LOVING GOD: A HORIZONTAL RELATIONSHIP
Hating someone is hard work. In fact, it involves a lot of hard work. Many of you may
disagree with that statement. Many of you may feel that hating someone is very easy, and that
hating takes much, much less energy and effort than loving. I think I can demonstrate that is not
at all the case. The fact is that when we hate we invest so much in the powerful emotions and
feelings of hate that we are not aware of how hard we are working to hold and sustain the hate.
To hate someone, several things are absolutely essential. First, you must react to an act, a
circumstance, or an event with your total being. Hate is one of the few things in life that requires
you to react with your total being. You can't hate half-heartedly. You can't be indifferent and
hate. You can't be serious but uncommitted and hate. Hate demands the whole mind, the all of
one's emotions, one's complete interest and concern, and one's total commitment--without those
things you simply cannot hate. It is truly a whole person investment.
Second, the person who is the object of our hatred must dominate every other
consideration in life. You can't just hate them when you are in the he mood to, or hate them
when you have time to think about it, or hate them when it is convenient. You have to hate them
full time. No matter what you are doing, no matter who else is present, if the person you hate
appears, you must call up your hatred, focus it on them, and let the number one thing you feel and
think about be how you totally despise him or her.
Third, if you hate someone, you have got to keep a very careful record of all the reasons
you have for hating them; you must remember every bad thing you perceive that they have done
to you; you must memorize every incident, every sight, every injustice perfectly and keep it
clearly in your mind. Then, when you see them, you have to let your mind run through all those
things again to keep the hate fresh and alive.
Fourth, hate demands that it occupy the number one priority in your thoughts and in your
emotions. Hate demands in every situation that it dictate how you will act if the person you hate
is present. Hate demands that you find a way in every circumstance to communicate at least non-verbally to that person that the hate is still alive.
Finally, hate demands that you nurture it, cultivate it, and expand its existence in every
That is a lot of work! In fact, that is more work than it takes to love someone.
This morning we continue our study of understanding what it means to love God. If we
love God, we must love fellow Christians. Last week we examined what John wrote about the
essentiality of a Christian loving his Christian brother and sister. This morning we are going to
consider what Paul wrote about loving our Christian brother and sister.
- We cannot get the full meaning and force of Paul's statements concerning our responsibility to love each other as Christians unless we have an understanding
of the context of the passages.
- When he said it, to whom he said it, and what the situation was when he said it is as important as what he said.
- That is always the case--even today.
- Consider: an acquaintance walks up to you and says, "Do you know what I heard your best friend say? Your best friend said..."
And makes a very serious statement about you.
- How will you respond to this acquaintance's report? It is very probable that you will respond with these questions.
- "When did he say that?"
- "To whom was he talking?"
- "Where was he when he said that?"
- "When did he say that--what was going on?"
- If your questions are answered and you find out that he was at a party clowning around with a group of your good friends, the
statement suddenly means nothing.
- If you find out he was being questioned by your employer when he made the statement, it suddenly becomes a very serious matter.
- Paul's statements about the importance of Christians loving Christians takes on a much higher level of significance and seriousness
when you take a look at the people to whom he was writing and
their situation and problems.
- The most comprehensive statement about Christian love for Christians is made
by Paul to the Christians at Corinth.
- The church at Corinth was among the most troubled, sin plagued congregations in the first century.
- Their foundation problem was congregational division, a division which
expressed itself in many, many ways.
- First, they were divided over preachers (chapter 1).
- There were four different groups in the congregation who were rivals because they were loyal to four different preachers.
- That situation created real contention.
- Second, it was philosophically divided (chapter 2).
- Some of the Christians, probably gentile converts, were strongly opposed to preaching about the
- They wanted Greek wisdom to be preached because the people would find Greek wisdom much more
attractive than they would the disgraceful idea of
- Third, the congregation was plagued with spiritually ignorant, immature members (chapter 3).
- Their knowledge and understanding was so poor that Paul could not even teach them the lessons they
needed to hear.
- They were incapable of understanding what they needed to know.
- The depth of the congregation's division was manifested in several terrible ways.
- A Christian man had taken and was living with his stepmother in open fornication (chapter 5).
- Relationships in the congregation were so terrible that everybody totally ignored the situation.
- They were so foolishly proud that they acted like the problem did not exist.
- When two members had any kind of serious disagreement, they sued each other in pagan courts (chapter 6).
- Two persons who were supposed to be alive in Christ living as brothers went to a pagan judge who
did not even believe in the living God to have him settle
- They were totally destroying the credibility of the congregation in the eyes of the community.
- Sexual sin was a serious problem in the congregation.
- In addition to those problems:
- There was serious confusion about marriage (chapter 7).
- There was a heated debate about the appropriateness of eating foods which had been
sacrificed to idols (chapter 8).
