Love One Another

The "S" Word, 22 October 2023

The "S" Word
Ephesians: Finding Our True Identity

Ephesians 5:21-33

Series Big Idea: The book of Ephesians reveals our true identity…in Christ!
Big Idea: We are to submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.
Although my primary identity is found in Christ, I’m a citizen of the United States. I love this country. There’s a spirit of creativity, innovation, and risk-taking that has made us a world leader in business, education, science, military, and entertainment. But every strength has a weakness, and one of the negatives about our pioneering spirit is we are almost certainly the most individualistic nation in the history of the world. Rugged individualism has value, but also a huge downside. You may recall God said, “It’s not good for the man to be alone” in Genesis. Is it any wonder so many today are lonely? Cancel culture has run amok, divorce has split many families, and in our “pursuit of happiness,” we are tempted to ignore those around us.
As we continue in our series on the book of Ephesians—a letter written by Paul to a church in modern-day Turkey—we will see what is possibly the most offensive word in our individualized culture.
Before we dive in to our text, I want to remind you of the ending of Pastor Mike’s text from two weeks ago.
So be careful how you live. Don’t live like fools, but like those who are wise. 16 Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days. 17 Don’t act thoughtlessly, but understand what the Lord wants you to do. 18 Don’t be drunk with wine, because that will ruin your life. Instead, be filled with the Holy Spirit, 19 singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, and making music to the Lord in your hearts. 20 And give thanks for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. (Ephesians 5:15-20, NLT)
This is all possible when we are filled with the Holy Spirit, controlled by the Holy Spirit, surrendered to the Holy Spirit. Now we begin.
And further, submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. (Ephesians 5:21, NLT)
There it is! Did you see it? Submit! How does that make you feel?
The original Greek word, hupotasso (hoop-ot-as’-so) means, “to subordinate; to obey; subdue unto, submit self unto.” In other words, it means what you think it means!
Submission is not popular in our culture. It was hardly popular 2000 years ago in the midst of the Roman Empire when Paul was writing. Although racism and discrimination are very real today, we live in a nation that, at least in writing, believes “all men are created equal.” There was not such philosophy in Rome. Abuse was rampant. Women were slaves. In fact, going much farther back to the opening chapter of the Bible we read,
Then God said, “Let us make human beings in our image, to be like us. (Genesis 1:26a, NLT)
Notice the Trinity, the plural, us…one God in three persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. God created the first man, Adam (which means “man” in Hebrew) and woman and all was well until the Fall when Adam and Eve sinned. Hierarchy emerged after the Fall when God said to Eve,
And you will desire to control your husband, but he will rule over you.” (Genesis 3:16b, NLT)
Do you see the tension? Ever since, men have been trying to domineer over women (and men). Women have been striving to even the score. Humans have been trying to get others to obey, to submit. We love power and control, don’t we? Sin is so common, we often don’t even recognize it when we commit it.
And further, submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. (Ephesians 5:21, NLT)
But notice Paul didn’t just say, “Submit!” In fact, he didn’t even say, “Submit to God.” He says, “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.”
We’re going to see how this related to marriage in a moment, but note this verse is not addressed to couples. It’s for all of us. We don’t blindly submit to one another, but in our quest to glorify God and revere Christ, we love one another and submit to one another. The Greek word for reverence, phobos, is where we get the word “phobia.” It means to be put in fear, alarm or fright, to be afraid. This doesn’t mean to avoid, but to recognize the power of, to be in awe of, to revere. We are to be in awe of Jesus, to make him LORD and Master of our lives. To fear someone or something often involves terror, causing us to run away. Fear of the LORD means awe and wonder, drawing us closer to God like the awe and wonder of the Grand Canyon. To put it simply, what you fear is your God.
For wives, this means submit to your husbands as to the Lord. (Ephesians 5:22, NLT)
Did I see some women wince? Remember, submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. Yield to each other out of love. It’s not about hierarchy or power but bringing God glory in and through our relationships. One commentator says, “All it asks is that wives give up self-centeredness, take seriously their mutuality with their husbands, and promote the benefit of their husbands.”
In Paul’s day, women were considered not only inferior to men, but also impure.
For a husband is the head of his wife as Christ is the head of the church. He is the Savior of his body, the church. 24 As the church submits to Christ, so you wives should submit to your husbands in everything. (Ephesians 5:23-24, NLT)
Tragically, this passage has been abused by men seeking power. Ladies, this does not mean be a doormat, tolerate abuse of any kind, or engage in sinful behavior (which would not be out of reverence to Christ).
Listen to N.T. Wright on this text:
Paul assumes, as do most cultures, that there are significant differences between men and women, differences that go far beyond mere biological and reproductive function. Their relations and roles must therefore be mutually complementary, rather than identical. Equality in voting rights, and in employment opportunities and remuneration (which is still not a reality in many places), should not be taken to imply such identity. And, within marriage, the guideline is clear. The husband is to take the lead - though he is to do so fully mindful of the self-sacrificial model which the Messiah has provided. As soon as 'taking the lead' becomes bullying or arrogant, the whole thing collapses.
I fully realize Paul is not politically correct, but is our culture offering a better model for men and women? It seems that our world is plagued by broken homes, broken marriages, broken relationships…could it be that we have abandoned God’s design for family? This is not an attack on those of you who are not in healthy marriages—far from it—but I wonder if we would embrace our differences, celebrate them, and submit to one another if we wouldn’t be vastly better off.
