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Living Generously With My Love

Sharing God's Word, Living His Love
Generosity 1

John 3:14-21

March 10, 2024

What comes to your mind when you hear the word love? You might think of a couple on their wedding day committing themselves to one another for as long as they both shall live. Or a couple celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary in a nursing home, where the man is having to dress his wife or the wife is having to feed her husband. That’s love. You might think of a parent holding their newborn baby for the very first time or a parent sitting next to the bed of their sick child with a high fever all night. That’s love. You might think of your favorite love story movie such as The Notebook or The Sound of Music, or maybe a Christmas special on the  Hallmark channel. Or maybe you’re thinking of your favorite food or sports team. So often we attach the word “love” to anyone or anything that brings us joy or makes us feel good.  What about God? What does He love? While we often think of love as an emotion, a good feeling, or sweet words – and there’s nothing wrong with those things, as they can certainly be a legitimate part of love – they cannot compare to the unconditional genuine love that God the  Father has shown to us through His Son, Jesus. In our Gospel lesson for today we heard that familiar verse that describes who God loves and why He loves. “For God so loved the world,  that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). Now as you read the words of this verse you might think, “Why wouldn’t God love the world? After all, He’s the one who made it.” And that is true, God did make the world and everything in it. The world was perfect, so you could say that it would be easy for God to love the world. It brought him joy and happiness, but it would not remain that way.  In Genesis 6, after sin entered the world and the population grew, it says, “The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the Lord was sorry that he had made man on the earth, and it  grieved him to his heart.” The people who God had created to love him and live with him forever had decided God was not worthy of their love. They loved themselves more than the God who created and cared for them. And sadly, that continues to be situation for our world today.  Revenge, jealousy, and greed move people to acts of violence and hate-filled words that destroy relationships. Selfishness leads people to be more concerned about themselves than about how they can help others. Today people have decided to redefine love as anything they feel like doing regardless of what God says about it. This is not a world that is in love with God.  This is a world that is in love with itself. So why would God still love this world? The answer is  found in the word, “perish.” God knew that the people of this world were going to perish if He did not step in and do something. What’s amazing is that God’s intentions did not change even though the world He created had changed. God’s intentions were and still are that every human being would live with him forever. Because of our sin, God knew that when a person’s life on this earth came to an end, it would result in being separated from God in hell. That was the last thing God wanted, so He did something about it so that people would not eternally perish. He gave His Son, His perfect Son, Jesus, unto death for our sins, so we could live with Him forever.  Jesus perfectly loved those who did not love Him. He loved His enemies. He loved the unlovable. And that love moved Jesus to willingly suffer the punishment of death and hell for our loveless thoughts, words, and actions – for our selfishness, greed, vengeance, hatred, and jealousy. Jesus came to live and die so that you and I can have the life that God intended for people to have with Him ever since He created the world. A life that is free from stress,  suffering, and sadness. A life free from temptation. A life where you will never again have to deal with disappointment or disease. A life where violence and hatred will never exist. This is the life that God promises to all those who believe in Jesus that is waiting for you, like an inheritance that can never perish, spoil, or fade. 

Maybe you or someone you know is going through a rough time today and it just doesn’t feel like God loves you. Maybe you’ve had a death in the family or a lost relationship, and you feel sad and lonely, or maybe there is a sense of uncertainty in your life when it comes to your job,  your health, or how you are going to make ends meet. But that’s the great thing about God’s love. It does not depend on how you feel or what you have done or have failed to do. God’s love is unconditional and none of those things can change His love for you. In fact, the love of  God is the one thing that you can count on no matter what you may go through in life and it changes the way we look at our world. It guides our decisions and determines our actions.  It’s easy to love a newborn baby, but what about someone you disagree with, someone who has hurt you, or a homeless person. God’s genuine love is not easy. It is not romantic movies,  flowers, and cards. It does not always make us feel warm and fuzzy inside. Oftentimes, God’s genuine love means getting our hands dirty, humbling ourselves, and giving up all that we have in service to others.  

God’s love involves sacrifice and sometimes that means sacrificing our pride by having to say, “I’m sorry, I was wrong.” Sometimes it means that you love your neighbor, a friend, or a family member enough to call them out on their sins and holding them accountable. This kind of love can be painful. It may involve people getting angry at you or moments when love is not returned. God’s genuine love is more than words or emotions, it involves actions that may require you give up your time, abilities, or finances for the sake of others.  While I’m sure many of us are familiar with John 3:16, I think it is just as important for us to  know verse 17: “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” No greater love can be expressed than what Jesus did for us. Jesus was not sent into the world to condemn it, He was sent to save the world, and it is only through Jesus that we can truly know what genuine love looks like.  Therefore, the love that God has shown to us makes us look at the world in a different way.  We see our lives and the people God brings into our lives as opportunities to reflect the love that  God has shown to us. Your relationships with your spouse, your children, your friends, your neighbors, and your parents are an opportunity to demonstrate the patient, forgiving love that  God has shown to you. Times of loss and uncertainty become opportunities to witness and grow in your trust in what God has promised you. God’s love helps us to see people not as problems,  but as His dear children who He so loved that He gave His only Son to live and die for, people that God wants just like you and me to live with him forever. 

Al Popilek has been very generous with his love over the past several years in working with people who have suffered the damaging effects of hurricanes and flooding along the coast in our state, in South Carolina, and in Florida. Al has given himself to help people rebuild their homes,  businesses, and lives; and he has seen God’s genuine love expressed through others in his disaster relief work. I would like to invite Al to come forward today to share with us how he has seen God’s love expressed and how you may be able to be more generous with your love. 

May God’s love for us serve as our motivation to be more generous with our love for others. 

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