- Some in the congregation denied Paul was an apostle and rejected his teachings (chapter
- Some of the members worshiped with both Christians and pagans. (Chapter 10)
- They were so grossly abusing the partaking of the Lord's Supper that it was literally
spiritually killing many of them (chapter 11).
- There was a group teaching that there was no resurrection from the dead (chapter 15).
- No Christian would have chosen to live in Corinth because of the wonderful congregation there--it was terrible.
- Perhaps the greatest illustration of how terrible and how deep all these problems were is what they did with the spiritual gifts they had
received through the power of the Holy Spirit.
- Paul tells them very plainly in chapter 12 that every one of those
gifts was given to bless the whole congregation and enable it to
exist in unity as a single body.
- However, in chapter 14, he documents that each Christian used the gifts selfishly in an attempt to prove his own
- The situation was so bad that they were openly competing with each other in worship, speaking at the same time trying to
get personal control of the worship service.
- It was utter confusion, a total disgrace to God and Christ.
- If this whole mess was going to be straightened out, where would you start? What would you do?
- Hopefully you would do what Paul did.
- First, he re-educated them, on the importance of Christ and the crucifixion.
- Second, he demanded that they understand that continuing to live in sin excluded the deliberate
sinner from heaven.
- Third, he said that they had to love each other.
- I Corinthians 13 is a powerful statement on the absolute, unmistakable importance of a Christian loving a
Christian. To encourage you to hear it with "fresh ears", let me
read it to you from the NIV. (Read)
- Remember all the division, all the problems, all the troubles, all the abuse in that congregation.
- First, Paul says if you possess every single spiritual gift the Holy Spirit can give, and you use every one
of those gifts, but you do not have love for your
fellow Christian, all those gifts will not bring you one
- If you make every sacrifice possible, including dying and giving your body as a burnt offering to God,
if there is no love for your brother, those sacrifices will
not benefit you.
- If you love your brother and sister in Christ, here is what you will do:
- You will be patient with the weak, ignorant, and
- You will be kind to all Christians.
- You will not be jealous, you will not brag, and
you will not be conceited.
- You will not be rude or selfish.
- You will refuse to take offense--you will not let
your brother or sister easily drive you to anger.
- You will not keep a record of ways in which you
have been wronged.
- You will find no pleasure in the existence of
evil in your brother or sister's life; you will find
in the existence of truth.
- This love will constantly move you to protect,
trust, hope, and endure.
- You will seek this real love for your brother and sister because it is the most valuable, important
spiritual quality on earth.
- It is eternal--it will keep on existing in heaven.
- Spiritual gifts, knowledge--even faith and hope--are not eternal. Only love is
- The three most important spiritual responsibilities you have as a Christian are bound up in a living
faith, a living hope, and a living love--but the greatest
of them is the living love--and in context he is talking
about a living love for your brothers and sisters in
- Now I ask you as you examine the context of that congregation and all its problems, just how important is a Christian
loving a Christian?
- Paul also makes some very powerful statements to the church at Rome about Christians' love for Christians.
- When Paul wrote the church at Rome, he had never visited that city nor that congregation.
- He would later visit it when he was taken as a prisoner to be tried at the imperial court.
- However, he had known and been very close friends of two Christians who had been members of that congregation--Aquila and Priscilla.
- In 49 AD The emperor Claudius expelled all Jews from the city of Rome.
- Secular Roman history records that the Jews were in conflict over one named Chrestus, which well could have been
- At this early date for Christianity, the world had not yet distinguished between Jews and Christians, for at that
time many of the Christians were Jews.
- The church in Rome was already in existence, so when the Jews were forced to leave Rome, that left the congregation
- Gentile Christians had to take over all the leadership and all the teaching in the congregation.
- Jews were not permitted to return to Rome until Claudius died in 54 AD
- So for five years the Gentile Christians managed quite well without the Jewish Christians.
- When the Jewish Christians began returning in 54 AD, the Gentile Christians did not feel any need for them to take positions of leadership or of teaching.
- The Jewish Christians thought that the congregation needed the benefit of their knowledge and
- The Gentile Christians thought that the congregation could mange just fine without it.
- What seems to have resulted is a power struggle in the congregation with the Jews and Gentiles trying to prove
their spiritual superiority.
- The common Jew-Gentile resentments were powerful.
- It was not an atmosphere of love.
- The first 11 chapters of Romans declare there is no spiritual superiority or inferiority in the church; there are not first-class and second class Christians.
- Every Christian was saved in exactly the same way--by entering Jesus Christ and receiving God's grace.
- The Jews needed that salvation just as much as the Gentiles did.
- Neither one of them had the right to be arrogant.
- Chapters 12 through 16 are practical admonitions--if they understand every one of them is 100% dependent on Christ for salvation, and if they understand their salvation, they
will live and conduct their lives in a specific manner.
