By Verse : John 15:9-17 Topic :

May 6,18

LIVING RIGHT WITH GOD AND OTHERS

Many years ago, a song hit the nation and the world during 1965 called, “What the World Needs Now is Love Sweet Love. It’s the only thing we have so little of.” It was popular for many reasons. First because Burt Bacharach composed it. Second, Dionne Warwick made it a hit. Third, the words were what the world needed to hear, for the writer, Hal David, seemed to have a message from God which could reach millions through the world of music.

 The story behind that wonderful song is simple. The writer of the lyrics came up with the beginning lines one day going to see Burt Bacharach who he was working with. During those times he just couldn’t come up with the rest of the words. He just drew a blank. He was a Christian man, and just kept seeking help from God with this song. He said, “It was always the same thing. I needed something to compare it to and everything I thought about had nothing to do with the person I was talking to—God. I realized that I needed to write the antitheses- what we didn’t need. One day on the ride to New York, it came to me. (Isn’t it amazing when we are stuck, God intervenes, and his message gets through to us… finally.) The words that came to Hal David that day were, “Lord we don’t need another mountain, there are mountains and hillsides enough to climb. There are oceans and rivers enough to cross, enough to last till the end of time.” That was it.” He said, “I wrote about all of the things that had to do with nature and with what God gives us.” And so, the song had its birth, and it touched lots of lives. 

Maybe it ought to be brought back to these generations that are living today, because the message hasn’t changed. For what the world needs now is love, sweet love. It’s the only thing we have so little of.  And that seems to be a shame.

The world needed love then. It needs it today. There are lots of negative things in our world that we read and hear about. Struggles in the world, in our own country and all of that. Family difficulties. Hate and anger in many places. Tough times then, as well as today. 

Here we are in the year 2018, some 53 years later and that song still fits. “What the world needs now is love sweet love. It’s the only thing there is so little of.”

This morning John writes these words of advice for the world. If you want to live right with God, and you want to make an impact on others, and you want to be filled with joy, John writes Jesus’ recipe of hope, “I have loved you just as the Father has loved me. Remain in my love. If you keep my commandments you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Fathers commandments and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my own joy may be in you and your joy be complete. This is my commandment; love one another as I have loved you.”

 Listen to the voice of God. Better still, put his words of advice into practice. The words aren’t difficult…. Keep his commandments and love one another. Two simple thoughts that anyone can follow. We might say it this way, love God with all you got, and love your neighbors as well.

We might ask, what’s the difference between a Christian and a non-Christian? That’s a good question with many different answers. Non-Christians have a variety of beliefs, or no beliefs at all. Christians have strong belief in the Bible as the Word of God for salvation and for living the good life. We believe, and we trust in Jesus as our Savior.  Paul writes, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, correcting, and training in righteousness, so that the man of God might be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” Non-Christians often think of themselves rather than the world around them. It’s this ‘me thing.’ Christians are told to love one another, like even to love your enemies. Christians try and take care of the less fortunate and mission work isn’t just preaching the word to non-believers, but also taking care of the less fortunate. Non-believers, well that’s a different story. In fact, that is what John emphasizes in his gospel. We all know the Ten Commandments of God, “the golden rule” we often call them. If we lived them, we would be fine. They are full of love for God and for one another. Even though it seems there are those negative things, they really become positive. Don’t worship other Gods, worship the only true God. Don’t be envious of what others have, but enjoy what you have, and if you can, share things with others. Love and obey your parents. Don’t lie, tell the truth. Don’t take stuff that don’t belong to you. Work for it.

Love is a four-letter word that has so many uses in our society. We love certain types of food. We love a certain place for a vacation. We love what this person is wearing. Many of us share with others some kind of love. We say that to friends, as well as family. So, we use that four-letter word often, perhaps more than we realize. Over and over again we use that word in such a way that does it water it’s meaning? When a couple stands before the altar in a church and repeats their wedding vows of love, they are really giving themselves to each other. They are pledging themselves to each other till the end of their lives, not until someone better comes along. That’s what we do when we receive Christ. We pledge our love to the Master and his ministry.

I love to play golf. Carole loves to send cards. We love this church. We love being in ministry. We love each other. We love our kids and grandkids. But most importantly we love Jesus! And that makes the difference in our ministry toward others. We try our best to love one another as Christ has loved the church and has shown us through his life and death.

