Thought: For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. Rom 8:14

The Power of Love
Saturday 4th January, 2014

I once read a story about a little boy who was a patient in a hospital. As the nurses tended his wounds and nursed him back to health, they would conclude by saying, "I love you." One day, the little lad asked his nurse, "What is love?" For one moment, the nurse was paralyzed and stunned as she struggled to define love. Then finally she pulled him to her chest, squeezed him, kissed him, and said, "That is love!" The little boy looked up with a sparkle in his eyes and his childish dimples rippled into a broad smile as he exclaimed, "I like love!"

Yes, we all like love! From my house to your house to God's house, we all like love. Yet, love is one of the most neglected phenomena in the world and the church today. Our world is dominated by a loveless culture. We hate, we hurt, and we destroy. You name the problem in our world and in our lives and it spells the absence of or the improper understanding of love: Be it domestic discord, packed prisons, crowded courts, national terrorism, political corruption, economic injustice, human exploitation, family feud, broken relationships,… You name it! It all reverts to the fact that people have not learnt to live according to the laws of love.

Jesus said, "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbor as thyself" (Luke 10:27). We must demonstrate unbounding love for the body of believers and humanity. The rulers of the world prefer the enforcement of power over the demonstration of love. To them, love is too simple, too sentimental, or too weak. They fear that, if they speak of love, they will become vulnerable to the enemies' attacks.

How many Christians have been known primarily as a people of love? They shall know that we are Christians by our love. God intended it to be our outstanding mark of identification. What is the first thing we tell others when we begin to explain who we are and why we do what we do? Is it the enormity and vitality of our love? We take more pride in boasting of our numbers than in boasting of our love. We would rather make our budgets fatter than make our love greater. We would rather be steadfast to Robert's Rules of Order than to the consistent obedience of Jesus' command to love one another. If love was the primary criterion for holding office in the church, would we qualify? Someone rightly said that we all need transformation from the love of power to the power of love.

Love is such an overworked word. It is so often used that it is abused and misused: so much so that when we hear it, it does not elicit the attractive force of the reality and vitality of love. It is often difficult to talk about love because it has been used to define anything from the most frivolous impulse to the most sublime commitment. It is easily lost in ambiguities, often not readily understood, or not clearly expressed. It crisscrosses a wide range of definitions from representing the paradigm of the ideal relationship to the flippant tongue and careless words which make light and cheap what is holiest and highest. We love our veggie burger! We love our car! And yes, we love our spouse.

The greatest news in our world today is that God is love. 1 John 4:16 declares; "God is love and he who abides in love abides in God and God in him" (NIV). John says that God is love. God and love are inseparable. We cannot have God without love and we cannot have love without God. God is love and there is no way to relate to God except in the ways, works, and words of love. It is the essence of our being.

"Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God" (I John 3:1). John's invitation is not just simply intended to emphasize the importance of what follows, but it is a distinct command to do the thing, to look, to look again and to ever look and live in the habit of devout contemplation of that infinite and wondrous love of God. What John calls us to contemplate with wonder and gratitude is not only the fact of this marvelous love, but also the glorious end to which it has been given us. All this lavish bestowal of love, unspeakable as it is, may be regarded as having one great end—that man should become, in the deepest sense, His children. Let us stop and really open our hearts to these enormous realities! Ponder this classic summation in the book, Patriarchs and Prophets:
"Oh, the mystery of redemption! The love of God for a world that did not love Him! Who can know the depths of the love that ‘passeth knowledge'? Through endless ages, immortal minds, seeking to comprehend the mystery of that incomprehensible love, will wonder and adore (p. 63.3). Can you take it in?

We are called upon to come with our little vessel to measure the contents of the great ocean, to plumb with our short line the infinite abyss, and not only to estimate the quantity, but the quality of that love, which in both respects, surpasses all our means of comparison and conception. Properly speaking, we can do neither the one nor the other, for we have no line long enough to sound its depth, and no experience which will give us a standard with which to compare its quality. Such love is without parallel. But John would have us do all that we can do. That is, look and ever look at the workings of that love until in beholding we become changed by love. We can no more "behold what manner of love that the Father has bestowed on us" than we can look with undimmed eyes right into the middle of the sun, But we can in some measure imagine the tremendous and beneficent forces that ride forth on its beams and reach their journey's end unwearied and ready for their task as when they began. However, the imagination faints in trying to grasp its enormity. Even though we are ninety odd millions of miles from the center of the system, yet we are warmed by its beams, and touched for good by its power in a thousand ways. How mighty the Power which produces these effects! In like manner, who can gaze into the fiery depths of the infinite Godhead, into ardors of immeasurable, incomparable, and inconceivable love? But we can look at and measure its activities, we can see what it does, and so we can, to some degree, understand it, and feel after all that we have a measure for the immeasurable, and a comparison for the incomparable. Thus, we can behold what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us.

