All You Need is Love

Ruth 3-4 and John 15

            “All you need is love.”  That song, written by John Lennon and sung by the Beatles in June 1967 (during the so-called “summer of love”)   was broadcast live and seen by over 400 million viewers in 25 countries at the time.  It was a kind of sappy, feel good, hippie anthem/anti-war protest song (this was during the height of the war in Viet Nam).

            The late 60’s was a time of radical change in America.  Young men were coming back from Viet Nam in body bags and people were burning their draft cards.  Desegregation was making strides through Dr. King’s call to non-violent protest and some progress was being made, until Dr. King was assassinated in Memphis in 1968 and peaceful protest turned to violent mobs.  As the 60’s gave way to the 70’s and 80’s many of the hippies grew up and became yuppies trading their free love,  pot and “make love, not war” peace signs for cocaine and dollar signs on Wall Street.

            Now we’re in 2021 and the BLM movement tells us that racism is still alive and well.  All that love that John Lennon said  was all we needed seems to be in short supply these days.

            Ruth is an interesting kind of love story that we need to study today.  It shows that true love makes sacrifices and takes risks for the benefit of others.  After Ruth’s husband dies and her father-in-law dies Ruth is encouraged to go back to her people and find another husband, but she loves her mother-in-law enough to sacrifice doing what is most convenient for her.  She goes to a foreign land where she lives a very marginal existence of grabbing the scraps of life.  She is a foreign woman without a husband living far from her family.  It was a perilous existence full of danger and risk, yet she does it out of love for Naomi.

            There are lots of interesting details to the story that no doubt get lost in 3000 years of cultural distance. Kinsmen redeemer is a foreign concept in our society.  In ancient Israel there were two things that mattered most- having an heir and having land that belongs to the family and stays in the family for generations.  When a man died without leaving behind a male child to continue the family name and inherit the land and care for the women in their old age it was up to the next available unmarried male relative to marry the widow and their child would actually be the heir of the son who died.  Many men didn’t like this set up and refused to participate in it.  It was a sacrificial act for a man to take on that responsibility for his dead relatives family and legacy.

            Boaz was a man of great character.  In many ways he could have taken advantage of Ruth’s helplessness and dependency and used her to his advantage.  He did not, instead, he looked out for her and her mother-in-law by making sure they received more than enough food.  He didn’t take advantage of her sexually, instead, he did what was right and at personal cost he took over the role of the kinsmen redeemer and made Ruth his wife and took care of Ruth’s mother-in-law, Naomi.  He acted in a very loving way toward Ruth and Naomi.  Ruth acted in a very loving way toward Naomi.  Naomi was protected and cared for.  Ruth was protected and cared for.  She and Boaz were blessed with a son.  That son, Obed was the grandfather to David who later became the King of Israel, and they were ancestors of Jesus.

            “All you need is Love.” There’s a lot of love in the story of Ruth. Love really is important, it’s foundational to everything.  But love must be rightly understood.  It’s more than what we typically think of as love – warm feelings, romantic notions and sappy songs are not what love is about.  Love is about commitment and sacrifice, it’s about doing what is hard in order to benefit the person you love.  Love is a willingness to take the less easy route.  Love is doing the right thing even when it would be easier and less complicated to do the wrong thing.

            Jesus takes up this theme of love in John 15.  He was about to go to the cross and suffer and die.  He is giving a message to his friends and disciples to sustain them through the difficult hours and days ahead.  The foundational message he gives them is love: “12 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. “

            Jesus teaches about love and exhorts them to love and then he shows them what love looks like by sacrificing himself as an offering for the sins of the world, his friends the disciples, and for us as well.  This love that Jesus demonstrates is a reflection of God’s love for us that is shown in giving his son, Jesus that we might have eternal life (see John 3:16).

            “All you need is love?”  Yes, if we mean the kind of love modeled by Ruth and Boaz which ultimately led to Jesus.  “All you need is love?”  Yes, if we mean the kind of love modeled by Jesus who gave his life for our sins and by God who gave His only begotten son for our salvation.  Love is not just peace signs and romantic songs- it’s commitment and sacrifice and placing the needs of others ahead of our wants and desires.  Who and how can you and I love today?

-Jeff Fletcher

Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – Ruth 3-4 and John 15

Your Work, Labor & Endurance – through Faith, Love & Hope

1st & 2nd Thessalonians

1 Thessalonians 1:3 – We continually remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.


Work Produced by Faith

Faith is defined as having a firm belief, complete trust and confidence in something. As a Believer, our faith is determined by the extent of which we believe that God is who He says He is and that His son, Jesus the Messiah, was born of a woman, lived a perfect life, died on the cross for the redemption of your sins, was raised to life, is currently sitting on a throne next to his Father, waiting to return again to reign in the Kingdom. IF you and I believe all of that – then our day to day life will be a compilation of evidence of acts done in faith and by faith. 


