Love, The Greatest Gift

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.  By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”  John 13:34-35

This coming week, we will be celebrating Thanksgiving.  We all know what this day is about, giving thanks to God for all the gifts and blessing He has given us.  There is so much for us to be thankful for; our jobs, family, friends, the things we have, etc.  However, I would like to spend a few moments talking about probably the greatest gift we have ever received.

First of all, lets look at the love God has given us. We were dead in our sins and deserved damnation.  Remember, God requires perfection in order to enter the Kingdom of God.  The first sin we commit eliminates our ability to enter into eternal life with God.  However, God provided a way for us through the death, burial and resurrection of the only perfect man, Jesus the Christ.  And because of the love of God toward us, He will gladly attribute the righteousness of Christ to us if we make Christ Lord over us and believe in our heart God has raised Him from the dead (paraphrase of Rom 10:9.)   This is the love God has for us.

Because we as Christians received God’s love to us which is incredible beyond words, we have received the ability to give love.  We speak so much about the love we receive, however, we cannot receive if someone else does not give.  This is a basic law.   Therefore, I offer the following question.  If we say we have received the love of God, how can we not love everyone here?  Our object verse above makes this so clear.  God has commanded us to love one another as Christ loved us.  So, we are commanded to love all our brothers and sisters in Christ.  How many of us love all our brothers and sisters all over the world?  How many of us love only the ones we are acquainted with?  How many of us struggle with loving some of the ones we know?

But what of those who are not in the body of Christ?  We are to show them love as well.  Let us look at a passagewhich show this.  “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,  so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” Mat 5:43-45  There is not much room here.  We are to love those who do not love us.  And our enemies are those who are not in the kingdom.  We can infer this because Christ would never call another Christian an enemy.  This is dichotomous to the idea of Christian.  True Christians will never be an enemy to another person, especially to someone else in the faith.

So, now that we see that we are to love everyone, lets talk about ways we can share the love of God.  First, if you see any one in need, do what you can to meet that need.  We spend so much on ourselves, we could easily give to those in need.  How about skipping eating out every now and then and giving that money to someone who is struggling, or to a charity that helps those who are less fortunate?  Paul said the following, “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.” Php 2:3  Too many people give only out of their abundance.  We need to give sacrificially.  Remember the parable of the widow’s mite?  She was only able to give basically a penny, while others were giving hand fulls of money, yet Jesus said “Truly, I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them.  For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.”  Luk 21:3-4  The more we give sacrificially, the more we give in the eyes of God.  The amount is not what is important, the sacrifice is.

Second,  if we see someone who is down, we should do all we can to cheer them up.  Do not leave them in this state if we can do something about it.  Would we want anything less?  Remember, ““So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.”  Mat 7:12  If you would want to be comforted, comfort others.  If you would want to be treated with respect, respect others.  If you do not want to be gossiped about, do not gossip.  If you want to be included in activities, include others.  This verse covers a multitude of issues.  But it is quite simple.  Do not do anything to anyone else you would not want done to you.  And if you want something done for you, do it for others.

There are many in this world who are trapped in slavery.  They are mistreated and abused.  They have absolutely no freedom at all, and are forced to work upwards of 18 hours a day, 365 days a year.  Many are forced to be sex slaves and moved from location to location.  How demeaning.  They have no hope of freedom and escape from the atrocious others have imposed on them.  Also there are many whom the world has rejected, and are crying for someone who will give them some semblance of acceptance.  As far as the world is concerned, they are expendable.  It reminds of the line from Dickens “A Christmas Carol” where Scrooge says, “Are there no prisons  And the Union Workhouses, are they still in operation?”  To which the men collecting for the poor said, “Many would rather die than go there.”  And Scrooge, in one of the most famous lines in the story replies, “If they’d rather die, then they had better do it and decrease the surplus population. Good night, gentlemen.”  And if you think that was simply a line from a book, think again.  I was listening to a famous talk show host who said on a trip to Hawaii that he was tired of having to step over all these homeless people, and wished they would just be hauled away.  How disgusting of him to say that.  We must help them feel wanted and accepted, that they are loved.  Not merely surplus population.

There are many in this world who are suffering for the cause of Christ. Pastor Saeed Abedini is just one of many throughout the world.  We must pray at least daily for those who suffer for Christ.  They need our strength and support.  I have heard that those under attack for their faith pray for us.  They pray that we, in America, will become serious about our relationship with Christ.  They have to be, because they are constantly persecuted.  They pray that we will become more devoted to Christ and His teachings.  They truly need our prayers.  We cannot put them out of our mind.  If we do, where is the love?

I would imagine that many of you reading this are asking, “How does this relate to Thanksgiving?”  Very simple.  If we are thankful for the love that God has shown us and we have accepted when we were lost without any hope of entering the Kingdom of God, a love that provided a way through the blood of Christ, how can we not show this same love to others?   If we truly love everyone, how can we not have compassion for those less fortunate than ourselves?  Now, I am not saying we have the capacity to help everyone, no one does.  However, we have the ability to help some.  It may mean sacrificing some of our comforts and likes.  Maybe, less trips to Starbucks.  Eating out a couple times less a month.  Giving up getting that new car or house.  Do we really need these things?  No!  But the money we save would go a long way in helping those in need.  Maybe we give up an evening at home and work in a soup kitchen.  Maybe we visit those who are lonely and rejected, giving them a time to feel they are wanted and accepted.  Maybe it is working with organizations that help those stuck in slavery or the persecuted Church around the world.  If we are truly thankful to God for all He has done for us, many times through the sacrifice of others, then we should want to return that sacrifice and show others the same love we were shown.  Remember, God loves all these people, and has chosen to use us, the body of Christ to do His work, either corporately or individually.  He calls us to yield to Him in all things, willing to sacrifice all for Him.  There is no better way to show our gratitude and thankfulness to Him for all He has done.  This is true thanksgiving, and what the Thanksgiving holiday is all about.

Happy Thanksgiving to you all, and may you remember and always be grateful for the love and care shown to you and be desiring of returning this love and grace to others as well.

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