(If you missed our Sunday morning service at Grace Church – oh the fun you missed on a warmer sun splashed day. So here’s the Sunday message in printed form – from those experts on texting, they know that WORDS IN ALL CAPS means something REALLY IMPORTANT…or the caps lock is accidently on…)
Do we have a LOVE CRISIS today?
Have you seen? Births during the pandemic are down seemingly everywhere. One headline – “Baby boom or baby bust? Pandemic could have lasting effect on birth rates.”
Our friends in France just registered the fewest annual births since the end of World War II. Only about 735,000 babies were born there in 2020, a 2.5% decrease from 2019, as birth rates in December 2020 (down 7%) and January 2021 (down 13.5%) plummeted from the same months a year earlier. Other countries in Europe are seeing this as well according to reports.
The U.S. also saw a major decline in 2020, according to a report that compared data from two dozen states showing a 7% decline in December 2020 births vs. a year earlier.
Uh oh….but nope, not talking that kind of “Love.”
Do we have a LOVE CRISIS today?
Our Grace adult Sunday School class is using a guidebook right now called Christian Virtues. Recently the chapter was on love, and the author started by mentioning how American TV shows depict love. Remember these shows?
Love American Style (early 70’s) – wouldn’t cause a blip today but was rather racy for its time. See who gets who.
The Love Boat (80’s) – you remember the tune? “The LOOOOOVE Boat…” Singles get on the big ship, couples get off at the end of the show.
Friends (90’s) – this bunch was way more than just friends.
Sex and the City (early 2000’s) – let’s follow four young women and their escapades every week.
The Bachelor (recent years) – another “reality” show. Really? You ever have 15 young men or women chase YOU around?
TV has an interesting way of portraying love. But that’s not the kind of love we’re talking about either.
Do we have a LOVE CRISIS today?
There are many scripture passages all about love. Not the kind we just discussed but the more important kind. But it’s the kind of love that takes some work. It doesn’t just come to us, we need to go to it…
Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves the father loves his child as well. This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out his commands. In fact, this is love for God: to keep his commands. – 1 John 5:1-3 NIV
And from the Lord…
As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. This is my command: Love each other. – John 15:9-17 NIV
In 1st John the writer tells us we are to love God and carry out his commands. What are his commands? Many folks would start with the Ten Commandments – the basic rules of the road, right? We could also check out the book of Psalms or the Book of Proverbs, plenty of rules and STRONG suggestions in there.
But then later Jesus shows up and simplifies everything for us. “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.” That’s it, so simple.
The next verse has been quoted often – “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”
Many people hear that and immediately think that you need to literally give up your life to fulfill that verse. Well, that’s one way to do it, and many heroes from the military or the police or firefighters or others have done that over the years.
But “lay down one’s life” doesn’t just mean literally that. There’s a second meaning and it’s one that any of us can do at any time.
It could be people helping others to get much needed food at a local food bank. Those folks driving the food, unloading the boxes and distributing the food could probably be doing other things, but they choose to help others in their time of need.
Our terrific Grace ladies have been making meals at the church on Fridays for those in need for over a full year now. For at least a few hours every week they’ve been laying down their lives to help someone else.
But do we STILL have a LOVE CRISIS in our country these days? When you check news stories almost every day you have to wonder. Yes, many media outlets are on the lookout seemingly every day for the latest “police behaving badly” story. And with 330 million Americans it’s nearly inevitable that they’ll find those stories almost every day.
Are police totally innocent? No, of course not. Like any other group out there they have some bad apples or at least people making bad decisions in the heat of the moment. Are the people they’re chasing or apprehending all totally innocent? No, of course not – if they were we wouldn’t need police in the first place. It’s usually tough to tell the difference in that heat of the moment.
Perhaps a word that needs to go along with LOVE is RISK. Think about when you were younger and dating – remember those days? If someone asks someone out on a date they’re taking a risk - that the person will say YES, and the person will have a good time, and YOU’LL have a good time, and you won’t wonder later “why on Earth did I just do that?”
The other person is also taking a risk in saying YES, let’s go out. And perhaps if all goes well and you go out on more dates with the person, and the chemistry kicks in, and eventually the question is popped – that’s a HUGE risk.
Did Jesus take a risk? He took the biggest risk of all, didn’t he? He could have stayed in his comfortable life in Nazareth as a carpenter. But he knew that he needed to live his own creed. So he took a risk and went out and found 12 guys and others willing to follow him. Later he found out one of the guys was a bad risk, but he kept going anyway.
And all the while his one main command was simple – love others. In his case some people who didn’t believe in his commandment took full advantage of him all the way to the Cross. But that was a risk Jesus knew he had to take.
So again – do we have a LOVE CRISIS today? Are there enough people willing to take a risk to follow the Lord’s command? One simple command that is above all others.
Our country is at a crossroads right now. We’re not sure how this is going to turn out. And we could wait for politicians to make decisions and do things, all with big price tags attached, but perhaps it would be better for us to just do them instead.
In your travels this week, think about that. When you see someone in need…or a group needs assistance….or some amount of money would really help out someone else…or someone could really use a break and you could provide a meal for them, one less thing for them to worry about.
Yes, there’s risk involved, there’s always risk involved. Will the other person be an ingrate? Will they not appreciate what you’ve done? Like asking someone out for a date, sometimes the other person might say UH, NOOOO. That’s the risk you take.
We DO have a LOVE CRISIS today. Maybe it’s this pandemic that’s driving us all crazy. We’re all fatigued. We’ve been cooped up for a year now, we want to go back to being around people without measuring how many feet are between us, or having our temperature taken all the time, or wearing our umpteenth mask.
But perhaps – when this dark cloud finally dissipates and we can gather together closely again in crowds or at sports games or at fairs or festivals, or inside church buildings, and we can hug people without even thinking about it again, maybe people will be so happy to be together again that they’ll take that risk that Jesus wants us to take.
“This is my command: Love each other.” When you can, every chance you get – take the risk. Follow his command.
From George Churchgoer
P.S. Remember the Grace adult Sunday School group mentioned above? Now studying Christian Virtues? The next one up is Justice which we’ll tackle Sunday. And with the mountain of news stories from the past year, this one could be interesting…