Imitating God’s Love

Speaker: Rev. Shine Thomas

INTRODUCTION

A Chinese believer farmer used to cultivate paddy on a hill slope. He had to fetch water from the valley below. Everyday after the believer waters his paddy, the farmer below his field would open a hole in the clay dam whereby he could water his paddy without any effort. The believer got frustrated and fought verbally with the other farmer but there was no change in his attitude. He prayed and tried to make him a Christian but again there was no change. Then he got an idea, first water the neighbour’s field and then water his crop. He did so for 2 weeks. Finally the neighboring farmer came to the believer and said, “I want to follow your God who shows his love practically through his followers.”

This morning we are going to take a deeper look at God’s love and we are also going to see how we can imitate God’s love in our lives.

Ephesians 5:1-2 1 Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children 2 and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

Paul is telling the Ephesian church to follow the example of God. What is the God’s example – Love.

1 John 4:8 God is love. If you sum up the essence of God the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit you get a 4 letter word called LOVE. God is all about love. God always does everything out of love.

Paul is telling follow God’s example of love. The NKJV puts it ‘Be imitators of God and walk in love.’ Imitate comes from the word ‘mime.’ Have you ever seen somebody mime? They don’t say anything, do they? They express it and when they express it in action everyone understands it. Paul is telling whatever we do let it be an expression of God’s love.

Remember the standard set for a Christian in the Bible is to be imitators of God. In the Greek culture there were three steps of how a student had to learn from his teacher. First he had to study the theory, second he had to imitate the theory lessons just like his master, and thirdly he had to practice what he imitated. Here Paul is telling the Ephesian church that since you are the children of God, be imitators of God – In other words Paul is saying don’t talk about God’s love, imitate it; walk in God’s love, live in God’s love, and express God’s love.

GOD LOVES YOU.

Even before we could learn to imitate the love of God we must have a clear understanding that God loves us. He loved us even before we could know him.

Romans 5:8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
1 John 4:19 We love him because He first loved us.

When we were sinners, when we were away from God, He chose us and loved us. What about God’s love to us when we become his children? Romans 5:5 God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.

When we accept Christ as our saviour, God pours out his love into our heart. You realize it or not there is an outpouring of God’s love into your hearts. This very much means that no matter whoever rejects me – My God loves me. I am precious to God.

You need to believe that no matter what happens God still loves you. I want to give you some scripture to express God’s love to you.

Jeremiah 1:5 5 “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.”
Isaiah 55:8-9 8 “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD. 9 “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.
Jeremiah 29:11-14 11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 12 Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. 14 I will be found by you,” declares the LORD, “and will bring you back from captivity.

God loves you. Your friends may betray you, your family may reject you but you receive unconditional love from God. There is nothing you can do to stop God from loving you. That is his nature, he cannot stop loving you. Many times the devil puts the thought in us that we are not perfect and God stops loving us. You need to believe that God loves you.

Now we know God is love and God loves us. Therefore God expects us to be imitators of God’s love in this world. Being a Christian is not coming to church and worshipping God. Being a Christian is not reading the Bible and praying 2 times a day. Being a Christian is developing the character of God, have God’s love and demonstrate that love to the world. It is only when we imitate God’s love can the world see Jesus through us.

HOW CAN YOU IMITATE GOD’S LOVE?

1. Love one another.

John 13:35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.

We need to love one another. There should be this display of God’s love in our families and our church.

Illustration: John’s wife came from a very prestigious family called ‘The Kings.’ Right from marriage he kept away from his wife’s family because whenever they met they boasted about their kingly connection. One day as he was walking across a bridge, he saw another man standing on the edge, about to jump off. John immediately ran over and stopped him “Don’t commit suicide!” “Why shouldn’t I?” he asked. John said, “Well, there’s so much to live for in life!” “Like what?” The man asked. John said, “Do you have a family?” Yes. John said, “Well when I have stress I think about my family and it gives me peace.” “By the way where are you from?” Bangalore the man said. Which area? “Kammannahalli,” the man said. “Oh my wife is also from Kammannahalli, Bangalore what is the name of your family?” John asked. “The Kings” the man said. Without thinking a moment John gave him one push into the river.

