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« Give Me This Mountain | Main | How Far to Bethany? »

The Limits of Love

Romans 5:5-8 (NIV)
5 And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.
6 You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.
7 Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die.
8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

This week, the world is filled with love.  Cupid is fluttering his wings everywhere you look; roses in a panoply of colors, chocolates, chocolate flowers, chocolate strawberries, extravagant cards, email messages, engagement rings…it’s a beautiful time of the year.  Love songs like these will make their way over the airwaves:

The unfortunate thing about western culture, however, is that far too many of these expressions of love that float around are untested, untried, hyperboles.  Some may even be desperate attempts to put Band-Aids on shattered relationships.  Still, we don’t want to upset the proverbial applecart.  We want to believe that it is all true, that the rapturous words in the Hallmark card come from the heart, rather than a wordsmith somewhere writing poems for money.

It’s just that human love seems so fickle.  It seems so temporary, so manipulated.  Romantic love flashes its brilliance, drowns us in its syrupy sweetness, suffocates us in flowery prose, and then disappears so quickly, leaving only perfumed air in its wake.

But I do know a love that never fails.  It’s called divine love, God’s love, agape love.

John 3:16 (KJV)
16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

What about this song?  (It didn’t make the list.)

1.   Down from His glory,   Ever living story,
My God and Savior came,   And Jesus was His name.
Born in a manger,   To His own a stranger,
A Man of sorrows, tears and agony.

O how I love Him! How I adore Him!
My breath, my sunshine, my all in all!
The great Creator became my Savior,
  And all God’s fulness dwelleth in Him.

2.   What condescension,  Bringing us redemption;
That in the dead of night,   Not one faint hope in sight,
God, gracious, tender,   Laid aside His splendor,
Stooping to woo, to win, to save my soul.

3.   Without reluctance,   Flesh and blood His substance
He took the form of man,   Revealed the hidden plan.
O glorious myst’ry,   Sacrifice of Calv’ry,
And now I know Thou art the great “I AM.”


Someone has aptly said, “Jesus in not my boyfriend!”  His love is on a different plane.  Agape love is not “puppy love.”

        Ephesians 2:4-7  But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us,  5  Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) 6 And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus:  7  That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus.

        Love must never be taken at one’s word.  It is too important, too dangerous of a concept, too powerful to be embraced without convincing proof that it is genuine. 

        Think, for example, of the intoxicating power of the symbols of love:  A dozen roses; an engagement ring; the simple expression of “I love you.”  These expressions can release the totality of a person’s emotions.  That’s why it is important to bring love into scrutiny to see whether or not it is real.

2 Cor 8:8  I speak not by commandment, but by occasion of the forwardness of others, and to prove the sincerity of your love.

2 Cor 8:24  Wherefore shew ye to them, and before the churches, the proof of your love, and of our boasting on your behalf.

Love is the most powerful of all human emotions.

        Love will make you do what you had not planned to do.  It makes you go into debt.  It makes you give up freedom. 

        Look what Jesus did because he loved us.

Romans 5:6-8 “ For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.  7  For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die.  8  But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

Love Lifts You Up

        Love will lift you into a higher realm than you have ever lived.  There is no higher virtue than love.  There is no greater attribute of God than love.

        I Jn 4:16-19    And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him.  17  Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as he is, so are we in this world.  18  There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love.  19  We love him, because he first loved us.

        In the second commandment, Jesus stated that we should love our neighbor as ourselves.  In John 13, however, he talked about a new covenant.

John 13:34      A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.

        In other words, Jesus takes the frame of reference out of the human realm and places it into the divine.  We do not look to ourselves, our feelings, emotions and sentiments to determine our love.  That keeps love on a human level.  Hatred, bitterness, jealousy, strife and hurt between people are out of the question when we have divine love. 

        Everything a Christian does is an outgrowth of love, not law.

        We pay our tithes because we love Jesus.

        We come to church because we love Jesus.

        We live holy lives because we love Jesus.

        We continually say no to the world because we love Jesus.


Love is Changes You

        Love will make you become what you have never been before.

        Love does not happen in a vacuum.  You will be changed by what or who you love. 

        This is why we are strongly warned about the influence of the world in our lives. 


        I Jn 2:15-17  Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.  16  For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.  17  And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.

1 Tim 6:10  For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.

        This leads us to the source of our greatest hope:  the more we love God, the more like God we will become. 

I Jn 3:1  Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not.  2  Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.

The limits of love:

But the question I want to drive home to your hearts today is about the limits of love. 

