Last week I was talking with a fellow Dad at football practice. This Dad has been through a lot in the last few months and the conversation gradually became a frustrated complaint against the situations and people in his life. As he finished, he referred to the words of Jesus about love growing cold in the end times and said, “I guess that’s me.”
He’s not alone, is he? This morning I want to spend some time looking at those words of Jesus. They come from Matthew Chapter 24.
Because of the increase of wickedness, the love (agape) of most will grow cold, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.
Note first of all the supremacy of love.
Jesus might have said the faith of many will grow faint.
He might have said the holiness of many will be corrupted.
But he didn’t.
He said the love of most will grow cold.
The greater danger was the loss of love.
The priority of love is evident throughout the Scriptures.
It’s the center of all of the commandments of God.
Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”
It was the center of Jesus’ final conversation with the disciples on the night he was betrayed.
A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.
It is the center of the Biblical revelation of the character of God.
Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.
1 John 4:8
Love is the defining mark of true disciples of Christ.
By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.
We see in the moving chapter of Paul’s in Corinthians that the great summits of human experience, faith and hope are in the end eclipsed by the peak of love.
And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
1 Corinthians 13:13
The priority of love is evident throughout the Scriptures.
The necessity of love is evident in our human experience. Love is woven into every strand in the universe.
“For small creatures such as we, the vastness is bearable only through love.” – Carl Sagan
“Where there is love, there is life.” -Ghandi
“Affection is responsible for nine-tenths of whatever solid and durable happiness there is in our lives.” -C.S. Lewis
“We are all born for love. It is the principle of existence, and its only end.” -Benjamin Disraeli
“Take away love and our earth is a tomb.” -Robert Browning
Now note the threat to love.
Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold. The Greek word translated “wickedness,” literally means lawlessness. It is a casting off of transcendent law for individual autonomy. Lawlessness is the cornerstone of our late modern, secular society.
Paul tells us in 2 Thessalonians that there is an unseen force in the world, a spirit of lawlessness that is steadily pushing into human societies.
For the secret power of lawlessness is already at work; but the one who now holds it back will continue to do so till he is taken out of the way.
2 Thessalonians 2:7 (NIV)
As lawlessness increases, love decreases. There are many reasons for this:
Because of the increase of fear, our hearts shrink back and love grows cold.
Because of the increase of disappointment and disillusionment our hearts detach from others.
Because of the increase of stupidity our hearts harden.
Because of the increase of conflict and tribalism, we build walls up in our hearts against one another.
It is dangerous to love in a lawless world.
“We are never so defenseless against suffering as when we love.”
The tragic experience of the end times will be a cooling of love. Matthew 24 asks a question of us this morning.
What’s the temperature of your heart these days?
How do you feel about your fellow Christians? Your church family?
How often do you remember each other’s needs and difficulties in your thoughts?
How often do you bring those challenges to our Father in prayer?
Are you loving your enemies? Those on the other side of the political divide? Those on the other side of the line on issues like race and viruses?
The good news is that Jesus did not tell us that the love of all will grow cold.
There is a perseverance of love.
The Spirit of Christ will be at work among his people, warming hearts and fanning the flames of love.
How do you keep your love warm?
Bring your small candle to the bonfire of God’s love.
We love because he first loved us.
1 John 4:19
But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
where the sin did abound, the grace did overabound,
The greatest happiness of life is the conviction that we are loved; loved for ourselves, or rather, loved in spite of ourselves. -Victor Hugo
You keep your love warm by staying close to its source.
And you keep your love with acts of love.
As C.S Lewis observe, it is easier to act your way into a feeling, than to feel your way into an action. Small acts of service in your home. Gifts of friendship in the workplace. Quality time with friends. Encouraging words to your neighbors. These small acts stoke the flames of love.
You can do nothing better this week than to resolve to fill your days with small acts of love.
Accustom yourself continually to make many acts of love, for they enkindle and melt the soul. -Teresa of Avila
A final word about love.
There are two types of love that are most difficult and the quickest to grow cold. If we can keep these two fires warm, our love will provide light and heat to the world.
These loves are love your enemies and love for the stranger who doesn’t yet know the love of Christ.
One of the greatest features of Christian history is the missionary impulse of the church. From the beginning, Christians have gone to great lengths and endured remarkable hardships in order to bring the message of God’s love to strangers who had no access to the gospel. Christians like Jim Elliot who lost his life in the attempt to make a connection with the Auca tribe of Ecuador and his wife Elizabeth who went back to the same people who killed her husband in order to finish the job.
When Christians loves the stranger who doesn’t know Christ, the fires at church glow warm.
The hardest love of all is love for the enemy. Jesus commanded his people to love their enemies. You won’t find that in any other religion or ethical system.
Who does that?
I want you to listen with me to a man who suffered tremendously and eventually gave his life in the effort to love his enemies. This is Martin Luther King Jr:
A second thing that an individual must do in seeking to love his enemy is to discover the element of good in his enemy, and every time you begin to hate that person and think of hating that person, realize that there is some good there and look at those good points which will over-balance the bad points. I’ve said to you on many occasions that each of us is something of a schizophrenic personality. We’re split up and divided against ourselves. And there is something of a civil war going on within all of our lives. There is a recalcitrant South of our soul revolting against the North of our soul. And there is this continual struggle within the very structure of every individual life. There is something within all of us that causes us to cry out with Ovid, the Latin poet, “I see and approve the better things of life, but the evil things I do.”4 There is something within all of us that causes us to cry out with Plato that the human personality is like a charioteer with two headstrong horses, each wanting to go in different directions.5 There is something within each of us that causes us to cry out with Goethe, “There is enough stuff in me to make both a gentleman and a rogue.” There is something within each of us that causes us to cry out with Apostle Paul: “I see and approve the better things of life, but the evil things I do.”
So somehow the “isness” of our present nature is out of harmony with the eternal “oughtness” that forever confronts us. And this simply means this: That within the best of us, there is some evil, and within the worst of us, there is some good. When we come to see this, we take a different attitude toward individuals. The person who hates you most has some good in him; even the nation that hates you most has some good in it; even the race that hates you most has some good in it. And when you come to the point that you look in the face of every man and see deep down within him what religion calls “the image of God,” you begin to love him in spite of. No matter what he does, you see God’s image there. There is an element of goodness that he can never slough off. Discover the element of good in your enemy. And as you seek to hate him, find the center of goodness and place your attention there and you will take a new attitude.
This teaching, this standard of the non-violent movement of the 60’s was an extraordinary moment in human history.
Friends, I pray that you hear the voice of Christ this morning. Don’t let your love grow cold.
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