As the church submits to Christ, so wives should submit to their husbands in everything.
Tragically, this passage has been abused by men seeking power which I believe is what started the rejection of God’s design for marriage. I’ve heard so many stories of women rejecting and even hating men after suffering evil abuse. Ladies, if you find it hard to imagine submitting to a man, consider the next verse.
For husbands, this means love your wives, just as Christ loved the church. He gave up his life for her (Ephesians 5:25, NLT)
Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.
Husbands, Jesus died for the church. Are you willing to die for your wife? That’s the point. Such dedication would never make selfish demands. It would never harm or abuse. Godly husbands love sacrificially, making submission a joy.
Husbands, Jesus is to be your role model. Not Hugh Hefner or Lebron James, Neil Armstrong, Nelson Mandela, or Bear Grylls. Jesus was not married, but the church is his bride, the king’s wife. He gave us his life for her and we are to give up our lives for our wives (hey, that rhymes!).
Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church…unto death!
A few years ago I was speaking with one of our senior saints and asked him, “How many times have you ever played the submit card?” In other words, how many times did you take charge, telling your wife to obey? He paused and said, “Zero!”
Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. Paul elaborates:
For husbands, this means love your wives, just as Christ loved the church. He gave up his life for her 26 to make her holy and clean, washed by the cleansing of God’s word. 27 He did this to present her to himself as a glorious church without a spot or wrinkle or any other blemish. Instead, she will be holy and without fault. 28
(Ephesians 5:25-27, NLT)
This is a beautiful vision of what Jesus has done for us, the church. Hallelujah!
In the same way, husbands ought to love their wives as they love their own bodies. For a man who loves his wife actually shows love for himself. 29 No one hates his own body but feeds and cares for it, just as Christ cares for the church. 30 And we are members of his body. (Ephesians 5:28-30, NLT)
Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.
One of my favorite passages to read at wedding says,
Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. (Philippians 2:3, NLT)
This isn’t rocket science. Jesus summarized the entire Bible in two commands: love God and love your neighbor (or spouse) as yourself. You take care of your body. You eat. You bathe. You see a doctor when you’re in pain. Imagine what would happen if spouses cared for one another like they care for themselves. Of course, this need not be restricted to marriages. This verse applies to all of us, a brilliant vision of life together. Warren Wiersbe notes,
When the Christian wife submits herself to Christ and lets Him be the Lord of her life, she will have no difficulty submitting to her husband. This does not mean that she becomes a slave, for the husband is also to submit to Christ. And if both are living under the lordship of Christ, there can be only harmony. Headship is not dictatorship. “Each for the other, both for the Lord.” The Christian husband and wife should pray together and spend time in the Word, so that they might know God’s will for their individual lives and for their home. Most of the marital conflicts I have dealt with as a pastor have stemmed from failure of the husband and/or wife to submit to Christ, spend time in His Word, and seek to do His will each day.
To conclude, Paul goes all the way back to Genesis 2:24:
As the Scriptures say, “A man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one.” 32 This is a great mystery, but it is an illustration of the way Christ and the church are one. (Ephesians 5:31-32, NLT)
There’s two things going on simultaneously here. Do you see it? A husband and wife are united into one. This is true of Jesus and his bride, the Church.
Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.
Family, I’ve seen two extremes. I’ve seen men rule over their wives which is clearly not submission. I’ve also seen men afraid to exercise servant leadership, so passive that they become doormats.
Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.
God’s design for marriage is a man and woman complement one another…different yet equal. We don’t need to embrace societal stereotypes that say the man does the outdoor work and the woman does the inside work…unless that’s what is agreed upon mutually. I’ve heard some preachers say the women must stay home with the kids while the man brings home a paycheck…but I’ve seen healthy examples where the roles are reversed…if that’s what is agreed upon mutually. Obviously our economy makes it challenging—but not impossible—to live on one income. But you need to find what works for your marriage.
As a simple example, we decided early in our marriage that whoever cooks, the other cleans. For 33 years I do dishes about 360 days a year! Some men love to cook, which is great. Do what works for you. Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.
So again I say, each man must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband. (Ephesians 5:33, NLT)
Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. It’s worth noting the man is to love his wife and the woman is to respect her husband. For further reading on this, see (not necessarily an endorsement!). I believe the overarching point is men and women are different…by design.
A husband must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.
Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. I’m sure this is how Adam and Eve originally behaved before the Fall. We need the Holy Spirit to make us like Jesus, filled with sacrificial, agape love for one another. When we love or respect one another, it fuels the spouse to reciprocate. Tragically, when one is not loved or respected, it can short-circuit the relationship. In other words, when a wife shows respect to her husband, he is more likely to respond with love and vice versa. The challenge when you’re stuck is who goes first?
Honor Marriages
Celebrate Singles
Jesus was single. Paul said it’s better to not marry.
Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud 5 or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. 6 It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. 7 Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance. (1 Corinthians 13:4-7, NLT)
Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ in love.

