Defined By Love
“Hatred stirs up conflict, but love covers over all wrongs.”
Read Passage – Proverbs 10:12
“Hatred stirs up conflict, but love covers over all wrongs.”
The Church of Haters?
We are in an interesting time in history and especially the history of the church. I believe that in no other time in history has the church been viewed in the way it is now. We’ve been accused as being haters. We’re accused of hating homosexuals, alcoholics, drug users, other religions, and the list goes on and on. We’re accused of not doing enough for the homeless, for the poor, for those that are hurting, for the hungry, etc. and the list goes on and on.
This has caught us by surprise. We see ourselves much differently and yet this has kind of snuck up on us and in many ways it has baffled us. It’s scary and we don’t like it. It’s not what we want and it’s definitely not how we feel we can best share the good news of Jesus Christ.
You might be asking; Why is this coming up? I think it’s because of the world view the world has of the church. They view us as haters, and what I mean by that is intolerant, unloving, unaccepting, and unforgiving. Now here is the thing, if we are seen as haters we must realize that hatred stirs up conflict. That’s not my idea, that comes straight from the verse we read today in Proverbs. It says that hatred stirs up which means rouses, starts up, and causes conflict. Conflict is basically a strong disagreement that causes anger and angry responses.
Can Opposites Get Along?
Here is an ideal that most people buy into: Everyone has to agree. There is this ideal that someone we must all find a way to be in agreement and if we don’t agree; something is wrong. We all have opinions, we all have our views and we all have our ideas on how things can be improved and get better. Yet, what we see is that that somehow we can’t agree to disagree. That is a phrase we often throw out:
Let’s agree to disagree
That sounds great, doesn’t it? It does but it somehow never really feels good. And, we never really move forward because our differing opinions stop us from working together for a common good.
Evaluating Our Attitude
Here’s where I feel the real issue is: it’s in our attitude. We have to evaluate our attitude. That can go two ways. One, we can evaluate our attitude and see a need to change and move toward unity and love. Or, two, we can evaluate our attitude in a way that solidifies our own views, feel that we are right and that our way is not only the best way, it’s the only way. When we do that, it leads us to begin to judge others negatively. As we judge, we come to the conclusion that we are superior and that leads us to feel safe because “We are right!” and we are going to hold on to that idea and enforce our ways on others.
Ex. Want some examples? O.K. We divide ourselves. It’s Catholic vs. Protestants, or even those tow against Mormon’s. It’s Democrats vs. Republicans, It’s Giants fans vs. Dodger fans or A’s fans, it’s hymns vs. contemporary music, it’s country people vs. city folk, it’s Mello Roos vs. non Mello Roos, I think you are getting the idea.
The fact is that we find all kinds of things to divide us and when we become rigid and uncompromising and somehow we don’t move forward because we insist our way is the only way, the right way. Then, you step back, and realize you have had a part in causing division. And here is the thing, when we cause division, we aren’t being loving people and we aren’t living like Jesus wants us to. We have to change the question and ask: How can I live the life of love that Jesus commands us to live?
Being Defined By Love
How do you get out of this downward cycle of division and opposition and be willing to be defined by love? How can we live more like Jesus and live in the commands that he gave us? We will look at three principles the Bible teaches us to live more in line with the way way that Jesus taught us to be people who are defined by love.
• A Commitment To Peace
First, we must be people who are willing to make a commitment to be people who live in peace. Let’s look again at our verse for today Proverbs 10:12:
“Hatred stirs up conflict, but love covers over all wrongs.” Prov. 10:12
Hatred is overcome with love and love covers over the wrongs. Here’s where I think it hits us; we have to be willing to love even when we don’t agree and even when it seems we are not will to see eye to eye. I will be honest, this is tough. Love takes work. Differences are not a license for bad behavior. Way to often many people have used their beliefs and “good intentions” as a license to mistreat people. People of peace must be willing to accept differences and let love cover the things they don’t agree with. Let’s go back to something Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5:9:
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” Matt. 5:9
Jesus is saying that our actions reflect who we are and when we are willing to commit to peace, to live as people of peace, it is then that we reflect that we are children of God.
