A Homily for the Fourth of July weekend

This homily was given at Grain of Wheat Church Community, a neighbourhood fellowship in the Wolsely area of Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. The theme for the summer series is, Things I have learned or things the Lord has taught me.

It has been modified for print distribution on the Internet. It bears my copyright, and if distributed in print, should have all hyper-references printed out in full. Permission is granted to distribute according to the terms above.

Please be aware that the core idea embedded within comes from Campus Crusade for Christ, and along with some features of theme development, may be also subject to their copyright.

This is the weekend of the Fourth of July, a day when our neighbours to the south celebrate the freedom that they as a nation have won.

For many of us, freedom is an important concept. And in this series on "Things I have learned or that the Lord has showed me," the thought I want to share is about the freedom to love and to serve. It is a unique idea that has had a big impact in my life since I first heard it. Not only does it cover what has to change, but also how we can go about making that change.

I currently live in the Wolsley area of Winnipeg. Quite often I take the bus along Westminster when I go to work. It's quite a bit different from riding the bus along Portage. It's just a little less rushed, and hardly ever crowded. Usually, there's a nice handful of people on the bus.

This one day, there were about seven or eight of us riding the bus, when a young couple boarded. What amazed me was that she had the sweetest voice, and the lovliest smile, and here she was, complaining in her sweet voice to her partner, about how they kept running into this certain woman, and she couldn't stand her.

I thought, "How appropriate. This will make a valuable introduction to my topic."

You see, the lesson I learned very early in my Christian walk was that there were people I just couldn't love in my own strength. You know, I felt guilty. I knew I should love everyone. I thought that it was silly not to love everyone. And I am by nature pretty easy-going.

But nothing could change the fact that there were people that I found difficult to love. I was repulsed by them. I just didn't have that `loving feeling' for them.

As I have been working on this message, I realize that there are new people whom I need to apply this to in my own life. There are types of people whom I find it difficult to love because of what they represent, like gang members who I see as a threat to my safety. And there are international leaders who I waste my life detesting, like Saddam and his ilk.

You see, God knows it is for our own benefit that we learn to love others. If we spend our time being angry at those things that we cannot change, we only hurt ourselves.

It was from attending a Campus Crusade for Christ Lay Institute for Evangelism, that I learned about what I want to share with you.

One of their seminars was on how to love by faith. So with your forbearance, I will share with you what I learned then, and what I have since learned. It is like a wedding: some things old, some things new, and some things borrowed.

Love comes in our lives at new birth

When Jesus comes into our lives, a great change comes along with him. The Scripture says that God is love. So when we get him, we get access to his love. But his love does not overtake all areas of our lives right away. That is because there are areas we all hold back.

it is just a seed; it grows

Jesus uses the illustration of the mustard seed to represent how the kingdom grows. And of course this applies to how he grows in our lives individually as well as to the growth in the number of Christians in the world.

When we invite Christ into our hearts, he initially makes a big change. But after this he brings to our attention areas of our life that we have yet to yield to him.

Our Christian life is in this like the mustard seed. As we water our faith, it grows. And so it is with this area of love.

What do we mean by love

First, lets define what we mean by love. The English word love would represent three different things to the ancient Greeks:

Peter and agape love:

Jesus asks: Peter, do you agape me?
Peter answers: Lord, you know I phileo you.
Jesus: Feed my sheep.

Jesus asks again: Peter, do you agape me?
Peter answers: Lord, you know I phileo you.
Jesus: Feed my lambs.

Jesus asks the third time: Peter, do you Phileo me.
Peter answers, troubled: Lord, you know I Phileo you.
Jesus: Feed my sheep.

You see, Jesus takes us where we are, and uses that to glorify himself.

Emotional beings and sour dreams

We are emotional beings, whether we like it or not. Whether we want to admit it or not. When we get married, we have a dream. When the dream goes sour, it dies. It takes divine intervention to bring it back to life.

I have been married (and to the same woman) for 26 years. For my wife, the dream died two or three times. But a miracle from God brought it back. As she says, the Holy Spirit was standing by with a defibrilator to revive the failing heart, and breathe new life into it.

She felt we were living in the same house, but emotionally divorced. I remember one time, when I actually sensed it was serious, having a long walk and putting it into God's hands.

Purposeful Love

But what I feel has been most important in reviving our marriage is a special kind of purposeful, agape love. Now I know that love can be an emotional thing. But the highest kind of love is the result of a decision.

Jesus says that we will be known by our love for one another as Christians.

There are those whom it is easy to love.

Then there are those who have different ideas from mine. I can reason that God will set them straight. So I can put up with them.

But of course Jesus says to love your enemies. "Sure, I guess I can love them, just as long as they are not next door! But what about those ones at work who just rankle me? What about that child of mine that always turns up the music so loud, and just won't listen? What about that spouse who doesn't care for me anymore, where the spark has died? Come on, you really don't expect me to love that one, do you?

"How am I supposed to do good to the one who hurt me? How can I love the one who doesn't care! I've lost all feeling for them, you know."

There's the rub. Jesus didn't say to feel all gushy about them. Compassion is not about emotions. Compassion is about a step of faith.

Loving by faith

Here is the climax of the whole message. Loving by faith is confessing to God that we cannot love a person, asking Him to love that person through us, and then leaving the results to Him.

Can I repeat that for you?

(here it is again)

Compassion is about a desperate heart crying out to God and saying, "That person drives me up the wall! I can't love them. I've given up trying. But Lord, I'm willing to let your love dwell in me. I don't know how you will do it, but love that (insert your nemisis here __________) through me."

Campus Crusade Staffer

I remember a Campus Crusade staffer sharing this message. They told of a person they had staying in their house who just seemed to be one problem after another. The staffer told how although he prayed, he didn't feel any different afterward.

Yet when the person moved out, their mail kept coming to his home. He could not figure out why they didn't just have it forwarded to another address.

So the next time he saw this person, he asked why they deciced to keep having their mail sent to his house. They said, "Because I felt loved here."

God had taken that staffer's prayer, and without him noticing any change, had made it obvious to the other person.

Emotions won't necessarily follow


There is no guarantee that when you ask God to love someone through you, that you are going to feel any different. But when you take something to Jesus and leave it at his feet, miracles can and do happen. I don't know if it is enough to save your marriage, to heal your relationship with your kids, or to win that lost person to Christ. I don't know if it will change anything at work. But I do know that when you put it in God's hands as a grain of mustard seed, there is no telling what can happen. God works things out for our best, because that is to his own glory also.

If we never try, we won't know, will we. But if we will take the step of confessing our own lack, then God can use that and build on it.

Set them - and us - free

He can take that step to work forgiveness in our hearts. Merlin Carothers points out that, as we forgive, we set the other person free - and we set ourselves free too. Free from darkness, free from bondage, free to have God speak to them and to us.

A place of prayer

There is a place of prayer near you. If you have a need to get started with God on this, if God is speaking to you, you need to say, "I'm willing, Lord." Don't put off dealing with it. In the quiet of your home, office or study hall, or on your way home from the public place where you have 'net access, let the Lord assure you that he can help you. As you say, "Lord, I can't do it by myself; I need your help," God will hear you and meet your need.

If you need further help, please e-mail me, Rick Galbraith, Winnipeg, Manitoba

Further help can also be found in The Spiritual Help Pages

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