A Rose of Christian Love by Roger Rohde, Sept. 3, 2017

A Rose of Christian Love

Romans 12:9-21

The rose is probably the most popular flower through which love is expressed.  Our text for today talks about Christian love and as it does so one can see eight petals on a rose that define Christian love.

The first petal of Christian love is that Christian love is genuine.  People in the Christian congregation are not simply to tolerate one another, but they are to sincerely care for one another as would a closely knit family.  This means, as Jesus points out, that when we deal with one another in the church we do not simply wish people well or tell them that we will pray for them, but we will actually do something to show our love for our brother and sister in Christ (James 2:15-16).  This, of course, is not always easy to do.  Some people simply seem more lovable than others.  Yet, sincere Christian love does not distinguish between people.  As the Bible tells us: “For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile – the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on Him” (Romans 10:13).  In other words, God’s love knows nothing about skin color or nationality.  Christ died for all and all are to be loved in Christ by what we do and what we say.

The second petal in Christian love is that Christian love is pure.  Our text states: “Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.”  Christian love has two sides: hating evil and pursuing that what is good.

The world often understands love to mean tolerating people and their beliefs.  That is not what God says.  He emphasizes that sincere Christian love hates evil and clings to that which is good.  The determination of what is good and evil is not to be based upon personal opinion or the decision of the majority, but by the Word of God.  Christians are to uphold all that the Bible declares because it is the eternal and abiding truth of God.  Taking our stance on issues based upon God’s Word will not always be popular, but it will be a proclamation to the fact that we love the Lord above all else.  Jesus said in His Sermon on the Mount: “No one can serve two masters.  Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other.  You cannot serve both God and mammon” (Mathew 6:24).  Who is it that we serve?  What determines the truths by which we live?  Christian love is always pure having the standard of right and wrong determined by God’s Word.

Petal three in this rose of Christian love is tender affection.  Christian love displays itself in tender affection to all.  Our text states: “Be devoted to one another in brotherly love…. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.  Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with them who mourn.  Live in harmony with one another.”  In His Sermon on the Mount Jesus speaks of having tender affection and sympathizing with one another:  “I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons 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.  If you love those who love you, what reward will you get?  Are not even the tax collectors doing that?  And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others?  Do not even the pagans do that?  Be perfect, therefore, as you heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:44-48).

Here the Lord tells us that there is a marked difference between the people of the world and the people of God.  The true children of God care about all people with tender affection and sympathy because they have experienced this love from God firsthand.  God’s people are not to choose who they wish to love and care for, but like Jesus they reach out to all people.  When Jesus took on human flesh, His heart was filled with affection and sympathy for all mankind.  He lived as a man because He loved us, and He died in our place to pay the debt of our sin and bless us with His love, so that we may in like fashion show tender affection and sympathy to all people.  In our relating to one another do we display the likeness of the heavenly Father’s tender heart and sympathizing spirit?

The fourth petal of the rose of Christian love is zeal.  Christian love is zealous for the Lord.  Christian love in our text is spoken of as “never lacking zeal, but having spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.”

God wants zealous, enthusiastic people as members in His church.  No Christian congregation has ever been built with members who are indifferent or lackluster toward the Lord.  In fact, the Lord tells us in Revelation 3:15-16, “I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot.  I wish you were either one of the other!  So, because you are lukewarm – neither hot nor cold – I am about to spit you out of My mouth.”  Indifference in attending worship services, studying God’s Word, serving Him or bringing the message of the Gospel to all people are indications that a person is not tied to Jesus Christ by faith.  While works do not save us, James clearly tells us that our actions can be a measuring stick to our faith in and commitment to the Lord (James 2:14-17).  We have many interests in life and are committed to many things, but if what we do does not center on Christ and His will we do not love Christ and our fellowman as God commands.

Patience is another petal in this rose of Christian love.  Our text states: “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.”  A true believer in Christ lives with the certainty that he will one day dwell in heaven because of the death and resurrection of Jesus for all mankind.  He, therefore, patiently waits upon the Lord through life’s present trials and he lifts up all situations to the Lord in prayer.  Through faith he does not get bogged down with the problems of this life, but he lives knowing that all situations in life have their God-given purpose in leading us to touch other lives and have our own faith strengthened in Christ.

Another petal to this rose of Christian love is generosity.  Christian love practices generosity.  The text states: “Share with God’s people in need.  Practice hospitality.”

Jesus’ ministry was marked by generosity.  In His first recorded miracle He created the best wine served at the wedding of Cana.  He fed over 5,000 men, not counting women and children, with five loaves of bread and two fish, having 12 baskets of leftovers.  Jesus brought Lazarus back from the dead when the original request of Mary and Martha was simply to heal him of his sickness.  Most significantly of all, Jesus poured out His lifeblood, dying on the cross to pay for our sins, when He could have rightfully left us to be lost eternally in our sins.  Again and again Jesus displayed His love for all mankind by His generously caring for us and giving us the gift of eternal salvation.

The truth is that if this love of Christ truly dwells within us it will flow through us and touch the lives of other people.  John in his first epistle wrote, “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down His life for us.  And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.  If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him?  Dear children, let us not love with words of tongue but with actions and in truth” (3:16-18).  God in Galatians 6:10 states, “Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good, to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.”

Humility is the next petal on this rose of Christian love.  Our text declares, “Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position.  Do not be conceited.”

This description of humility is best displayed in the person of Jesus Christ.  Philippians 2 tells us, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.  Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.  Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made Himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.  And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to death – even death on a cross” (verses 3-8).

Jesus Christ, eternal and sinless God, took on human flesh and lived like a man.  He humbly served others eventually giving His very life on the cross to pay for our sins and grant us the gift of eternal life in heaven.  During His earthly ministry Jesus welcomed sinners and ate with them.  He ministered to those who despised Him in the same way He did to all people.  No one was too insignificant or sinful that the Lord would not minister to them.  The Lord looks for such humility to be within us who know Him and have experienced His undeserved love.  Jesus says to us in His Sermon on the Mount, “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you…. If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you?  Even ‘sinners’ love those who love them.  And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you?  Even ‘sinners’ do that.  And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you?  Even ‘sinners’ lend to ‘sinners,’ expecting to be repaid in full.  But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back.  Then your reward will be great, and you will sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked.  Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful” (Luke 6:27, 28, 32-36).

The final petal in the rose of Christian love is peace.  Christian love is peaceful.  Christian love is not about stirring up conflict, making judgments that are to be left to God, or seeking to better oneself by putting others down.  That is anew by the redeeming grace of God and walk by the Holy Spirit.  Those who know Christian love never repay evil with evil.  They don’t try to justify actions and attributes that God says are wrong.  They have God’s peace in their hearts through the saving work of Jesus and they seek to deal with all people by that saving grace.

This truly is a great challenge for all of us.  Yet, this is why it requires God’s

Spirit and not our own efforts.  By our natural flesh we will never deal with evil by ministering to others in patience, humility, affection and sympathy.  We can only do this as Christ’s love rules our hearts and minds, and the Holy Spirit directs our words and actions.

Surely God has laid a lot before us as He presents this rose of Christian love to us today.  With gratitude in our hearts we can see God’s love for us through Christ and the fragrant rose of Christian love by which He has blessed us.  As we receive this rose of Christian love by faith, may we under the Holy Spirit’s power give this rose of Christian love back to God by the way we love and minister to others in His name.  Let us have this fragrant rose of Christ’s love blossom in each of us and the life of this congregation, so that the world will be blessed in Christ through the Christian love we practice.  Amen.

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