My family loved jigsaw puzzles.
I remember we used to do puzzles that were upwards of 1000 pieces. (That’s a lot of pieces.) Now to do a puzzle with that many pieces requires a lot of patience and hard work. You’ve got to go through the painstaking work of putting all of the straight edges to one side, then the inside pieces in another pile. Afterwards, it’s helpful to separate them into pile according to color. Finally, it takes the work of constantly shifting, checking and trying to make the pieces fit. Until finally – 3 months later – it’s done!
Puzzle putting together is hard work.
That’s why what happens next makes very little sense to me. At the end of the hours and hours of sweat and blood of putting that puzzle together…you take it apart. All that work to box it up and put it away. It’s why sometimes you just want to let it sit – and sit – and sit – until eventually mom says, “OK. We will need that table to eat dinner on again.”
No one goes into a jigsaw puzzle saying: “Goodness, I can’t wait to get this puzzle together so that we can take it a part.”
It is the same things with families.
No one goes through the hard work of putting a family together because they can’t wait to destroy it.
No one gets down on one knee and says, Marry me? Because I think we’ll probably fail miserably at being a family.
No one adopts children because I really hope this doesn’t work out.
No one says at their wedding reception: This day was cool, but what will be cooler? The day we sign divorce papers.
People want families to last.
But since over 50% of today’s marriages end in divorce…
And hundreds of children are displaced.
And many more families refuse to talk to one another.
How is it that we make families last?
Today we’re going to examine Scripture and see that God’s everlasting love is key to everlasting love in a family. Before we begin, a prayer: O Lord, strengthen us by the truth; your Word is the truth. Open our eyes to see what you want us to see; open our ears to hear what you want us to hear; open our hearts to believe what you would have us believe. Amen.
I. Why God is the Key to Love that Lasts
The lesson comes from the book of 1 John. It is a letter written by one of Jesus’ very close followers named John. He was an apostle, meaning that he learned directly from Jesus for 3 years, saw him rise from the dead and was called by Jesus to bring his teachings out into the world. And in this particular section he explains why true love – true lasting love – is intricately tied to God. He gives three reasons. Take a look:
1. God Embodies Real Love
Verse 16 says this: God is love. Zero in on the verb “is.” It’s a simple one. It’s only two letters in English. But it is a very important verb. It means: “to be.” The verb indicates that the subject is intricately tied to the predicate. In other words, the subject embodies the object and vice versa.
In this case?
The subject is God and the object is love.
Love is embodied by God.
God is embodied by love.
And vice versa.
This is important to take note of. Because the kind of love we are talking about is not the world’s definition of love. It’s something we said earlier in our sermon series, but it bears repeating here:
Romantic chemistry is not love.
She looks “hot” is not love.
Butterflies in the tummy is not love.
The warm feeling you get at Christmas when your kid says, “Thanks, Mommy” is not love.
Those are feelings.
They might be good feelings.
But they are still feeling and not love.
The Biblical definition of love is this: Love is an action done for the sake of others in spite of others.
That means love is not just a feeling.
It acts in spite of feeling.
It acts in spite of feeling pretty upset with someone.
That’s exactly what God did for us.
We were sinners and God was pretty upset with us.
We were sinners and God was angry with us.
We were sinners and God ought to have destroyed us.
But He didn’t.
We were sinners and God died for to save us.
Since God is the embodiment of true Biblical love, a connection with God is a prerequisite to showing true Biblical love. John continues: God is love. Whoever lives in love, live in God and God in them. Notice it’s a conditional statement. When thing A is true then thing B is automatically true, too.
It’s like saying 60 inches is 5 feet and whoever is 5 feet tall is 60 inches.
Or 16 cups of coffee are a gallon of coffee and whoever drinks a gallon of coffee drank 16 cups.
Or a half marathon is way too long for me to run and if I ever ran a half marathon, it would be way too long for me to run.
It's the same with God and love. TRUTH: God embodies love.
If you are connected to God, then you will show true Biblical love.
If you are showing true Biblical love, then you are connected to God.
And if you aren’t connected to God, then…you can’t.
2. God’s Love Drive Out Fear
1 John 4:18 says, “This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment…There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment.”
This is important. Because fear doesn’t usually lead to love.
For instance, if your brother dressed up as a ghost for Halloween and hid in a closet, then, waited until it was dark for you to come home and jumped out with a “BOO!” That probably won’t lead to love. It’ll only lead to screaming, running away or hitting him in the face.
Isn’t that how it tends to be in families? When we fear, we act out. This is sociological thing, a psychiatrist thing, but before any of that it’s a Bible thing. Fear does not lead to action love; fear leads to acting out!
I fear rejection. So, I act out and snap at my husband any time I see him talking with a woman at a party.
I fear failure. So, I act out and describe my wife’s failures to her any time she gives me constructive criticism.
I fear imperfection. So, I act out and hold my son to impossibly perfect standards which, when they aren’t met, leads to yelling and screaming and his own headcase because of fear of imperfection.
There is no fear in love…Only sadness, despair and sin.
But perfect love drives out fear. And perfect love is found in God.
And the perfect love of God drives out the fear that drives me away from love.
