Sermon – July 26, 2020
1 Thessalonians 4:9-12 – On Culture and Love (mp3)
Love is not an off-shoot of the Christian life; an accidental by-product of Christ’s sacrifice for us. Rather, it stands as the center of our whole purpose and being. Of all the things to be applauded for, the Thessalonians find themselves to have gotten the major parts right: they need no instruction about brotherly love. Yet, Paul is not out of words to say to them, as he will press them to excel in their love for one another, so that Christ might be preached more effectively to the outside world. Let us consider our own love before the world today, as we hear Paul’s helpful admonition to the Thessalonians.
1. The importance of love
Love is to guide all we do. It is the ultimate goal of our lives, and is what holds up all the law and the prophets. If we love God, and our neighbors well, we are complete persons, fulfilling the law and God’s will for us in every way. The Thessalonians knew this – having been taught by God to love one another, and to do so in practical ways. May this be said of all of us here at Crossway!
2. The identity of love
But, as even the outside world upholds love as important, what should our love look like? Paul notes several things that identify our love, which are helpful while incomplete. First, our love should be ever growing, and we should excel all the more in it. Second, it should remove burdens from others. Third, it should not force its way into others’ lives, but rather mind its own matters. Fourth, work is also an expression of love, as it keeps others from feeling the need to take care of us. While there are others things to say about how we ought to love, these things are good things to meditate on.
3. The implications of love
Finally, Paul says that the purpose of loving like this is twofold. First, that we walk properly before outsiders. That is, while those outside might not like Christ, they ought to not complain about our manner of life. Certainly, then, “properly” is somewhat culturally defined, and calls for a good deal of wisdom. But walking in this manner also ought to leave those in the church without needs. That, as those who can work hard and make money, they take care of those who are not so fortunate within the body of Christ. Such is the proper way in which love is manifested in the church!