We Care: Love (Luke 10:25-37; 1 John 3:11-24)

Vince Lombardi, legendary coach of the Green Bay Packers, took nothing for granted with his players. He began a tradition of starting from scratch, assuming that the players were blank slates who carried over no knowledge from the year before. "Gentlemen," he said, holding a pigskin in his right hand at the start of one year, "this is a football." One year, a player responded: "Uh, Coach, could you slow down a little. You're going too fast for us."

It's good to return to the basics. When we run into problems, it's usually because we've forgotten basic facts. I'd like to return to some basic values over the next week as we talk about what really matters to us as a church. You will probably never hear a simpler sermon than today. It's so simple that I want to teach you only one sentence today, and it won't even be new information to you. It's simple, yet it will revolutionize our church and our community if we live this one sentence out.

I want to talk about love today. Do we agree that we would like to be a loving church? Absolutely. This is as basic as it gets. Love is so foundational that you can't mistake its importance in the Bible. Jesus said, "So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other" (John 13:34). When Jesus was asked for the greatest commandments, he said:

You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' All the other commandments and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments. (Matthew 22:37-40)

We read the passage this morning: "This is his commandment: We must believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and love one another, just as he commanded us" (1 John 3:23). This is not advanced Christianity. You can't claim to follow Christ if love doesn't characterize your life. Jesus said, "Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples" (John 13:35).

In the early years of the church, the church was known for its love. People couldn't figure out why these people from all different social situations loved one another. Sometimes it was misunderstood. One of the early charges against Christianity was that incest was involved. You can see why. People went around calling each other brother and sister, and talked about loving one another. No wonder it was sometimes misunderstood.

Today I want to look at what love actually looks like in a church. Love is not the warm feeling that you get when you go to a church. Love is far more than that.

Let me start to give you the sentence I'd like to teach you today.

Love is meeting the need...

That's what love is: it's meeting a need. I've always thought that the opposite of love is hatred. Biblically, the opposite of love is not hatred. It's inaction. Love is when you meet someone's need. The opposite of love is when you fail to meet someone's need when you could.

Where do I get that? 1 John 3:17 says, "If anyone has enough money to live well, and sees a brother or sister in need and refuses to help-how can God's love be in that person?" Love is when you see that someone has a need and you do something to meet that need. The opposite of love is when you see that someone has a need and does nothing. The opposite of love isn't hatred; it's inaction.

We just read the story about the Good Samaritan. The story came after someone asked Jesus about our obligation to love other people. A guy is lying on the side of the road half dead, and a priest and a temple assistant walk by. We have no idea why they didn't stop, but they didn't. The people that you would expect to get it, didn't. They showed the very opposite of love: inaction. John wrote, "Dear children, let us stop just saying we love each other; let us really show it by our actions" (1 John 3:18).

Let's add to the sentence a little.

Love is meeting the need of any person...

I'm all for meeting needs. If you're like me, you're wondering where this could lead. What needs? Whose? How many people? I'm overwhelmed by the needs that I see around me. There's no possible way that I can meet everyone's needs, so I'd really like to know if there are any loopholes.

This isn't a new question. When Jesus told the story of the Good Samaritan, he told it in response to a question from an expert in the religious law. The expert understood that we're obligated to love our neighbors. He wanted to know how widely the term neighbor had to be applied. Some taught that only had to love the righteous. That really cuts the list down, doesn't it? I could disqualify pretty well anyone based on that requirement. It's a good question though. We can't meet everyone's need. Whose needs should we meet?

It's interesting that Jesus never answers that question. The expert asked, "Who is my neighbor?" Jesus never even tried to answer that question. Instead, he turned the question on its head and asked a different one instead. Speaking of the three characters - the two that ignored the need, and the Samaritan who stopped to help - Jesus asked, "Now which of these three would you say was a neighbor to the man who was attacked by bandits?" (Luke 10:36) Instead of asking, "Who is my neighbor?" Jesus says, "Let the neighbor be you." Rather than worrying if someone else is a neighbor, you be the neighbor. Don't assess the other person. You be the kind of person who makes neighbors out of those who aren't currently your neighbors.

This week, we've had the chance to become neighbors to thousands of people in Haiti. We don't know them; we'll never meet them. We've seen the news this week of the devastation caused by Hurricane Jeanne. We can become the type of person who decides to become a neighbor to someone in Haiti by sending some aid through Red Cross or another agency. We can proactively become neighbors to people we may never meet in this life.