James makes the claim in the third chapter of his letter “to the twelve tribes scattered among the nations” (James 1:1) that “in the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead” (3:17). And in verse 26 of the same chapter, James writes, “As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead”. 


The Thessalonians didn’t just accept the gospel message, they acted on it. Jesus was both their Savior and their Lord, meaning that they were obedient to the call on their lives. They were doing the work that God had prepared in advance for them to do (Ephesians 2:10). Likewise, when we accept the gospel message for ourselves, we have to respond. Jesus tells us in the book of Luke that we must take up our cross (do the work) and follow him (9:23). 

Labor Prompted by Love

Mark 12:30 says, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength”. Have you ever wondered why these four domains are identified? Have you ever loved someone so much that there isn’t anything you wouldn’t do for them? You sacrifice all that you have in order to serve them, sacrifice for them, and labor for them. In the following verse, we’re told to love our neighbors as ourselves. Sacrificing ourselves for family members and close friends is one thing…serving and laboring for others beyond our closest relationships is quite another. 


This is why we’re told to love with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength – because it’s not easy. Sometimes loving another is labor. It’s hard work. It’s humbling ourselves by putting our own desires off to the side in order to honor others. But it’s what we are called to do. And it is possible if we lean into the strength that is provided through our faith in Christ. 

Endurance Inspired by Hope

One of my favorite types of exercise is a 20 minutes HIIT (high intensity interval training) workout. I like it because I don’t have to do it everyday, it’s quick, and efficient. And I get to rest for almost half of the time during the “down” intervals. If I were ever called upon to do something that took longer than 20 minutes, I would be gassed! I do not have the endurance for it. And I have no enthusiasm to train for it! 


Walking out your faith knee deep in “works produced by faith” and “labor promoted by love” is not for the faint of heart! It’s not a one time deal. And unlike my HIIT workouts, it’s an all-day, everyday kind of commitment –  for a lifetime! This requires an endurance that cannot be faked nor manufactured. The only source for the necessary fuel to keep this faith-centered life going is HOPE. A hope that has a foundation on the love God has for us. When we stay zeroed in to that – we are able to dig deep and and go the distance. As Paul says in his second letter to Timothy, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith”. We can have a FULL life that gives us the endurance needed to do the good works. 


The Christian life is not for the wimpy. In this single verse out of 1 Thessalonians, we are told that we must work, labor, and endure. I don’t know about you, but this doesn’t seem very comfy. It’s not a life of luxury and indulgence. The ONLY way that we will be able to sustain this day to day living is doing so out of Faith, Love, and Hope. May these virtues fill your heart today.

-Bethany Ligon

Today’s Bible reading passage can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – 1st Thessalonians & 2nd Thessalonians.

Tomorrow we will read Acts 18:19-19:41.

A New Kind of Love

1 John 4 7 a (1)

 

Once we are walking in the light, a new commandment and responsibility are given to us.  From the beginning God gave us a commandment that we should love God and love our brothers.  John tells us that if we hate our brother we are still in darkness, and that we are walking in the darkness (I John 2:9-11).  But now that we are abiding and walking in the light of Jesus, a new commandment of love is given to us.  This new kind of love is much deeper and demands much more from us—it is not a love that simply demands that we love one another, but takes us to a deeper level of commitment to one another.  Once we are truly walking in the light of Jesus, we can do no less.

John further explains this new commandment of love that we are to follow, in I John 4:7-11.  In these verses, John explains to us that love is from God, and that this deep love was shown to us when God sent His son into our dark world, and gave him to be a sacrifice for our sins.  We did not deserve his sacrifice, and will never deserve it, yet God loved us so much that He was willing to freely give His son and allowed Jesus to die for us.  John concludes his thoughts with this statement:  “Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another” (I John 4: 11).  What John is telling us here, is that we are to go way beyond simply loving everyone.  He was not talking about a nice warm feeling for others, or a desire we might have for others to experience happiness.  What he was talking about is the willingness to allow that love to be a sacrificial love for others. It is the kind of love that is given even when people do not seem to deserve our love.

With the crucifixion very near, Jesus spoke to his disciples.  He explained many things to his friends as they ate that last supper together.  One of those things was a new commandment that he gave to them.  He said, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another.  Just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another” John 13:34.  It would only be a few hours until they would begin to understand the extent of his love for them and what he was meaning when He spoke these words to them.  A little while later he again spoke about this new commandment, “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.  Greater love has no one than this that someone lay down his life for his friends.  You are my friends if you do what I command you” John 15:12-14.

Putting our brothers first, above ourselves; putting the needs of our brothers before our own needs or wants—these are ways to express the love that John talked about and the way that Jesus said we should love one another.  And as we walk in love we are an example to the world.

“By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”  John 13:35.

 

-Luke Elwell