You can listen to this message and others at the First Alliance Church podcast here.

You can watch this video and others at the First Alliance Church Video Library

The Relational Divide, 25 October 2020

The Relational Divide (We Need One Another)
Series—The Great Divide

Series Big Idea: Our world is filled with division, yet Jesus prayed that we would be one.

Big Idea: The Kingdom of God is diverse, multi-generational, and beautiful

Today we conclude our series “The Great Divide.” We began with the political divide and said our focus must be on the Lion and the Lamb, not the elephant or donkey. We are a politically diverse family and we need to offer respect, grace, and love to one another. Period.

Last Sunday we talked about the racial divide. We noted how there is only one race, the human race, and although we are all created with equal value, we are not all treated with equal value.

[I hope you took some time this past week to educate yourself through the Phil Vischer videos]

Today we’re going to talk about the relational divide…those other things which come between us as spiritual siblings…and how we can overcome them by building bridges.

The mission of First Alliance Church is to be a Jesus-centered family restoring God’s masterpieces in Toledo and beyond for His glory.

It’s important to note the church doesn’t actually have a mission, but rather God’s mission has a Church! We are here for God’s glory. That’s the bottom line. We’re not a social club for the benefit of its members. We are not to be consumers of religious goods and services. We are a family on mission. We are here to glorify God. What does it look like to bring glory to God? Jesus said to the Father,

My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one—I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. (John 17:20-23)

I often reference this essential scripture, but why does Jesus pray this? Is it to give us more work to do? Is it about making peace in the family? The bottom line is God’s glory, that the world will know Jesus and God’s love.

I know I’ve said this many times before, but if we did our job, I believe the world would be in much better shape. The world is going to sin, create division, hate, judge, lie, condemn, …but while we are in the world, we are not to be of the world. We are to be Kingdom people, citizens of heaven (Philippians 3:20).

Eleven times we’re commanded to “love one another.” That’s more than a suggestion!

Unity does not mean uniformity. We are all different…by design. Like musicians in a trio or quartet, we must learn to play our notes in harmony with one another, complementing one another, adding to the beauty, not causing conflict or division.

What is the root of all division? I believe it is pride, arguably the root of all sin. Think for a moment about any tension, any conflict, any disagreement. Imagine if one of the persons put this into practice:

Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. (Romans 12:10)


Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves,
4 not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. (Philippians 2:3-4)

Imagine if both people put that into practice! I said last week…

We are all created with equal value, but we are not all treated with equal value.

Even inside the Church, inside the family, it’s tempting to show favoritism, to look down on some people, to judge or condemn or simply avoid a brother or sister. But we can’t let the enemy win! We are spiritual siblings. We must love well, not only for our sake, not only for the sake of others in the family, but for the sake of the gospel, the good news, Jesus! Loving well brings God glory. In His eyes…

There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3:28)

Besides politics and race, what divides us? What keeps us from experiencing full, agape love with one another? What threatens unity? First, I think it’s our focus.

C.S. Lewis said, “Seek Unity and you will find neither Unity nor Truth. Seek the light of truth, and you will find Unity and Truth.” Indeed, we must focus on Jesus. He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. We must be filled with the Holy Spirit, guided by the holy scriptures, and seeking the glory of God.

We need to focus on Jesus, not ourselves.
Not our favorite candidate or author. Jesus. The enemy wants us divided. A house divided cannot stand.

So besides losing our focus on Jesus, what problems create divisions in the family? We’re going to briefly look at nine…and some practical solutions.

Problem: gossip
Solution: Matthew 18

It is amazing how gossip can spread…even innocently…even in a prayer meeting…even out of genuine concern. I love Dave Ramsey’s take on gossip. It’s poison. He has a no-gossip policy at his company, and I have one for our church family. Ramsey defines gossip as discussing anything negative with someone who can’t help solve the problem. The solution is simple. It’s found in Matthew 18.

“If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. 16 But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ 17 If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector. (Matthew 18:15-17)

The next one is closely related.

Problem: lies
Solution: truth

Someone recently asked me a question about some gossip they heard. It was a total lie! Had the original person simply come to me or someone who could answer the question rather than guess and accuse, countless people would’ve be spared of misinformation which was negative and alarming. Get the facts. That goes for social media, too. Don’t believe everything you read online…especially if it’s from the Babylon Bee (which is a satire site!). It seems so obvious to tell the truth, but intentionally or accidentally, so much division is caused by data that is simply not true.

Problem: judging
Solution: help me understand

I think we’re all guilty of judging others, despite the clear commands of scripture. Even non-Christians like Jesus’ words in Matthew 7…

“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. 2 For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. (Matthew 7:1-2)

Dietrich Bonhoeffer said,
Judgement is the forbidden objectivization of the other person which destroys single-minded love. I am not forbidden to have my own thoughts about the other person, to realize his shortcomings, but only to the extent that it offers to me an occasion for forgiveness and unconditional love, as Jesus proves to me.
What do we do when we smell something fishy, pastor? Here are three words: help me understand. We are so quick to make assumptions without knowing the full story.

Problem: worship preferences
Solution: submit to one another

This one gets personal. Let’s face it, we all like certain songs, certain styles of music, certain fashion, certain types of sermons, certain expressions of worship, certain volume levels, certain lengths of sermons, …

There’s no perfect church. There’s no perfect pastor…or sermon or worship leader or…

The larger the family, the more we must love well, compromise, and even submit to one another.

We don’t like that word “submit.” It goes against our rugged individualism. Frank Sinatra sang, “I Did It My Way!” But the Bible said something entirely different.

Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. (Ephesians 5:21)

When is the last time you took a deep breath and shift the focus from your preferences to…Jesus? I remember the “worship wars” of the 90’s…and probably every generation. Hymns, no choruses. Modern, no ancient. Slow, no fast. Worship’s not for you!!! Again, where is your focus? We’re here for Jesus! It shouldn’t matter if we repeat the song fifty times…it’s not for us! OK, actually, I do sometimes tire of endless repetition of song lyrics, but then again, we’re told of each of the four living creatures in Revelation,

Day and night they never stop saying:

“ ‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty,’ who was, and is, and is to come.” (Revelation 4:8b)

Problem: cultural differences
Solution: celebrate diversity

This often gets lumped into the race conversation. Is the issue skin color or economic class or cultural differences. Regardless, we can celebrate our diversity. I admit, I’m weird! I’m a variety junkie. My favorite restaurant is the one I’ve never been to before. I’d rather travel to a new place than a frequented one. I love people, and I’m especially drawn to the—uh—unique ones. Birds of a feather…!!!

I’m glad we’re different! It can create conflicts, but it can also create growth, understanding, and friendships. How boring would it be if everyone was just like me?! God created each of us unique and special. Let’s celebrate His masterpieces!