This week, the world rolled over and flattened some people. I know, because I've talked to them. This week, more than most, I've been in touch with people who are at the end of their resources. There are some people here today who look all together, but are dying for someone to look into their eyes and ask, "How are you?" and really listen for an answer. There are people who are dying for a simple act of kindness. There are others in financial need. They're here. Jesus taught that we're not to ask who our neighbor is. Let the neighbor be you. Go out of your way to become the neighbor of people in need. Don't limit your involvement. Help anyone who is in need.

Love is meeting the need of any person at any time...

Here's where it gets even scarier. Meet needs, not selectively but with anyone. Don't just do it when it's convenient. Become available when it's not convenient. Love others, not just part time. Love them all the time.

The two religious leaders didn't help the half-beaten guy. We don't know why, but I know that I sometimes don't want to help because it's simply not convenient. I don't mind helping 9 to 5, but there are times when it's not convenient to pitch in and do something to meet someone's need.

The Samaritan was different. He was on his way somewhere, but he didn't stop and hire the next person who came along to look after the robbery victim himself. He stopped, he helped. He took a number of specific actions to meet the need of this person. He didn't just walk away; he even came back later to settle the bill if there were any outstanding charges. He gave what ultimately matters: he gave his time. It's one of the most extravagant gifts you can give. It's the very thing you have the least of, and yet one of the things that people need most. It's the gift of your time.

I'm not saying that you shouldn't have boundaries. Of course you should have boundaries; Jesus had boundaries. He didn't meet every need, and he took time away. There are times that we need to get away and recharge, but this should not be a permanent condition. Most of us are so far on the side of keeping good boundaries that we need to be stretched a little. Allow yourself to be interrupted. Love others when it's not convenient.

You have some people in our life, I bet, to whom you can say, "Call any time day or night if you need to." They could, too, and you wouldn't mind. Why? You love them so much that they're not really an interruption to you. Expand that list. Become a neighbor to more people so that you don't mind being interrupted sometimes. Love when it's not convenient.

One of my favorite pastors, Gordon MacDonald, flew into Minneapolis to give a speech at a conference. His taxi was stopped at a red light four cars back from the crosswalk. He noticed a homeless man lurching between the cars in the middle of the street. When he got in front of MacDonald's taxi, he fell and landed on his chin. You could hear the thud. His chin split open, and there was blood all over the place.

Gordon MacDonald got out of the taxi and looked at the man six feet away, and the following thoughts went through his head:

I have a brand new suit on that Gail just bought me. I can't afford to get it messed up.

I have to get to the Minneapolis Convention Center to speak in 15 minutes.

I'm in a strange city, and I don't know what to do.

I don't have any medical training. I wouldn't know how to help this guy.

He says, "I wonder if underneath there wasn't a fifth thought: If you're dumb enough to get yourself that drunk, why should busy people stop and help you?"

While MacDonald was debating what to do, other people came to this man's help. MacDonald was able to get back into the taxi and go to the convention center - to speak on sensitivity and caring for the needs of other human beings.

Love is not meeting someone's need when it's convenient. Love is meeting the need of any person at any time, even when it isn't convenient, even when it's an interruption, even when it costs you your time.

Let's complete the sentence.

Love is meeting the need of any person at any time at any cost.

I want to make you a promise. If I win twenty million dollars, I am going to give everyone here today $10,000. Not bad, eh? This is being recorded. You might want to order the tape just for this promise.

I'm not afraid at all to make this promise. Why? I'm never going to win twenty million dollars.

It's easy to make extravagant promises when we probably won't have to keep them. The standard for love has been set by Jesus Christ. He set it when he died for us. Here's the standard: "We know what real love is because Christ gave up his life for us. And so we also ought to give up our lives for our Christian brothers and sisters" (1 John 3:16). There's the standard. I can pretty easily say that I will give up my life for each of you, because chances are I'll never have to do so. It's easy to make such sweeping promises when nobody will be able to collect on them. John knew this, so he described what this might look like in ordinary circumstances. The limit: give up your life for your neighbor. What this might look like in ordinary life: "But if anyone has enough money to live well, and sees a brother or sister in need and refuses to help-how can God's love be in that person?" (1 John 3:17)

That's what love looks like. It sometimes looks extravagant, with huge gestures of unlimited commitment. It sometimes looks a lot more humble - noticing that someone has a need, and filling it. It means that if you have two of something and someone has none, that maybe you give away your second one to them. It means that their problems are your problems, and that you live sacrificially to share with anyone who comes into your life with a need.

