Before I get totally jumping into where we want to go, I want to give you, if you haven’t been here, we’re in a new series, What Did Jesus Say? And He said a lot of things but in John 13:34 He said, “There’s a new commandment and the new commandment is this: Love one another,” how? in the same way that He loved His early disciples, He told them and now tells us, “Love each other.”
We learned that we need to be in community, that we’re participants, that we’re a body, and that we need to understand our function and our membership, to really love one another. And we’re going to learn that we’re a family as well as a body.
A book called, Connecting, by Larry Crabb, he tells a story in here. Twenty-five years of counseling, multiple books, well trained, PhD, counseling practice. He sees more and more and more and more breakdown in relationships.
And you begin to see that what the Church originally was meant to do, was happening more and more and more - people sharing deeply, people working through deep issues, they were almost always doing it - in therapy, instead of in churches.
What he began to see was, “We’re missing it. We’re missing it somewhere. People aren’t recovering. People aren’t growing into wholeness.”
He tells a story of a meeting with a fellow and he said, “You know, there are times where,” he said, and without false humility, he’s really good at what he does, has great insight, is well trained. And he said, “There was a particular problem, a very, very deep psychological problem in this fellow’s life,” he said, “we met a couple, three times a week, for, like, two, three years.”
And he said he remembers the great breakthrough day and he felt like God just gave him insight like never before to really help this person see what was going on in his life. And in his mind, the whole healing process really began there.
Later on during that time, however, he was just driving around and they happened to live in the same town and he noticed this friend with another friend eating a brown bag lunch at a park.
And so he thought, “You know, this isn’t very professional,” but he just had a prompting of God and he went over and just sat down on the grass, informally, took off his counselor hat, and just said, “How you doing?” And the guy started to give the psychological things he’s working on.
He said, “Oh, no, no. I mean, like, regular. You know, like regular people. How you doing? And you say, ‘Fine.’” He said, “Oh, fine.” He said, “Could I join you for lunch?” He said, “Well, sure.” And then he said, “We sat down and we just had lunch and we didn’t talk about his deep issues. We were just friends for forty-five minutes.”
He said, “I didn’t think anything of it, I got in my car, went back.” He moved out of the area, he met him, I forget how much longer but a significant period of time longer, and he thought to himself, “How are you doing?” And the guy, glorious story, I mean, glorious story, I mean, real change, inner transformation, rightly connected with God, restored relationships, making great progress.
And he said, “I just couldn’t resist.” He said, “Well, tell me, what was the turning point?” And he said, “In my mind I’m thinking, ‘I can tell you the session. I know the session he’s going to say and what I said and the great insight I brought,’ and, you know, go ahead, tell me.”
And he said, “You know, there was a day. There was a day when I think it all began to turn around.” And his chest is swelling, you know? And he said, “That day that you ate lunch with me in the park.” He said, “What?” He said, “Yeah, just the day you ate lunch with me.”
He said, “I don’t know, we were just friends and we weren’t working on my problem, and somehow we connected and I felt affirmed and loved just as a regular person,” and he said, “I think that was the turning point.”
I’ve pulled out a couple quotes from the forward of Crabb’s book, Connecting. He writes, “Imagine what could happen if God were to place within His people intangible nutrients that had the power to both prevent and reverse soul disease?”
And then he told us how to share those nutrients with each other in a special kind of intimate relating called “connecting.” “Imagine what could happen if it were true, if we believed it, and if we devoted ourselves to understanding what those nutrients were and how we could give them away. I envision a community,” listen to that word carefully, “of people who intentionally mingle in settings where these nutrients are passed back and forth, where I pour into you the healing resources within me and you pour into me what God has put into you, like spiritual gifts, these nutrients only nourish our own souls, as we give them away, for the blessing of others.”
Last paragraph, critical, you ready? “In recent days,” this is after twenty-five years as a professional counselor, “I have made a shift. I am now working toward the day when communities of God’s people, ordinary Christians, whose lives regularly intersect, will accomplish most of the good that we now depend on mental health professionals to provide.”
Do you hear what he’s saying? Paradigm shift. What he’s saying is, “I realized,” he’s done the research, “after two years of psychotherapy, the research tells us that people get about just as well with it or without it.”
There are special cases… Now, I’m not saying Christian counseling isn’t needed. It is. But for the mass, mass, mass, mass majority of the real soul issues, notice what he goes on to say, “And they will do it by connecting with each other in ways that only the gospel makes possible.” Doctor Larry Crabb.