Because as awful as the fear of being rejected by your family member is there is nothing like the fear of disappointing God.
God is holy.
God has higher standards.
God is eternal.
Your spouse might leave you in this life, but God could leave you for eternity.
Your parents might disown you for a couple of years, but God could disown you forever.
Your kids might say, “I hate you,” but there’s no words worse than God calling you: Not Mine.
And that’s what we deserve because of our sins!
But God’s love. God’s perfect love. God’s perfect action love on the cross…for us…in spite of us…drives out fear.
God’s love on the cross says: I will not leave you.
God’s love on the cross says: You will always be mine.
God’s love on the cross says: You are mine. Forever.
Those words drive out my fear.
I pray those words drive out your fears.
Those words have the power to drive out the fears that prevent us from truly loving.
3. God’s Love Fuels Our Love
Action love is tiring.
Like working on a 10,000-piece puzzle – showing action love to others in your family in spite of others in your family is tiring.
Because action love involves pouring yourself out.
It’s forgiving without holding a grudge, submitting yourself to your family’s needs, being patient when you feel impatient, kind when you want to be unkind, and not boastful when all you want to do is boast.
We need fuel.
Which is another reason we need God.
Look at verse 19: We love because God first loved us.
Imagine that this cup represents my love. Julianna has had a hard day and is in need of my love. When my love is full, I have plenty to spare. I pour it out and help her. Then, my dog Clay (since I don’t have kids) needs some love too. I still have some. There’s even a bit left for Frankie.
But the next day – when Julianna goes to school and pours out some love to the preschoolers and comes home at the end of the day and needs some love to be replenished. Guess what?
And I need her to refuel me.
But she’s out.
Where do we go?
This is another reason we need to be connected to God’s love.
Because if it’s solely dependent on others – we will run out of fuel and so will they.
But God? God is always fully fueled with love.
He has enough for me.
He has enough for Julianna.
And if we both are full – then guess what? We’re more concerning with sharing this love than we are with getting it.
And this pitcher is big. It’ll take a while to fill up all these cups.
But God’s pitcher of love is endless.
It’s never going to run out.
II. What Now?
Today’s what now is pretty simple: Stay connected to Jesus.
Because if you missed all the other sermons in this series,
If you forgot all of the other guidance in God’s Word,
If you can’t remember a single word of Pastor’s awesome alliteration…
But you stayed connected to Jesus…
Your love will last.
Because God’s love will last.
Jesus said this, “I am the Vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me, you will bear much fruit but apart from me you can do nothing.” Because if the pumpkin plant remains connected to the pumpkin vine it will keep growing. Maybe it will even grow to Pumpkin Championship status. If you keep your pumpkin connected to the vine, it might grow large enough that you are called the PUMPKING!
But if the vine tears…
If the pumpkin gets separated…
If your preschooler comes by and picks it sometime around July…you won’t be the pump-king but the pump chump.
Pumpkin puns aside, it’s the same with Jesus.
The single most important thing for you to do, for how to share God’s love, is to stay connected to Jesus.
Think about how you do that. (I tell you to do that a lot. Now’s a chance for you to really think about it.)
Can you start a new Bible reading schedule?
Can you start a new Bible study?
Can you join a new Bible group?
Can you commit to making it here every week no matter what?
And if you are thinking you are too connected to Jesus – let me ask you this:
Are you ever rude?
Are you ever kinda mean?
Do you ever sin?
If so, that’s not love.
And you don’t have perfect love.
And you still need Jesus.
You need to stay connected to Jesus.
His perfect love covers our sins.
His perfect love empowers us.
His perfect love leads us to show love to others.
Make your base, make your foundation, make the source of your family's love, a love that lasts...make it God's love. Because God's love is eternal. Amen.
It was a pleasant afternoon. Jesus was inside a small home that was packed with people. He taught from a stool while the crowd packed around him. Some sat on the floor. Some kneeled close by and others stood in back as he taught.
Fixer Upper: Love in Action
I don’t get it.
They were perfect for each other.
Whenever they looked into each other’s eyes, it was as if they were dancing on clouds.
They had such great chemistry.
Why didn’t it work? They were in love.
Maybe that was you – especially if you are a part of The Bachelor nation. In late August it was announced that Nick Viall & Vanessa Grimaldi – the Bachelor and fiancé from the latest season of the ABC reality drama – had broken up. On twitter, they wrote:
“It’s with a great amount of heartbreak for the both of us as we have decided to end our engagement. We gave this relationship our all and we are saddened that we did not get the fairytale ending we hoped for.”
They had love.
They had fireworks – literal fireworks going off in the background during some of their ABC Produced dates.
Why wasn’t their love enough?
Answer: Perhaps it wasn’t the right kind of love.
Because the right kind of love – always lasts.
Today we are continuing our Fixer Upper sermons series. We will examine the Biblical definition of love and then take a look at what that Biblically defined love looks like in our households. Before we begin, let’s pray: O Lord, strengthen us by the truth; your Word is the truth. Open our eyes to see what you want us to see; open our ears to hear what you want us to hear; open our hearts to believe what you would have us believe. Amen.
