There were once two old farmers. They’re neighbors, but they have a feud that’s been running for a few years. They haven’t even spoken to each other in that time.
The whole thing got started over a cat. The cat was a stray, but both of these farmers began feeding the cat and claimed it as their own. From there, everything went downhill. The neighbors quit talking, and the grudge escalated to the point that one of them dug a ditch to reroute a spring and make sure it divided their properties.
One day, a carpenter came through the area looking for work. He knocked on the door of one of the farms, and the farmer said, “Well, if he’s going to try to divide us up with that ditch, then I might as well finish the job. I don’t even want to have to look at him!” So he asked the carpenter to build a fence all the way across the property, a nice, big, tall fence.
The carpenter said, “OK, I could do that, but it will take a lot more wood.” So the farmer went into town to buy more wood, and the carpenter started working with the wood in the shed.
That farmer came driving back down the dirt road to his home, but when he looked across the field, he didn’t see any fence going up. Instead of the barrier he’d wanted, he saw that the carpenter had built a bridge across the creek. And there across the bridge, his neighbor came walking toward him with his hand outstretched, a big sheepish grin on his face. “You’re a brave man,” he said. “I didn’t think you’d want to hear the sound of my voice again. Can you forgive me?” The first farmer was surprised, and as he reached out to shake his neighbor’s hand, he found himself saying, “Aww, I knew it was your cat.”
David Wilcox uses this story to introduce his song “Fearless Love”.
The song weaves a story about a church protest… one person caught up in it remembers Jesus’s teaching about loving our enemies through Christ’s teaching on carrying the Roman Soldier’s pack… (explain)
41 If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles.
The chorus says: “Fearless love makes you cross the border.”
Fearless Love crosses borders… It overcomes the things that separate us from others… It builds bridges… and tears down walls… Fearless Love doesn’t divide.
Jesus is the embodiment of Fearless Love.
His is a Love that defies and overcomes fear…
Paul tells us how far Jesus’s Love goes:
8 And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross!
Jesus’s Love led Him all the way to the Cross!
That’s Fearless Love!!
But more than that… Jesus unites us in Love.
Look at Jesus’s prayer in John:
21 that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— 23 I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.
Jesus’s desire… His work… is to unite us to each other… and to God…
He accomplished this… or at least began that work… in His birth.
I want you to see this…
We have been looking at the people in the Nativity story…
Take a closer look at them.
We start with Zechariah and Elizabeth… and Mary and Joseph…
— In these two couples, the young meets the old… the prophets/priests meet the common folk… The promises of the past meet the hope of the future… Separation and death meet restoration and life…
Then we have the shepherds and angels…
— beings of earth and beings of heaven… the physical and the spiritual meeting in a stable… There are animals and humans, all beings of creation…
Matthew presents us with the Magi…
— Mysterious visitors from the East… These are arguably the most interesting characters God brings into the story…
— They are noble and wealthy men… yet God sets them alongside lowly shepherds… But the most interesting part of all, … they are Gentiles, not Jews!!!!
— Their inclusion in the narrative brings the radical idea of a Messiah… who brings restoration and salvation to ALL PEOPLE!!!!
— The Magi are “Holy Men”…from a foreign, mystical tradition, who come seeking a promised prophet FROM ANOTHER RELIGION…and they proclaim Him King!!!
They stand in contrast to the Jewish leadership of the day…
Notice… There are no Pharisees, Sadducees, or Jewish spiritual VIP’s … invited to Jesus’s birth!
Instead… There are travelers from a different race… a different culture… who are willing to disrupt their lives with a great journey… and to humble themselves to worship the baby of a poor, unassuming couple in the countryside…
There are “dirty old shepherds,” right in from the fields… and beasts of the earth… But no worldly VIPs…
It’s quite the cast God has put together…
It’s far from what would have been expected… or even what we would expect today!
To us it’s a “rag tag” bunch… To them it would be downright blasphemous!
“There’s no way the Messiah would be so lowly… would associate with… and touch… such an unclean group of people and animals.”
But that is just what He did!
Jesus united all of creation — symbolically — just by being born!
How awesome is that?!?!
Now… Here’s the best part… in doing so, God revealed several things about His Love.
I. Christ is Love Embodied.
John tells us: “God is Love.”
1 John 4:8 (NIV)
8 Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.
