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Hebrews 13:1-6: Love Like Christ Print E-mail
Sunday, 05 March 2017

You can read the manuscript or watch the video on our Facebook page by clicking on the "Read more..." link below.

Loving God normally feels easier than loving other people. Sometimes people joke about how loving the Lord is not the problem, it is trying to love His people. I talk to folks regularly who say that they love God but refuse to go to church because they have been hurt by people in the Church. Truth is, relationships are hard. Loving people, truly loving people, takes effort. One way around this is to change the definition of love from wanting to serve and care for others for their good to just tolerating others. When true love, which includes tough love, gets hard, we just do something different to avoid the trouble. But that is not love. And not loving is not optional for the follower of Christ. In fact, to say we love God while not loving those around us is to lie (see 1 John 4:20). If we truly love God, then we must truly love others. We must do both or neither is true.

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The author of Hebrews calls us to love others in the closing of his letter. This final section of Hebrews is filled with exhortations and commands for how we are to live as followers of Christ. And they are all connected to what the author says in 12:28-29. Look at those again with me. We offer acceptable worship, or acceptable service, by faithfully obeying the commands given in chapter 13. Those commands begin with the call to love. We are to love others because, as the author of Hebrews has argued, our Great High Priest has so faithfully loved us. Jesus has radically loved us and He is the model for how we should love others. With that in mind, letís look at the five ways we are commanded to love in our passage this morning.

Love the Church (v. 1)

The author begins by telling his original readers to love one another. Look at verse 1. A couple of things to note from this command. First, the kind of love that the author commands is brotherly love. In other words, it is family love. Such love should exist between those who are followers of Christ and members of a local church. When we turn from our sins and trust in Jesusí death and resurrection for the forgiveness of our sins, then we are brought into a spiritual family, what we call the family of God. As members of this family, we are called to love the fellow members of the family, our brothers and sisters in Christ. We are to have committed, family love for one another in the local church.

Second, this love is to continue, or persevere. The author has been regularly calling for us to have enduring faith in Christ. Such enduring faith will mean enduring love for one another. In fact, the two go hand in hand. As we labor to endure in the faith we will labor to love each other. And as we labor to love each other we will be encouraging one another to endure in the faith. As we do with our physical families, we donít give up on each other when things get hard. We should not walk away from our relationships in the church anymore than we should walk away from our physical brothers or sisters. Christ is our model for such love. He, our brother, gave His life so that we could become a part of the family of God. He sacrificed Himself for our good. And He does not give up on us when things get difficult. In the same way, we should have sacrificial, brotherly love for one another that perseveres through even the hard times.

Love strangers (v. 2)

The general command is for us to love others, but we see more specifically what this looks like in the next few commands. Loving others means showing hospitality even to strangers. Look at verse 2. The command is plain: Do not neglect to show hospitality. In the days when the author of Hebrews was writing, hospitality was critical. It was not safe or wise to stay in public places, so there was a great need for people to open their homes to others. The author could be primarily concerned with other Christians or ministers who may be traveling and need a place to stay. But the command for hospitality would also extend to unbelievers as well. We are to use our homes as a means for caring for Christians and reaching out to the lost. Such love should always be a part of our evangelism. Of course, hospitality does not necessarily look the same today, but there are still opportunities for us to open our homes to strangers. Those strangers might just be our neighbors or people visiting the Church or Christian friends passing through our area. However we can, we need to be hospitable to others.

The author goes on and gives us a reason for keeping this command: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares. Perhaps this idea conjures up memories of the old show with the dad from Little House on the Prairie playing the angel (I believe the title was ĎHighway to Heavení). Or maybe it just seems weird and out of place to you. I think the author has a specific incident in mind at this point. In Genesis 18, three men come to visit Abraham and Sarah. They offer them food and drink and take care of them. Such action is the type of hospitality that the author of Hebrews is envisioning. And who are these three visitors? One is identified as the Lord and the other two are called angels, or messengers. The author of Hebrews is telling us that we never know who has come to our home, so we must be hospitable to all. Jesus was always hospitable to the outsider. His disciples were proof of this or the woman at the well in John 4. Jesus welcomed those that many might turn away. We should love like Him and do the same.