Problem: bitterness
Solution: forgiveness

This one’s a biggie. We obviously can’t unpack this fully today, but so much of the relational divide in our society involves bitterness. Sometimes the offense—or the alleged offense—occurred decades ago, yet the wedge of bitterness remains, penalizing both parties with a missing relationship.

The solution is forgiveness. Nobody deserves to be forgiven. It’s a choice. When the choice is made, beautiful things begin…for both people. Forgiveness doesn’t mean trust. It doesn’t mean forget. It means let go of the grudge. It means move on. Often this is a miracle only possible by the Holy Spirit, but we serve the God of the impossible!

Problem: theological differences
Solution: grace and essentials

There’s a great line that says, In necessariis unitas, in dubiis libertas, in omnibus caritas. If, like me, you don’t know Latin, it means, “in necessary things unity; in uncertain things liberty; in all things charity.” It’s often attributed to Augustine, but it was likely first used in 1617 by Archbishop Marco Antonio de Dominis. There are open-handed and closed-handed issues when we talk about God. Although we often debate which are open and which are closed, there are some things like the virgin birth, the death and resurrection of Jesus, and the reliability of the Bible which we would say are essential, non-negotiables, while some matters such as the age of the earth, whether or not there will be pets in heaven, and appropriate alcohol use we might call important but not essential. The point being “in all things charity.” We need to exercise grace with one another and focus on the essentials.

One thing I love about the Christian & Missionary Alliance is its theological diversity. We have a lot of opinions about a lot of things and we are free to respectfully discuss them while maintaining a statement of faith which is biblical and simple.

Problem: busyness
Solution: sabbath

In many relationships, the greatest divide is time. We’re so busy, we simply fail to take the time to get to know one another. We need rest, we need sabbath, we need to slow down, grab a cup of coffee or tea, and be together. Love is often spelled t-i-m-e.

Problem: generation gaps
Solution: mentoring (both benefit)

Finally, generation gaps often create division between people, even Christians. Some of this may be cultural differences or worship preferences, but just like it’s easy to stereotype based upon ethnicity, it’s also common to think or say, “Oh you Millennials” or “You old people” or “You amazing GenXers!” This has even resulted in single-generation churches of twentysomethings or retirees rather than a multi-generational congregation in which mentoring is active, the older teaching the younger. This was commonplace in the early church. Paul told Titus to teach the older women so they can mentor the younger women (Titus 2:3-5). Spiritual parenting or even grandparenting can be mutually beneficial and enhance the life of any congregation, bridging generation gaps with love, dignity, respect, and understanding.

So What?

Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. (Ephesians 4:2-6)


May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had, so that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. (Romans 15:5-6)

For Further Reading

The Fellowship of Differents by Scot McKnight

You can listen to this message and others at the First Alliance Church podcast here.

You can watch this video and others at the First Alliance Church Video Library

The Racial Divide, 18 October 2020

The Racial Divide (One Race: Human)
Series—The Great Divide

Series Big Idea: Our world is filled with division, yet Jesus prayed that we would be one.

Big Idea: Man looks at outward appearances, but God looks at the heart.

Last week we began our series, The Great Divide, with a topic free from any controversy or disagreement…politics! It’s amazing you all came back after that! If you missed it, the bottom line was our focus must not be on a donkey or elephant, but the Lion and the Lamb. There are flaws in every candidate and party. We need to fix our eyes on Jesus. Always. Especially during this crazy election season. I have appreciated individuals and organizations seeking to call out the anti-Christian views of candidates and parties, yet even if the imperfections of our alternatives were completely exposed and fixed, no politician can ever approach the wisdom, the power, the justice, the love of King Jesus!

Today we’re going to tackle a subject that many have connected with politics…race. Our authority, as always, is not me, not even The Christian & Missionary Alliance, but Jesus and the Holy Scriptures. God told Samuel the prophet,

People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7b).

I want to make a few disclaimers up front. First, we’re not going to solve the racial issues in our community—much less our nation or world—in thirty minutes. As I did last week, I’ll offer some resources for you to consider, but the views expressed in them do not necessarily represent me or First Alliance Church. They are offered for your consideration, education, and contemplation. Only the Word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ is flawless. I’m not perfect. My theology is not perfect. I often quote Dr. Leonard Sweet who said, “20% of my theology is wrong. I just don’t know what 20%!”

Second—and this may come as a surprise to you—I’m white! I don’t know what it’s like to be a minority in this country, though I have been in the minority in Africa. I am seeking empathy, and I want to leverage whatever influence I have for the benefit of others. We’re told,

Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy. (Proverbs 31:8-9)

Third, this series is about understanding, about building bridges, about listening and loving well. After all,
there is only one race…the human race.

In Jesus’ day, the tension between Jew and Gentile was arguably far worse than any black and white divisions we’ve experienced in this country. Yet Paul wrote,

There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3:28)

We are one in Christ Jesus! All of us! Black, brown, and white. Men, women, and children. Homeless and homeowner. PhD and GED. We are all part of the human race. We are all sons and daughters of the Most High God. Paul told the church in Corinth,

For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. (1 Corinthians 12:13)

Fourth, let me say again this is
not a sermon on politics. One prominent pastor said whenever he preaches on race, people accuse him of being a progressive. This is not about being liberal or conservative. It’s about being human. Black lives do matter—all of them, including the unborn black lives. It frustrates me that such a positive statement has been co-opted by an organization of the same name with anti-Christian values. Once again, the enemy is desperately trying to steal, kill, destroy, and divide.

(OK, are you ready?!)

The issue of race is relevant, not simply because it’s in the news, but because it affects family. Our family.