He already told us, “He was with God, and He was God...” Now he tells us…
The Bible is God’s Love story for all humanity… for all creation!
In the beginning, God made people and shared time with them in the Garden…
When sin entered the picture through Eve’s actions… When it brought with it death… brokenness… and separation from God,… God didn’t stop Loving mankind! He didn’t stop loving Adam and Eve! He continued to work… and to covenant with people!
Look at what He did immediately after finding them hiding in the Garden…
21 The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them.
He killed a lamb and made clothing (coverings) for their nakedness… their shame…
That was the very first blood sacrifice… And it was made for us!!!!
That was one of God’s creatures… His creation… sacrificed for us!!!
What kind of Love is that?!?
Through generations and generations, from that point… right up to the present day… God has worked His plans… and promised a Messiah to make a way to restore the relationship with Himself…
Christians say “Christ is the final sacrifice… that He is the perfect Lamb...” because, He is the WAY!
Jesus, this one who is described as the Groom, and the Church as His bride… is the ONLY Way back into a relationship with God… and the relationship He brings us back into is a Relationship of LOVE!!!!
It is a marriage with Love itself!
7 Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9 This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us. 13 This is how we know that we live in him and he in us: He has given us of his Spirit. 14 And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. 15 If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God. 16 And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them.
Look at verse 15… That word “acknowledges” is the word “homologese — to declare.”
This is not just about saying He exists… or that He is the Son of God… This is about declaring Him.
This is about making a vow — not a pledge or contract, but a wedding vow — to Him, and ACCEPTING the vow He has made to you!
John tells us that God is Love. He personifies Love.
Love is His very nature… and He has shown it to us by sending Jesus.
When we DECLARE that He is God’s Son… When we DECLARE that He is the Messiah… When we DECLARE that He is our Lord…
When we come to Him and give Him our lives COMPLETELY… not just saying “He is” and “He exists”… But putting our FAITH completely in Him… He restores us to Love!
We are fulfilled in Love.
There is a little hole in each of us… We try to fill it… but we will never find fulfillment until we are united with Christ!!!
We live in Him and He lives in us.
God’s Love won’t let us down.
It fills us… fuels us… calls us… and enables us to Love each other!
II. Love Defines and Propels Us.
Near the end of His ministry… as He gathered with His twelve disciples for the Passover meal… He tells them:
34 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
Jesus taught His disciples… He teaches us… to Love Like He Does.
Let me ask you: “How will people know that we are followers of Jesus?”
How will people know that we are Christians?
BY OUR LOVE!
35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
— Not b y our activism… or our political views… or even by our morals… They will know us… and Him… By our Love!
We shouldn’t have to tell people we are Christians… They should SEE it!!!
Love is what DEFINES us… it MARKS us… it CHARACTERIZES us!
Or at least it should…
What does your Love say about you?
— Jn 15:13
13 Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.
— That means that we set our personal desires aside… we set our wants aside… we set our ideas and ideals aside… FOR THE SAKE OF OTHERS!!!
Let’s face it… The Church hasn’t always done a great job of this… has it?
We… don’t always do a great job of this…
It’s easy for us to point the finger… to point out the wrongs of the Church in the past… throughout history… But what about today?
We can all name Christians and churches today… in our time… who make us cringe with anger and embarrassment…
But… Do we look in the mirror?
How often are we the ones doing those things?
None of us are perfect… as individuals… or as a church…
BUT… We can find opportunities… in our current cultural climate… to allow God’s Love to flow through us…
III. Love Empowers Us to Cross the Borders.
— to build bridges…
— to become the carpenter…
These are divided times… Our culture… Our nation… Our world… have multiplied the ways to divide us.
It seems like its us vs them… and it’s only getting worse…
But that’s no excuse!!!
Through out history, our world has been filled with wars and plunder… and oppression…
There have always been the weak and the powerful… the haves and have-nots… the rich and the poor…
We are not suppose to be a part of all that mess!!!
11 I will remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name, the name you gave me, so that they may be one as we are one. 12 While I was with them, I protected them and kept them safe by that name you gave me. None has been lost except the one doomed to destruction so that Scripture would be fulfilled. 13 “I am coming to you now, but I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them. 14 I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. 15 My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one.
— and we don’t have to be!