According to John, the most wonderful revelation to every man's heart of the depth of the Divine heart lies in the gift of Jesus Christ. "For God so love the world that He gave His only begotten son" (John 3:16). Inspiration asserts that "the more we study the Divine character in the light of the cross, the more we see mercy, tenderness, and forgiveness blended with equity and justice, and the more clearly we discern the innumerable evidences of a love that is infinite and a tender pity surpassing a mother's yearning sympathy for her wayward child" (Steps to Christ, p. 15) That is why we call it the wondrous cross. Ah, He carried so much love with Him to Calvary. "My richest gain I count but loss, and pour contempt on all my pride" (Watts, 1707, When I Survey the Wondrous Cross). My egotism or my arrogance does not mean anything. I turn to the cross and I see there a love which shrinks from no sacrifice, but gives Him up to death for us all. I turn to the cross and see there a love which is evoked by no lovableness on my part, but comes from the depth of His own Infinite Being who loves because He must and who must because He is God. I turn to the cross and see there manifested a love which sighs for recognition and which desires nothing of me but the repayment of my poor affection, and longs to see its own likeness in me. I see there a love that will not be put away by sinfulness, shortcomings, or evil but pours its treasures on the unworthy like sunshine on a dunghill. I look at the cross and see there mirrored Jesus' loving care. His care cries aloud to every ear in tones of more beseeching entreaty and imperative command to ‘behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us.' Yes, it is stronger than death and sin. It is armed with all power. It is boundless and endless in its measure—measureless; and in its quality, transcendent – for God's life is God's love. It is His great gift to me. By the death of shame and suffering, He paid man's ransom. What self-sacrificing Love is this!

The Son of God became the son of man so that the sons of men may become the sons of God. Through transgression, the sons of men became subjects of Satan. Through the faith in the atoning sacrifice of Christ, the sons of Adam may become the sons of God. What a value this places on man! Inspiration concludes that it is ‘Theme for the most profound meditation' (Steps to Christ, p. 15).Of Christ's relationship to His people, there is a beautiful illustration in the laws given to Israel. When, through poverty, a Hebrew had been forced to part with his patrimony and to sell himself as a bondservant, the duty of redeeming him and his inheritance fell to the one who was nearest of kin (Lev. 25:25, 47-49; Ruth 2:20; Desire of Ages, p. 327~3). The national law enabled a person who lost all credibility of having anything at all to be redeemed. All his property and his freedom could be redeemed by his next of kin. So, the work of redeeming us and our inheritance lost through sin fell upon Him who is "nearest of kin" unto us. It was to redeem us that He became our Kinsman. God came nearer to the human race than any other creature so that the human race may be endowed with Divine nature. Closer than father, mother, brother, friend, or even lover is the Lord, our Saviour. He is our Sacrifice, our Advocate, and our Brother. Jesus "is not ashamed to call them brethren" (Hebrews 2:11). ‘To as many as received Him, to them gave He power to be the sons of God. '( John 1:12) Thank God, sons who became prodigals and slaves can become sons again.

The price paid for our redemption—the infinite sacrifice of our heavenly Father in giving His Son to die for us—should give us exalted conceptions of what we may become through Christ. But it also means two things: every human being is related to every other human being and "whoever loves God must also love his brother" (1 John 4:21). Love is demonstrative! It is best demonstrated instead of debated. Jesus illustrated this best in a magnificent story which began with a theological discussion on the meaning of eternal life and concluded in a concrete expression of love on a dangerous road. Jesus is asked a question by a lawyer who has been trained in the details of Jewish Law, "Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life" (Luke 10:25)? The question is not so much designed for information but intended to trap Him, but we cannot trap Jesus. Jesus answered the scholar's question with a question, ‘What do you read in the law?' To which the thoroughly-schooled lawyer shot back, "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind." It was the familiar Shema of Israel and that he had known as a memory verse from kindergarten days. However, he added a more familiar line from the ancient law just to be safe, "And thy neighbor as thyself" (vs. 27).Like us today, the lawyer wanted to turn the conversation of love into an abstract theological discussion. But Jesus, determined not to be caught in the "paralysis of analysis," pulls the question from mid-air and places it on a dangerous curve between Jerusalem and Jericho. Jesus, the master storyteller, weaves a story straight out of the daily news about a Jewish victim, a Jewish clergyman, a Jewish Elder, and a Samaritan businessman. This man was considered a half-breed from a people with whom the Jews had no dealing. A "certain man," Jesus exclaims, went down from Jerusalem to Jericho and fell among robbers who stripped him, beat him, and departed leaving him half dead. By chance, a certain Pastor appeared but passed by on the other side. Later, an Elder came close, looked at him, and passed by. Finally, a certain man who was of a different ethnic class, faith, and religious persuasion appeared. When he saw the wounded man, he was moved with compassion and love. He administered first aid and placed him on his beast. Today, he would have put him in his SUV. He took him to an inn and paid the host for his needs with the guarantee to take care of the excess if such proved insufficient. When Jesus gets to the end of the story, Jesus turns to the lawyer and recasts the lawyer's question. "Which one of these is thy neighbor?" And when the lawyer wouldn't even mention the name but instead mumbled, "The one who showed him mercy;" Jesus drove home the punch line, "Go and do likewise" (Luke 10:37). In The Desire of Ages, Ellen G. White gives a rather terse but poignant summary of the moral of this story. She says "Thus the question, ‘who is my neighbor?' is forever answered. Christ has shown that our neighbor does not mean merely one of the church or faith to which we belong. It has no reference to race, color, or class determination. Our neighbor is every person who needs our help. Our neighbor is every soul who is wounded and bruised by the adversary. Our neighbour is everyone who is the property of God!" (p. 503).