We all can love strangers but sometimes it is very difficult to love our loved ones. It is only when we love one another can we imitate God’s love. You maybe asking me, “Pastor how can I love my family, they were so bad to me?” Love is not based on feelings. It is an attitude to love in spite of the circumstances. Some days I feel like loving some days I do not. Some days I feel nice some days I do not. Love is not based on feelings. True love is I decide to love no matter what my feelings are.

1 John 4:7-8 7 Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.

We all boast about being God’s children. God says, “If you have no love and I don’t know you and you don’t know me.” Love one another.

Love should be expressed in action, not just words. We say, “I love you” or “I love you with the love of Christ” but we hardly do express our love in action. Our love for one another should be demonstrated in action. Show your love by doing something for the people God has put in your life. Do you know how God showed his love for you? 1 John 4:9-12 9 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. 10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.

Illustration: Jesus hinted his disciples many times that he would die and would rise again. But after the death of Jesus the disciples were disheartened. In John 21 Peter and 6 other disciples went back fishing. The whole night they toiled but caught nothing. Jesus appeared to them in the morning and guided for a big catch of fish. He then proceeded to have breakfast with his disciples and listen what he spoke to Peter.

John 21:15-17 15 When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” “Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.” 16 Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.” 17 The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my sheep.

Jesus said, “If you love me feed my sheep.” Loving God is always related to how we can love others. If you cannot love your mother-in-law, husband, wife, children, brother or sister you cannot love God. Let the love of God be reflected in your lives.

2. Love our enemies.

Some of you maybe thinking, “Pastor somehow I can love my family but you know it is very difficult to love my enemies.” It is only when you love your enemies that you imitate the love of God.

Matthew 5:44-48 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47 And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

As Christians we need to grow to that perfection day after day. How do you grow to that Christian perfection? You can grow only if you have this love, love for the people who does wrong against you.

Illustration: I have heard the story about the actor who was acting the part of Christ in the crucifixion scene. As he carried the cross up the hill a tourist began making fun of him and shouting insults at him. Finally, the actor had taken all of it and he could not tolerate the nonsense any longer. So he threw down his cross, walked over to the tourist and punched him out.

The play was interrupted and the director told him, “I know he was a pest, but I can’t accept what you did. Moreover you are playing the part of Jesus, Jesus never retaliated. So don’t do anything like that again tomorrow.” Well, the man promised he wouldn’t. But the next day the mocker was back worse than before and finally the actor exploded and punched him out again. The director said, “That’s it. I have to fire you. We just can’t have you behaving this way while playing the part of Jesus. Moreover you are wasting my shooting time too.” The actor begged, “Please give me one more chance. I really need this job, tomorrow when you take this shot I will be careful.” So the director decided to give him another chance.

The next day as he was carrying his cross up the street, sure enough, the mocker was there again. You could tell that the actor was really trying to control himself, but it was getting to his nerves. He was clinching his fists and grinding his teeth. Finally, he looked at the mocker and said, “Wait I’ll meet you after the resurrection!”

When people scheme against us or badmouth us our usual response is to retaliate or attack them. Bible says we ought to love them. When you love your enemies you actually imitate God. When you imitate God, God is on your side and will give you victory in front of your enemies. That is why David said, “You prepare a table before my enemies.”

Love your enemies. Love the ones who wrong you. When we love our enemies we reflect God’s love.

3. Obedience to the Word of God.

John 14:15 If you love me you keep my commandments.
When we obey the word of God we love God and reflect his love to this world. If we love God then we will automatically obey what the Bible says. We know about giving but we can only give if we have love. We know about forgiving but we can forgive only if we have love. Our love is reflected by our obedience to the Word of God.

KNOWING GOD’S LOVE

I think love is the most misunderstood word in the English dictionary. Most other languages have several words to express different kinds of love. But English has just this one word, ‘love’ and we use it in many ways.