Love prisoners and those mistreated (v. 3)

We are told another specific way that we can love others in verse 3. Look at that verse with me. We are told to love two groups in this verse: those who are in prison and those who are mistreated. As we have already seen (10:32-34), the original readers were familiar with being persecuted for the faith. They had sought to identify and suffer with those who facing such persecution. The author tells them to keep doing this. They should not forget or shy away from those who are suffering for believing in Jesus. Why should they keep doing this? He tells them: since you also are in the body. We are One Body in Christ. If the arm suffers, then the leg suffers. If the eye suffers, then the foot suffers. When one of us is persecuted for the faith, then we should all suffer with them. Instead of them feeling isolated, we should join with them so that they know that they are not alone. Jesus knows what it is like to be a prisoner unjustly. He knows what it is like to suffer for what He believed in. And He cared about those who were suffering unjustly (like John the Baptist in Matthew 11). We should love those facing persecution like He did. We should join with them and share in suffering like He did.

Love your spouse (v. 4)

The author does not use the word love in the next verse, but the context of marriage implies as much. Look at his command for marriage in verse 4. Two commands are given here. First, we are to hold marriage in honor. We saw during Feast Week that those living during the days of Malachi were also struggling to be faithful in marriage. They were acting like divorce was no big deal. Apparently, they were struggling with this during the days of the New Testament as well. It should not surprise us that we are continuing to battle against this. We can be mad at the culture for trying to redefine marriage, but it seems like we should start by confessing our own struggle to view marriage as we should. We should be fighting for healthy marriages, marriages that faithfully mirror the relationship between Christ and the Church. We should be more concerned about our lack of honor for marriage than we are about the cultureís attempt to redefine it. By Godís grace, may we fight for healthy marriages. The second command concerns sexuality: we should not defile the marriage bed. This is another way of saying we should not have sex outside of marriage. Before we are married we should not be having sex. After we are married we should only have sex with our spouse, which implies that we should fight against lust in all of its forms as well. This is how we keep the marriage bed undefiled. And lest we think these commands are no big deal, the author adds: for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous. The temptations are great but so is the judgment of God. We must flee sexual immorality and love our spouses. Jesus died to purify His Bride and we should fight for the purity of the Bride as well. He sacrificed His life so that we can sacrifice our lusts. We should love like Him.

Love with your resources, or do not love money (v. 5-6)

One of the greater obstacles for us loving others is selfishness. We donít want to do the hard work of loving others. We donít want to make the sacrifices. We donít want to use our resources. We love ourselves and our money too much for that. The author addresses that struggle in verses 5-6. Look at verse 5a. Notice that the problem is not money, but the love of money. The love of money drives out love for others. We elevate our wants above the needs of others. So the author tells us to fight the love of money by being content with what we have. Do you have clothes on your back and food to eat? Do you have a place to sleep and shelter from the storm? Then you can be content. Focus on the blessings you have so that you will not be obsessed with what you do not have. Contentment is the enemy of love of money.

But how can we be content? Look at verses 5b-6. We can be content when we believe and trust that God is our helper and that He will never leave or forsake us. The key to contentment is realizing you have everything you need in one thing: God. He sustains our lives. He provides for our needs. He has given us His Son so that our sins could be forgiven, our lives could matter, and our eternities could be with Him. He is all that we truly need. When we realize that we can be content. And when we are content, we no longer battle with the love of money. And when we do not love money, we can use our resources to love others, just like Christ did for us (2 Cor. 8:9).

As lovers of God and followers of Christ, we are called to love others. We are called to hospitality and sympathy and faithfulness and generosity. We are called to love in the ways that Christ has loved us. He has given Himself for us at the cross and taken us in to be His own. He has taken on flesh and died a criminalís death to take our place. He has promised to be with us and to present us pure to Father on that Final Day. And He has lavished on us all the riches of glory. If you are here and do not know Jesus, then let me encourage you to experience the love of Christ. Turn from your sins and place your faith in the One who has loved you the greatest! For those who are followers of Christ, then I encourage you to love like your Savior. When it is hard to walk in love for those around you, keep your eyes fixed on the Great High Priest who loved you even when it cost Him His life. Through His grace, may we love like Christ! Amen.

~ William Marshall ~

Last Updated ( Friday, 17 March 2017 )

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