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May 13, 2001
Love in Close Quarters

TEXT: John 13:34-35
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

Human nature being what it is, is there any wonder there is so much domestic violence? Husbands, wives, and children arrive home after work and school. They are tired. It might have been a tough day for all of them. Any little thing can irritate them. Soon the tempers fly and there is the beginning of an unhappy evening.

I often say to a couple getting married, “There are wonderful blessings in being married, but marriage will always present a challenge for you. You are promising to love one another in ‘close quarters.’ It matters not whether your house has 1,000 or 5,000 square feet. You can’t run away from each other.”

If these words are taken seriously, the couple will ask, “Give us some advice as to how we meet the challenge.” My answer is, “Let me introduce you to the One who has been my greatest counselor in having a good marriage. His name is Jesus.” It is this advice from Jesus that I share with you on this Mother’s Day as our thoughts are turned to the families living in close quarters.

Jesus says, “A new command I give you; love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another” (34).

Much has been written about love. Wise old Solomon said, “Hatred stirs up dissension, but love covers all wrongs” (Proverbs 10:12). Plato, the wise Greek philosopher, wrote classic books on the subject. Family counselors tell us that love is the backbone of any relationship. The tabloids give their version of love, both in word and picture. We have so many presentations of love that we are no longer quite sure what the word means. Now Jesus says, “A new commandment I give you: Love one another.” What’s new about Jesus’ statement? It is His next statement, "As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” We must discover from the Bible what Jesus meant by love.

If you love a person, you will be sensitive to his or her feelings. Love forces you to get outside of yourself and consider the feelings of the other person.

Do you remember that story of mothers bringing their children to Jesus that He might bless them (Luke 18:15-17)? These mothers had learned that Jesus was nearby, so they were excited about having Him touch their little ones. When they arrived, the disciples rebuked them and were sending them away. When Jesus saw what was happening, the Lord immediately told the mothers to bring their children to Him. He picked them up in His arms and blessed the little ones.

Jesus wanted to bless the children. He wanted to tell His audience that, unless they became as little children, they could not enter the Kingdom of Heaven. He was also concerned about the feelings of those mothers.

How would those women have felt had they gone home rejected by the disciples?

Apply this to love in our homes. When we say to each other, “I love you,” we should be saying, “I am sensitive to your feelings.” Are we? It means that I am not so caught up with my own problems that I have little or no concern about how you feel. As a parent, you might have had some tough things said to you at work, but you are also open to hear that your children, Mary and Bob, were hurt badly at school today. Mary didn’t get a date for the prom; Bob didn’t make the baseball team.

Love, Jesus’ style, causes you to reach out to the other person and listen to how they are feeling.

If you love a person, you will sacrifice for him or her. “The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45). Because God loves us, He gave to the point of sacrificing His Son. It is only after we have looked at Jesus on the cross that we begin to understand that love calls for sacrifice. In Jesus’ case, it was the giving of His life. Catching His spirit, Christians have an element of sacrifice in their practice of love. We are willing “to give” some of ourselves to the needs of others.

A woman, referring to her husband, said, “There is always plenty of money and time, if it is something he wants.” Such a statement clearly states that the husband needs to hear Jesus say, “Love as I have loved you.” That will give him a new understanding of what love is.

It is in the close quarters of the home that love calls for sacrifice. Children need to learn from their parents that loving includes giving. A tremendous lesson can be learned when we make a decision on where the family will spend its vacation. All the members come to the table with their own ideas as to where the family should go. Where we spend the vacation is not nearly as important as learning how to sacrifice my idea for the good of the family. And when the decision is made, to accept it graciously if I did not get my way. That’s what is new about love as
Jesus taught.

Somehow, we need to be made aware how much sacrifice is being made in the family circle for us. I never fully realized how much my wife sacrificed for me until she had a stroke. Children need to know the sacrifices parents are making for them lest they take all of these kind gestures for granted. To develop the attitude that I deserve being waited on and showered with every kind of gift causes the person to believe that life owes me something. Not so, and life will soon reveal it. The willingness to sacrifice is not only a quality of love. It is a basic principle for a happy life.

If you love a person, you are willing to forgive those who offend you. “Father, forgive them. They don’t know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34). This was Jesus’ prayer from the cross for people whose hearts were filled with hatred. Without forgiveness, there is no love. In close places like the home, there is a need for a lot of forgiveness. We hurt one another. Sometimes it is intentional when we act in anger. At other times it is unintentional. While it is common for the natural person to carry an unforgiving spirit toward those who have hurt them, the Christian is empowered by Christ to forgive. The love Christ has put into our souls compels us to reach out and forgive.

Hearing this you may say, “Jesus might have taught it, and you preach it, but I cannot buy it. I will never forgive that person for what he has done to me.” Jesus would answer, “That is your right, but then please know that your understanding of love does not come from Jesus.”

All of this leads us to ask, “How can I love this way?” God’s Word answers, “We love because He first loved us” (I John 4:19). Love is caught more than it is taught. If we experience Christ’s love for us each day, we will grow to be a more loving person. So if you are serious about wanting to be a loving person, let Christ love you as He speaks to you daily in His Word. His love will flow into your life and through you to others. Only in Christ do we know what love is.

Amen.

Rev. Homer Larsen
Christian Crusaders

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