To my congregation on June 30th, 2019.
Dear Church Family,
I have been thinking a lot recently about why we do what we do. We all tend to serve either from a sense of duty or a heart of love.
Many feel it is their duty to serve the Lord in His church. Whether it is serving on a committee, greeting, teaching, directing, cooking, visiting, or any number of other tasks, they feel that they must serve because it is what God and the church expect. Strictly speaking, there is nothing wrong with feeling a sense of duty and obediently serving the Lord. But there is a better way.
The best way to serve is to serve out of love. Love is more than a feeling, more than a fleeting emotion. It is rooted in commitment, grown in faithfulness, and matured in relationship. Its aim is unity and its fruit community. We learn what love truly is when we learn about what God truly is, for God is love.
Our God, the one true God, is Triune. That is, He is One God eternally existing in three persons who together make up the Godhead. While being of the same substance and fully equal, the three persons play different roles. The Father begets the Son, and the Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son. These three persons love each other perfectly and with an everlasting love. They are a community among themselves, without need for anyone or anything else to complete them.
We experience God’s love in at least three different ways, each corresponding to a role of a different person in the Godhead. The Father sent His beloved Son to die for our sins. The Son humbled Himself, suffered, and died for us. And the Spirit applied to us the redemption of the Son, indwelling and sanctifying us.
It was not our of a mere sense of duty that Jesus died on the cross. Indeed, duty could not have required of Him such a sacrifice. Duty is not powerful enough. God was under no obligation to us to save us from our sins. Love requires more than does duty.
God requires both duty and love: “Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.” Romans 13:8 ESV At first glance one might think that this lets us off the hook. We do not owe anyone anything except to love them. We all would say that we love each other. After all, we feel a warm feeling inside when we see our friends at church on Sundays. But when God demonstrates love for us, He does not merely feel a warm feeling. Christ died for us.
In the same way that God goes far beyond what duty requires, we must love one another and serve one another in ways duty would not require. The standard for the Christian life is love. We must love others more than ourselves.
Two questions remain: what is christian love, and how can we love one another?
Christian love is summarized in John 15:13 ESV “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” Christ laid down His life for us, and we are called to lay down our lives for each other. And not just for fellow christians, but for the lost as well.
Jesus commanded that we even love our enemies. Consider the parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10, or the command of Jesus in Matthew 5:44.
How can we love our enemies enough to lay down our lives for them? How can we serve those who are imperfect, who hurt us, or even those who hate us? We can love our enemies only through the power of the Holy Spirit at work within us. “He who raised Christ Jesusfrom the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.” Romans 8:11-13 ESV
Let us always rely upon the Holy Spirit to give us the love we need to continue to serve Him faithfully.