What he’s actually saying is, here’s a renowned psychotherapist who concludes, “There must be a better way.” He is full-fledged into counseling and he says, “There must be a better way,” and then here’s the question: What is this better way and how does it work?
And I’d like to suggest that, since most of you have already turned the page, I will too, and that the better way is God’s answer in Romans 12:10. It’s one thing to say, “What did Jesus say? Love one another.” How do we do it? But now the question is: How does it work? How do we love one another?
It begins by understanding we are members of one another. It moves on by understanding, “Be devoted to one another.” It’s a command. “Be devoted to one another in brotherly love.”
That’s how it works. I’m going to give you a little Bible study and I’m going to give you the context and the meaning of the words and what you’re going to understand, that we are participants and the metaphor was the body.
God wants you to get it and so He says, “You’re not only a body theologically but you’re a family.” And what makes for great families is deep, emotional, psychological connecting where we heal one another’s wounds as we love one another.
And if we’re going to do what Jesus said, if we’re going to love each other, it starts, obviously, by understanding who we are in His community, our membership and our function, but the very first thing, then we have to be devoted to one another. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love, in very specific, tangible, concrete ways.
Now, you might ask, “What does it mean?” I mean, specifically, what’s it mean to be devoted to one another? Let me tell you. The context here, you might open your Bibles to Romans chapter 12 and I’ll just highlight as I go.
The first couple verses talk about our relationship with God. Verses 3 through 5 about our membership. Verses 6 through 8, glance through there, talks about your giftedness. The only point I want to make is the context is is we are in community, we are interdependent in community.
And in that context, in verse 10 we are told, “Love one another in brotherly love.” Be devoted to one another. The context of verse 10 is this little phrase here. It’s not just “be devoted to one another,” but how? Be devoted to one another in brotherly love.
You all already know a Greek word and you don’t know it. Some of you have visited there. The Liberty Bell is there. Philo, love; delphia, brothers. Right? Philadelphia, the city of brotherly love. That’s this word. Be devoted to one another in philo-delphia.
The word “delphos,” brothers, is used two hundred and fifty times in the New Testament. What’s the point? We’re a family! We’re brothers! We’re sisters! It’s more than just a theological reality. We’re to care for one another, we’re to be touching one another, we’re to be from the heart, connected to each other.
In fact, the meaning of the word “devotion” is really pretty interesting. Webster says the word “devotion” means, “To give up one’s self, one’s time, one’s energy to some purpose, activity, or person. It’s to pursue with loyalty and deep affection,” and I like that. Devotion means to pursue one another with loyalty and deep affection.
In fact, the meaning of this word here, it’s different, the word “devotion” is “philo,” same word, “love,” “storge.” And that means “the mutual love,” it’s used in classical Greek. It’s only found here, I believe, in the New Testament, “philostorge,” it means, it’s translated “devotion,” but the idea, the King James tries to get its arm around it, by talking about a warm, tender, affection.
The idea, it’s the kind of love that parents have for children and children have for parents. It’s the kind of love that brothers and sisters have. In fact, in summary, if you want to know what it means to be devoted to one another, here it is in a nutshell: Tender family connection, one to another, from the heart. Get that, okay? Tender, do you see what I’m trying to get at?
Tender, family connection, from the heart, authentic, to one another. Real, live, authentic, warm, caring, you-matter-relationships with one another. That’s what it means to be devoted to one another.
Now, let me ask you before I go on. How many of you have that? Don’t raise your hand. How many of you are experiencing that at some significant level? Not perfectly, but, I mean, significantly.
There are other believers, not just immediate family, there are other believers where you feel a tenderness and a warmth and you are connected with them from the heart. That you can sit down over a cup of coffee, that when things are really weighing you down, you can pick up the phone and you can talk to someone and you are greeted with concern and affirmation and love and follow through and maybe a note in the mail later or an invitation that gets them up – how many of you have that?
That’s God’s dream for you. It’s His will for you. It’s His will for every person, that’s what it means. If we’re going to obey the command, if we’re really going to take seriously “love one another,” God wants that for you.
And for those of you that have it, it’s precious, isn’t it? It’s awesome. Now, no matter how much you have, you want a little more, don’t you? I do. That’s okay. But that’s what it means.
Let me show you what it looks like real specifically. I’m just going to take some quick pictures. The first one is from the Old Testament. If you want to get a feel for it, you know, if you’re a word picture person. Read the book of Ruth and look at the relationship between Ruth and Naomi. It’s family love. It’s a daughter-in-law who has lost her husband; it’s a mom who has lost her boys, her husband. And there is family love.
