That’s Love

Text: Mark 12: 28-34

“Whoever said that love is easy, must have never been in love” (song titled Ten by Jewel). Although Jewel was speaking about a romantic love, the concept of love not being easy can translate into our gospel text.

In the gospel, Jesus the Christ notes that the greatest commandments are to (1) love God with all you heart, soul, and mind and (2) to love your neighbors as yourself. Similarly, the gospel of John includes this second commandment, but states ‘as I have loved you, you also should love one another’ (John 13:34).  The John text further demonstrates that not only are we commanded to love our neighbors, but we are commanded to love our neighbors imitating how Jesus the Christ has first loved us. Therefore, what is Christ-like love?

Unfortunately our world seems to lack in Christ-like love. The world is stained with sin and hatred, therefore begging the question ‘where is the love’? Perhaps, these questions may be resolved in light of our human experiences.

On September 11, 2010 a Qur’an was found at the entrance of a Masque in Knoxville, Tennessee. This Qur’an had been burnt, additionally this Qur’an had bullet holes (Article). We all remember hearing of Terry Jones, a ‘Christian’ pastor in Florida, that threatened to burn the Qur’an on September 11, 2011. However, it was not until March 2012 that Jones and company acted upon this threat (Article).  Where is the love?

A Muslim community in Chandler Arizona was constructing a Masque when the infamous events of September 11, 2001 occurred. The community become unable to continue construction, when a local Evangelical Lutheran Church in America congregation (Holy Trinity Lutheran Church) opened their doors to this Muslim community. This congregation risked negative public relations and risked the loss of membership in the name of the Gospel. That’s love!

When you attend concerts and special events, the chance of encountering individuals preaching on the corners and in the parking lot is heightened. Unfortunately the message is simple HATE, particularly expressed against the LBGT community (i.e. Lesibian, Bisexual, Gay, Transgender) with signs broadcasting “God Hates Fags”. These and similar messages are the root of destructive bullying, which have recently resulted in the suicide of five young adults: Seth Walsh (age 13), Tyler Clementi (age 18), Asher Brown (age 13), Billy Lucas (age 15), and Raymond Chase (age 19). Where is the love?

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America gathered together in August of 2009 for the semi-annual Church-Wide Assembly. This Church-Wide Assembly has been marked with the historical vote to permit openly LBGT individuals to serve as Ordained Ministers of Word and Sacrament while being in a committed relationship. The church feared the loss of congregations, leadership, and membership; however 2/3 of the voting members felt led by the Holy Spirit to further extend the Gospel. That’s love!

Fred Phelps, the Pastor of the Westboro Baptist Church, has earned a reputation for protesting funerals especially those of military men and women. Phelps and company are known for their words and signs that state “Thank God for IEDs” (or Roadside Bombs) and “Pray for More Dead Soldiers”. These messages are further expressions of hatred because additionally the protest is not anti-war or anti-military, but rather anti-LBGT. The protest is rooted in their conception that the United States government is supportive of the LBGT community, therefore the death of U.S. soldiers are divine punishment for protecting and defending a nation that supports the LBGT community. Where is the love?

“All gave some, some gave all” (title of Billy Ray Cyrus song), these words echo with truth. Soldiers and their families, friends, and loved ones sacrifice peace of mind, moments to create lasting memories, and offer prayer for their own and their comrades safe return home. The soldier ultimately may be called upon to sacrifice their own lives for another. That’s love.

Eric Smith Jr., a friend of my sister Amanda, was murdered in the summer of 1997. On that summer day, Eric and his younger brother Larry traveled to New Mexico for a fishing trip with their father, who had a history of drug abuse. Once the family arrived at the fishing hole, their father attacked Larry claiming that Larry was possessed by the Devil. While jumping between his father and brother, Eric pushed Larry to safety. Unfortunately, Eric not only risked but sacrificed his life that day. Eric was stabbed over 60 times in the back prior to being beheaded and his head thrown from the van window onto the New Mexico Freeway (Article). Where is the love?

There are dedicated single parents, such as my mother Tonya. She struggled as a single parent to put a roof over our heads, food on our table, and shoes on our feet. At one point, she was employed full-time at a company while working part-time at night as a pizza delivery driver and as a cocktail waitress. However, she always managed the time to listen to Amanda and I, to be involved in our studies, and to be involved in our extracurricular activities. She sacrificed luxuries she desired, she sacrified her sleep, and I am confident in saying at times she sacrificed her own sanity to be our mother,  father, and provider. That’s love!

However, the questions begged are (1) what is love and (2) where is the love? Matt Kennon, an up and coming artist in the Country-Rock genre, has a song entitled “That’s Love“.  The song describes two challenging human situations (1) a young pregnant, soon to be single mother and (2) a husband at the side of his wife with Alzheimer’s. However, the song concludes with the ultimate example of love. These lyrics are:

When you sacrifice for someone else
And you put them before yourself
And don’t think about what you’re giving up
That’s love

A lonely son hanging from a cross
We know he died for all of us
That’s love

The gospel of Mark commands Christians to love our neighbor as yourselves, however the gospel of John furthers this command. As stated previously, John states that Jesus the Christ commanded Christians to love their neighbors in light of his love for them. These shared examples of love in the midst of our hateful world embraces the notion of risking and sacrificing for another. However, Jesus the Christ remains our perfect example of Christ-like (i.e. Christain) love among our broken world of sin and hatred. Amen.

*Originally preached on 10 October 201o
*Revised from Sermon Outline on 11 August 2012 for Blog

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