Finding LOVE In Our Differences

Pastor Chad A. Miller
Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  29:11
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Advent Week 4

SERMON: 1 John 4:7-16
BENEDICTION: Ephesians 3:17-19
MOST people have birthmarks that are specific to them. I have one on the left side of my neck that’s known as a port wine stain. It’s always makes for interesting conversations with kids who discover it and say with a tinge of horror, “what’s that on your neck?”.
Some people have moles or other kinds of unique identification marks that we know as birth marks.
Designers are known by their trademarks. They have logos of various kinds that even if you don’t read the name, it becomes clear who made it.
God likewise has put a very clear mark on His children - a mark by which those who have been birthed by the Spirit ought to be known.
Dr. Tony Evans suggests that LOVE is the birthmark of the Christian.
Without the birthmark of love, other people really don’t know who you are.
The love that Jesus embodied in our world is indeed fearless love (NOT reckless). Besides simply lacking any fear, the love of Jesus defies and overcomes fear. Today as we continue our journey through Advent, we are focusing on the love that Jesus brought into our world and our lives.
The Whole Cast of Christmas:
Over the past 3 weeks, we’ve journeyed through the Nativity story with a couple of individuals at a time. Today, I’d like to look at all the players in the biblical account of Christ’s birth.
When we step back like this, we’ll notice an incredible variety of people across many walks of life.

Zechariah & Elizabeth and Mary & Joseph

If we walk through the story in order, we start with these two couples —the old and the young.
The prophets and covenants of Israel’s past and the fulfillment of the promise of the Messiah and the new spiritual future.
The separation and death of the past and the restoration and life now present.

Shepherds & The Angels

Then we meet the shepherds and the angels—the collision of heaven and earth, the physical and the spiritual. And as they head to the stable, there are animals as well as humans, the beings of creation.

The Magi

And here we can look to Matthew’s Christmas account and meet the Magi.
Who were these mysterious visitors from the East? We’re not entirely sure, but we know they had followed a star a long distance to find and worship the promised Messiah.
Whether they are astrologers or some kind of rulers, these were noble and wealthy men.
They are the esteemed opposite to the lowly shepherds in socio-economic divisions.
But MORE importantly, they are Gentiles, not Jews, and their inclusion in Jesus’s birth story echoes the radical idea that Christ the Messiah brings salvation and restoration to all people, not just the Jews.
Instead of the spiritual elite (Pharisees, Sadducees), these travelers of a different ethnicity are willing to humble themselves to worship the baby of a poor, unassuming couple in the countryside.
This motley cast of characters that our Heavenly Father sovereignly assembled for the arrival of His Son on earth is FAR from the expectations any of us would have imagined - even in our “WOKE” state. And probably even farther from the expectations of the people of that time, who lived and breathed within that culture and its divisions.
TO US, it may seem like a ragtag bunch. To them, it was downright blasphemous that the Messiah would be so lowly and associated with the full spectrum of unclean humanity and creation.
Could Jesus have united any more divisions simply by being born? Hardly.
Old; Young. Experienced; just starting out. Outcast; Everyman. Divine; Earthy/Earthly. Jew; Gentile.
He pretty much covered them all. God reveals several things about His love that are worth mentioning today:

1. Christ Is LOVE Embodied!

SPOILER ALERT - I’m about to talk about LOVE…but this is not an emotion or a glandular reaction.
The Bible talks about love in many places:
God is love and the Bible is His love story for all humanity.
From Creation, God made people and shared time with them in the garden as companions and children. (What love!)
When sin entered the world, bringing death and brokenness and separation from such a close companionship with God, He continued to work out His love and covenant with humans. (What love!)
Through generations and generations, He worked His plans and promised a Messiah to make a way to restore relationship with humanity. (What love!)
Jesus is the only way, and HE is described as the groom and the church as His bride. (What love!)
This relationship with God that He brings us into is a relationship of love. It is a reunion with love itself.
We’ve already seen John write about this beautifully in 1 John 4. TURN THERE NOW - Toward the back of your Bibles. It’s the text we opened with.
1 John 4:7–16 ESV
7 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9 In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. 10 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us. 13 By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because 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 Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. 16 So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.
Take note:
The Bible says, God is love. God personifies it.
Love is His nature, and He has shown it to us by sending Jesus.
When we come to Jesus, turning from our rebellion against him and giving Him our lives, we are restored to love.
We are fulfilled in love. We live in Him, and He lives in us.
We can count on God’s love; it won’t let us down.
It fills us and fuels us. It calls us and enables us to love each other.
And that brings us to our second point....right there in the text of verse 7...
1 John 4:7 ESV
7 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God.

