It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart and, whether I am in chains or defending and confirming the gospel, all of you share in God’s grace with me. God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus.
Is it possible to love everyone? I think this is the thing that hangs most Christians up. The ability to love the unlovable, the ability to love our neighbors. How can we look past the things that bother us and bug us and to begin to learn to love others with the affection of Jesus?
Love for the people that drive us crazy. Love for the people that we hate. Love for the people who are our enemies, or our nations enemies. This is one of those BIG things that many Christians can never get past.
Because we might say that we “love” we might even say we “forgive” but somewhere deep down it’s not what we truly believe – because it’s not what we truly practice.
It’s hard to love your enemies. It’s hard to love the outcast. It’s hard to love annoying people and do you know what? You never will. If you are left to do it on your own, you never will.
We’re not wired that way. None of us are.
1 John 4:7-8
Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from (where?) God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.
Notice the huge implication of this and I believe this is at the heart of what Paul is saying. We are called to love others. All others – and so the issue becomes, if there are still some you can’t love, then there is still more of God for you to know; because God is love. And so, because God understands that love can be difficult, God helped us – he sent us aid, verse 8 says: God showed us – he gave us an example of love by sending his son – and in turn – we would love THROUGH him.
Paul says, “I love you all – not with my own affection – but the affection of Christ.”
How do you do that?
How do your own emotions and hesitations go away and get replaced with Christ’s?
Well, that’s one of the foundations of what it means to be a Christian. Look at what Paul wrote to the Galatian church.
Galatians 2:20 I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.
Paul says, “I no longer live.” That’s his mindset. That’s his stating point. Jesus even helped this along by giving him a new name. In his old past life, Paul used to be Saul. But now “Saul” – his old life – is dead – and now he is Paul. Maybe that would help us. We don’t get a new name when we become Christians. The bible says we have a new nature. The bible says that God begins the process of taking our hearts of stone and turning them into hearts of flesh – but often times even though we’re saved – we still feel like the same old person.
You still feel like Lieutenant Dunbar, but deep down inside you know that you’re really “Dances with Wolves.”
But you are a new person. In fact even scientifically you’re a new person. Death to life is not just a Christian thing – it’s how the entire world works.
Those of you who are the house cleaners – where does “dust” come from? Yea, it’s your flaking skin. 75% of dust is “old you.” In fact, your skin flakes off at such a rate that new skin has to replace the old skin all the time. This process is called Keratinization, (carot-tin-i-zation) every month you have a brand new outer layer. Your epidermis. Every second in your body, 2 million red blood cells die. Every second! And at the same time, you reproduce 2 million red blood cells. And Scientists say that your entire body actually dies and replaces itself every 7 years. Every year, every month, every second, your body is in the endless process of dying and replacing itself with something new.
We even see this modeled in our seasons; Summer gives way to fall [everything dies] and that gives way to winter and then spring. [which is life]
In order to have food to eat, what do we do? – We kill meat and that gives us energy. It’s the great circle of life. (that’s 2 old movie references) Or if you’re a vegetarian what do we do? We burry a seed – and from that plant comes new life.
The universe works in cycles – all of creation exists in the process of death giving way to life. Of course it does – God made the universe.
So when Paul is describing his own experience, he says, I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. Paul says, “Yes” the cross leads to life…God gives life to you and me, and it comes through a death, that’s how the universe works.
So Paul says, “I care for you all, I love you all with the affections of Christ…” Paul gets it, he can say “I love you all” because he understands how the universe works. I died, and now Christ lives in me.
When I said, “yes” to Jesus – the people that were not lovable are now lovable, people that were beneath me, are now my equals, people who I had no patience for, I now have patience for. In Christ, there is a new me. There is a new life inside of me, and the new me can do what the old me was never able to do.