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DO WE EXPRESS OUR LOVE EVEN WHEN WE DISAGREE?
A SERMON ORIGINALLY DELIVERED AT
THE HIGH HILL UNITED METHODIST CHURCH
THE FEDERATED CHURCH OF ATHENS
25 FEBRUARY 1990
By Frank L. Hoffman, Pastor
Judges 6:1, 6-10, 25-27, 30-31
1 Corinthians 13:4-8, 13
1 John 4:18
The test of a true loving spirit within us comes when the situation between us and someone else is not quite right and we disagree with what they are doing, or the way they are doing it, or what they are saying, and so on.
In other words, do we express our love even when we disagree?
God disagrees with the sinful nature of us humans, yet His love never fails; and it is this love that gave us Jesus Christ to pay the price for our sin: death upon the cross.
And through the life examples of Jesus, we are given the way of returning to be the loving, compassionate, and peacemaking children of God.
This isn't just for the benefit of our own salvation, but for the whole of creation (humans, animals, and the environment).
So, with this in mind, let's take a look at the ways we view the world around us, and the ways that we live in it.
Take for example our president. Do we agree with him all of the time? And if we don't agree with him, what do we do? Do you still love him while we are doing our thing?
Or perhaps, have some of us never thought about loving the president?
But if we do love him, as the Lord loves us, then the way we deal with him about the things we don't like will be handled differently, won't it?
Which method do you think he would be most likely to respond to?
Obviously the one expressed in love?
I believe that most people really want to do the best they can, and even when they are doing everything exactly the way it should be, there are others who will disagree with what they are doing, or that they should be doing it a different way, or that they should be doing even more.
The story of Gideon, beginning in Judges 6, is a story of the deliverance of the Israelites from the Midianites and the Amalekites.
Woven all through the story is another story of love and the lack of it when there is disagreement.
Let's begin by looking at the first of these disagreements in Judges 6:1.
1. Then the sons of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the Lord; and the Lord gave them into the hands of Midian seven years.
Israel disagreed with God. They did not do what the Lord desired them to do. They did their own thing, because they had lost their love of God.
But the Lord didn't stop loving them. In order to attract their attention, He gave them over to their lusts and let them experience what it is like to live without God's protection.
This is what we often refer to as tough love.
Israel is afflicted by Midian until they would repent, as we note as we pick up our story at verse 6:
6. So Israel was brought very low because of Midian, and the sons of Israel cried to the Lord.
7. Now it came about when the sons of Israel cried to the Lord on account of Midian,
8. that the Lord sent a prophet to the sons of Israel, and he said to them, "Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, 'It was I who brought you up from Egypt, and brought you out of the house of slavery.
9. 'And I delivered you from the hands of the Egyptians and from the hands of all your oppressors, and dispossessed them before you and gave you their land,
10. and I said to you, "I am the Lord your God; you shall not fear the gods of the Amorites in whose land you live. But you have not obeyed Me." ' "
It is God's lovingkindness that brings forth this message to the people; and when He sends an angel to Gideon to call him forth to deliver his people, it is also an expression of love.
The angel talks with Gideon and shows him that his message is really from God, and that the Lord is going to use him to deliver Israel.
This too is love.
Then the Lord tells Gideon to do something. Let's listen in, beginning at verse 25:
25. Now the same night it came about that the Lord said to him, "Take your father's bull and a second bull seven years old, and pull down the altar of Baal which belongs to your father, and cut down the Asherah that is beside it;
26. and build an altar to the Lord your God on the top of this stronghold in an orderly manner, and take a second bull and offer a burnt offering with the wood of the Asherah which you shall cut down."
27. Then Gideon took ten men of his servants and did as the Lord had spoken to him; and it came about, because he was too afraid of his father's household and the men of the city to do it by day, that he did it by night.
We often wonder why God would even suggest sacrificing an innocent bull, when sacrifice is totally unnecessary to receiving His grace and forgiveness.
And the only answer we receive is that the people's way of worshipping God or gods was so wrapped up in sacrifice, that this was the only way they would listen.
Gideon's fear is not so much of the people of the city, as it is an expression of his lack of perfected love toward God.
Listen to what we are told in 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.
Thus was Gideon's state, but he nevertheless did as God commanded him.
It is only imperfect love that has a need for sacrifice, and the blood of innocent beings.
And Gideon's fear was not unfounded, as we see from Judges 6:30.
30. Then the men of the city said to Joash [Gideon's father], "Bring out your son, that he may die, for he has torn down the altar of Baal, and indeed, he has cut down the Asherah which was beside it."
31. But Joash said to all who stood against him, "Will you contend for Baal, or will you deliver him? Whoever shall plead for him shall be put to death by morning. If he is a god, let him contend for himself, because someone has torn down his altar."
First of all the bulls, the altar of Baal, and the Asherah belonged to Joash, and not to the people of the town.
Yet the people go to him and demand the death of his son because of what he did.
Gideon did exactly what God told him to do, yet the people want to put him to death for it.
Symbolically, Gideon was showing the people of the community that these false gods have no power to do anything, even to save themselves – the key point on which his father picks up.