And notice that as you read that story out of the book of Ruth, their family love transcends race, she’s a Moabite, Ruth is. Naomi is a Jew. It transcends culture and even geography. They are willing to relocate, if necessary.
Or another good Old Testament example is Jonathan and David, I Samuel 20. Awesome passage of connection, love, family, brotherhood.
And notice the things it transcends – power – Jonathan is the king’s son. He should be threatened but he’s not. Privilege, he’s got all the money, he’s got the family, he’s got the name. But he lays all that aside, in fact, there’s a very special moment in their life where he gives away his sword, his robe, and very specific things that communicate, “We’re on level ground, David.”
And then finally, the last one, family relationship. This love is so deep when Jonathan has to choose between his father’s wrath for David and his own love and brotherhood for David, he chooses God’s way over his own family.
See, that’s the kind of love we’re talking about. We’re talking about the real thing.
In fact, the third example is just read through the book of Acts. Brothers and sisters loving each other.
It transcends money. They just pool their money, it’s such a crisis early on, they just pool their money and just meet each other’s needs. It transcends socioeconomic barriers. You read carefully, you’ve got people in the household of Herod and you’ve got slaves.
You’ve got Jews and you’ve got Gentiles, you got people who hated each other’s guts that wouldn’t go under the same roof, that wouldn’t eat a meal together, all this stuff, and then when there’s this family love, it transcends all that.
I want you to get the picture, okay? The picture is not ought or should. The picture is not, “We’re trying to get people to do this or do that.” Here’s the picture: We want to take seriously, “What did Jesus say?” He said, “Love one another.” How? “As I have loved you.” Sacrificially, from the heart, tenderly, as a family.
That can’t happen if we don’t know each other. You know, we can learn about God but you just can’t love people looking at the back of their heads or looking up on the screen or singing some songs. You can get a greater appreciation of your love for God and you can worship and you can learn. But you can’t love each other that way.
And that’s what we’re about. The clarity is we are members of one another and now, the first command, “Be devoted to one another.” So, let me ask you that second question.
Do you have a sense, when you think about other believers, do you have a sense, that sense of moral responsibility, that sense of from the heart, are you devoted to other believers in brotherly love?
I mean, does it matter how they are doing? Do you feel the moral weight toward other believers like you would someone who is a physical brother or sister, relationally? Or to a mom or to a dad or to a niece or to a nephew?
See, what I want you to understand, the Bible talks about this supernatural community. He is saying that we each move toward one another in connection and I need to own the moral weight of saying, “If you’re not loved, I may not be able to supply it, but I need to be a part of the process of you getting connected and loved.”
And so then the question is: What is it that keeps you, what is it that keeps me, from experiencing this authentic devotion? This supernatural community? And so with that, follow along, get your pen out, if you will, I’m going to make you work a little bit.
Because what I want to do is just do some things that are very, very simple but let you know, first, what keeps us from experiencing this authentic devotion to one another? One, it doesn’t happen automatically. It’s not magic. God didn’t design the body where you just come to church a couple times and all of a sudden, ooh, ooh, ooh, something happens inside, “I’m just devoted to everyone in brotherly love.” It doesn’t happen that way!
In fact, it so is non-automatic that multiple times in the Scripture, we’re commanded, we are reminded to make this the focal point, lest we end up with just some sort of intellectual relationship with God and with others.
Notice what it says in I Thessalonians 4:9 and 10. “Now about brotherly love we have no need to write to you,” Paul says, “for you yourselves have been taught by God to love each other, and in fact, you do love all the brothers throughout Macedonia. Yet, we urge you, brothers, to do so more and more.” See, it’s not automatic. We all need urging.
The second passage, I Peter 1:22 and 23, “Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for your brothers, love one another deeply from the heart, for you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and enduring Word of God.”
Do you get the idea? You have the ability, I have the ability because I have a new birth, to love people. But there’s a command, “Therefore love one another,” how? Superficially? When it’s convenient? No. Authentically, from the heart.
The final passage, II Peter 1 verses 5 through 7, “For this very reason,” he talks about what we already have in Christ, “make every effort to add to your faith, goodness; and to your goodness, knowledge; and to your knowledge, self-control; and to your self-control, perseverance; and to your perseverance, godliness; and to your godliness, brotherly love.”