We are all created with equal value, but we are not all
treated with equal value.

This cannot be overstated, though those in the majority culture are often unaware of the significance of such a statement. We are a family. We are a diverse family. We are all different parts of the body, the body of Christ. Paul said,

If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. (1 Corinthians 12:26)

If we can’t love one another well—within the family—there’s little hope for us loving our neighbors, much less our enemies as Jesus clearly instructed us to do…through the power of the Holy Spirit (it’s impossible without God).

We have family members who are suffering…every time racism rears its ugly head, which is more than I understand as some who has never been pulled over for DWB (driving while black), stalked in a store, or been called the n-word. I can’t begin to count how many stories I’ve heard from my brothers and sisters regarding discrimination and hatred over their ethnicity. One was followed for 45 minutes by a police officer while jogging in their own neighborhood. This past week I was talking to a friend who said they were asked to sit in a different section of their church sanctuary because of their ethnicity.

We are family! We are all related by blood…the blood of Jesus. We were all created in the image of God with dignity, value, and worth. By the way, I seriously doubt Adam and Eve were white! I’m quite sure Jesus didn’t have blond hair and blue eyes! Every life is precious…white, brown, black, …in the womb, refugee, immigrant, orphan, rich, poor,…all masterpieces!

We are all created with equal value, but we are not all treated with equal value.

I was once having lunch with my mom. She was concerned about changes in our culture and I asked her, “Do you wish we could go back to the 1950s?”

(I wasn’t even an idea in the 1950’s!)

She exclaimed, “Oh yes!”

I said, “I don’t have a single African-American friend who wishes we could go back to the 1950’s!”

I believe things have improved through things such as the civil rights movement, but clearly we are far from realizing Dr. King’s dream of people being judged by the content of their character, not by the color of their skin. Our world—and even the Church—is filled with favoritism, a practice condemned repeatedly in scripture (see 1 Timothy 5:21, James 2:1-8, Romans 2:11, Acts 10:34, etc.).

Today I want you to hear three short videos from
Phil Vischer. He’s the creator of Veggie Tales, a life-long Christian & Missionary “Alliancer,” and the co-host of the Holy Post podcast. Again, I don’t necessarily agree with everything he says, but he has done extensive research on what’s behind some of the racial issues in our day. I highly recommend his video Race in America. He had a follow-up video which I’ve been given permission to share clips from today, and he most recently made a fascinating video entitled, “Why do White Christians Vote Republican, and Black Christians Vote Democrat?”

But I said today is not about politics…and it’s not. It’s about people. It’s about family. It’s about us. When I say us, I mean us. This raises what is perhaps the biggest objection I’ve received whenever we talk about racism…

[Video: Phil Vischer, excerpt from "Race in America, Part 2"]

We must recognize both individual and
societal sins…and repent.

It’s important to remember,

for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, (Romans 3:23)

We have all pre-judged others for one reason or another (it’s called prejudice). We are all guilty of disrespecting image-bearers. We all fail to live up to the example of Jesus—a Jew—who prayed for the very enemies—Roman soldiers—who were nailing him to a cross. Each of us misses the mark when it comes to loving God and loving our neighbor as ourselves. I must admit I often stop at verse 23, but there’s a comma, not a period. It continues,

and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. (Romans 3:24)

The New Living Translation says it a little smoother:

Yet God, in his grace, freely makes us right in his sight. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins. (Romans 3:24, NLT)


Jesus died for all of us! “Red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in His sight.” I know the lyrics might not be politically correct, but the message is biblically correct.

So What?

I’ve certainly struggled with what I can do about this issue which seems so—uh—black and white. There is no place for hatred or favoritism or injustice in the Kingdom of God.

For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, (Romans 10:12)

We’re going to spend eternity together with the LORD. The scene in Revelation is fantastic!

After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. (Revelation 7:9)

We’re not going to have black churches in heaven.
We’re not going to have white churches in heaven.
I don’t think we’re even going to have English or Spanish or Mandarin churches in heaven.

The Kingdom of God is diverse. It’s the beautiful mosaic we mentioned last week.

So what do we do now? Here’s Phil again:

[Video: Phil Vischer, excerpt from "Race in America, Part 2"]

Did you find that interesting? Racism is but one of many sins in our world. We can’t fix it overnight. But we can do something. Like the child throwing washed-up starfish from the beach back into the ocean, we can help one person. We can show kindness to someone who looks different than us. We can offer generosity to the “other.” We can smile or share a kind word. In a word, we can love! I am continually challenged by two verses in the book of Philippians:

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. (Philippians 2:3-4)

How could applying those verses impact our church, our city, our nation, our world? This might be the most radical scripture in the Bible, at least according to our selfish, prideful, narcissistic, consumeristic culture that has influenced each of us. Jesus’ friend John said,

We love because he first loved us. Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister. (1 John 4:19-21)

We must love well, and
loving mean listening.

We said it last week…

My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires. (James 1:19-20)

I appreciate you listening to me today, hopefully with an open mind and heart. Listen to understand, not to argue. People of my hue are so defensive about racial issues. Instead of hearing the experiences of others, they’re too busy trying to prove their own innocence, which is an adventure in missing the point.

If your neighbor’s house is on fire and you didn’t do it, do you feel like you should do anything? Get the kids out of the house! Again, we are family, and we need to listen and understand the struggles and sorrows of our spiritual siblings.

My favorite singer as a boy, Andrae Crouch, sang, “Jesus is the answer/for the world today/above Him there’s no other/Jesus is the way.” Jesus is the answer to all of the world’s problems. If we all loved and obeyed Jesus, …I can hardly imagine it!

is the answer. Check this out!