And the town's people want to do this because they have no love in them, and they don't know God; and what Gideon has done has made them uncomfortable.
Think about yourself. Have you ever done something that you knew that you were not to do, and someone pointed it out to you? Didn’t it make you feel somewhat uncomfortable?
But with Gideon's father there is both love and an apparent understanding of God, for we see his wisdom expressed in "let him [Baal] contend for himself."
Through love and wisdom, Gideon is delivered; and I believe that the same deliverance would have occurred if Gideon had done what God told him to do in the daytime, and even without the sacrifice.
Did you also see that Joash's love is not uniformly expressed?
He threatened the men of the town with death, if they contended for Baal.
Most people know the truth, but they go along with the crowd. But when it comes to defending the lie, they are reluctant to do so, unless everyone else is going along.
There is more to Gideon's story.
He was not yet 100% sure that God was really telling him all that he was hearing, so he lays out a fleece to have God verify that it is really Him.
God does not get angry, but answers Him as he requested; and even more, for Gideon asks God a second time to do the same thing, only in reverse order, and God also lovingly answers as requested.
Then to even show how much a part that the Lord would play in the upcoming battle, Gideon's army of 32,000 is reduced to only 300, so that no one would question that God was fighting for Israel.
But Gideon still wasn't quite sure of winning, so God lovingly allows him to overhear the enemy speaking of their own defeat; following which, Gideon enters the battle and the Lord routs the Midianites with Gideon and his small band in pursuit.
It is only now that Gideon asks for additional help. Let's pick up the story at 7:23-8:3.
23. And the men of Israel were summoned from Naphtali and Asher and all Manasseh, and they pursued Midian.
24. And Gideon sent messengers throughout all the hill country of Ephraim, saying, "Come down against Midian and take the waters before them, as far as Beth-barah and the Jordan." So all the men of Ephraim were summoned, and they took the waters as far as Beth-barah and the Jordan.
25. And they captured the two leaders of Midian, Oreb and Zeeb, and they killed Oreb at the rock of Oreb, and they killed Zeeb at the wine press of Zeeb, while they pursued Midian; and they brought the heads of Oreb and Zeeb to Gideon from across the Jordan.
1. Then the men of Ephraim said to him, "What is this thing you have done to us, not calling us when you went to fight against Midian?" And they contended with him vigorously.
2. But he said to them, "What have I done now in comparison with you? Is not the gleaning of the grapes of Ephraim better than the vintage of Abiezer?
3. "God has given the leaders of Midian, Oreb and Zeeb into your hands; and what was I able to do in comparison with you?" Then their anger toward him subsided when he said that.
Again, Gideon did exactly what God wanted him to do, but some of his fellow countrymen didn't understand that.
Because of God working through Gideon, the Israelites were now gaining their freedom; but now they want to fight among themselves, because it wasn't accomplished in the manner they wanted.
I am hearing the same kind of rumblings from Eastern Europe.
But even on a small scale, don't we hear the same kinds of things even within our own families?
Let's use a hypothetical case:
There is a family that does not have enough money to pay all their bills on the salary of the husband's job, and this brings up arguments over money.
The family has two ways to solve the problem: either the wife gets a job also, or the husband gets a second job. And let’s assume that one of these happens.
Now there is still fighting. If the wife works, the husband complains that dinner isn't on the table when he gets home. And if the husband is working a second job, the wife complains that he is never home, or he is too tired and no fun anymore.
We do everything that we think is right; yet we are still in the wrong in the eyes of some others.
You just can’t win! ....
Oh yes we can!
We can win with love!
Gideon's answer to the Ephraimites was to humble himself and to make Ephraim think that what they were doing was greater than what he had done.
Peace and humility, an expression of love, were better than war with his
And in relation to our families, how important are the extra things in life that we should fight over them, if we are not willing to sacrifice somewhere else in order to have them?
But even with the wisdom that Gideon showed, he eventually fell into the same trap he tried to prevent; for he let his pride come back to the foreground.
It is this pride that removes our love; and without love, we can easily fall prey to fighting with others over things that are not really important.
Gideon pursued the other leaders of Midian, and asked help from the towns of Succoth and Penuel, and they both refused.
But this time, instead of letting the Lord handle these people, Gideon takes the matter into his own hands, after he captured his enemy.
He beat the men of Succoth with briars and thorns, and he killed the men of Penuel.
And because his pride covered the vision of his true mission, he also accepts a gift of gold, which became a stumbling block to his entire family.
We have to start seeing through all these things around us and start loving each other as God loves us, and in the process, we are to love the whole of God's creation.
Maybe we don't have the battles that Gideon had to fight; but from the sounds
we make, and the fire we send forth from our mouths, we often make them seem
like they are even greater.
I want you to go home and read 1 Corinthians 13; and I want you to read it at least once a week, until it becomes part of your nature, so that we do not fall into the same traps that Gideon did.
4. Love is patient, love is kind, and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant,
5. does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered,
6. does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth;
7. bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
8a. Love never fails;
13. But now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.