The Greatest Love of All


Sermon for Sunday, May 19th, 2019



What is love?


What does Jesus mean when he says, “love one another”?


Well before we answer that, I think there is another question we must ask:


Who are you willing to die for?


That may seem like an odd question to follow with, maybe it seems severe, but think about it for a moment. Put aside for a moment your secret list of individuals you think the world would be better without, and think about those people that you are pretty sure you would risk your life to save. I’m willing to bet that most of you have at least a few people that you hold so dear that you would risk anything to protect them. Your children perhaps. Maybe your spouse. The people in your life that you depend on; the people you are closest too.


If you have been in the military or worked in law enforcement or served as a firefighter or first responder, perhaps your job has called you to risk your life for someone. Maybe a buddy or a partner…maybe even a complete stranger. It takes special people to do that kind of work, because let’s face it, for most of us, the list of people that we would be willing to die for is pretty short.


The will to stay alive runs deep in our veins as a species. Throughout the natural world there is this drive, this deep desire to stay alive, to survive. It takes a lot to override that. There might be only a handful of people in your life that you can imagine doing that for. I think that is normal, but think for a minute about those people. Think about who you would willingly accept death for in order to save. Who would you take a bullet for?


Why do I ask? Because those are the people you reallylove. Those are the people that you love with the approaching the love of Christ.


Now you may be thinking, “hold on a sec! I love lots of people, that doesn’t mean I am ready to die for them. This is just an extreme example. There are lots of types of love.”


Well maybe there are lots of types of love, so perhaps we should be clear what we mean when we use that word. And perhaps we need to be clear what Jesus means when he uses it. I get a little nervous when I see or hear the word “love” used in churchy circles, especially when I see it used as a slogan or as a buzzword or as a way to market Christianity or the church. I get nervous because love is such an overused word in our society and we have been trained by television and music to think of love as some sort of greeting card fuzzy feeling that we all want and that is the key to all the world’s problems. All you need is love. Love, love will keep us together. Love, soft as an easy chair; love, fresh as the morning air.


I’d like to build the world a home

and furnish it with love

grow apple trees and honey bees

and snow white turtle doves


I’d like to teach the world to sing

in perfect harmony

I’d like to buy the world a coke

and keep it company


Ok. That’s cute, but is that what love really is? Is that what Jesus is talking about when he says love one another just as I have loved you? Go buy someone a Coke? What is love? What does Jesus mean when he says love?


I am reminded of the scene in the Princess Bride where Inigo Montoya says: “You keep using that word, I do not think it means what you think it means.”


I do not think the word love means what we think it means when we use it to describe sunshine, lollipops and rainbows and everything that’s wonderful. When Jesus talks about Love, when he commands his disciples to love one another, is he talking about some warm and fuzzy (or peaceful, easy) feeling? Is love some a many splendored thing? Is it nature’s way of giving, a reason to be living? or is love the exact opposite: a supernatural force that calls us to sacrifice everything, even our own lives?


Walk in Love as Christ loved us and gave himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God.


That is our offertory sentence that we hear every week; it is also a line from Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, but what does it mean to walk in love?


It would be easy to just redefine to be something easy like a feel-good emotion, or like self-esteem, like just holding hands and singing kum bah yah like the only thing standing between us and world peace is one great big hippie love fest, but is that the love that God has shown us? What if it’s not that easy? When we discover that love comes at a price, that it isn’t easy, we might be tempted to draw the circle smaller to limit the number of people we feel obligated to love: let’s just love our families, or our like-minded Facebook friends, or let’s just love people that are loveable, but is that how people will know that we are followers of the man on the cross?


What is love? What is love to Jesus? What is the love of our God? Paul’s line says it all, I think.


Walk in Love as Christ loved us and gave himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God.


Love is giving.

Love means offering yourself.

Love means sacrifice.


What does that look like? Well ultimately, we believe it looks like this. The cross. This symbol of cruelty and death and shame, becomes for us the reminder of where true love, real love leads. It leads to sacrifice. This is the extreme symbol of sacrificial love; a love that wills the good of another to the point of personal loss. A love that has no self-interest; a love that doesn’t seek personal glory or comfort; a love that is so deep and complicated that you can’t slap it on a greeting card or a bumper sticker. This kind of love, the love of Jesus, the love of the cross…this is the world’s worst marketing campaign, because who wants love that promises pain? It doesn’t make sense why anyone would choose this kind of love…it doesn’t make sense, until that moment when you look into the eyes of someone that you would be willing to die for.


Then you get it. When your will for the good of someone else is stronger than your will to live, then you get it. It might just be in those moments when you are willing to lose everything for someone else that you are seeing the world through God’s eyes. Those moments might just be the only moments when we really understand love. Love seems like an easy emotion until we realize that real love costs something.


A little later in John’s gospel, Jesus says again: “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”


I’m sorry but the greatest love of all, isn’t inside of me; it isn’t easy to achieve and it isn’t learning to love yourself. Maybe those words would make great lyrics to a song, but they don’t make great theology, because that is not the love that was revealed to us by God. According to Jesus the greatest love of all is the love that calls us to the cross; it is love that involves sacrifice.

What is love? This is love.