We are called to a Fearless Love that defies the world…
That’s why Jesus’s teaching is so radical…
It’s why God’s Love is so radical.
43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,
— No where in our world do people tell us to pray for our enemies… to “Love” them… Jesus tells us to Love people as He loved us.
Let me ask you: What does “disciple” mean?
— To follow the “master’s” ways… to learn from him… to do what he does…
Jesus tore down the walls of division with His birth… and He continued to reach across the chasm of separation and exclusion throughout His life.
He befriended tax collectors… and even invited one to travel with Him… to be one of the Twelve…
He sought out the Samaritan woman at the well…
He told His listeners that if a dreaded Roman soldier forced them to carry his pack for a mile, which they could do, to carry it two…
One of Jesus’s most powerful stories about this kind of Fearless Love… is the story of the Good Samaritan.
A man was robbed… beaten… and left for dead on the side of the road… A priest came along and completely avoided the bloody scene… A deacon did the same…
Finally, a Samaritan… the enemy… the bad guy… the outcast to be avoided… came along and saw the man, and stopped!
He bandaged the man’s wounds… put him on his own donkey… took him to an inn… and paid for his care!!!
This is a challenging story… It was astounding… Jews hated Samaritans!
Their racism against Samaritans went back centuries… They intermarried with foreigners… they established their own Temple… They were considered the “inferior” race… with a corrupt religion…
They were viewed with prejudice and disdain…
Let me tell you… Whatever group just came to your mind, makes you the Jew in the story?
Jesus held up the Samaritan as the example of loving your neighbor.
Jesus crossed the divide.
He reached across the cultural, spiritual, political, and racial divisions… and He calls us to do the same!
So, Why don’t we?
Why don’t we practice that kind of Love — that Fearless Love… ?
— Fear — (expound a little)
17 This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus. 18 There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. 19 We love because he first loved us. 20 Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. 21 And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.
Fearless Love calls us… enables us… to cross borders… to tear down barriers… to reach out above the disagreements.
Love overcomes fear.
— fear of others…
— fear of judgment…
— fear of rejection…
— fear of exclusion…
Reaching across the divide BEGINS in your family… in your home… your neighborhood… workplace… community…
Jesus calls us together in His Loving presence… and invites us to make room for ALL… Listen… Whether we think they deserve to be there or not!
Fearless Love requires humility… a willingness to put someone else first.
I want you to see something here:
21 Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. 22 Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord.
25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her
This is one of those passages that is both misunderstood and misused quite often…
There are two words in the Greek that we need to notice here:
1. “Submit to one another” is actually “hypotasso allelon” — “be subjected to each other”
2. “Love your wives” the Greek word is “agapao” - “to show love to”
So, if we plug those meanings into these verses, they actually say:
“Be subjected to one another. Wives to your own husbands, as to the Lord… Husbands, show love to your wives just as also Christ shows love to the church, and gave Himself for them.” (emphasis mine)
I kind of like how the new “Passion” translation puts it:
Ephesians 5:21–25 (TPT)
21 And out of your reverence for Christ be supportive of each other in love.
22 For wives, this means being supportive to your husbands like you are tenderly devoted to our Lord, …
25 And to the husbands, you are to demonstrate love for your wives with the same tender devotion that Christ demonstrated to us, his bride. For he died for us, sacrificing himself
I ask, “Is there any one person who is subordinate to another in that?”
— The answer is “No!” We are commanded to love each other, and to love others as Christ loved the Church (which is everyone)!
How did Christ love the Church?
— Rom 5:8
8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
— Christ’s love is a self-less, fearless, endless Love!
— It is a Love that will do whatever it takes for the sake of the other person…
Love that falls short of that… is NOT Love!
Let me tell you: Love & Fear CANNOT coexist!
We are called to love others with the Fearless Love of Christ!
Fearless Love means … Building that Bridge… it means Extending that Invitation… It means Being willing to listen and not defend ourselves…
Fearless Love is ALWAYS being willing to see someone else… not as “Them”… but as “US”. … equally Loved by God.... equally Welcomed into His presence… equally Included in His Kingdom…
This is God’s Love.
This is the Gift of Christ.
Fearless Love is the very Heart of Christmas!
As we approach Christmas Day, Let us seek to be a church that shares the overwhelming… all-encompassing… all-welcoming… Fearless Love of God.