I. The Importance of Love
Check out these three Biblical descriptions of love:
This is love…that God loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. (1 John 4:10)
This is love…Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. (1 John 3:16)
God demonstrates his own love in this…Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8)
Because Biblically defined love is not the same as Disney love.
In Disney love, everything is easy. It’s “Happily ever after.”
Rainbows appear as you kiss.
Happy little blue birds chirp as you walk.
You don’t yell at each other; you only sing spontaneous songs to one another about whatever you are doing. (“I’m whistling while I work.” “I’m clapping while I pay the electric bill online.”)
But is that always how it was in the Disney universe?
Take Snow White. What happened after the credits?
What happened when Prince Charming stepped in a little present from one woodland creatures that visited the home?
What happened when Snow White saw the Prince getting a bit too chummy with a few ladies from the village?
What happened when the Seven Dwarves dropped by for an unexpected visit – and “Honey, they’re gonna stay for a couple of week? Hope that’s ok.”
What happened when the Prince brought Snow an apple tart home for your birthday – “You know how much I hate apples!!!”
Was sing-song romantic love enough?
Or would they have been on Twitter breaking up just like our Bachelor friends?
Love does not mean romantic feelings.
Love does not mean emotion emotions.
Love, real love, Biblically defined love, is much more:
This is love…that God loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. (1 John 4:10)
This is love…Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. (1 John 3:16)
God demonstrates his own love in this…Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8)
Notice there isn’t any emotion in any of those.
There isn’t any reference to fireworks.
There isn’t any notes about “chemistry.”
God sends his Son.
Jesus laid down his life.
Christ died for us.
Think about that for a moment. I guarantee he didn’t feel all that romantic on the cross!
The shouts of “Crucify Him; crucify Him” were not exactly a love song.
The gift of our dirty, disgusting, dark, secret sins, aren’t things you’ll find at the Hallmark store.
The nails being hammered through his hands aren’t anyone’s idea of a good date.
Jesus did not have a high emotional feeling on the cross.
But Jesus did love.
He loved by giving up his life to save you from all of your sins.
He loved by dying to take away your sins.
He loved by defeating death 3 days later and winning eternal life for you!
That’s love. Biblically defined love is an action.
That’s the kind of love Jesus had for us.
That’s the kind of love Jesus had for us when we didn’t deserve it.
That’s the kind of love Jesus wants us to have for our families.
II. Biblically Defined Love in the Family
What does that look like? This leads us back to 1 Corinthians 13. What follows in verses 4-8 is a description of love in action. Let’s break it down.
1. Love is Patient
Notice it does not say that love feels patient. Patience isn’t a feeling. Patience is something you practice. It’s something you do.
To be fair, you might feel calm. But are you patient?
And love is patient, even when it feels stressed or anxious or upset.
Love doesn’t shout: “Hurry up and get out here right now” as it blasts the car horn seventeen times.
Love waits. Love politely reminds: “I love you guys – which is why I am reminding you that we have an appointment in ten minutes.”
Loves is patient just as God is patient.
God who patiently waited for you to come to faith.
God who patiently waits for us to fight back against sin.
God who …by all right and measures… should have zapped us years ago – is patient.
God is patient with you; be patient with your family.
2. Love is Kind
Notice again. It does not say “Love feels kind.” That’s because people don’t feel kind.
It’s not an emotion.
It’s not a feeling.
It’s not a physical condition.
It’s a description of one’s actions. Sometimes in spite of feeling tired, upset, angry, or annoyed.
Case and point --- the other day, I noticed that one of the preschoolers was feeling pretty great. They were had a big smile on their face. They were laughing. They were having a grand old time – as they poked their friend repeatedly with a piece of Play Doh.
And the friend didn’t like it. He had a sad face. His eyes were wide. He was looking for help from a teacher.
And a teacher helped out.
And afterwards, the kid who had been poked by the Play Doh asked his friend if he wanted a hug.
That’s kind. Action in spite of feelings.
Just like Jesus who felt the nails in his hands, the thorns in his head, and the tightening of his lungs…and still stayed on that cross to save you.
God is kind to you; be kind to your family.
3. Love Speaks…Lovingly
Take a look at the next couple of words. Love ...does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered.
Notice that these are all negatives. These are all things that love is not. Which might make you say is passive love. “Pastor, love is not an action. Love is when you have such a good feeling about someone that you naturally do not envy nor boast around them.”
That’s not love.
Even though it’s negative; this is still an action. It’s the action of not opening your mouth.
Take boasting. I might have a great day. I might have a day where I share Jesus in 3 awesome Bible studies, where I get my sermon done for the week, and where I complete everything on my To Do List.
But I know that Julianna hasn’t.
I know that she had to deal with 3 inconsolable kids – and a few bodily fluids on the floor.
My sinful self says, “You should tell her about how awesome your day was.”
Love says, “You know it wasn’t a good day for her. Perhaps you keep your mouth shut. Don’t boast.”
Or reverse it. Love does not envy. I might have had a terrible day. Writers block on the sermon, meetings being cancelled last minute via text message, complaints and gossip to deal with, PLUS the coffee was a bit too light!
When Julianna starts telling me about her day and how awesome it was and how she signed up 3 more parents for the new preschool…
My sinful self says, “You should just tell her to buzz off…”
Love says, “That’s awesome. Tell me more.”