[Video: Phil Vischer, excerpt from "Race in America, Part 2"]

Family, let’s love well. Love is not how you feel, but how you act. Racism is not your fault, but you could be part of the solution. Let’s look out for one another. Let’s listen to one another. Let’s refuse to stereotype, pre-judge, or make assumptions about others. Let’s get to know one another. We’ll be stretched. We’ll be challenged. We’ll grow…and I believe the world will take notice. Remember, Jesus said,

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:34-35)

Phil Vischer videos

Race in America
Race in America, Part 2
Why do White Christians Vote Republican, and Black Christians Vote Democrat?

Recommended Books

- Dream with Me by John Perkins
Be the Bridge by Latasha Morrison
- White Awake by Daniel Hill
- Rediscipling the White Church by David Swanson

You can listen to this message and others at the First Alliance Church podcast here.

You can watch this video and others at the First Alliance Church Video Library

Racism & Injustice, 7 June 2020

Racism and Injustice
Series—What in the World is Going On?
Featuring special guest Pastor Donald Smith

Big Idea:
Sin is ugly and evil in all of its forms—blatant and subtle—and the antidote is love.

What in the world is going on?
If you’re like me, you’ve asked that question a lot lately.

The deadly coronavirus is one thing. The lockdowns and ensuring chaos have been—at least for many—even worse.

The senseless killings of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd are one thing. The ensuring protests and violence are—at least for many—even worse.

What in the world is going on? Are these the last days? Is Jesus coming back soon? If so, what difference does it make?

Our world is a mess. But this is actually not a new thing. Read the Bible! Ever since Adam and Eve ate the fruit in the Garden, we’ve all been involved in the deadliest force in the universe…sin.

Sin is ugly and evil in all of its forms—blatant and subtle—and the antidote is love.

we are engaged in a war! We’re in the middle of a battle! It’s easy to forget that sometimes in our air-conditioned cars and houses with our flat-screen TVs, and La-Z-Boy recliners. We enjoy prosperity and freedoms in this country others on our planet can’t even imagine.

Sin is ugly and evil in all of its forms—blatant and subtle—and the antidote is love.

We’ve seen blatant sin in full-color. We watched a man murdered. We witnessed violence toward police, civilians, whites, and blacks. We’ve seen buildings burned, businesses looted, …and there are a hundred different narratives to describe these disturbing events.

Tragically, it’s nothing new. Racism isn’t new. Pandemics aren’t new. Hatred and violence aren’t new. They’re simply signs of our enemy, satan.

Paul wrote these famous words to the church in the city of Ephesus in what is modern-day Turkey:

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. (Ephesians 6:10-12)

The enemy loves to steal, kill, and destroy. Sin leads to death, and it’s the hallmark of satan.

Years ago, I heard Ravi Zacharias respond to whether the decline of Christianity in the West or the rise of it in the developing world was more significant. He said they balance each other out.

That makes sense to me. I don’t believe angels or demons reproduce. According to my math, there are two angels for every demon. We will win the war, but the battles are real.

Two weeks ago, I gave a sermon entitled, “
Love Well.” In it, I reflected upon the fact that as a church family, we are diverse. We are different. We have a huge variety of views on politics, football teams, theology, fashion, and music. But we’re family. We’re a Jesus-centered family. We exist for God’s glory, not our own.

We are a Jesus-centered family
Restoring God's masterpieces
In Toledo and beyond
For His Glory.

I’m really glad we’re different. It would be so boring if everyone thought and acted like me! Sure, I have opinions and preferences, but when my focus is on God’s glory, I can set them aside. Sometimes I actually do!

Jesus said,

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:34-35)

That phrase “love one another” was echoed in the book of Romans (13:8). Peter preached it (1 Peter 1:22; 3:8) John restated it (1 John 3:11, 23; 4:7, 11; 2 John 5).

We are to love one another, even when we disagree. I think we were created to disagree! Again, it would be boring if we were all the same, but our differences allow us to be stretched, challenged, and grow. As someone once said, the purpose of marriage is not to make you happy, but to make you holy. I think that’s true for family, too.

Today I want to put some action behind this idea of love well, of loving one another. In the book of 1 Corinthians, Paul uses the analogy of a body to describe the Church, the family of believers. It’s a brilliant metaphor vividly showing how we are all different, we’re supposed to be different, and when we are united, beautiful things emerge. When we are divided, of course, things get ugly…quick. Paul wraps up his instructions by saying,

If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. (1 Corinthians 12:26)

If you stub your toe, your whole body suffers. If you have a sliver in your finger, attention is drawn to it. When you have a migraine…

Family, we have some parts who are suffering. It’s not a new pain, but one they have known since birth. It’s a suffering I can’t understand, but I can empathize. Just like I’ll never know the pain of giving birth, I can appreciate the agony as I hear it described (or by being an eyewitness three times!).

It’s easy for people in the majority culture to dismiss the struggle of those in the minority, whatever the situation. I’ve heard people of the lighter hue for years talk about how there’s equal opportunity, everyone should pick themselves up by their bootstraps, look at Oprah and Obama, and turn the other way whenever racial issues are presented.

Racism is not a political issue. It’s a biblical issue.
It’s a human issue. Jesus died for all masterpieces. We are all created in the image of God with dignity, value, and worth. All of us.

Pastor David Swanson writes, “It is deeply disturbing that so many Christians think that racial reconciliation is some kind of liberal, politically motivated social agenda that has nothing to do with their faith as followers of Jesus Christ.”

Tragically, some Christians seem to have more in common with those who share their race than those who share their faith. Some are more influenced by politics than Jesus.

Racism is not a political issue. It’s a biblical issue.

