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Worship Message - "Pink Paint of Love"

Pink Paint of Love

A devotional author wrote that a while back, as he traveled on a road from Glasgow to Edinburgh, Scotland, as he was enjoying the beautiful countryside, a rather humorous sight captured his attention. In a field was a flock of pink sheep.
It seems that sheep owners in Scotland often mark their animals with spray paint. The paint is used to identify the sheep. But it is usually spots of paint that are used. The pink sheep, however, really stood out. The owner had fully covered all his animals with pink coloring. Because of that, everyone knew - they had no doubt - to whom those sheep belonged.

As the author points out, the Bible calls those of us who are followers of Christ sheep. We, too, are to have an identifying mark. What is that mark? What is the pink paint that is to identify to whom we belong? How can we be identified as belonging to Jesus?

According to the Gospel of John, what is to identify us as belonging to Jesus is love. Specifically in chapter 13, love for other Christians. In this message, we are going to think about what is in John. We are also going to consider three other passages that tell us how to show love for other Christians, the point being that our love for other Christians should make it as obvious to the world that we belong to Jesus as it was clear in that part of Scotland to whom the pink sheep belonged. May we take today’s passages seriously. This is a very important way to honor Jesus, show our faith in Him, and prove we do belong to Him.

The part of John 13 that speaks of loving other Christians came at a very critical part of Jesus’ ministry. It came during a conversation Jesus had with His disciples toward the end of the last meal they shared together.

Remember? Jesus had washed the feet of His disciples. By doing that, He taught them the need for humble service. After that, Judas had left to get ready for his act of betrayal of Jesus. It was that act that would lead to Jesus’ arrest. The teaching was right before the gathering of Jesus and His disciples would dismiss. It was right before Jesus would pray prior to His arrest.

In the conversation, Jesus did His best to get His disciples ready for all that was going to happen very soon - the arrest, the trials, the sentence of death, the crucifixion, Jesus being buried. And yes, on the third day after His death and burial - on Easter - Jesus would rise from His tomb, but at the time of the teaching, troubled times were coming. Jesus wanted His disciples to be prepared.

Part of the preparation was Jesus giving His disciples a challenge. It is in verses 34 and 35 of John 13. Jesus said, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”

I found in a commentary a wonderful list of words to describe the kind of love Jesus had shown to His disciples.

One word is “selfless.” That is true, is it not? He died as the perfect sacrifice for sins. Being willing to die for others. How can anyone be more selfless than that?

That is also an example of another word that describes the kind of love Jesus had, which is “sacrificial.” But it was not just in His death that He sacrificed. Think of all He did before that. Including the power He shared to heal people. The effort He put into teaching people how to live. How He was willing to teach and meet needs at any time, including when He had to have been physically exhausted. He never turned anyone away. What a sacrifice that was.
    
Plus, what about Jesus’ sacrifice of coming to earth in the first place? Before coming, He was in Heaven, worshiped by angels. How great that was for Him. Deserved? Yes. But how wonderful. He left that to come be on earth.

And He came, not as a grown man. Not as a conqueror as the world thinks of conquerors. But as a baby, who had to grow up. Do you suppose in the human part of Him He had some of the normal childhood illnesses? Do you suppose in the human part of Him He was ever picked on by other kids? Growing up can be hard, but He did grow. That was part of His sacrificial love.

Another word to describe Jesus’ love - the love He showed to His disciples? “Understanding.”

Think of it. Jesus knew His disciples very well. That came, not only through Jesus’ divine nature, but also through Him being with and traveling with those men for three years.
Jesus knew His disciples well. He knew who was arrogant and who was timid. He knew how some tried to learn, but how so many of them argued. He knew that all of them would very soon abandon Him.

He loved them, despite the problems they had. What understanding He had.

Jesus’ love for His disciples was also “forgiving.” He had forgiven them throughout their time together - when they were slow to learn and when they argued. He would soon forgive them for abandoning Him. Including Peter, who would three times deny even knowing Jesus, let alone having been a follower of Him.

Selfless, sacrificial, understanding, forgiving. What wonderful words to describe the love Jesus had for His disciples. But wait. Remember? Jesus said that as He loved, so His disciples were to love. As they loved each other, those same words were to describe them.