Here’s the truth for all of these. Not because of feelings, but in spite of feelings – love keeps its mouth shut! It doesn’t boast. It doesn’t envy. It doesn’t dishonor or seek its’ own good or let angry words fly off the handle!
Love is like God! God could call us all kinds of dirty, awful, no good rotten names and they’d be true! We’re sinners!
Instead, he calls us his children.
Instead, he calls us his beloved.
Instead, he calls us saved because of the work of Jesus Christ.
Because God spoke lovingly to you, speak lovingly to your family.
4. Love Keeps No Record of Wrongs
There are a lot of apps on smart phones these days. But I’ve got a great idea for a cell phone app that I don’t think is in existence yet. It’s called the SIN RECORD KEEPING app. It’d be especially great for families. It’d automatically link up to a person’s day. It would listen to their words to record any sinful name calling or gossiping about someone in the family. It’d also be able to identify a snotty tone from a teenager or an annoyed voice from a spouse. It’d use the camera feature to record even the sins that occur behind someone’s back. Then, at the end of the day it would tally up the sins – and if you had less than the other person – you would be allowed as many sins as it takes to get the record to even.
You could be inventive! Call them a name or ruin their favorite blouse. Whatever – it’d be awesome to have an actual record of who sinned against whom when!
Except…that’s not what love does.
Love keeps no record of wrongs.
Love does not keep a note pad.
Love doesn’t have a phone app.
Love doesn’t even keep a mental note.
Love works very hard to never hold a sin against someone else – even when it’s a sin that’s been sinned hundreds of times against someone else.
Love does just what God did. He didn’t hold a single sin against us – though there are many sins and though those sins are often repeated – God kept no record. In fact, God nailed that record to the cross, crumpled it up and threw it into the tomb – where he left it to this day!
God kept no record of your wrongs.
You keep no record of your family’s wrongs.
5. Love is Not Evil
This seems obvious. But it’s actually a really important point.
Because it’s really easy for things to feel like love when in fact they are not love.
It might feel like love to sleep with that girl long before you’re married.
If might feel like love to sleep with that guy who’s really cute.
It might feel like love to sleep with that coworker – even though you are both married to others!
But it’s not.
You know how I know?
Because God says, “You shall not commit adultery.”
Adultery is sleeping with someone you aren’t married to.
Adultery is a sin.
Sin is evil.
If your feelings lead you to do something different than God says, then it’s not love.
Because love does not rejoice with evil.
Instead? It does the opposite.
It rejoices with truth.
It rejoices with what God says and what God loves.
And what God loves is getting you to heaven.
He also loves what’s best for you.
Do what God loves because that’s love.
6. Love NEVER Fails
Which leads to some really awesome truths about love.
Because if love is an action…
And love is undeserved…
And love is an action that is always in action even when it’s undeserved…
…then love, Biblical love NEVER stops.
It always protects, even when the danger to itself is great.
It always trusts, even when there’s no reason left to trust.
It always hopes, even when hope seems absolutely foolish.
It always perseveres, even when all else fails. It continues because.
It NEVER fails.
Which seems like a lot to ask of a person.
It seems like a lot to ask of a sinful, broken, struggling to love the way that God wants me to love person.
That’s why I love the last passage:
God is love.
Because, if you haven’t been noticing, everything we’ve mentioned about love is exactly what God has done.
In fact, I love how you can look back at verse 4-7 and insert “God” in for “love” and the paragraph reads perfectly.
God is patient. God is kind.
God does not envy.
God does not boast.
God is not proud.
God does not dishonor others.
God is not self-seeking.
God is not easily angered.
God keeps no records of wrongs.
God does not delight in evil, but rejoices with the truth.
God always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
God never fails.
And connected to God – neither will your love.
Because your love, will be God. Amen.
Fixer Upper: Who's Number One?
I’m tired. I was away for three days at a pastor’s conference. I came back Wednesday night at 1:30am. I got up and went right to work again the next day from 8a-8:45pm. So…I was super excited to get home Thursday evening.
I figured I’d get home and relax on the couch.
I’d turn an episode of Arrow.
I’d have some delicious hot food waiting for me to eat.
But when I got home…that wasn’t there.
No room on the couch.
No HGTV on the TV.
No food…could I go out and get some?
In other words –
Julianna felt the same way I did.
She was tired.
She wanted to relax.
She was hoping I could help her relax as I was hoping she could help me.
What happens next is something that I imagine goes down in homes across America.
We both get a bit annoyed.
Today we will apply a Biblical teaching to teach us the importance of putting others first in our households…even when our own selfishness wants us to make others put ourselves first. Before we examine Scripture, join me in prayer: O Lord, strengthen us by the truth; your Word is the truth. Open our eyes to see what you want us to see; open our ears to hear what you want us to hear; open our hearts to believe what you would have us believe. Amen.
1. Who’s Number One?
The lesson for this morning comes from the book of Ephesians 5. Ephesians is a letter written by Pastor Paul to the Christians that were living in Ephesus. That’s important. This is a letter written to Christians that means it is a letter written to people who knew about Jesus’ undeserved love, understood his selfless sacrifice on the cross, and embraced his ‘others first’ teachings. They must have been putting it into practice, because the church has grown since Paul started it.