- Now listen carefully to what he says about the importance of a Christian loving a Christian.
- 12:9,10--Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good. In love of the
brethren, be tenderly affectioned one toward another; in
honor; preferring one another.
- I can guarantee you that is not what had been happening.
- Between Jew and Gentile, what love seemed to exist was a matter of appearance only.
- When necessary, they faked it.
- There had been little tender affection between Jewish and Gentile Christians.
- They had not loved each other as brothers.
- They had not held each other in profound respect.
- Paul did not suggest these things--he commanded them.
- 13:8--Owe no man anything, save to love one another: for he that loveth his neighbor hath fulfilled the law.
- Listen to other translations to get the full force of what Paul is instructing.
- TEV--Be in debt to no one--the only debt you should have is to love one another. Whoever loves his fellowman has obeyed the Law.
- NIV--Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who
loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law.
- JB--Avoid getting into debt, except the debt of mutual love. If you love your fellow man you have
carried out your obligations.
- No Christian ever escapes the indebtedness to love another Christian.
- 13:10--Love works no ill to his neighbor; love therefore is the fulfillment of the law.
- TEV--Whoever loves his fellow man will never do him wrong.
- NIV--Love does no harm to its neighbor.
- JB--Love is the one thing that cannot hurt your neighbor.
- Love bans hurtful treatment.
- Then immediately in chapter 14 Paul made application of this responsibility to love brothers with tender affection
doing them no harm.
- He does it by addressing the major contention between Jewish Christians and Gentile Christians--what is
it proper and improper to eat.
- Rule 1--you are to welcome a weak brother into your fellowship without passing judgment on him,
- The Gentile Christian who eats meat is not to look down on or despise the Jewish Christian who
- The Jewish Christian who does not eat meat is not to pass judgment on or condemn the Gentile
Christian who does.
- They are not to pass judgment on each other in regard to the holy days each does or does not keep.
- Both of them are following their consciences in expressing their faith in God.
- Neither one of them has any business passing judgment on the other's conscience.
- This is the specific application of being tenderly affectioned toward each other, of working no ill
to their neighbor.
- Because they are to love each other, they are not to pass judgment on each other in such matters,
and they are to be very conscientious in not
becoming a stumbling block to one another.
- Paul was very emphatic about the fact that Christians do not spiritually destroy one another--that is a
very practical application of love.
- Paul also had a forceful emphasis on love in the epistle to the Ephesians.
- Chapter 2 makes it quite clear that the church at Ephesus needed to remember that God had rescued Gentile Christians from spiritual
death by his grace.
- If God valued the Gentile that much, they needed to end the existing prejudice between Jew and Gentile within the congregation.
- They needed to understand that the cross of Jesus created peace between Jew and Gentile converts.
- Both Jew and Gentile Christians needed to end the arrogance and the bad attitudes.
- To these Christians Paul wrote:
- Ephesians 4:28--Let him that stole steal no more; but rather let him labor, working with his hands the thing that is good,
that he may have whereof to give to him that had need.
- Paraphrased--Cease your old pagan ways and work to take care of yourself and to be able to help your
brother in need.
- Ephesians 4:32,33--Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamor, and railing, be put away from you, with all malice; and be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving each other, even as God also in Christ forgave you.
- Paraphrased--destroy all the attitudes and emotions of hate, and replace them with all the attitudes and emotions of love.
- Ephesians 5:1,2--Be ye therefore imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love, even as Christ also loved you,
and gave himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God
for an odor of a sweet smell.
- The old way of selfish living must end, and the new way of helpfulness must begin, the old attitudes of hate must be replaced with the new attitudes of love because
they are God's children who are committed to imitating God by
walking in love, using Christ as their example of love.
Just as did John, Paul makes it quite clear that the Christian who loves God must love his
Christian brother and sister. Paul gets down to specific applications. Certainly, if I love God I
must love God's other children. But if God's other children love God, they must love me, too.
As long as they treat me with love and respect, no problem.
But what about those who are not loving me like I am supposed to love them? What
about the weak who "won't get their spiritual act together?" Those who wrong me or treat me
unjustly? Those whose actions are governed by prejudice? Those who still have a lot of the old
sinner in them? Those who are a pain in the neck to the congregation because of all their bad
attitudes and bad outlooks?
Paul says your contribution to the whole family of God begins with love. You are
responsible to even love those Christians. Why? Because God loves them, and Christ love them.
Again you say that is not natural! Again, I agree--it is not natural. It is godly. And that
which is godly is rarely natural by this world's definition.
transcribed by Christy Hesslen
EXALTING CHRIST, Chapter Eight
Chapter Seven Chapter Nine
table of contents
Copyright © 1992, David Chadwell
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