So there it is, one simple sentence, yet if we lived it out it would revolutionize our church and change our community. Love is meeting the need of any person at any time at any cost. That is what we're called to do as a church.

If all this is overwhelming, then join the club. Nobody can love like this by themselves. We need God to produce this type of love within us. He does and he can. History is full of examples. How do you get this type of love? Just start. Just start meeting needs, any time, any place. Do it when it's inconvenient.

We can't meet everyone's need. We can, though, meet the need in front of us. We can be a part of the puzzle, actively becoming neighbors of the people around us.

One of the ways that we can meet needs is to get involved in ministries that we have going. We have a ministry fair going today after the service. The reason why we keep these ministries going is to love people - to meet needs of people. There are needs that you can meet, together with others, better than anyone else. Take a look as soon as we're done.

A couple of years ago, I saw the movie Black Hawk Down. 123 elite soldiers were dropped into Somalia. A Black Hawk went down, soldiers were captured or killed. The soldiers had a memo: nobody gets left behind. They kept going back, even for soldiers who were killed. More were then captured or killed. I wanted to scream, stop! Leave the dead soldiers behind.

What if the church lived this way, so that nobody gets left behind? What if we loved so that we were committed to meeting the needs of any person, at any time, at any cost. That's what it means to love.


Darryl Dash

Darryl Dash is a graduate of the University of Waterloo, Heritage Theological Seminary, and Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. He’s married to Charlene, and has two children, Christina and Josiah. Darryl is currently planting Liberty Grace Church in Liberty Village, Toronto. He previously served as pastor of Richview Baptist Church and Park Lawn Baptist Church, both in west Toronto.

The Source of our Help (Psalm 121)

Good morning and welcome back to the fall. I know it feels like you never had a summer. One of the requirements of being Canadian is that we're never happy with the weather. About the best thing you can say about our summer weather is that it didn't snow, but at least that's something. There are places it did snow in Canada this summer.

We're about to get back into our fall schedules. The kids are in school, work is getting busy, and the slower pace is over. It's not a bad time to ask you a question. It's a question that might surprise you, but I'm going to ask you this question anyway.

The question is this: Where do you turn for help?

That question won't surprise some of you, because you need help and you need it yesterday. Anybody got bills they can't pay, medical problems they can't fix, relations they can't relate to, or any other type of problem? I thought so. There's a group of us here that are at the end of our resources, and we know we need help and we're not afraid to admit it. When I ask you where you turn for help, you're not really surprised. You know you need to turn somewhere.

There's a whole other group here, though, that is going to be surprised by this question. Most of us go through life not knowing that we need help. Even if we did, we're like the proverbial guy that won't stop for directions. We may know we need help, but we're not prepared to admit it to anyone else. When I ask you where you turn for help, you're a little bit surprised. Join the club; there are a lot of us here.

I just got back from seeing my father in England. Dad is in his eighties, lives alone, and has dementia. When I showed up at his place, I found that it hadn't been cleaned since the last time I was there two years ago. There were unpaid bills, eviction notices, you name it. The amazing thing is that he thinks he's doing fine. He isn't even aware that he needs help. There are all kinds of resources out there for people in his exact condition, but he won't get the help because he doesn't even know he needs it. You may think it's bad to need help. It's even worse to need help and not know that you need help.

So let me ask you again: Where do you turn for help?

Thousands of years ago, this question was asked on a fairly regular basis, at least once a year, at a special occasion. It became sort of a conversation between at least two people, probably as they traveled to Jerusalem for a religious festival. This question and its answer became so important that it has been sung for years, and now, even though we've lost the music, the words are recorded for us.

This question is critical for you to answer properly, because you and I need help whether we know it or not. So let's look at what the Bible suggests our answer should be. If you have a Bible, please turn with me to Psalm 121.

Psalm 121:1 says:

I lift up my eyes to the hills-
where does my help come from?

This is speaker number one. There is no indication in this psalm that the speaker is in any sort of trouble, so we're free to guess as long as we know we're guessing. It could be that the speaker is looking to the hills in fear, maybe scared of robbers who might be lurking there. It could be that he's approaching Jerusalem and is looking to the hills, knowing that any minute the holy city will appear. He may be looking heavenward as he asks this question. We don't know. Whether or not the psalmist was facing any type of problem, he found it important to ask this question. Where does my help come from? He just assumes he needs help. Where am I going to get the help that I need?