They must have been selflessly sharing Jesus’ message of grace in the community.
They must have been selflessly sharing Jesus’ love in the work place.
They must have been selflessly sharing their belongings in their church family.
And that’s a good thing.
But if you read the letter to the Ephesians, there’s a change in tone midway through. From the exciting reminders of God’s grace in the beginning of the letter to succinct and direct commands in chapter 5. He tells them to stop living like the world and stop living like people who love God.
Because while they were doing a good job of living for Jesus in church on Sunday, they were forgetting about being selfless in one key area of life.
Ephesians 5 deals almost exclusively with direction and guidance for Christians in their household and with their family. There are words about lying. Words about sexuality faithfulness. Words for husbands and wives, moms, dads, sons and daughters.
But in all of the direction, it finds its heart in 5:21. Almost like it’s the center of the Christian family and the beating heart of the Christian household.
Is it love? Not this time.
Kind words? No.
Good food? Not quite.
Ready for it.
Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.
Does that seem like a strange word to use here? Submit? In the English language, it is a term that’s used (1) in wrestling. “I just put you in the Figure Four leglock. Submit!” or (2) with dogs. “You need to maintain status of alpha dog and make that dog submit,” or (3) in regards to the angry rule of a dictator: “Submit to me or else.”
Is that the kind of submit we are talking about here?
Not at all.
This part of the Bible was originally written in Greek. In the Greek language, there are three types of voices that you can place any verb into.
First, there’s the Active Voice. It means that the subject is doing the action. (“I eat the Doritos.”)
Second, there’s the Passive Voice. It means that the subject is being acted upon. (“The Doritos are eaten by me.”)
Finally, there’s something in Greek called the Middle Voice. It means that the subject is acting upon itself. (“The Doritos are making themselves delicious.”)
It’s that middle voice that is being used in Ephesians 5. It means “submit yourself.” You do the action and you place yourself below another. You place your desires, needs and wants below theirs.
It means the word submit has three important parts to it that we need to remember:
1. It’s Unforced
NOTE: It does not say “Make others submit to you,” or “force others to submit to you.”
It’s amazing how we forget that in our families.
“I wanted to watch the football game. How dare you put on The Voice! Change the channel and submit or I’m gonna complain loudly so you can’t hear.”
“I want to go to McDonalds. How dare you suggest Taco Bell! Change the direction of this car and submit or I will spill the Big Mac all over the interior.”
“I want to spend our money on this; you want to spend money on that. Submit to me or I will scream and pout and call you names and force you to submit to me.”
That’s not how God wants submission to work.
He doesn’t tell us to force others to submit to us.
2. It's Willing
Which is the exact opposite of being forced. This word is calling us to put our own desires, needs and wants underneath the desires, needs and wants of our families….and to do so willingly.
3. It’s Unearned
Again. Note it does not say:
“Submit yourself…as long as they’ve done their share of cleaning up the bathroom.”
“Submit yourself…as long as they have cleaned up all of their LEGOS.”
“Submit yourself…as long as your spouse is looking pretty hot.”
It says submit.
Submit yourself when they are a jerk.
Submit yourself when they are rude.
Submit yourself when they aren’t even nice.
By the way – this is what we say in marriage. “I promise to be faithful to you…in sickness and in health, for better or worse, in rich and poor.” No matter the situation I promise to put your wants and needs before mine.
This is hard.
So very hard.
So very hard for selfish humans to be selfless.
How do we do it?
Submit yourself out of reverence for Christ.
At Jesus’ time, everybody wore sandals. They weren’t such things as closed-toed shoes like we have today. Everybody wore sandals and out in the dusty desert that mean that their feet became filthy.
Plus, it was hot! That means the leather was constantly rubbing against the flesh of their feet at temperatures upwards of 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Leather and sweat? It doesn’t smell very pleasant.
Not to mention – the majority speedy travel at the time was by horse or donkey or oxen. And guess what? Those animals needed to stop and do what animals sometimes need to stop and do…in the middle of the road. There wasn’t a very good street sweeper system. People just kind of left it…and walked over it…and got it on their feet.
Dirty toe nails.
So…when you enter a home, you want to clean up a bit. It was common practice for a servant to stand at the door with a bowl of water and a rag – ready to wash.
But one evening, the disciples gather for a party. They gather to into a home.
They enter through the door and there is not a servant.
And each disciple walks in.
And each disciple notices the bowl of water by the door.
And each disciple notices the lack of a servant.
And each disciple thinks; “I’m not gonna wash anybody’s feet. Because if I do, suddenly I’m that guy. The feet washing guy.”
And they all sit down. And they try to ignore the stench. And they look disapprovingly at one another: “You should have done this.”
He enters with a towel around his waist and a bowl of water in his hands.
And he begins…washing their feet.
He submits himself to their needs.
The Lord of heaven gets on the dirty ground.
The God to whom all bow – gets on his knees to help his friends.
The Holy One himself in whom nothing is unclean – reaches down and rubs the dirty excrement from between the disciples’ toes.
He submits himself to even their most primal and basic needs.
