WE CAN HAVE PEACE ONLY IF WE LEARN TO TRULY LOVE ONE ANOTHER
A SERMON ORIGINALLY DELIVERED AT
THE FEDERATED CHURCH OF ATHENS
10 OCTOBER 1993
By Frank L. Hoffman, Pastor
1 John 4:18
Most of you have heard me many times talking about the way the Lord offers us peace and love, and the way we abuse those opportunities.
We have discussed how the Soviet Bloc broke up and how various groups that were inside began to fight with each other.
And just this past week we have seen more bloodshed, this time in the streets of Moscow.
But within this latest tragedy, I heard both the seeds of destruction and the seeds of love and peace being sown.
On the news, they were interviewing several wounded people in the hospitals, as well as those taking care of them, and their stories express what we are talking about.
One man who had taken part in the uprising, and who was being taken care of by some of the people he was fighting against, was just as arrogant and aggressive as he was during the fighting, and he wished to continue fighting and killing.
Another man, who was donating blood for the wounded and who had just had his best friend killed during the attack on the television station, was asked, "How would you feel if your blood were to go to take care of the person who shot your friend?"
He answered, "He is still a human being! I want to help preserve life, all life."
This man is a peacemaker, for he has a love that stretches beyond the sins of his fellow beings.
To him, it doesn't seem to matter whether or not his offer of love and peace is accepted or not; he is still going to offer it.
We're not quite sure what prompted Paul to write what he did about Euodia and Syntyche in Philippians 4:1-3, but his words are a strong message for all of us to live in love and peace.
1. Therefore, my beloved brethren whom I long to see, my joy and crown, so stand firm in the Lord, my beloved.
2. I urge Euodia and I urge Syntyche to live in harmony in the Lord.
3. Indeed, true comrade, I ask you also to help these women who have shared my struggle in the cause of the gospel, together with Clement also, and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life.
What I read that is translated as "live in harmony in the Lord" could also be translated as ''be of the same mind in the Lord"; and this is the key to the harmony of the church, the community, the nation, and the world.
The Holy Spirit touches every single person with this truth, but many fight against it; and in the process of fighting against the Holy Spirit, they also fight with their fellow human beings and the animals of this world, and kill them.
We have learned this lesson very well in this church, but we need to expand it beyond ourselves.
We need to give our community a transfusion of the blood of life from our own veins, so to speak.
We need to give it in love, even if they reject it.
And if they reject it, that's their problem; but in love we must offer it over and over again.
We are to be the encouragers of the people in our community, just as the prophets Haggai and Zechariah were to the people in Jerusalem following the captivity in Babylon.
Listen to what Haggai said in 2:1-9.
1. On the twenty-first of the seventh month, the word of the Lord came by Haggai the prophet saying,
2. "Speak now to Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest, and to the remnant of the people saying,
3. 'Who is left among you who saw this temple in its former glory? And how do you see it now? Does it not seem to you like nothing in comparison?
The peace that God had given to the people had been abused because they lost their first love, their love of the Lord their God.
They had gone after the gods of the nations that God had driven out, and they also took up the practices of those nations, which God considers abominations.
By using the temple for comparison, Haggai is trying to help the people realize what they have lost.
He does this to keep them humble and repentant, so that they will not easily return to their former ways of life that brought on the destruction.
At the same time, he wants to let them know of God's love for them, and be able to focus on what will be restored to them, if they remain of like mind in the Lord.
Listen to what Haggai says next:
4. 'But now take courage, Zerubbabel,' declares the Lord, 'take courage also, Joshua son of Jehozadak, the high priest, and all you people of the land take courage,' declares the Lord, 'and work; for I am with you,' says the Lord of hosts.
5. ‘As for the promise which I made you when you came out of Egypt, My Spirit is abiding in your midst; do not fear!’
Remember, there is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear (1 John 4:18).
18. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love.
The Lord is again offering them peace and prosperity, but there is a price to pay for it; they must abide in love, first of all for God, and then for each other.
This is something that each if us should permanently etch into our memory, so that we don't forget it, ever.
This is something we must remember to tell others about, and the loss that unlove can bring upon us.
6. "For thus says the Lord of hosts, 'Once more in a little while, I am going to shake the heavens and the earth, the sea also and the dry land.
7. 'And I will shake all the nations; and they will come with the wealth of all the nations; and I will fill this house with glory,' says the Lord of hosts.
8. 'The silver is Mine, and the gold is Mine,' declares the Lord of hosts.
9. 'The latter glory of this house will be greater than the former,' says the Lord of hosts, 'and in this place I shall give peace,' declares the Lord of hosts.
It still took many, many years to accomplish this prophecy, for the timing is the Lord's, and much depends upon the “heart condition” of the people.
I have heard many of you talk about the former days of this church, when there were many more people here.
I have also heard you talk about the way the heart of this community has turned further and further away from the Lord.
Thus, I believe we are suffering in a small way what Israel was suffering.
But I also believe that if the heart of each of us in this body remains steadfast upon the Lord, without hypocrisy and in this like-mindedness, and we show our love to each other and to the community around us, we too, will see the latter days filled with more glory than the former days.
Take courage, and continue to build this congregation, for the Lord of hosts is with us.
And as we begin to grow, so shall we see more and more peace in this community.
Psalm 106 speaks of the rebelliousness of Israel and of the Lord's deliverances.
And as we hear the words of the psalmist in the first 5 verses, think of ourselves, or more specifically, yourself, as a part of that caring remnant that continues to build and pray for peace in love.
1. Praise the Lord!
Oh give thanks to the Lord, for He is good;
For His lovingkindness is everlasting.
2. Who can speak of the mighty deeds of the Lord,
Or can show forth all His praise?
3. How blessed are those who keep justice,
Who practice righteousness at all times!
Love is what makes all this possible.
We might be able to mouth some words of praise, but it can never be real praise unless it comes from the depth of our soul.
We, likewise, can not consistently live and practice justice and righteousness, if we are not filled with love.
I know that most of you are trying to do just this, but it seems quite hard at times, and you often get discouraged, as I do at times.
And I have heard the frustrations from Fred, and Jim, and Kay, and Millie, and Roberta, and Ray, and many others of you.
Though you have not said it outwardly, I also think I hear similar prayers to what the psalmist prays:
4. Remember me, O Lord, in Thy favor toward Thy people;
Visit me with Thy salvation.
5. That I may see the prosperity of Thy chosen ones.
That I may rejoice in the gladness of Thy nation,
That I may glory with Thine inheritance.
We who truly believe are the Lord's inheritance, but there are many more out there who are not, but should be.
If we have love, we will begin to have peace.
If we have love and peace, we will begin to have prosperity.
And if we have love and peace and prosperity, the latter days will indeed be better than the former days.
But in the meantime, our benediction should always be filled with love, and the hope and assurance of better days to come, as was Paul's benediction to the Ephesians: (Ephesians 6:23-24)
23. Peace be to the brethren, and love with faith, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
24. Grace be with all those who love our Lord Jesus Christ with a love incorruptible.
Are we of such like-mindedness, that nothing, absolutely nothing can draw us away from our love for the Lord and all of His creation?
I pray so!
For this is what it takes to have real and lasting peace.
Your Comments are welcome
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