You might be wondering what that looks like. It takes strength to be a peacemaker and strength of character. It might take being a bit more open to people who are different than you. It might be that you have to bite your lip when you feel like berating or asserting your will. It might be having to ask yourself this tough question: Do you want to be right or be loving? I often hear people say something to the effect that they have the right to act a certain way. Hint: It’s usually an inappropriate or negative way. What if you decide to be loving instead. How would that change how you act.
• Follow the Example of Christ
The second principle is that we be people who are willing to follow the example of Jesus Christ. Jesus lived in a way that we should strive to follow. 1 John 3:16:
“This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.” 1 John 3:16
It just might be that we become people who live differently. I would say that we have to be people who are humble, honest, and willing to show God’s love. Jesus didn’t use his position and authority to oppress people, he used it as a opportunity to humble himself, to lift them up, and to affirm. Let me use two examples of Jesus with people to help you understand.
Ex. 1 Jesus and the woman at the well – First of all he met, talked to, and interacted with many people society disregarded. Here he talks with a woman who had been married 5 times and is now living with someone. He could have scolded her, told her to go home and move out, and to get her life in life with the Biblical laws. No, he forgives her sins and simple tells her to go and sin no more. He shows her love, respect, and dignity.
Ex. 2 Jesus and the rich young ruler – This is a man who has it all, money, power, and prestige. When he wants to get to heaven Jesus asks him a few questions and then affirms he has done all that the law requires but challenges him to let go of his idol; money. He challenges him to make God his idol not his money. The guy can’t do it. Jesus listens to him and affirms him and wants him to fully trust God. Jesus concern is his relationship with God.
We are challenged to be people like Jesus. Paul said in 1 Cor. 11:1:
“Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.” 1 Cor. 11:1
This is not Paul bragging, this is something we should strive to claim as well. Follow me not because of me but because I am living like Jesus says.
• Choose To Live in the Spirit
And the third principle we need to have to be defined as people of love is that we choose to live in the Spirit. This is a conscious decision. It’s the willingness to evaluate our own life, to humble ourselves, to give ourselves completely to God and then to live in the power and strength of the Holy Spirit. There are a lot of passage we could look at but notice Gal. 5:22, most of you might b able to quote it:
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love…” Gal. 2:22
Isn’t it interesting that the first attribute listed is love. When we choose to live with the Holy Spirit that lives in us, we first choose to live in love. This can be a tough thing because we like to think that we can handle the things thrown our way. A person who chooses to live in the Spirit chooses not to live in their own power but in the power of God’s Spirit, 2 Tim. 1:7:
“For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.” 2 Timothy 1:7
What does that look like in our daily life? It’s taking the time to:
-Stop – take a moment
-Ask – ask God what he wants us to do or how to respond
-Move – only when God leads
Challenge: Join me in choosing to live in the Spirit.
Breaking Down Dividers
Let me end by wrapping up with this thought, we have to be willing to break down the barriers, dividers, and walls that divide us so for the sake of being people who are defined by love. People who love others because God loves them and want them to know him like we do. Bill Hybels, Pastor of a meg-church in Chicago and noted author said:
“We have never locked eyes with someone that did not matter to God” – Bill Hybels
We are part of a rich denomination that desires to see all people come to know Jesus as Savior and to be defined by love. I am honored to be ordained and affirmed by this denomination. Here is our denominations view on this and you can find this on line at http://www.covchurch.org.
The Evangelical Covenant Church is a rapidly growing multiethnic denomination in the United States and Canada with ministries on five continents of the world. Founded in 1885 by Swedish immigrants, the ECC values the Bible as the word of God, the gift of God’s grace and ever-deepening spiritual life that comes through a faith with Jesus Christ, the importance of extending God’s love and compassion to a hurting world, and the strength that comes from unity within diversity.
The Evangelical Covenant Church is:
Evangelical, but not exclusive
Biblical, but not doctrinaire
Traditional, but not rigid
Congregational, but not independent
Identity and Biblical Mission
We are united by Christ in a holy covenant of churches empowered by the Holy Spirit to obey the great commandments and the great commission: to love God with all our heart, soul, strength, and mind, to love our neighbors as ourselves, and to go into all the world and make disciples.