And it’s not even the most incredible example of Jesus submitting for us.
Because the whole reason Jesus was on earth was for his disciples.
The whole reasons Jesus was on earth was for you.
He submitted himself willingly to the painful death of the cross in order to save himself.
His miracles proved that he wasn’t being forced – he could have sent thousands of angels to save himself at any time.
And he did this when we didn’t deserve it.
When all he saw was sin.
When all he saw was people being awful to one another.
When all he saw was us being awful to him.
But Jesus submitted himself to our needs.
He submitted himself to death in order to serve our greatest need of all.
Now He, who gave his entire life to us, calls us to submit to one another. For His sake.
2. Godly Examples of this in Action
When everyone in the family puts this submission principle into practice, it leads to a pleasant family life. Ephesians notes this by highlighting two particular family relationships that tend to put people at odds. Take a look:
1. Husband and wife.
The reality is that men and women are different. In fact, the Bible teaches right here something called the roles of husband and wife in marriage. To be honest – it makes a lot of sense.
Because what happens if you have two head chefs at a restaurant? One wants to serve Italian and the other wants to serve sushi. The result? They both want to lead. They argue and fight. They end up with a dish called “Spaghetti and Sushi Meatballs.” And…no one wins.
To avoid that, God has husband wife assumed different roles in a marriage. The husband is the leader and the wife is the helper. One is not better than the other. They are completely the same in God’s eyes. They simply have different roles in the marriage.
This means they share the same guiding principle: Submit yourselves out of reverence for Christ with slightly different applications.
For wives it says this: Submit yourself to your husband for the husband is the head (or leader) of the wife as Christ is the head of the church. This is interesting because we have the exact same word for “submit” simply applied in a different scenario. The same things we said about submit earlier, we would say about submit now.
Submission is unforced. (meaning husbands don’t point to this passage and shout: “See! Submit. I’m in charge.”) No. Just…No.
Submission is unearned. (Meaning you are conceding the leadership to your husband even when he’s doing a terrible job of it.)
Submission is willing. (Meaning this is something you do. Out of love. Out of trust.)
Again…hard. It’s trusting that the man you marry will lead with your very best in mind.
Which, oddly enough, is exactly how God tells husbands to lead.
And then some.
Husbands, love your wives just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.
Guys. Do you see it? God tells you not just to submit your desires to your wife’s needs.
Not just your daily activities.
Not just your wallet.
Not just the TV remote (which we aren’t even that good at giving up).
But your life.
Just like Christ gave up his life for us – we are willing to give up our lives for our wives.
That’s a huge responsibility. But it’s also a responsibility motivated by Jesus. He gave up his life for us. He died for us. We already have everything we need for eternal life!
Why not serve our wives with all of our lives?
So now think about the two. When this is practiced the way Jesus says it is to be practiced, this relationship is beautiful.
The wife submits herself to her husband’s leadership.
The husband submits his leadership to his wife’s needs.
2. Parent and child.
A second example is the relationship between parents and child. Again, when done well it’s mutually beneficial.
First Paul writes, “Children obey your parents for this pleases the LORD.” (6:1) He writes this reminder because kids (did you know this?) don’t always listen. And not listening to your mom and dad is hurtful.
I remember my mother once made a peach cobbler dish. She spent hours making and baking and kneading the dough. She did it because she loved us. Then, when it was time to eat it – I put a dollop of Cool Whip on. She said, “That’s enough.” I put another dollop on. She said, “No more.” I put my spoon in the Cool whip and she said, “If you add one more then you’ll have to leave the table.”
I had to leave the table.
How rude. Not listening to my mom and the nice things she was trying to do for me. I put my own desires first rather than hers. Jesus says reverse that.
Because your parents will be putting YOU first.
“Father’s, train up your children in the instruction of the Lord.” I love that reminder of how we are to train – “in instruction of the Lord.” It’s not like we train kids to be our slaves – like Santa Claus and his elves. Nor do we need to worry so much about training them to be the next Lebron James or Arianna Grande.
Train in the Lord.
Train in the message of Jesus.
Train in the faith that leads to heaven.
And we submit ourselves to that need.
When tired, we bring them to church anyways.
When watching the game, we get up from the couch and discipline.
When shopping on Facebook marketplace, we put down the phone to go share a devotion with them.
When this relationship is done the way God says it should, again – it works wonderfully.
Be imitators of God’s love. (5:1)
Love – like God.
Submit – like God.
Obey – like Jesus.
Train – like the Father.
I like campfires. They are mesmerizing. It’s fun to sit around and chat. Who doesn’t love a good smore? But one thing I don’t love is getting smoke in my eyes. (You?) And…well…I’m kind of a wimp so I will get to complaining to Julianna: “There’s smoke in my eyes. I don’t like it.” And she’ll say: “Back up a bit.” Because they reality is that the closer you are to the campfire, the more smoke you’ll get in your eyes for no other reason than proximity.
The same is true with people. The closer you are to them the more of their sin you get on you. It’s why I tell couples when they are about to get married that the reality is their spouse is going to be one of the people that they sin against most in their lifetime. Not because they like them least, but because of sheer proximity.
That’s a fairly negative perspective on family.