“Jesus always befriended the misfortunate and the down-and-out.  When He ate dinner at Simon’s house, He signaled to the world that He would be a friend of sinners, regardless of the scorn heaped upon him by his prideful and falsely pious critics.

Captain Kenneth DeCelle who is with the United States Army, tells this story:

        “We were the only family with children in the restaurant. I sat Erik in a high chair and noticed everyone was quietly sitting and talking. Suddenly, Erik squealed with glee and said, Hi.” He pounded his fat baby hands on the highchair tray. His eyes were crinkled in laughter and his mouth was bared in a toothless grin, as he wriggled and giggled with merriment.

        I looked around and saw the source of his merriment. It was a man whose pants were baggy and his toes poked out of would-be shoes. His shirt was dirty and his hair was uncombed and unwashed. His whiskers were too short to be called a beard and his nose was so varicose it looked like a road map. We were too far from him to smell, but I was sure he smelled. His hands waved and flapped on loose wrists.

        ‘Hi there, Baby. Hi there, Big Boy. I see ya, Buster,’ the man said to Erik.

        My husband and I exchanged looks. What do we do?

        Erik continued to laugh and answer, ‘Hi.’

        Everyone in the restaurant noticed and looked at us and then at the man. The old geezer was creating a nuisance with my beautiful baby. Our meal came and the man began shouting from across the room, ‘Do ya pattycake? Do you know peek-a-boo?  Hey, look, he knows peek-a-boo.’

        Nobody thought the old man was cute. He was obviously drunk. My husband and I were embarrassed. We ate in silence; all except for Erik, who was running through his repertoire for the admiring skid row bum, who in turn, reciprocated with his cute comments.

        We finally got through the meal and headed for the door. My husband went to pay the check and told me to meet him in the parking lot. The old man sat poised between me and the door. ‘Lord, just let me out of here before he speaks to me or Erik,’ I prayed. As I drew closer to the man, I turned my back trying to sidestep him and avoid any air he might be breathing.

        As I did, Erik leaned over my arm, reaching with both arms in a baby’s pick-me-up position. Before I could stop him, Erik had propelled himself from my arms to the man’s.

        Suddenly a very old smelly man and a very young baby held each other in a gesture of  love and kinship. Erik in an act of total trust, love and submission laid his tiny head upon the man’s raged shoulder. The man’s eyes closed, and I saw tears hover beneath his lashes. His aged hands full of grime, pain and hard labor, cradled my baby’s bottom and stroked his back.

        No two beings have ever loved so deeply for so short a time. I stood awestruck.

        The old man rocked and cradled Erik in his arms, and his eyes opened and set squarely on mine. He said in a firm commanding voice, ‘You take care of this baby.’

        Somehow I managed, ‘I will,’ from a throat that contained a stone. He pried Erik from his chest, lovingly and longingly, as though he were in pain.

        I received my baby, and the man said, ‘God bless you, Ma’am. You’ve given me my Christmas gift.’

        I said nothing more than a muttered thanks. With Erik in my arms, I ran for the car. (In the car) my husband was wondering why I was crying and holding Erik so tightly, and why I was saying, ‘My God, my God, forgive me.’

        I had just witnessed Christ’s love shown through the innocence of a tiny child who saw no sin, who made no judgment; a child who saw a soul, and a mother who saw a suit of clothes. I was a Christian who was blind, holding a child who was not. I felt it was God asking, ‘Are you willing to share your son for a moment?’ He shared His for all eternity.

        The ragged old man, unwittingly, had reminded me that to enter the Kingdom of God we must become as little children.’

        Live simply, love generously, care deeply, speak kindly. Leave the rest to God.”

Would your love extend to an old man like this?

Have you ever read the stories of people who believe they are unlovable?

Posted by Faction, 26-30 year old woman,
“Nobody has ever loved me. Not really. My father was an alcoholic. He loved drugs and booze more than me. He’d tell me that he loved me but then he’d disappear. And even when he got sober he never said he loved me. He got a new family. He left me behind.

“My mother tried to love me but she couldn’t. She told me that she tried to love me but that it was my fault. That no matter how much she tried it was never enough. That there was something wrong with me. Something broken.

“I’ve had two relationships. One lasted 7 years and then he called me up and told me that he couldn’t do it anymore. “You’re just not the type of girl someone like me marries.”

“Recently I met someone who said that I was perfect. That he loved and adored me. Then he dumped me via a facebook status update. No fight. No argument. Nothing had changed.

“Except maybe he’d finally seen the real me. I wonder if I walk around with the mask of a normal person but then it slips and people see what I really am and that’s why they leave.

“I almost hope that’s the answer. If I’m the problem then at least I know that I deserve this. At least then it would be fair.