2. LOVE Defines and Propels Us

Love as action was on full display in that Bethlehem manger when Christ was born.
It would come full circle toward the end of Christ’s earthly ministry as a man. He gathered his disciples together for their last passover meal together and he says,
John 13:35 ESV
35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
Love is what defines us. It MARKS us and characterizes us. At least it should.
We must admit that churches haven’t always done so great a job of this. We as the church body don’t always do a great job of this. It’s very easy for us to point the finger at some pretty big wrongs by the Church through history. This critical theory power-driven, non-Biblical worldview constantly points the finger at many of us and constantly moves the metric of what is acceptable…that’ s not what I’m talking about here. (Side note: you all better keep your Bibles open when getting schooled by someone on “theory”.)
We can all probably think of public Christians and churches in our time who make us cringe with anger or embarrassment at their rigid, unloving actions.
But before we get all caught up in worldview apologetics or theoretical arguments, big picture stuff or loaded for bear to bring down “those” churches...we must take a look at ourselves in the mirror of God’s Word.
Of course, none of us is perfect, as individuals or as a collective Church. But each of us can certainly find opportunities in our current cultural madness to allow God’s love to flow through us to others. I mean, ‘tis the season, right?
REMINDER: Christ didn’t come to seek and to save one subgroup of people; he came to seek and save the whole human race…lost & undone; and all in OPEN REBELLION like sheep without a shepherd.
Last weekend in our Bible Study Groups, The Gospel Project writers captured how this love DEFINES & PROPELS us so well:
A biblical theology is about love—love of God and love of neighbor, not a love for mere knowledge that puffs up and inflates the ego (1 Cor. 8:1).
If we know God rightly, we will love Him as Father, Son, and Spirit.
If we love our neighbors, we will share the gospel of Jesus with them that they too may repent, believe, know God rightly through Jesus, and love Him.
As God’s people we are propelled and empowered by the Spirit to call others to repentance and faith, pointing them to Jesus — the true source of hope, peace, joy, and love — rather than self or the temptations of this world.
In light of the fact that HIS LOVE DEFINES AND PROPELS US...
We must acknowledge and celebrate the fact that HIS LOVE...

3. LOVE Empowers Us To Cross The Borders

What a day we’re living in? Doesn’t it feel like our culture, our nation, our world, our news outlets, our friends…and enemies have MULTIPLIED the ways to DIVIDE us?
Every week there’s seems to be a new, “Oh…you’re not one of THOSE are you?”
The US vs THEM vitriol is at a fevered pitch. But the history of the human race is littered with division. There have always been:
the weak & the powerful
the haves & the have-nots
wars with the plundered and the oppressors.
Into a very hostile and broken world, Jesus - this gift from Heaven (too wonderful for words)…this radical lover of your soul (and mine) would cut through the anger, the bitterness, the loneliness, the lies of the enemy, the culture of death and victimization…he cuts through that with the machete of HIS LOVE walking in the opposite direction of the majority culture - an enigma to the politically-driven and constantly flips the script like in Matthew 5…where he says:
Matthew 5:43–44 ESV
43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,
He didn’t JUST tear down walls and cross divides at His birth, He constantly reached across these social chasms of separation and exclusion.
He befriended hated tax collectors, and even invited one, Matthew, to follow as one of His twelve disciples.
He spoke with the Samaritan woman at the well, which broke a couple societal taboos at once. (Jews did not associate with Samaritans, and Jewish men especially did not talk with women like this in public.)
One of his most powerful stories about this fearless-kind-of-love is the account of the Good Samaritan:
Luke 10:30–35 ESV
30 Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead. 31 Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. 32 So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. 34 He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’
I know this has all the “feels” for us today; a failure of organized religion; a failure of institution; success of the underdog - but this would have been a lightning rod for His Jewish listeners.
Jews hated Samaritans.
Their hatred of Samaritans went back centuries when the kingdom of Israel split. The Samaritans intermarried with foreigners and established their own temple to worship in.
The Jews considered them an inferior people with a corrupt religion and viewed them with prejudice and disdain.
Jesus isn’t illustrating any critical theory here…he’s not celebrating someone’s societal identity as superior or inferior…He’s not hunting for intersectionality to bolster his position - Jesus was holding up an example of love in ACTION - Which is the only kind of love that means anything.
Not only did Jesus cross socio-economic, ethnolinguistic, and spiritual divides, he was teaching his disciples that this should be a NATURAL thing when following Him.
1 John 4:18–19 ESV
18 There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. 19 We love because he first loved us.
The love of Jesus calls us AND ENABLES US to cross the borders, to tear down the barriers, to reach out above the disagreements.
The fear that is driven out by love is the fear within ourselves. Love overcomes the fear of the other, who may not look like us or sound like us or share the same perspective or experience as us.
So , where do you start today?
Maybe it begins in your family.
Maybe in your home or neighborhood or workplace or community.
Not just at Christmas, but “at all times”, Jesus calls us together into His loving presence and invites us to make room for all, whether we think they deserve to be there or not.
What does that look like exactly?
There is a humility in love, a willingness to put someone else first.
Sometimes love means taking the simple step of building that bridge as a gesture and an invitation.
Sometimes it’s being willing to listen without being defensive.
It is ALWAYS being willing to choose to see someone else, not as other, but as us,
a fellow image-bearer,
equally in need of a Savior,
equally with the potential to be welcomed into His presence,
equally drawn into and propelled out of His miraculous, divine, all-consuming love.
This is God’s love. This is the gift of Christ. This is the heart of hope, of peace, of joy, of Christmas!
This Christmas as you rediscover the overwhelming, all-encompassing, all-welcoming love of God, I pray that we will also display that love as we flip the script on this divided culture...
“those Grace Covenant folks…are some of the most loving folks I’ve ever encountered!”
Ephesians 3:17–19 ESV
17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
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