But with God’s help we can turn it into a positive.
Today we will apply a Biblical teaching to teach us the importance of forgiveness in a household. Before we do, join me in prayer: O Lord, strengthen us by the truth; your Word is the truth. Open our eyes to see what you want us to see; open our ears to hear what you want us to hear; open our hearts to believe what you would have us believe. Amen.
I. The Story of Joseph
Our lesson starts with a very large family in the book of Genesis. There’s a dad named Jacob and he has (count them) 12 sons. Joseph is the youngest. Joseph has dreams of one day being very important. Joseph regularly tells his brothers about these dreams and Joseph gets away with it; because Joseph is also his dad’s favorite.
In fact, Jacob had a tendency to make his favoritism a bit obvious. For instance, he once bought Joseph a very special multicolored coat. That’s different than the normal clothing of the day. Usually people wore browns and greys—and that’s what the other sons wore. But Jacob loved Joseph that much. He got him the fancy colored coat – Problem? He didn’t do that for any of his other sons. (That’d be like going to Giorgio Armani suit for one child and gifting all the other kids a few things from the clearance rack at Goodwill.)
Guess what? The other brothers were jealous. So jealous that one day as they were tending the flocks in the field – they see Joseph approaching and made a plan:
Here comes that dreamer! Come now, let’s kill him and throw him into one of these cisterns and say that a ferocious animal devoured him! (Genesis 3:19)
But cooler heads prevail.
They decide not to kill him.
That wouldn’t be very brotherly.
Instead, they jump him, throw him in the pit, sell him as a slave, and tell dad some animal killed him.
Fast forward twenty something years. There is a severe famine in the land. It’s been going on for years. The ten brothers are sent from their homeland to Egypt. Because in Egypt, there’s a young ruler who anticipated the food shortage and has been collecting food in storage bins for 7 years. As a result, he has been able to carefully and appropriately ration out the food to all of Egypt.
The brothers get there.
They bring plenty of silver along with them.
And they bow before the sight of this ruler.
And the ruler seems – oddly familiar. They can’t quite place their finger on it. But it’s like they’ve seen him from somewhere.
A former neighbor? A former classmate?
Did he used to play on the rec league softball team? No.
It’s only after he provides all the food necessary for them, gives them their money back, makes the odd command that they bring their youngest brother back here next time they need food – that the ruler reveals who he is.
The brother that they left for dead.
And he hugs them and is excited to speak with them and cries over them and asks them to bring their father to Egypt so that he can see him and promises to provide them a place to live and gives plenty of food to be taken care of.
And the brothers are in shock…but they oblige.
And things go well.
And Joseph seems happy.
And everything seems cool.
But then, their dad dies.
And the brothers get extremely nervous.
Because they figure, the only reason that Joseph hasn’t gotten revenge on them yet is because of their father. With him out of the way, Joseph can have them ambushed, thrown into a pit and sold as slaves.
Revenge is coming.
So, they get together and concoct a letter. (It’ s the Old Testament version of an apology text.) “Joseph, your father left these instructions before he died; ‘This is what you are to say to Joseph. I ask you to forgive your brothers the sins and the wrongs they committed in treating you so badly.’ Now please forgives the sins of the servants of the God of your Father.” (50:17)
And for good measure they follow up the letter by coming to Joseph’s throne room and throwing themselves at his feet.
He doesn’t whip them.
He doesn’t have them thrown into prison.
He doesn’t start laughing an evil villain laugh.
“Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. Don’t be afraid; I will provide for you and your children.” And he reassured them and spoke kindly to them. (50:19-21)
In other words -- he forgave them.
They mobbed him, beat him, threw him in a pit, sold him into slavery and banished him from his father for over 20 years!
And he forgave them.
Simple as that.
II. Why Forgive?
You might not have been mobbed by your 10 brothers and sold into slavery but…perhaps you can relate to Joseph. Maybe your family has hurt you…badly.
You screen their phone calls.
You give your spouse the cold shoulder.
You don’t want to be at the family reunion that they are at.
To be fair, the hurt can be real. Whether it’s awful words, sexual infidelity, repeated lies, stealing money or verbal abuse…
It hurts deep.
Yet the story of Joseph teaches us to forgive. Here are three reasons:
1. You aren’t God
This was Joseph’s first reason for not getting revenge on his brothers. Even though he was second in command of all of Egypt – and anything he told those Egyptian soldiers to do, they would do – without any questions asked or moral judgment given.
Yet Joseph says this, “Am I God?” I may be second in command of Egypt, but God is first in command of everything. I’m in charge of handing out food to all the surrounding regions, but I’m not in charge of handing out divine judgment. My realm is food; God’s realm is judgment.
Joseph didn’t seek revenge because Joseph wasn’t God.
What about you?
Are you God?
I didn’t want to be assumptive and assume that any of you weren’t God so I’ve developed a bit of a quiz that will help you determine if you are in fact God. Pay attention and I want you to mark a brief tally mark any time the answer to the question is yes.
Do you know where the lightning bolts are stored and can you hurl one without getting electrocuted?
Can you control the paths of hurricanes as they head towards the U.S.?
Can you turn all of the rain drops into Snickers bars by snapping your fingers?