Jesus demonstrated in this story that love is not a passive commitment to a particular creed but a dynamic participation, a concrete expression of compassion on life's roadsides. There are three behaviors that should define and shape our love ethic:

Love is not myopic
Love is not colour blind. It looks beyond the externals. The Pastor and Elder saw only a bleeding body. They did not see a human being. The tragedy in life is that our cultural blinders have caused us to see people as entities, numbers, and labels. We see men and women as Kittitians, Trinidadians, Antiguans, Barbadians, Jews, Catholics, Muslims, Pentecostals, etc. we fail to see them as fellow human beings who are made from the same stuff that we are made of. We were moulded in the same Divine image. If the Samaritan had considered the wounded man as a Jew first, he would not have stopped, for the Jews were engaged in passive ethnic cleansing. He saw him as a human being—a brother—who was a Jew by accident.
The good neighbour looks beyond the externals and discerns those inner qualities that make all men human beings and brothers. Your neighbour may be a racist, a bigot, a homosexual, a drug addict, a drunkard, even a crocked politician. He or she is a certain man or woman on the many Jericho roads of life who needs our love. We are all in the same fix, the same mess - sin. Some of us are just in it more deeply than others. We are victims of the human condition which is fundamentally sinful. Sin is an estrangement due to the lack of love or the improper love of self to the exclusion of God and of others.

Love goes beyond the call of duty
The Samaritan did not just do what duty demanded, he did what he delighted in doing. With his own hands he bandaged his wounds and put him on his beast. He could have left him there or put him in front of the inn. Today, some of us would have put him in a taxi and paid for it not wishing to dirty our leather-seated vehicle, or we would have called the ambulance.
Love is more than pity. Pity looks down and responds with little impersonal concern. But love—compassion—gets down, and puts one's soul in it. When you put yourself in someone's place, feelings, pain, agony and burdens, you are not just doing something for them; you are doing something with them. His love did not just compliment. His love was complete.

It could be inferred that the Priest and Levite did not stop because of many good reasons. Perhaps they were too busy with their pastoral and ecclesiastical agendas. Maybe they were afraid that they too may become victims. The Jericho road was a dangerous path which could expose them to unforeseen attacks.
The Priest and Levite asked themselves, ‘if I stop, what will happen to me?' But the Samaritan asked himself, ‘if I do not stop, what will happen to him?' Love always reverses the question! We often hesitate to love or demonstrate love because we ask ourselves what will happen to my job, my prestige, my status, or my good name. Jesus shows us that the ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of convenience and comfort but where he stands at times of challenges and controversy.
The true neighbour risks his privileges, his position, and even his life for the welfare of others. In the dangerous valleys and the hazardous highways of life, love will lift some bruised and beaten brother to a higher and nobler life.

What's love got to do with it? Everything! For in essence, the gospel is "go make lovers of all men!" Go demonstrate, authenticate, and elucidate the power of love in your life!
There is no real religious experience which does not express itself in love – Music without love is noise; worship without love is pretense; preaching without love is empty; praying without love is selfish; work without love is drudgery; faith without love is fanaticism; intelligence without love is arrogance; competence without love is fear; power without love is oppression; freedom without love is chaos; life without love is death; truth without love is impossible; the Bible without love is incomprehensible; God without love is a contradiction in terms. The Church without love is nothing but a closed club of contented cronies.
In the First Century Church, it was the power of love that turned the Greco-Roman world upside down and transformed pagan culture into Christianity. They demonstrated and articulated unbounded love for the believers and for humanity at large. It was love, not the correctness of doctrine, not the rigor of logic, and not the perfection pg | 9of morals that astounded but attracted pagans to Christianity. The heathens were made to exclaim with wonder when they saw how the Christians loved one another for the heathens hated each other. Let us have an encore!

Let us go to the highways and byways of life and make lovers of all men! Jesus is the best example of what authentic love looks like and the Seventh-day Adventist Christian is the best example of the transforming power of love in one's life. I want to declare it with my lips and demonstrate it in my lifestyle. But before we can "do," we must "be." So I entreat you to look again. Behold! "See, from His head, His hands, His feet, sorrow and love flow mingled down. Did e'er such love and sorrow meet? Or thorns compose so rich a crown? …Love so amazing, so divine, demands my life, my soul, my all" (Watts, 1707, 'When I Survey the Wondrous Cross').
"For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 8:38 – 39).

Pastor Desmond James
President, South Leeward Mission