Think of it, God so loved the world he sent us his son. Jesus loved the world so much he died on the cross. With the way that mankind treats one another you’d think that God would perhaps change his mind, but he doesn’t. What he offers is to change the hearts of mankind. He offers to give the world new hearts full of his love so that we can love one another and treat each other fairly. Example can be found in 1 Corinthians when Paul corrects the people about the Lord’s Supper. It seems some neglected to share with others their food during fellowship. Paul says that’s not Christian love, that’s not showing love to everyone. In a former church it was said by one who experienced it that in the old days people of all races came to church and worked together doing things. But when it came to fellowship time, those of a different color had to eat in the furnace room, while all the others ate in fellowship hall. It was heartbreaking for me to hear. I couldn’t believe my ears. I knew it happened in the south years ago, but in Illinois? In a small city? IN A UNITED METHODSIT CHURCH? WOW!!! 

As Christians we have the obligation and the command to love each other. It doesn’t say love only those who agree with you. It doesn’t say love those who show love to you. No! It says love one another. And here is the kicker…. Love them with the love of Christ. Love them like Christ loves us. Love them into the kingdom. We can always return hate with hate. That’s how wars have started. That’s how relationships have been damaged. That’s how kids these days seem to grow up. We hear so much about bullying in school where the one being bullied takes his or her life. Acceptance is what is needed. Don’t ignore another team mate, or a classmate, or someone you work with. You see, we don’t push love. The world pushes take care of yourself. Love only until you get what you want from someone.

As Christians you will never hate someone into God’s kingdom. But we can love them into it. Isn’t that what Jesus did? From the cross Jesus’ last words in prayer weren’t “Father, wipe out this generation of haters who did this to me.” No! His final words were, “Father, forgive those who have done this to me.” That sounds like love to me. And let’s remember that when one thief sought forgiveness, Jesus didn’t say he would think about it. He didn’t say, well you’ve really cooked your own goose. No! He said, “Today, you will be with me in paradise.” That’s a good example of love as well…forgiveness.

Jesus modeled for the world what love looks like not only with his words, but with his actions. He opened the opportunity to know his Father in heaven to all folks, to all classes, to all genders, to everyone who would listen. 

That’s why John 3:16 is powerful because it says, “God so loved the world.” Despite the hate, the anger, the disbelief, God still loves the world. Not that he accepts what the world does, but he offers the world a better choice. “Love one another. Turn from the old ways and begin to believe and live in true love.” 

The most damaging words that one can say to someone else is “I hate you.” You might hate a certain type of food, or a certain line of clothing, or a certain language, but they don’t hurt or damage as much as the words said to another person, “I hate you.” That can become a relationship breaker. I can hate the things my kids might do, but I still love them. I might disagree with other’s politics, but that does not mean I hate them. Since I am very competitive in sports, I might not like being beaten on the golf course, but I don’t hate the people I play with. I enjoy their friendship, our camaraderie, the competition. In sports, there are teams that hate each other. It’s bitter rivalry. Red Sox-Yankees, for one. Cubs-Cardinals could be. Bears-Packers is another. What if, after each game, no matter what sport, both teams went to the center of the playing field and shook hands, or even hugged. After all, when you come down to it, it’s just a game. It’s just who is the best on that given day.

Isn’t that what the Olympics is all about? The world forgetting for a moment its differences, and supporting each nation, each athlete as they perform. Supporting the winners and cheering the last person who might be last crossing the finish line. I remember the Olympics when there was one person who was a ski jumper who was not very good, but he got lots of applause because he tried his best, even though it was never good enough. He was accepted. He was celebrated.

So yes, love does make the world go around. If the world would show that love to one another this would be a better world. Countries could share things they each have found in medicine etc. Food could be given to countries that have famine instead of hording it or selling it for higher prices to make a buck or two. Medicines could be given to those suffering from illnesses because they could not afford them. Think of all the lives that could be changed with just a little bit of help from those who can help. Never mind in other countries. How about spreading a little love around in our own country, our own state, our own community? Yeah, that might work.

Love one another, that’s Jesus command to his followers. Love one another as Jesus has loved us. Love can change the way one thinks, the way one behaves, the way one reacts to others who do not love in return. God loved us first. He loved us before we were even thought of. And he loves us still, even, now get this, he loves us even when we make unwise choices, or even rebel against him. And he will love us until the day we take out final breath on this earth.

This morning, as is our custom, we are invited to the altar of love to remember how much that God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit loves us. The invitation is to all who have burdens to come, just as we are… those who feel unloved, those who have been hurt, those who feel lost, those who are dealing with whatever is ailing you, and lay your burdens down and be bathed in the love of our Father in heaven, and His son whose love kept him on the cross until the very end. God loves you very deeply. He wants us to love him enough to follow his son in order to be filled with joy.

Love conquers all things, my friends. May it be so today in all of us.

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