Do your list of accomplishments include creating the universes, saving humanity, and holding the planets in orbit?
Can you blow me over simply by waving your hands like this at me right now…Go ahead. Try it. I’ll wait.
If you didn’t answer “yes” to all of those questions, guess what? You aren’t God.
That means you aren’t in charge of divine retribution for sin.
2. God Commanded You to Forgive
The brothers had a point when they approached Joseph with their mercy plea. They said, “Your father left these instructions…forgive your brothers.” (v.16) Now whether their biological dad Jacob did or not…I don’t know. But the reality is that Joseph’s father did demand forgiveness.
In fact, Matthew 18:35 says this, “Forgive from the heart.” That’s Jesus talking. Jesus, who made the blind see, the deaf hear and the lame walk. Jesus who stopped storms, walked on water and raised the dead. Jesus who was and is God.
God commanded you to forgive from the heart.
Which means – if you don’t forgive, it’s not just their sin that we’re talking about anymore.
Suddenly, it’s yours.
Yes, the sins that they did to you might be big, might hurt a lot, might hurt a lot, a lot, a lot.
But there’s no caveat here. God requires his people to forgive.
Which is hard.
It’s hard to forgive someone from the heart when your heart is filled with so much hurt.
That’s why it’s so important to remember the third reason to forgive:
3. Forgive because God Forgave You
Jesus tells the following story:
There was a man who borrowed money from his C.E.O. He owed him over one million dollars. When the time came from him to pay off his debt, the C.E.O. called him into the office and asked for the money. He didn’t have it. So, the C.E.O. threatened to charge him with fraud which would land him in jail. The man threw himself on the floor in a pitiful display of begging: “I don’t have the money. Not now. But I can work it off. I promise. I’ll do anything. Just don’t put me in prison. Have mercy.”
And the C.E.O. did.
Not by extending the due date.
Not by setting up a payment plan.
But by erasing the debt – all 1 million dollars of it.
Later that day he went down to the pub to celebrate. While he was there he found a fellow employee who stilled owed him a couple hundred of dollars from a loan he gave him to pay his rent a few months back.
The guy walks over. He pins him to the wall. He holds him by the throat and demands his money back.
His friend says he doesn’t have it. He begs for mercy. He begs for forgiveness.
But the man doesn’t relent. Not having that couple hundred dollars hurts. And he must have it back!
A couple of his coworkers watch this take place. A few of them record it on their smart phones. They message it to their boss.
The next day – the C.E.O. calls him in. “How dare you! Didn’t I forgive you a million bucks? Yet you won’t forgive this guy for much less? Guess what. The paperwork isn’t finalized. You still owe me my money. I’ll see you in court.”
In other words.
God forgave you.
Won’t you forgive others?
Because the reality is no matter how much someone has sinned against you, it fails miserably in comparison to how much you have sinned against God.
Because a small percentage (5%) of sins that your family has done has been against you.
But every sin that you have done has been against God.
Jesus Christ lived perfectly when you couldn’t.
Jesus Christ died innocently in your place.
Jesus Christ rose triumphantly for the forgiveness of your sins.
God promises –through faith in Jesus, you are forgiven.
Nothing left to pay.
No revenge left to be had.
No grudges by God being held.
If God doesn’t hold a grudge against you for any of your millions of sins against him, why hold a grudge against…anyone?
Forgive as in Christ God has forgiven you.
III. What Now?
When it comes to forgiveness and applying it, the Bible has some wisdom.
1. Look at God (not at the sin)
I remember a while back there was a Facebook post that someone wrote in response to a devotional thought I had which essentially called me a big MORON for believing in Jesus. It bugged me. I kept looking it up to see if they changed their mind or decided to write something nice. Nope. They just continued to be mean. And guess what! Every time I looked at it…I only got madder!
Sometimes that’s how we approach this forgiveness thing. We spend minutes, hours, weeks, years…thinking about what that person did wrong to us and guess what – we only get madder!
Stop looking at the sin.
Start looking at your God.
That’s what Joseph did! He saw God’s hand in what happened. He saw God’s love. He saw God’s forgiveness. So, he forgave his brothers.
If you need help with forgiveness, focus on the cross.
You’ll stop seeing the sin;
And start seeing your Savior.
And once you see your Savior, then you’ll see the good.
2. See the Good in the Situation
Joseph did just that. He saw the sin – but he also saw God’s hand in using that sinful situation for good. If he hadn’t been thrown into slavery, the chain of events never would have been started that eventually led to his position as second in command which allowed him to save up food for thousands and save thousands of lives!
With God in your line of sight, rather than sin – suddenly you will see the good. Granted that good might not be a position second in command to the President of the United States. But there will still be good.
“They sinned against me and I had to turn to the Bible and lean on God’s forgiveness and God grew my faith. Thanks God.”
Or “He sinned against me and I have the awesome opportunity to show my spouse the kind of love Jesus has for me.”
See the good.
See the opportunity.
See the opportunity to show God which is good.
And as a result? Joseph and his brothers live in peace. A God empowered peace – but an awesome peace of forgiveness.
May God work the same forgiveness in your hearts and in your families – may you live in peace. Amen.