Answer that for yourself before we go on. I suppose we could say we'll prepare the best that we can so that we don't need any help. We could try to save money and cultivate friendships and look after our bodies so that we can be our own help. The reality is that despite all the preparations we can take, the psalmist knew what we so often forget. It's not a matter of if we need help; the question is where we're going to get it. For the first speaker in this passage, there's only one answer:

My help comes from the LORD,
the Maker of heaven and earth. (v.2)

"My help comes from the LORD." Good answer. That's why we pray. That's why many of us come to church. We know we need God. We've faced circumstances in which there is nowhere else to turn, and we can honestly say, "My help comes from the LORD." This is a good answer, and it is exactly the answer that you would expect to read in the Bible, and that you would want to hear in church.

But let's do an honesty check here. When we get into trouble, God is often the last place we turn. I've often thought that we divide life into different compartments. There's the career compartment, the financial compartment, the relational compartment, and the spiritual compartment. When we get into trouble in most of these areas, our first response is not usually to turn to God for help. We think God is in charge of the spiritual compartment of life, but what does God know about the rest of life? God is in charge of the church and all things churchy, but we don't always turn to God as quickly in our homes, at the bank, or at work. We need help, but God isn't always where we go for that help.

The psalmist says, "My help comes from the LORD." What I love about this psalm is that it develops the reasons why the LORD is qualified to be the source of all our help, in every area of our lives. This psalm becomes not just a song of worship, but one of blessing on the lives of those who enter into it. Today, I'd like this psalm to be a source of blessing to you. I would like this psalm to orient our lives, individually and as a church, as we enter into this new school year. But first, we have to learn exactly why the LORD is qualified to be our helper. The psalm gives three reasons:

1. He is qualified to help because he is the Creator

Again, verse 2 says:

My help comes from the LORD,
the Maker of heaven and earth.

What qualifies the LORD to be our helper? He is the maker of heaven and earth. He is the Creator, and that makes him uniquely qualified to help us.

I don't know if you heard, but the newspapers recently reported that banks rate your value as a customer when you call in and route your call accordingly. You know when you call your bank and enter your bank card number? The computer looks up how much you are worth to that bank. Those of us with low value to the bank - that's me - are put on hold. Those with big portfolios are immediately connected to someone who is pleased to help them. They receive completely different levels of service based on their value.

It's like that all over. I redeemed some travel points lately. It wasn't that much of a difference to fly first class, so I gave into temptation and went for it. I loved the level of service. They close the curtains and keep the economy class out. They wait on you hand and foot. You have access to special flight attendants who treat you differently because you have a first class ticket. Without that first class ticket, you would be stuck with no access to any of the benefits the people enjoy up front.

The psalmist says that when you need help, you have first class, direct access to the highest power that exists in this universe: the Maker of heaven and earth. Your call is not routed according to your worth. You are given access to the one who created the galaxies and stars, the one who created everything you see around you. You have access to the most powerful One in the universe.

As a parent, it's embarrassing to get to the age in which you can't meet all your kid's expectations. When they're little, it's easy. They ask you to fix a toy, bang, it's fixed. They want something lifted off the top shelf, and presto! It's down. They need a carry and you pick them up. There comes an age when the kids realize that you can't do everything. Then there comes an age when they think they can do everything better than you. That's embarrassing.

God never reaches a stage when he's not qualified to help. There isn't an area of our lives that he isn't powerful enough to help. Need a strong God? How about the one who created the Milky Way? Have medical problems? Doctors and scientists are still unraveling his handiwork as they study the human body. He knows more than they ever will. Need relational help? The Creator is the one who created you for relationship. There is not an area of your life in which God is not qualified to help, because he is the Creator of everything you see. The Creator is more than able to help.

Isaiah 40 puts it this way:

Do you not know?
Have you not heard?
The LORD is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary,
and his understanding no one can fathom.
He gives strength to the weary
and increases the power of the weak.
Even youths grow tired and weary,
and young men stumble and fall;
but those who hope in the LORD
will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint.
(Isaiah 40:28-31)

That is why I trust the LORD. He is our Creator. We have direct access to the One who is powerful to meet any conceivable need in any area of our lives.
I told you this psalm would become a conversation. The first speaker has given a reason why he trusts God. He's spoken using the first person, "I...my." In verse 3, a second speaker comes along and uses the second person. He gives another reason why God is qualified to be our helper:

2. He is qualified to help us because of his track record

Verses 3 and 4 say:

He will not let your foot slip-
he who watches over you will not slumber;
indeed, he who watches over Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.