And guess what. Since this is in the Bible, those words are also to describe how we love other Christians.

What a challenge that is. What a difficult challenge because, at least speaking for myself, sometimes I get tired and want to rest. And sometimes sacrificing for others is uncomfortable. And sometimes it is hard at least for me to understand other people. And forgiveness? That can be a whole lot easier to preach than to do.

But we are to love one another. We are to love in all the ways Jesus loved His disciples. That was and is a commandment from Jesus. As He said, our love for one another is how others will know we are His disciples. Our love for one another is the pink paint that will let others know we belong to Jesus.

So, how do we get to the kind of love - how can we achieve the kind of love - we are to have for each other? For that, let’s consider three passages - a single verse in the Old Testament and two passages in the New Testament. With these, too, what is taught is easier said than done, but let’s find out what the verses teach. We can then pray for God’s strength to not only know, but do, what is taught, thereby honoring Jesus.

The Old Testament verse is in  Leviticus 19. To set the stage, the verse is part of many things God told Moses to tell the people of God. In chapter 19 is what God told Moses to tell the people about being holy. Being holy means being different - spiritually different - than people who are not followers of God.

Early in Leviticus 19, some of the ways to be holy are revering parents, helping the poor, and refraining from stealing, lieing, and slandering. Then in verse 18 is this. “You shall not take vengeance or bear any grudge against another person of God. Instead, you shall love your neighbor [your fellow follower of God] as yourself.”
 
Now, I can understand the part about not taking vengeance. Vengeance is punishment or retribution for an injury or a wrong. I get that. I should never react to injury by injuring whoever injures me. That makes sense.

But not hold a grudge? Really? I mean, if someone hurts me - insults me, injures me, wrongs me - is it not natural to have what a grudge is defined as being, which is a persistent feeling of ill will or resentment? Is such a feeling not to be expected?

Well, yes. To the world such a feeling is to be expected. But remember. Followers of God are to be holy. We are to be different. Followers of God are not to murmur and complain and grumble. By the way, I discovered that the root word for grudge is the same root word for grouch. Followers of God are not to be grouches, even when they are hurt by others, including other followers of God.

Instead, we are to love. As Jesus loved, we are to love, which means to love selflessly, sacrificially, understandingly, forgivingly. And we are to love others, as we love ourselves. Perhaps another way of putting that is that as we want others to not hold grudges against us, we are not to hold grudges toward others.

One more time, that is not easy. But listen to how God ends verse 18. He said, “I am the LORD.” In other words, easy or not, avoiding vengeance, not holding grudges, loving other followers of God are instructions from God. They are what we are to do. Which we can do with His help.

Help that is also needed to meet the instructions in the two New Testament passages we will talk about. Verses that also tell us how to get to - how to achieve - the kind of love Jesus displayed.

The first New Testament passage is Romans 12:10. “Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.”

Love one another with brotherly affection. You know, it occurs to me that brothers - that siblings, be they brothers or sisters - do not always get along very well.

I would have got along with my sister better if she had not picked on me all the time. Boy, she used to like to dig her fingernails into my wrists. Her attacks left indentations that could last for hours.

I never did think that was very loving. So on the surface, brotherly - even sisterly - affection can seriously miss the mark of love.

But you know what? Even among brothers, they may pick on each other, but so many times, they come together when attacked by anyone else.

I was reminded recently of the words of the theme song of Bonanza. Bonanza was the western that ran on NBC television from September 12, 1959, to January 16, 1973 - 430 episodes in 14 seasons. Episodes can still be seen on some of the golden oldie cable TV channels. Bonanza was the chronicles of the Cartwright family - Ben, the father, and sons Adam, Little Joe, and Hoss.

Two of the lines in the theme song are these. “With a gun and a rope and a hat full of hope, we planted a family tree” and “with a horse and a saddle and a range full of cattle, how rich can a fellow be?”

But also, for our consideration of brotherly affection, there is this line. “Here in the West, we're livin' the best, Bonanza. If anyone fights any one of us, he's got a fight with me, Bonanza.”

Is that the kind of relationship you have with other Christians? The kind of relationship I have? Is that the kind of relationship we have in our congregation? The kind of relationship that if any of us is attacked - here we are talking about being attacked by Satan with any evil - that if any of us is attacked, all the rest of us will join the fight? Is that the kind of love - the kind of brotherly affection - we have?