You see there is love for food, love for parents, love between lovers, love for friends, love for leisure activities. We have different forms of love but we use the same word for all expressions of love. The fact is that God’s love cannot be contained in any of these forms of human love. God is calling us for something deeper and higher than all these forms of love.

Paul says in Ephesians 3:17-19 17 I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

The kind of love that God is calling us to is the Agape love. This is the love that God had towards his son Jesus Christ and he has for you and for me. God’s love is wide and long, high and deep. There is no limit to this love. Agape love is a self-sacrificing love.

John 3:16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. God gave his one and only son. God had only one Son and he sacrificed that Son for you. Jesus had only one life and he gave his life for you. So God’s love is a sacrificial love. God’s love is a giving love. It looks for reasons to give. It is not selfish, it is always giving. It always looks for opportunity to give.

Look at the sacrifices love makes 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. This king of love is impossible without self-sacrifice. Sacrificial love will automatically change things in your family.

Illustration: A wife went to a lawyer’s office full of hatred toward her husband. “I want to get rid of him. I want a divorce but before I divorce him I want to hurt him as much as he has hurt me.” The Lawyer suggested a plan “Go home and today onwards act as if you really love your husband. Tell him how much he means to you. Praise him for everything. Go out of your way to be as kind, considerate, and generous as possible. Spare no efforts to please him and make him happy. Make him believe you love him. After you’ve convinced him of your love and he gets all the love from you, then drop the bomb. Tell him that you are getting a divorce. That will really hurt him.” With revenge in her eyes, she smiled and exclaimed, “Beautiful, beautiful.” The lawyer said, “After you have shocked him come to me, we will file the papers of divorce.”

And she did it with enthusiasm. She acted as if she loved him for two months. She showed love, kindness, listening, giving, reinforcing, sharing, patience, sacrifice. Well even after 3 months she did not return to the lawyer. Finally he called her, “Are you ready now to go through with the divorce?” “Divorce?” she exclaimed. “Never! I discovered that he really loves me and now I have made a decision to love him even if he does not love me because love changes everything.”

Joseph was hated by his brothers. His brothers sold him as a body to the Egyptian merchants. Joseph eventually became the prime minister of Egypt. The Bible says Joseph’s family came to Egypt in search of grains and settled down in Egypt. After the death of Jacob, Joseph’s father his brothers were scared for their lives as they were afraid of Joseph, now that they are under his care and thought he would take revenge.

Genesis 50:15 15 When Joseph’s brothers saw that their father was dead, they said, “Perhaps Joseph will hate us, and may actually repay us for all the evil which we did to him.”
Genesis 50:18-21 18 Then his brothers also went and fell down before his face, and they said, “Behold, we are your servants.” 19Joseph said to them, “Do not be afraid, for am I in the place of God? 20 But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive. 21 Now therefore, do not be afraid; I will provide for you and your little ones.” And he comforted them and spoke kindly to them.

When people hurt you we do not have any right to pay them back but we are to love them because we are in God’s place. We reflect God when we love people. I tell you if you can imbibe agape love; love one another and love your enemies your circumstances will change by itself.

CONCLUSION

There are a lot of unlovable people out there in the world isn’t it? Maybe it is your own husband, maybe it is your wife or your children or your parents, maybe it is your own neighbors, maybe it is someone very close to you. Yes they are unworthy to receive you love, their deeds do not deserve love.

You may have reasons to say, “My husband is not going to work.” “I am struggling alone, he/she is not bothered about me. She/he is spending all the money. I am hurt with their bad mouth. They are always bitter towards me. I have never had peace of my in my own house.” Yes they do not deserve love but if you need love and forgiveness from God you ought to love them.

Some of you maybe feeling, “Lord there is no one to love me. I am always doing all the sacrifice. I am always doing all the giving.” When you are sacrificially doing things for others, sacrificially giving you become imitators of God because you are doing what God did for you.

Be imitators of God, walk in love. Amen.