Ernest Gordon was a Scottish soldier who was captured by the Japanese and placed in a POW labor camp. In every sense of the word, the camp was a nightmare. Plagued by tropical diseases, malnutrition and regular torture, the prisoners resorted to a hardened, every-man-for-himself existence. After a difficult bout of illness and severe torture, Gordon was sent to the death ward. There he met Dusty Miller and Dinty Moore, two men of faith who took personal responsibility for Gordon’s health. They applied and changed bandages, cleansed wounds and massaged his legs back to health. Through their care, Gordon regained his health and became a man of faith himself. He took on the role of unofficial camp chaplain, leading outdoor church services, adult education classes and forming an orchestra and theatre group. Because of the sacrificial love Christ-followers a brilliant new culture was born in the midst of a terrible darkness. In those death ward moments of active love, the horizontal, earthly plane met a vertical and supernatural one. The results were life-changing.
What led those two men to care so diligently for Ernest Gordon? I suppose it has something to do with the teaching of Christ in John 15.
This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.
In these words we see 3 principles related to love.
- The unescapable necessity of love.
- A living example of love.
- The ultimate nature of love.
First we see the inescapable necessity of love. John 15:12 isn’t exactly a teaching is it? The words are stronger than that. “This is my commandment.”
The Jesus presented to us in the gospels is not simply a good moral teacher. He issues commands and expects obedience. This is how it works with Jesus. If you are thinking about following Jesus, this is the first thing you should know. The NT does not present for us a moral philosopher offering teachings to be considered alongside other teachings.
The NT presents Jesus as the great King of all Kings who issues commands and expects obedience.
This makes sense, doesn’t it? If Jesus is who he said he is – if he is the eternal son of God, through whom the universe was made, who has power over the spiritual and physical worlds, who has power over life and death – wouldn’t you expect to come into the relationship as a junior partner?
This is how it works with Jesus. To begin to follow Jesus is to reorient your entire life, to make way for a decision maker outside of yourself, to become a Christians is to make your life available to the one true king, ready to follow orders and carry out his plans. This is not easy, but can you think of anything more exciting, than to tag along with the king of kings to be a part of his plans unfolding in the world?
Christians, how are we doing? Are you on your knees in the morning with your Bible, ready to say “Yes, Lord.”?
If we are honest, aren’t our own lives sometimes the greatest source of confusion to a watching world who hears us say Jesus is Lord with our mouths and yet live as walking contradictions to the commands of Jesus with our lives?
Don’t we too easily drift into a life of independence and autonomy, oblivious to the will of the king?
As we come before His Word Sunday after Sunday, in our hearts we remember to bow down before our king.
Is your knee bent this morning? Are you ready to receive his commandment?
What is his commandment?
Love one another.
I love this. I love how the gospels lay down the hammer – Jesus is king, his Word it the last Word and he demands your obedience. And then the gospels follow that with this – the king in all of his unyielding might and authority utters this commandment – love one another.
The God who rightly and justly looks down on us with the expectation of total obedience, who will judge our lives – his one great command to us is love one another. Here we are bowing our knees before the king, ready for his command. This is what he commands you this morning friends, love one another. Look down the pew, look around. Now listen to the voice of The Lord, “Love one another.”
How are we to love one another?
When it is convenient? When we have some spare time? When we get something in return?
We are to love as he loved us. As a man laying down his life for his friends.
The cross was a deeply personal moment for those who followed Jesus. Later the disciples would picture Jesus hanging in agony on the cross and hear his voice, “a man lays down his life for his friends.” Do you see how deeply personal this is?
I lay down my life for John. I lay down my life for Mary. I lay down my life for my friend Peter.
Love one another. I believe the disciples heard this on repeat all day long. Love one another. Peter and John are walking into the temple for a prayer meeting and a man begging stops them to ask for money, Peter hears Jesus – “love one another”, stops what he is doing and gives what he has to give to the man. Barnabas is walking into church and sees a desperately poor family devouring food during the meal, hears Jesus – “love one another” and sells a piece of property to alleviate the pressure on the family.
Friends, these words, this love has power to change lives.
Years ago I saw this and it turned my life upside down.
I saw it again and again in the church I started attending. A college student named Mike showed up to church and was invited to a small group. He had transferred in that year from Florida and didn’t know anyone yet. The group welcomed Mikey in like a long lost brother. Before long Mikey broke down in a group meeting and shared his struggles with alcohol and drugs. He was an addict. That night every guy on that small group swore off alcohol (which was no small thing for this group who very much enjoyed the booming new craft beer scene in northern Colorado). They committed to pray daily for Mikey and in that environment of love, he got his feet on the ground and to this day is sober.
So what can we do this week in obedience to the King’s commandment?
Here are 5 ways to love your friends:
There aren’t many words I like to hear more than, I am praying for you Tom. It’s an enormous comfort and I take it very personally and gratefully when I know that someone is thinking about me and talking about me when they are alone with the Lord.
always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.
We all need encouragement, don’t we? Everyone is fighting a battle. Everyone of us is battling the inner voices of shame and doubt and anxiety. How powerful and how easy is a simple word of kindness to a friend.
Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.
1 Thessalonians 5:11
The accuser of the brethren is constantly at work in each of our hearts. We know too well our sins and the harm we have caused. What a healing power there is in the words “I forgive you.”
Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.
We often think of praising or complimenting someone as the greatest verbal expression of love. But I’m not sure it is. The people that love me the most have the highest expectations of me. They believe in me the most and they are the ones who will kick me in the pants when I need it.
And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works.
What should we share? What people need. Share your time. Share your wisdom. Share your joy. Share your suffering so that your friends know they aren’t alone in their suffering. Share the comfort you have received through your suffering so they know they aren’t trapped in their suffering.
Share with the Lord’s people who are in need.
Is there someone you have a hard time loving right now? Someone you know you should love but you just won’t? Resolve right now. How are you going to call Jesus Lord and not do what he says?
I want to say a word about Community Groups. Community Groups are one of the most important parts of life at Vintage.
A lot of you who are in our groups have had some down time this summer. As our groups pick back up, can I challenge you to dive in this month?
Make a commitment to be there.
Don’t just show up. Show up ready to work, ready to love.
But what if it’s hard?
It is hard sometimes, isn’t it. Some people are hard to love. Some seasons of our lives make it hard to love. How do we do it?
By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.
1 John 3:16
In this we have come to know by experience the aforementioned love – says Greek translator Kenneth Wuest. This experience is the fuel that feeds our love.
If you find it difficult to fulfill your duty before Christ because someone is undeserving of love, remember for a moment your own position. Remember your failings and your flaws and see Christ on the cross, “I lay down my life for you, friend.” Remember how deserving you were and remember how much it cost him to love you.
Can you imagine what the world would look like, if every knee was bowed to the Lord in obedience to this command? Can you imagine a world in which people work and fight to practice this kind of love?
Wouldn’t you like to do some small part to make that a reality?
Tom Brown is the planting pastor of Vintage Faith Church in Wichita. Tom and his wife, Mandy, have worked together in ministry for 18 years and have four children. More about Pastor Tom Brown