Proverbs, the book of wisdom, includes this important instruction:

Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves,
for the rights of all who are destitute.
Speak up and judge fairly;
defend the rights of the poor and needy. (Proverbs 31:8-9)

I’ve often heard that verse used by the pro-life movement, which is appropriate. Dr. Tony Evans said this week that God, “Wants to protect the life of the unborn in the womb, but wants to see justice of the life once born to the tomb. God wants a whole life agenda, not a term agenda.”

Evans said, “We’re in a medical pandemic. Simultaneously, we’re in a cultural pandemic because we’re seeing the devolution of our society…and we’re in a cultural pandemic because we’re in a spiritual pandemic.”

Family, I’ve spent countless hours these past several days praying, reading, and listening. Again, I confess I simply want to fix it! How? Should I run for political office? Will a great sermon do the job? What can I do on social media to make a statement? Is peaceful protest the answer?

One of my best friends on the planet, Dr. Calvin Sweeny, offered three suggestions for me:

  • 1. Listen to understand, not respond
  • 2. Learn about racial injustices
  • 3. Lead your congregations toward solutions (not just response) bathed in prayer

  • I’ve been focusing on steps one and two. Today is the beginning of step three.

    I prayed about how to address this issue today, knowing we’re not going to fix it in sixty minutes, but we can’t be silent, either. I spoke to many friends of color this past week—including many of you—and felt led to invite Pastor Donald Smith to join me today. Reverend Smith is the pastor of Sylvania Community Church, our sister Alliance congregation. He’s been here before for joint worship gatherings and I’ve asked him to speak to us today. Please, listen to understand, not respond.

    Interview with Pastor Donald Smith

    You can download our Next Steps resource guide

    You can watch a panel discussion on race, justice, and the Church's response led by Alliance President Dr. John Stumbo

    You can listen to this message and others at the First Alliance Church podcast here.

    You can watch this video and others at the First Alliance Church Video Library

    Love Your Neighbor, 7 April 2019

    Love Your Neighbor
    Series—The Quest of the Good Shepherd
    Luke 10:25-37

    Series Big Idea:
    Love is one of the most misunderstood words in our culture, yet it is at the heart of the two greatest biblical commandments: love God, love neighbor.

    Big Idea:
    We are to love everyone, which means…everyone…because we’ve been loved by God.

    Today’s text is so clear, so famous, so obvious. If you’ve spent any amount of time around here, you’ve heard about the Great Commission—make disciples or students of Jesus—and the Great Commandment: love God and love your neighbor.

    You heard about the Great Commission last week during our Global Missions Conference. We are to make disciples as we are going through life, and for many of us we are to go and make disciples, go and share the story of Jesus with people who have never even heard his name, go to Africa or Columbus or even next door. But we must always, always, always go…with love.

    Last month we were in the Old Testament book of Ecclesiastes. This month we’re going to be in the book of Luke in a series we’re calling
    The Quest of the Good Shepherd. Holy Week is right around the corner so it makes sense for us to focus on some of the key teachings and life events of Jesus. Dr. Luke is writing a biography of Jesus and in chapter ten he writes,

    On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” (Luke 10:25)

    This is a test…from a very smart man, an expert in the law, a religious leader, a respected person in the community. Jesus does what he so often does, he answers a question with a question.

    “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?” (Luke 10:26)

    I think I might respond, “Jesus, I asked you first!” But…

    He answered, “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” (Luke 10:27)

    God wants us to love our neighbors as ourselves.

    Where did this scholar come up with this answer? He knew the known-Bible, what we call the Old Testament.

    Love the LORD your God and keep his requirements, his decrees, his laws and his commands always. (Deuteronomy 11:1)

    “ ‘Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the LORD. (Leviticus 19:18)

    The scholar began with a question, Jesus replied with a question, the man answered Jesus’ question, and then Jesus speaks.

    “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.” (Luke 10:28)

    There it is, the end of the story. Love God and love your neighbor as yourself. Simple. Clear. Any questions?

    The scholar had one.

    But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” (Luke 10:29)

    What’s the first thing when you hear the word…neighbor?

    Who is my neighbor? When I was a kid, I always thought of my next door neighbor. Andrew was my friend, and it seemed reasonable to love him, to respect him, to show kindness and exercise the Golden Rule with him.

    We can certainly extend neighbor from our next door neighbor to the person sitting next to us right now. This year, the National Day of Prayer is on May 2 and the theme is “Love One Another.” Jesus said,

    “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:34-35)

    We will gather with people from across our city at Cherry Street Mission’s Life Revitalization Center down the street at 7 PM on May 2 to pray together, worship together, and love one another.

    Perhaps you’re thinking love one another is too basic, too simple. You want me to get deep, you want meat, come on preacher, give me something new! I’m sorry, but until we truly love God and love one another, we’re never going to be the mature followers of Jesus we claim to be. I’m not being critical, but simply saying loving one another is a lot more challenging than it sounds. Jesus said the hallmark of our devotion to Him is our love for one another, the people in our church family, our brothers and sisters in Christ in Toledo and beyond, yes, even those from a different congregation or denomination with a different worship style or with theological differences. There’s a time and a place for dialogue on our differences, but at the end of the day, we must love one another. Tragically, the world has seen division rather than unity, hate rather than love, and criticism rather than compassion from the Church of Jesus Christ. No wonder so many have given up on organized religion!

    But it doesn’t have to be this way. We can love one another. We
    must love one another if we have any hope of seeing spiritual awakening. This is not a commercial, but I want to challenge you to join in the National Day of Prayer gathering on Thursday, May 2. You’ll be hearing more about it and it’s already on the church calendar, but this could be a great stop toward loving your neighbor, your brothers and sisters in Christ. If we can’t love one another, how in the world will we love those outside the church?

