Love lost at Christmas – that title does not sound very Christmas-y, does it?  At Christmas time, we typically like to talk about being merry, “giving love”, and being joyful.  I often wonder, why do we wait until this time of year to be those things.  There is something about it that just does not seem genuine to me.  

And then there is 2020’s Christmas – I have been looking around at all that I see going on right now and it seems few are even bothering faking it.  Love, it seems to me, has gone missing this Christmas and it’s odd to me the ones who are not stirring up that love.  In a society that is supposedly filled with many followers of Christ, we, in my opinion, have a very high tolerance for things that go against His teachings. (Emphasis on His – Jesus’ teachings.)

Who are We, Really?

Why does our society have such a high tolerance for things that oppose what Christ taught?  Consider:  we have a high tolerance for hatred; we have a high tolerance for all violence (even when it comes from the ‘good guys’); we have a high tolerance for death. To those that disagree with this, just take a look around.

In a society that is supposedly filled with many believers, we also have a very high tolerance for people struggling.  We have a high tolerance at this very moment for people being able to put food on their tables or being able to pay their bills.  There is seemingly a high tolerance for many people potentially being evicted from their homes this Christmas. 

Again, I ask the question, why do we have such a high tolerance for people going hungry and for people being hungry this Christmas? Who are we, really?  We as a society – supposedly the wealthiest – should be more than able to do something about the struggles.  People should not be going hungry, and without a roof over their head. Our kids should not be dying in schools at the hands of gun toting terrorists! These are problems that we should be able to resolve if love was true/real in our society.

Are we nothing?

In my key verse, Paul shares a word for us that will serve as our overarching point in today’s sermon.  To paraphrase it, Paul says, I may have the gift of prophecy, and am capable to understand all spiritual mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove all obstacles before me, I am nothing if love is not within me.” 

And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.

key verse – 1 corinthians 13:2 nkjv

Paul is saying that even as a man of God who is able to do many great things, that he would be absolutely nothing without love ‘running through his veins’.  He’s saying that you can do all of the great and incredible things you desire, and some may even see you as being ‘great’, but you are still nothing if you don’t have love in you! 

Think about this:  Who and what are we, especially as “believers”, if love is not in us?  We are capable of doing so many great things but, who are we if we do not have love in us?  Paul says that we are nothing – an empty, useless nobody – if love is not in us.  Let’s take a moment to dive deeper into this thought of who we are without love.

Nothing Without Love

To dive deeper into this thought, I want to turn over and take a look at the 1 John 3:1-19.  John gives us a very poignant view of love within this chapter.  He opens this chapter by saying, “behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us” (1 John 3:1).  In order for us to understand love, the first place John looks is at God.  (This is something that all of us should do, as believers, as well).

God’s love towards us

We understand God’s love towards us in the manifestation of His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ.  John wrote of the manifestation of Christ, “you know that He was manifested to take away our sins” (1 John 3:4).  Through the manifestation of Christ, we all have forgiveness and the opportunity at salvation over our sins which will be rewarded with an eternal home in the heavenly kingdom of God. 

God did not have to give us His only begotten Son! He could have closed heaven off from mankind eternally. Without the manifestation of Christ, we would be living in a world of complete darkness, spiritually, with no promise of an eternal home with the Lord. Yet, God loved the world and gave His only begotten Son (John 3:16).

We are told to behold – understand – the love that God bestowed on us for the reason that we are meant to share this same manner of love with others.  In other words, we as the children of God, are meant to follow the example that God has set for us.  So, again, the question must be asked, who are we if we do not bestow (share) this same manner of love – a love that is kind, forgiving, and full of grace – on others?

Not of God if

Well, John answers this question very plainly when he says, “whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is he who does not love his brother (1 John 3:10).”  Let us understand, in order to practice righteousness is to practice the love of God.  IF you are not loving your brother (mankind), then you are not practicing righteousness but merely practicing your own way – this is religion.  There are many practitioners of religion saying Merry Christmas today who have lost love this Christmas.

When we can love our neighbor as we love ourselves, I tell you that we become more and more whole (Luke 10:25-28).  However, when we do otherwise, I tell you that we are a shell of what we could be – empty and absolutely useless.  Are you empty and absolutely useless this Christmas?  God I hope not!  I’m looking for people who want to genuinely love one another this Christmas, is that you?!  God I hope so.

Something even worse

I’m a “love your neighbor” preacher.  I believe it is of the utmost importance that you love and live peaceably with any and everybody (Rom. 12:18).  In the case(s) when we are unable to do so, we must ask ourselves what we are doing wrong? In many cases, love and peace is truly dependent on us. We are supposed to strive to be Christ-like and that is how we go about doing it. Love should not be lost on the believer.