I hope it is. It should be. That is what is taught in the Book of Romans. The kind of love that comes by, as it is also worded in verse 10, outdoing one another in showing honor.

Back to the Cartwrights. Adam. Remember him? He was always kind of the ladies’ man. He was older and smarter than his brothers. He was smooth. Hoss was big and strong. He could put his brothers to shame in displays of strength. Little Joe was spunky. He often got himself into trouble.

Any of those three could have been put off by the other brothers. Pa could have been put off by the actions and the attitudes of any of his sons. And that did happen from time to time. That can happen in real life, too. But when push came to shove, the Cartwrights honored each other enough to love each other enough to fight for each other. That is what we are to do as well.

Jesus said that our love for each other - our love for our fellow Christians - is how others in the world will know we belong to Him. If we accomplish that - when we achieve love - we will not take vengeance or hold a grudge against any fellow follower of God. We will love each other with the good, protective parts of brotherly affection. We will be able to do that by honoring one another, even when that will require us to overlook some of the idiosyncrasies of others. Which includes you overlooking weirdness in me.

And then, let’s think about what is taught in Philippians 2.

As it was with the verse in Romans, these verses were written by the apostle Paul. As it was in Romans, this comes during a discussion about love.

In verse 2, Paul encouraged those who would read the letter to the Philippians to have love, along with a like mind in their Christian walk. To have love. To maintain love. Paul then wrote in verse 3, “Do nothing from selfishness or conceit, but in humility count others better than yourselves.”

Remember again the words used to describe the love of Jesus, three of which are selfless, sacrificial, and understanding. That is what Paul is referring to in verse 3. Let us not be selfish. Instead, may we be willing to sacrifice at least some of what we want or what is comfortable, if that is needed to help others. Let us be understanding of others rather than falling to the conceit that we always know best or that everything is about me.

And verse 4. “Let each of you look, not only to his own interests.” Note the interesting wording. The teaching is not to ignore what interests us individually. We can still act to help ourselves. But that is not to be our only concern. Let each of us look, not only to his own interests, “but also to the interests of others.”

I doubt I can come up with all that entails, but how about spending time with others? How about praying for others? Or with others? How about coming to social functions to be with others? Hopefully by attending, you will be encouraged, but your presence can be an encouragement to others as well. Good Christian fellowship - loving fellowship - should be encouraging.

*       *       *       *       *

In a Scottish field, everyone knew who the pink sheep belonged to, and the identification was not just a spot of paint. Each sheep was covered with pink paint.

In the world, everyone should know who we belong to. And yes, our identification should be more than just a spot here and there. We are to be covered with love.

As hard as that might be to accomplish, let’s pray for God’s strength to know and obey what the Bible teaches about love. May we not take vengeance. May we not even hold a grudge against each other. May we act like brothers with the supporting, protecting aspects of brotherly - and sisterly - affection. May we honor one another. May we be humble toward one another. May we be interested in one another.

Love one another. That is the teaching. Let’s love. By that, all men will know we are disciples of Jesus.

Today’s closing song is They’ll Know We Are Christians By Our Love. As we sing, let’s be encouraged to love. To display our love by walking together and working together.

We are one in the Spirit, we are one in the Lord,
We are one in the Spirit, we are one in the Lord,
And we pray that our unity this day will remain:
So they’ll know we are Christians by our love, by our love,
So they’ll know we are Christians by our love.

We will walk with each other, we will walk hand in hand,
We will walk with each other, we will walk hand in hand,
And together we’ll spread the news that God should be obeyed:
And they’ll know we are Christians by our love, by our love,
Yes, they’ll know we are Christians by our love.

We will work with each other, we will work side by side,
We will work with each other, we will work side by side,
And we’ll guard each other’s dignity and save each other’s worth:
And they’ll know we are Christians by our love, by our love,
Yes, they’ll know we are Christians by our love.

Lord, help us to love as You love - selflessly, sacrificially, understandingly, forgivingly. Help us to love each other - help us to love all our fellow Christians - that way. Help us because we do want to be known as Your disciples. Amen.

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