We know what real love is because Jesus gave up his life for us. So we also ought to give up our lives for our brothers and sisters.
We all want to feel loved and we want to love others. Love is programed is in our human code. Maybe that’s why we are so infatuated with love songs. One study showed that about 60% of the most popular songs from the last 50 years are about romantic love.[i] In 2009, a study claimed that 92% of the top selling songs contained themes of romance, sexual appeal, or attraction.[ii] As I was preparing for this message series about a month ago, I pasted on Facebook, asking for suggestions of cheesy love songs. I was surprised and overwhelmed with a flood of suggestions. It’s been a month and people are still adding song suggestions to the post! The playlist I made from all the suggestions is over and hour and a half long! (You can see the suggestions on my Facebook page here.) Apparently, we love our silly love songs!
One of the first silly love songs many children sing is: Kelly and Chris, sittin’ in a tree. K-I-S-S-I-N-G. First comes love. Then comes marriage. Here comes Kelly with a baby carriage! What a silly song! Sadly, it is a fairly accurate description of the world’s childish view of love. The popular conception of love is that two people see each other and it is Love at First Sight. According to the way I define love--real love--there's no such thing as love at first sight. There may be attraction at first sight, but that's not the same as love. Love is something deeper that flows from a relationship that develops over time.
The popular notion of love stories in our culture says two people meet and they Fall in Love. In this way of thinking, falling in love is as accidental as falling in a ditch! You have no control over it. Again, you may certainly be caught off guard and be accidentally attracted to someone. That is why it may be important to be careful who you hang around with. It might not be wise for a woman and a man who are not married or in a committed relationship to hang out alone together. Men and women are designed to develop attractions to each other and it can happen quite by accident. That's why you have to be careful. Again, I must point out that attraction is not the same as love. Attraction sometimes leads to a relationship of love, but authentic love is a choice. We have the power to choose it or reject it. Love does not happen by accident. You don't fall into love by accident. You choose it or you don't.
In the popular imagination, people fall in love because they’ve found their One True Love. And people often have this terrible fear they might miss out on meeting the one. There is this notion that the is just one person out there who is meant to be your soul mate. People feel a tremendous pressure to find their one true love. Friends, life is not a Disney fairytale. You don’t just have one true love out there. There are lots of fish in the sea (as a more realistic expression goes). There's not just one but plenty of people out there who could all qualify as your "one true love". certainly, there are those out there who are more or less compatible with you, but there are plenty to choose from. And your “One True Love” is the one person you choose to love and who chooses to love you for the rest of your lives.
One of the most common scriptures to read at a wedding is 1 Corinthians 13 (known as the love chapter). It reads: "4 Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud 5 or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. 6 It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. 7 Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance." This really is wonderful advice to give to a couple as they tie the knot, but that's not why Paul wrote it in the first century. Paul gave that advice to the people of his church to instruct them on how to getting along each other in church. It was not about romantic love.
When we here the word love, we often jump directly to romantic love, but that is not the primary focus of the Scriptures. The very first time the Bible uses the word love is in Genesis 22:2 and it’s talking about the way Abraham loves his son Isaac. Ephesians 5:25 does give advice about the love between a husband and wife, but it says, “Husbands, love your wives," (not by giving them a heart shaped box of chocolates, or flowers, or by writing them a sonnet, but love them) "just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.” Love comes in many forms and it’s not just about (or even primarily about) romantic love. 1 John 3:16 tells us what real love is. It says, “We know what real love is because Jesus gave up his life for us. So we also ought to give up our lives for our brothers and sisters.” Wouldn’t you agree: the most precious gift anyone can give is their life? We admire firefighters and others who risk there life and sometimes even lose their lives trying to save others. That is how Jesus loves us. Romans 5:7-8 says, "7 Now, most people would not be willing to die for an upright person, though someone might perhaps be willing to die for a person who is especially good. 8 But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners." Jesus died for some good people. (And I would argue that many of those people were good or did good things because they felt loved by how Jesus died for them.) However, Jesus also died for some very bad people. He died to offer forgiveness and grace and love to some people who've done some very evil things. Maybe even some people who know one would have died for. Jesus even died for the yong man who killed all those students at the school in Florida last week. And Jesus died for all those who were killed. That is the great love of Jesus.
I had planned to sprinkle some silly love song lyrics through this message like last week to drive home some of my points. The song that came to mind for this section was Prince's song, "I Would Die For You.” I never really listen to all the lyrics before as a child when the song was popular (and their kind of hard to understand when Prince is singing). So I thought I better look up the lyrics so I could get them right. I was very surprised by what I found. These are some very spiritual lyrics that are could speak to us today! Not the kind of thing you would expect from a pop icon famous for his sex appeal and provocative dancing and lyrics. But listen to what he sings:
I'm not a woman. I'm not a man. I am something that you'll never understand.
[You see, the deepest love is not about romantic love. It's about Christ's love for you.]
I'll never beat you. I'll never lie. And if you're evil I'll forgive you by and by.[As Prince sings, he emphasizes the word "you" each time he sings this]
'Cause you, I would die for you, yeah; Darling if you want me to.
You, I would die for you
[And the song continues...]
I'm not your lover. I'm not your friend. I am something that you'll never comprehend.No need to worry. No need to cry. I'm your messiah and you're the reason why.
'Cause you, I would die for you, yeah. Darling if you want me to.
You, I would die for you
[Listen to the song here]
Do you realize the love you need doesn’t come from a man or a woman? Until you realize it and find the love of God that fulfills your soul, you’re not really ready to be in a deep romantic relationship with someone. Otherwise, you’ll constantly be expecting them to fill the God-shaped whole in your soul. And they can’t. At best, they’ll just leave you feeling unsatisfied. They’ll be unhappy. You’ll be unhappy. In more severe cases, you’ll reach out for anyone to be in a relationship with in a desperate attempt to fill the void. And you’ll do it again and again even if people keep using and abusing you.The love you need doesn’t come from your kids or your parents or your friends. Sure, we all need our parents to love us. We all want our kids to love us. And we all need friends who love us. But if you’re looking to your parents, your kids, or friends to fill your need for God’s love, you’re setting yourself up for failure and disappointment. If you have the love of God, you can get by without the love of these others; but if you don't have the love of God, none of these others will do.
The love we need is found in Jesus. He already died for you. For you! You are loved with the most deep and desperate and unlimited love! Jesus suffered the most unimaginable pain and agony and death for you! Let that sink in. Let that encourage you. Let that fill you from the bottoms of your feet to top of your heard and to the very depths of your soul.
1 John 3:16 says, “We know what real love is because Jesus gave up his life for us. So we also ought to give up our lives for our brothers and sisters.” We love others, because Jesus first loved us. We are called to love the way Jesus loved us--by giving up our lives for them. Giving up our lives doesn't necessarily mean dying. More often, it means living selflessly with sacrificial love. Because of what Christ did for us, we can join in with Prince as we sing to the world: “I would die for you!” For our spouse – “I would die for you!” For our children – “I would die for you!” For our parents – “I would die for you!” For our friends – “I would die for you!” For our enemies – “I would die for you!” For everyone – “I would die for you!”
I would like to invite you to receive the love of Jesus. He died for you. Receive his love. Accept it. Become his dearly beloved child. Not because you deserve it. But because He did it for you! If you've never done so, please pray to accept his love today. And start living your life for him as he died for you.
I would also like to invite everyone to be filled with the love of Jesus. He died for you. Now he calls you to love others sacrificially. We can’t do that on our own. We need to be filled with Jesus’ love in order to love others the way Jesus loves us. So pray and ask Jesus to fill you today.