Here we have more reasons why God can be trusted. He has a track record of faithfulness to his covenant people, Israel. The entire Bible is a record of God's faithfulness to people who were anything but faithful to God. God never sleeps. He never nods off and stops looking after his people. God has a track record of dependability, of coming through for his people.

I read an interview recently directed to pastors, but I think it applies to all of us. The person being interviewed talked about how easy it is to be scared by life. There's so much that could go wrong. We lie awake and worry about all of this. The funny thing is that he's talking about pastors, the same pastors who get up and preach about God providing manna and quail in the desert; who brings water from a rock; the God who splits open a sea when his people had nowhere else to turn; about the God who makes little boys victorious over giants; who brings his faithful out of furnaces; who suppresses the appetite of hungry lions.

God gives victory against all odds to his people. Time and time again he comes through. God has a track record of faithfulness to his people. He watches over Israel, and all his people, and never falls asleep at the switch. God is faithful to his people.

I find it easy to believe what God can do in the lion's den, or how he provides for his people in the dessert. I don't think that God will always meet the exact same needs in the exact same way. But throughout the centuries, you can see a pattern: God has been there for his people. God has a track record of always being there for his people.

We could even make it personal. My life has lots of stories of how God has come through in unmistakable ways to do what only he could do. I'll bet you have similar stories. I've heard some of them. God has shown his faithfulness in the past. With God, the past is an accurate predictor of the future. He will come through for his people in the future just as he always has in the past.

The Apostle Paul takes this to the extreme. The most radical example of God providing for his people was when he offered his own Son to die in our place. Paul argues this way: "He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all-how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?" (Romans 8:32) God has spared no expense in providing for his people. He is qualified to be our helper, because he is the Creator, and because he has never failed to come through for his people.

In verse 5, the psalm gets even more personal. It takes the point that's been made in verses 3 and 4 and drives it home to an even greater extent:

The LORD watches over you-
the LORD is your shade at your right hand;
the sun will not harm you by day,
nor the moon by night.
The LORD will keep you from all harm-
he will watch over your life;
the LORD will watch over your coming and going
both now and forevermore.

Here's the last reason why God is qualified to be our helper:

3. He is qualified to help because he takes a personal interest in you

This is the part that amazes me. It's easy to talk about God as our helper in the abstract, but you can only do that for so long. God is the one who has promised to help you in your future. He takes a personal interest in you, and watches over you. The LORD is present with you wherever you go. Nothing at daytime or at nighttime escapes his notice. Whatever you do, wherever you go, God is watching over you.

The God who created this universe, the God who created all things, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the God of Moses and David and Daniel is the same God who knows you by name. He knows your address. He saw what time you woke up this morning, and he knows what you ate for breakfast. God knows every detail of your life. Not only does he know it, but he cares. He's interested in you. And he's promised to go into your future with you, and he'll never let you down.

This doesn't mean that bad things will never happen. History is full of bad things happening to God's people. But it does mean that he will never stop caring for you, never stop watching over you, never stop providing for you according to his will no matter what you go through. And nobody will ever be able to take away what matters most, because God is faithful to his people.

Where do I turn for help? To God. Why to God? Because he is the Creator. Because he has such an outstanding record of looking after his people. And because he takes a personal and vital interest in you, and has promised to walk with you into your future.

As we start a new ministry year, it's a good time to remind ourselves where we're going to turn when we face budget deficits in our offerings, fire panel replacements that we don't think we can afford, marriage problems that we don't know how to fix, doctor's reports that we don't want to hear.

I lift up my eyes to the hills-
where does my help come from?
My help comes from the LORD,
the Maker of heaven and earth.
He will not let your foot slip-
he who watches over you will not slumber;
indeed, he who watches over Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.
The LORD watches over you-
the LORD is your shade at your right hand;
the sun will not harm you by day,
nor the moon by night.
The LORD will keep you from all harm-
he will watch over your life;
the LORD will watch over your coming and going
both now and forevermore.


Darryl Dash

Darryl Dash is a graduate of the University of Waterloo, Heritage Theological Seminary, and Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. He’s married to Charlene, and has two children, Christina and Josiah. Darryl is currently planting Liberty Grace Church in Liberty Village, Toronto. He previously served as pastor of Richview Baptist Church and Park Lawn Baptist Church, both in west Toronto.