“At what point do you just give up?”

What is your answer to this woman?

I shared this following piece with the LifeLines team a few weeks ago.  They won’t mind me sharing it with you.


        Jesus Christ died to save people from their sins.  This we know.  What we often forget is why.  John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”  Romans 5:8 adds  “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”  The most important truth that must energize us is that God loves people!  In saving us, His love for us came first.  After that—-rather because of it—-he died to save us.  He did not save us and afterwards learn to love us.  He loved us first and devised a means to save us. 

        We must examine any obstacles that seem to block the love of God from flowing freely through us as individuals or congregations.  That’s why we must look closely, even critically, at who we are and what we are doing.  We must be willing to ask ourselves the question whether or not we truly love people to the same magnitude that Christ did.  In fact, the two greatest commandments of the law include loving God and loving others.

In projecting a strategy for future growth, we must begin from these starting blocks of God’s love for people. 

If we fail to show love for people in what we do, we must change. 

If we overlook opportunities to love people, we must change. 

If we love ourselves, our routines, our traditions or our personal friends more than people, we must change. 

Whether these failings are by design, default or delusion, we must change.  New evangelistic thrusts will truly work only if a congregation will make the changes to make it happen.  Our human targets ought to be as all-inclusive as we can make them:  new converts, former members, people who have come to church but never committed themselves, or people who have had an experience with God but have deep personal problems. 

        No solution is complete unless it involves every single person in the church in some way.  The paramount question must be:  “What can I and what will I do to start the positive change in making this church a church that loves people?”

        If we want people to believe that we love them, we must convince them of our sincerity. 

        They must sense that we mean it by giving them priority.

        They must hear it in our initial greeting.

        They must hear it in our worship.

        They must hear it in our teaching and preaching.

        They must read it in our literature.

        They must see it in our faces.

        They must feel it in our spirit.

        They must feel it in our handshakes and hugs.

        They must know it through the amount of time we are willing to spend with them.

        They must be treated to our message of love from the time they enter to the time they leave.

        People can be attracted to our churches by many things, but love alone will secure them.  Love for people stands as God’s primary motivation for every redemptive act.  Faith may move mountains and hope may start revolutions, but love outlives, outdoes, outreaches and outlasts them all. 

If love is limited to people you know, it is not big enough.

If your love is limited to your family, it is not big enough.

If your love cuts out people you don’t understand, it is too limited.

If your love leaves out people you think are strange, it is too limited.

If you cannot love the person who has sinned too much, your love is too limited.

If you were going to build an addition to your house, you wouldn’t just start digging or tearing down walls.  You would first go to the blueprints of the existing structure and find out where the footers or the foundation walls were located.  Likewise, if we want to add to the church, if we want to see real growth, we need to go to the blueprints of the church and see where the limits, the perimeters are established.  Where would that be?  The platform?  The four walls of your existing building?  Your family?  Your circle of friends?  The people who look like you?  “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten son…?”  The world?

Would your love be too limited for this woman?

Luke 7:36-50 (MSG)
36 One of the Pharisees asked him over for a meal. He went to the Pharisee’s house and sat down at the dinner table.
37 Just then a woman of the village, the town harlot, having learned that Jesus was a guest in the home of the Pharisee, came with a bottle of very expensive perfume
38 and stood at his feet, weeping, raining tears on his feet. Letting down her hair, she dried his feet, kissed them, and anointed them with the perfume.
39 When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man was the prophet I thought he was, he would have known what kind of woman this is who is falling all over him.”
40 Jesus said to him, “Simon, I have something to tell you.” “Oh? Tell me.”
41 “Two men were in debt to a banker. One owed five hundred silver pieces, the other fifty.
42 Neither of them could pay up, and so the banker canceled both debts. Which of the two would be more grateful?”
43 Simon answered, “I suppose the one who was forgiven the most.” “That’s right,” said Jesus.
44 Then turning to the woman, but speaking to Simon, he said, “Do you see this woman? I came to your home; you provided no water for my feet, but she rained tears on my feet and dried them with her hair.
45 You gave me no greeting, but from the time I arrived she hasn’t quit kissing my feet.
46 You provided nothing for freshening up, but she has soothed my feet with perfume.
47 Impressive, isn’t it? She was forgiven many, many sins, and so she is very, very grateful. If the forgiveness is minimal, the gratitude is minimal.”
48 Then he spoke to her: “I forgive your sins.”
49 That set the dinner guests talking behind his back: “Who does he think he is, forgiving sins!”
50 He ignored them and said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you. Go in peace.”

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