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ONLY LOVE CAN TRULY BIND US TOGETHER

A SERMON ORIGINALLY DELIVERED AT THE HIGH HILL UNITED METHODIST CHURCH
AND
THE FEDERATED CHURCH OF ATHENS

By Frank L. Hoffman, Pastor

31 MAY 1992

SCRIPTURAL REFERENCES:

Genesis 34:1-4
Esther 5:9-14, 7:10
Proverbs 22:24-25
John 17:20-26

Have you noticed that love is one of those states of emotion that we can often have trouble expressing?

And even within this emotion we call love, we can divide or express what we feel in several ways.

The least difficult for adults to understand and express is the sensuous feeling that they have for another person.

But all too often, this type of love is expressed in such a way as to just satisfy themselves.

Such was the case with Shechem toward Dinah.

Note what we are told in Genesis 34:1-4.

1. Now Dinah the daughter of Leah, whom she had borne to Jacob, went out to visit the daughters of the land.

2. And when Shechem the son of Hamor the Hivite, the prince of the land, saw her, he took her and lay with her by force.

3. And he was deeply attracted to Dinah the daughter of Jacob, and he loved the girl and spoke tenderly to her.

4. So Shechem spoke to his father Hamor, saying, "Get me this young girl for a wife."

This love is very shallow, and it is easily diverted.

And far too many of our marriages begin on such a weak footing; not that they begin with rape, but with only a physical desire for one another.

I believe that this is the major reason for most of our broken marriages; for when the spark of this lustful desire is gone, so is the love.

But from this physical love, a greater love can develop: one of friendship, such as we have for members of our family or for our friends.

In this example of love there is the expression of equality between the individuals, where neither party takes advantage of the other.

But this type of love can also be fragile, for it is not always based on solid ground; since we sometimes make friends of the wrong people, as we are warned in Proverbs 22:24-25.

24. Do not associate with [or befriend] a man given to anger;
Or go with a hot-tempered man,

25. Lest you learn his ways,
And find a snare for yourself.

Quite often, people of such temperament come together as friends; but that, too, won't last.

Haman was such a man, as were his wife and his friends.

Notice how they express themselves in Esther 5:9-14.

9. Then Haman went out that day glad and pleased of heart; but when Haman saw Mordecai in the king's gate, and that he did not stand up or tremble before him, Haman was filled with anger against Mordecai.

10. Haman controlled himself, however, went to his house, and sent for his friends and his wife Zeresh.

11. Then Haman recounted to them the glory of his riches, and the number of his sons, and every instance where the king had magnified him, and how he had promoted him above the princes and servants of the king.

12. Haman also said, "Even Esther the queen let no one but me come with the king to the banquet which she had prepared; and tomorrow also I am invited by her with the king.

13. "Yet all of this does not satisfy me every time I see Mordecai the Jew sitting at the king's gate."

14. Then Zeresh his wife and all his friends said to him, "Have a gallows fifty cubits high made and in the morning ask the king to have Mordecai hanged on it, then go joyfully with the king to the banquet." And the advice pleased Haman, so he had the gallows made.

All of this back-fired on Haman, as we are told in 7:10.

10. So they hanged Haman on the gallows which he had prepared for Mordecai, and the king's anger subsided.

Love, if it is to endure, must have much more depth to it.

If love is to last, we must want to give of ourselves for the other person, and even to the world around us, without expecting anything in return.

A perfect example of this is our love for an animal, or mentally challenged child, whom we have to care for by providing food and shelter in addition to our love, and all they can give back is their love.

Isn't this what makes a perfect marriage?

Each spouse gives to the other, expecting only love in return.

Jesus' prayer for His disciples in John 17 is such an example; and we know that Jesus wholly gave of Himself.

Let's pick up this prayer at verse 20 and see the expression of His love and His unselfishness.

20. "I do not ask in behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word;

21. that they may all be one; even as Thou, Father, art in Me, and I in Thee, that they also may be in Us; that the world may believe that Thou didst send Me.

The missing ingredient in the first two examples of love we talked about was God; and it is God, and His love for us, that can make our love everlasting.

It was the Father's love for us that gave us Jesus.

It was Jesus' love that gave us the apostles; and from the apostles we began to hand down the word of God in love.

All who received the word and the love were saved and, through their example, others also believed.

And this is the commission to us: that we also love one another, not with a sensual desire, nor even as a friend or a brother, but as God loves with unconditional love.

It is this unconditional love that makes us want to lead others to the saving grace of Jesus Christ, that they would not be lost and condemned to hell.

It is this unconditional love that makes us want to be loving peacemakers to the world around us, and stop our warring madness, violence and strife to our fellow human beings, the other animals, and to the whole of creation that God lovingly entrusted to our care.

Let's return and listen to what Jesus is praying, so that it would be our prayer, too.

22. "And the glory which Thou hast given Me I have given to them; that they may be one, just as We are one;

23. I in them, and Thou in Me, that they may be perfected in unity, that the world may know that Thou didst send Me, and didst love them, even as Thou didst love Me.

Whatever we receive of this type of love, we must give away, in order that ours might be increased; for otherwise, what we have will not last either, as it is the giving of our life and love that binds us together.

24. "Father, I desire that they also, whom Thou hast given Me, be with Me where I am, in order that they may behold My glory, which Thou hast given Me; for Thou didst love Me before the foundation of the world.

25. "O righteous Father, although the world has not known Thee, yet I have known Thee; and these have known that Thou didst send Me;

26. and I have made Thy name known to them, and will make it known; that the love wherewith Thou didst love Me may be in them, and I in them."

Is this your prayer also?

I pray it is!

If this love is in us, then we will do everything in our power to bind ourselves together as fellow believers, and open ourselves to lead others into this relationship.

And it is this love that binds a family together, as well, and makes marriages last; but there is no lasting binding together unless we unselfishly share this love with each other.

The same is the case with the church the family of God, and with our communities, and even the whole world.

Receive the love that God has for you, and share it with others, and never stop.

Amen.

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