurt. Jesus is the great example for out of His love He died for us and as a result millions of people have loved him ever since. He was as vulnerable as a lamb before its shearers. Being vulnerable allows the risk of being hurt. But unless you risk you will never trust and so never be loved.
YOU MUST BE ENJOYABLE. To love means to give out of a sense of joy, openness, grace. "Love gives gladly". You enjoy what you do and what you share and love is the by-product of your enjoyment in helping others, not the end goal. If you seek love you may never find it, but if you are enjoyable, people will love you.
YOU MUST BE DEPENDABLE. When the people you care for can depend upon you, you become reliable, faithful. Nothing breaks a relationship so questly as a person who become unreliable, undependable. God love is utterly dependable. Romans 8:35-39. "Who, then, can separate us from the love of Christ? Can trouble do it, or hardship or persecution or hunger or poverty or danger or death? For I am certain that nothing can separate us from his love: there is nothing in all creation that will ever be able to separate us from the love of God which is ours through Christ Jesus our Lord."
Paul speaks about grace, mercy and peace, faith hope and love but the greatest of them all is love! Ultimately love cannot be learnt. Love is not taught but caught! When we learn to be Lovable, Obtainable, Vulnerable, Enjoyable, Dependable, we are able to be LOVED. When we know we are loved then we can love in turn.
Some people cannot understand why God can so love us, yet expect us to repent from our sin and turn to Him. That is because they do not understand that true love has accountability in it. You are loved in spite of what you are like. Because you are loved others who love you expect you to turn from hurt: People said to John Wesley: "If you loved us you wouldn't judge us." John Wesley replied: "It is precisely because I love you I call you to repent from your sins and turn to God and align yourself with His will." True love starts with our turning in response to others and so also to God.
Dr Martin Luther King, was asked by his six year old daughter why he had to go to jail so often. He explained about the struggle to overcome racial prejudice, and how their weapons were based upon love, even for their enemies. But his daughter asked why love their enemies? And Dr Martin Luther King replied: "Why should we love our enemies? Because returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already void of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. Hate scars the soul and destroys personality. Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into a friend."
That is what the love of God does for us when we learn that Jesus loved us and died for us. God shows his love for us in that while we were sinners Christ died for us. We are loved! That enables us to love in return. That love transforms us from enemies to friends, and enables us to love other as God has loved us. This is why love is what you need most of all. Receive the love God has for you by accepting His son Jesus.
- Prof. Eric Fromm: 'The Art of Loving' Bantam
- Dr Viktor Frankel: "Man's Search For Meaning".
- "Unconditional Love" John Powell p 90.