Love. All religions and cultures teach about it. They claim it to be among the world’s greatest virtue. Is it a feeling or an action? Is it in roses and chocolates or through special words and unexpected gestures? Whatever form it takes, it is clearly not something that is innate within us. When you look at a baby, the only one he truly loves is himself. I cry when I’m hungry. I cry when I poop. I cry when I wake. I cry because I want things. And yet, as adults, I actually don’t think many things have changed. As I have learned so many times through marriage, still, the only one I truly love is myself. Instead of crying, these days I just whine. Many arguments and annoyances that erupt in my relationship with my wife seem to stem from the same source as when I was a kid: my purely selfish nature. It seems as though the reason all religions and cultures talk about love so much is because it is so absent in our very beings. Rather, as this past sermon seemed to suggest, something that is perhaps more true about human nature is the very presence of something completely opposite: hate. It is a harsh word but when you take the façade and fakeness away from statements like “I’m just annoyed at her” or “He irritates me so much,” it really translates out to hatred.
As a Christian, guilty and with an uneasy conscious, Pastor Bert’s sermon reminded me of something very true about the nature of God: He is true love. The truest of the greatest virtues; the truest of all teachings is God. This God who so loved the world — so loved you and me and every person I have ever hurt or hated — God so loved this hated and hateful world. His Son died as a moral example for us; but even more so, His Son died to transform us and grant us a new life in Him. Thereby, through the God Who Is Love, we too may do that hard thing to do — we too may love. Love is not easy. As Pastor Bert highlighted in the tail end of his sermon, Jesus exhorts his followers with this daunting task: “Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.” Those that annoy and irritate and are just plain mean — we are to be merciful to them? We are to give a love that is unexplainable? We are to serve these people? We are to bless and pray for these despicable people? What about me? Give me mercy! Give me love! But, indeed, we have been flooded with God’s love and mercy and He wants us to do the same.
While all religions may teach about love, can I be so bold as to say that Christianity is the only one that can give the only antidote to our innate disease of hate? After all, no other religion is crazy enough to claim the god they follow has died for them. Our God chose that weak position. Why? So we may be empowered to love in the same way. So we too may choose that weak position. As Pastor Bert described, to be merciful is not to give up but to be merciful is to recognise the other person as another precious child of God. But before we can truly be merciful to another, we have to first embrace the mercy that God has freely given to us. This, really, is a deep prayer of my own. That I may truly experience God’s love and mercy and, likewise, be able to share a portion of that love and mercy with others. I am in desperate need of God’s love. I cannot love those I hate without it. I cannot.
This was a continuation of our series for this year. You can find the notes of the message as well as the worship at the BCEC Sermon Page or listen to last week’s sermon directly – Why Love Those You Hate?.