    Maybe we should back up and ask, “What is love?” 1 Corinthians 13 offers a good description. It’s not about marriage—though marriages should be filled with love. It describes true, unconditional, agape love.

    Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance. (1 Corinthians 13:4-7,

    Love requires action. It’s more than a mushy feeling. It’s a rugged commitment to another person demonstrated not only with words but deeds. We are to love one another. We are to love our neighbor. Now back to our text,…

    But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” (Luke 10:29)

    Another question from this man!

    We are to love one another, but clearly it doesn’t stop when we exit the building.

    In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. (Luke 10:30)

    I’m guessing this isn’t the answer the expert in the law was looking for when he asked Jesus to define neighbor. Nevertheless, Jesus tells the story of this robbery victim. The road from Jerusalem to Jericho was known to be dangerous and difficult, even called the “Way of Blood” due to the violence that occurred there.

    A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. (Luke 10:31)

    This kind of hits close to home for me. My title is not priest, but it might as well be in this instance. Notice the priest saw them man and deliberately avoided him.

    Maybe the man was thought to be dead, in which case contact would defile the priest and make him ritually unclean. However, there was an exception for neglected corpses. What we do know is the priest did not love this man.

    So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. (Luke 10:32)

    Levites were respected leaders in the day and this Levite did the exact same thing as the priest. Almsgiving to the poor was how the Pharisees—experts in the law—loved their neighbors as themselves.

    But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. (Luke 10:33)

    This surely offended the expert in the law asking Jesus the question. Jews hated Samaritans.

    He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. (Luke 10:34)

    Is this love? Of course. Don’t miss the next verse. I love how the Samaritan delegated care to this man.

    The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’ (Luke 10:35)

    The Samaritan touched the man, bandaged him, poured oil and wine, transported him on his donkey, and took him to an inn where he cared for him. But he doesn’t stop there. He pays the innkeeper to care for him. Delegation is a powerful leadership tool. As I often tell our church staff, you don’t have to do everything…you just have to make sure everything is done. There may be times when you can’t provide the help someone needs, but you can help them get the help they need. There are six verbs here that describe the loving action this Samaritan took. He invested emotionally, physically, and financially in this stranger’s rescue.

    The story concludes by Jesus asking the expert in the law,

    “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”

    The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”

    Jesus told him,
    “Go and do likewise.” (Luke 10:36-37)

    Notice the expert in the law wouldn’t even utter the word “Samaritan!” In the Greek, “do” is an imperative verb, a command. It’s not optional. Have mercy. Love others. Put your faith into action. We often love God by loving others.

    We could analyze this story for hours—and many articles and books have been written about it—but don’t miss the central point:

    Our neighbor is anyone we encounter.

    They might be a friend or acquaintance. They might look and act like you. Then again…

    Our neighbor may be a stranger.

    It could be someone you encounter for the first time, as was the case in this story. It might be an Immigrant, a refugee, a prostitute, a panhandler, a lawyer, a drug dealer, a pastor, …

    Here’s the really challenging reality:

    Our neighbor may be an enemy.

    That was clearly the case in Jesus’ story. We can’t begin to understand how much the Jews hated the Samaritans.

    Who’s your enemy? I know,
    you don’t have any enemies, right? But seriously, what about Democrats or Republicans, refugees or immigrants, your boss, the gangsters down the street? Perhaps members of the LGBTQ community disgust you. Maybe you have hatred toward or have received hatred from someone of a different race, nationality, or religion. On a more personal level, maybe your enemy is an abuser, a criminal, someone who has done you great harm. We are to love them, too (though “love” does not mean trust; we need healthy boundaries).

    At this year’s MERGE Summit, Savannah Martin shared a powerful story about The Pregnancy Center’s opportunity to open a location next door to Toledo’s lone abortion clinic. Talk about loving your neighbor! She said God made it clear she was to not only love those seeking an abortion, but also those who worked inside. It was a startling realization, yet one which resulted in The Pregnancy Center providing Christmas gifts to the abortion workers! They realized these workers are not the enemy, but actually masterpieces created by God with dignity, value and worth. They may not value the life of an unborn child, but they are not the enemy. They need to experience God’s love, too…in word and deed.

    The word “enemy” appears more than 300 times in the Bible! Paul told the Roman church:

    …“If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”
    (Romans 12:20)

    I have a confession: I’m not a loving person. I love myself pretty well! Most of the time I’m loving toward my wife and kids and grandbaby. I think I do a decent job of loving our staff and our congregation…I truly love you, church! But there are other people who are more difficult to love.

    I really can’t love my neighbor…apart from the power of God. Only the Holy Spirit can give me the love I need to love my neighbor, my friend, my family, my enemy.

    Here’s the real scandal:

    We were all enemies of God, yet He loved us through both words and action.

    This the perfect segue to communion, the LORD’s Supper, the Eucharist. In that letter to the Romans, Paul said,

    For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! (Romans 5:10)

    We can only love others—and God—with the love we have received from God. This was Jesus’ point in Luke chapter 7 when he said that “whoever has been forgiven little loves little.” (Luke 7:47b)

    But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8)


    Author and speaker Bob Goff has two books. The first is entitled, “Love Does.” His second book describes the scope of love: “Everybody always.” That includes our God, our neighbor, our friend, our church family, and our enemies.

    Pastor Bryan Loritts said, “The gospel begins with a vertical relationship with God that propels us into horizontal relationships with our neighbors who don’t look like, think like, or vote like us.”

    May the Holy Spirit fill you with love—the greatest of all gifts—that you may go and love your neighbor—even your enemy—as yourself.

    You can listen to this message and others at the First Alliance Church podcast here.