In the next couple of verses, John likens the individual that love has been lost on to one who killed his own flesh and blood.  John says (1 John 3:11-12), “ For this is the message that you heard from the beginning, that we should love one another, not as Cain who was of the wicked one and murdered his brother.”  So, John is likening one with lost love to another man who love was lost on – Cain. Be wary of going in the way of Cain.

Jude, in his epistle, wrote that hurt and sorrow (woe) awaits those who choose to go in the way (the path) of Cain (Jude 1:11)!  Let’s take a quick moment to understand this way.  John points out the reason why Cain murdered his brother, Abel, was because his works were evil and his brother’s righteous which scripture also explains (Gen. 4:4-8).  So, what drove Cain to kill his brother?  Jealousy.  Covetousness.  Hatred.

John then stated that Cain was of the wicked one.  Cain, a man who love was lost on, John said was of the devil.  Think about this for a moment:  those whose love has been lost on in our world, John has likened to the devil.  There are many people in our society who will celebrate Christmas this Friday, that are filled with the same mess that was in Cain! Jealousy. Covetousness (greed). Hatred. 

We are something far worse when love is not in us! Like Cain, John says that those who love is lost on are murderers in their hearts because love is not in them (1 John 3:15). To be a murderer in your heart is to have a completely empty (useless) heart.

We Can be More

Is this what we are?  Are we empty shells this Christmas?  Are we a useless nobody this Christmas?  Even worse – are we murderers at heart this Christmas?  Some will answer no, but I am talking about us as a society – a country. Again, I just take a look around this Christmas at what’s happening in our society and see an answer that would beg to differ from the answer most of us would give.

Yes, in this year we saw great pains and great suffering in our society, but we also saw a movement born from a truly cruel act in Minnesota and even here in Georgia this year.  There was an all encompassing movement of love and respect that spread from our land throughout the rest of the world.  There were shouts that black lives matter and people standing up for people that don’t necessarily look like them or even share the same culture.

This was a moment where love had the potential in being in the hearts of all men. Yet, that same movement was met with a movement born out of fear and hatred.  The shouts that black lives mattered was met with a shout that all lives matter.  All lives matter do matter – including black lives – but this point was overlooked or blotted out of the eyes who are more hate-filled than love-filled.  (Someone will say the preacher is inserting politics into his sermon, but I’m not.  We have to be aware of what we see and hear everyday and not ignore it).

If we truly love one another

After all I have seen over the last year and throughout my life, and after all I have learned from history, one has to ask:  does all lives truly matter?  Speaking of politics, we have a runoff happening here in Georgia and so we are still getting drowned in political ads.  There is an ad running against Rev. Warnock (pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church and current candidate for the US Senate) that uses a sermon he preached against him.

In the ad, you can hear Warnock talking about how the Israelis killed unarmed Palestinians.  He was preaching, it sounds to me, about violence, killing, and death.  He was also preaching, it sounds like to me, about the value of life.  So, he says that the lives of Palestinians matter.  This sounds right if you truly believe that all lives do matter.

Yet, to see that their lives matter is something that is being campaigned against makes you wonder.  I guess in the eyes of the practitioners of religion, only the lives of those they like matter? I get that politics can get nasty, but something just is not right when we criticize people for saying their life matters. 

If you are a practitioner of righteousness (faith in God), then you know that you are supposed to love everybody – those you know, those you don’t know, and even the stranger (Matt. 5:44). The reason why love has been lost on so many people, especially those claiming to be Christians, is because they move with more hatred in their hearts than love. They cannot get beyond the differences in others and see that we are all God’s creation! We must look at each other in the same manner that God looks at us!

Fulfilling your true purpose

This means, if you shout all lives matter, then understand that the lives of ALL people matter regardless of where they are from and what they look like!  The life of an aborted fetus matters just as much as the life of every boy and girl that has been murdered in our schools by a gun toting terrorist.  The life of an addict matters just as much as one who is not an addict.  The life of one not in good health (disabled) matters just as much as the life of one in incredibly good health.  The life of a black person matters just as much as the life of any other race of people and vice versa.

This is my point:  love every person living around you.  As I say each and every Sunday, loving our neighbors is our true calling from God.  If we cannot treat each other with love, the only thing we end up being is murderers in our heart; meaning that we end up doing nothing but hurt each other.  We can be more than this!  Being nothing was not the purpose or intent God had for us!  Being murderers at heart was not the purpose that God had for us!

I truly worry about where we are as a society this Christmas.  Love has been lost on many and we have been eyewitnesses to it this year.  It is not enough that we have such great capabilities in our society, but cannot truly love one another.  I refuse to follow after hate – I refuse to cave in to hate.  This, and every other Christmas, remember the love God showed to us and share this same grace with somebody else.  Let us love one another. Let us fulfill the purpose that God intended for us!

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