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Apr 3 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

April 3, 2022



And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony Colossians 3:14

Intro: Preparing this talk was difficult

Not because there is nothing to say about love
– we could line the freeway from here to San Diego with books and papers written on love
• clinical studies, philosophical essays, poetic explorations,
◦ not to mention all the books by religious authors
• but all this information has made little impact on our nation
– maybe it was just a tough week week for me – too much exposure to sorrow,
• but it feels like love has reached an all-time low in the world

When mulling over this verse, a song came to mind

It is from the musical, “Jesus Christ Superstar”
(this play debuted at the climax of the hippie peace and love revolution)
– Jesus has been arrested and Mary Magdalene and Peter are trying to deal with it
Mary: “I’ve been living to see you
Dying to see you, but it shouldn’t be like this
This was unexpected; what do I do now?
Could we start again please?
Could we start again please?
I’ve been very hopeful so far
Now for the first time, I think we’re going wrong
Hurry up and tell me this is all a dream
Or could we start again please?
Could we start again please?
Peter: I think you’ve made your point now
You’ve even gone a bit too far to get your message home
Before it gets too frightening, we ought to call a halt
So could we start again please?
Could we start again please?
• they’re praying for a do-over, a second chance
◦ they followed Jesus all the way to Gethsemane,
◦ but now the journey has taken a sudden turn
• they want God to rewind history and produce a different outcome
– that’s how I feel regarding love
• we have crucified love repeatedly through the ages
◦ nailed it to the cross of greed, narcissism, and betrayal
◦ we need a cosmic reboot
• could we start again please, and maybe get it right this time?

Looking at verse 14, this is the third time Paul says “Put on”

The first time was in verses 9 and 10,
we have put off the old self with its practices and put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator
– Paul works with this idea of the old and new self in several letters
• in Romans 6-8, the contrast is living according to the flesh (old self) or Spirit (new self)
◦ flesh is our natural self, programmed by others throughout our lives in the world
all our fears and insecurities, anger and lust, disbelief and rebellion
◦ the spirit is our new self, formed and energized by God’s Spirit
• in 2 Corinthians and Galatians Paul looks at same thing from other angles
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come (2 Cor. 5:17)
◦ the old verses the new
I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me (Gal. 2:20)
◦ not the “I” that has now died “I in Christ,” but the “I” that is now risen with Christ
– the way Paul presents it in Ephesians sounds more like our verse in Colossians
[you have been taught in Jesus] to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness (Ep. 4:20-24)
• so this putting off and putting on is not a fashion statement,
◦ but a fundamental transformation
• your true self is spirit – and we find our true self in Jesus

The second time Paul said “Put on” was in verse 12
– that was where we began talking about the virtues
– today we come to his third use of “Put on”
• here is another addition to our ensemble, but with a slight change
◦ the virtues have to do with how we are with other people
◦ Paul’s focus now is how we are with God:
the peace of Christ, be thankful, and the word of Christ, and so on
• but before that, he brings us to love, which is a perfect transition
◦ because love is intersection of our lives with God and with others
◦ we frequently emphasize the greatest and second greatest commandments:
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. . . . You shall love your neighbor as yourself (Mt. 22:36-40)

Paul makes a simple statement about the role love plays

At least it looks simple at first
– biblical translators have a significant challenge
• there’s no exact way to say in English what a Greek phrase meant to the original audience
◦ so they try to help us by using additional words
◦ for instance, there is no Greek word here that means “harmony”
• the NASB translates this phrase, perfect bond of unity, but a Greek word for “unity” is lacking
– a few commentators believe Paul is talking about the virtues being bound together
• if so, love would be like a string that tie the beads of virtue together
◦ that’s lovely, and probably true of love, but it is not what I see here
• love forms the perfect bond – it is our lives that love connects

Although Paul did not use “harmony,” it is a good metaphor

My eleven-year-old granddaughter, Adrianna, is in her school choir
– later this month they will be performing at Disneyland
• she practices in the car to and from school
• sometimes she sings soprano to show me how it goes with the alto part
◦ the soprano and alto parts are harmonized
– harmony is not two voices singing the same note
• but two or three voices singing different notes that work together
◦ you can hear the harmony when right notes are played — the sound is pleasant
◦ if a note doesn’t work, what you hear is dissonance

What happens if you study two people in conversation?
– if you film them and closely observe their movements frame by frame,
• you discover minute movements occurring within milliseconds
◦ facial expressions and body language
◦ these micromovents appear in both the speaker and listener
• William Condon spent a year and a half studying such films and identifying these movements
Condon, “Listeners were observed to move in precise shared synchrony with each other’s speech. . . . Communication is thus like a dance, with everyone engaged in intricate and shared movements across many subtle dimensions, yet all strangely oblivious to what they are doing.”
– I have to remind myself to be a better listener
• what I find helpful, is look into the eyes of the other person
• I become more focused – then if I speak, it’s in harmony with what they have said
◦ otherwise, I spend the time they are talking, thinking about what I’m going to say next

Love is the glue that holds the spiritual community together

Most of us have heard the Greek word, agape
– it is not romantic love that is going to save the world
• it is a love with more breadth and depth
◦ a love that survives without the chemistry of the romantic high
• it is love that forms a nurturing bond
Paul refers to the community as a body and Jesus as the Head, from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God (Col. 2:19)
– “ligaments” translates same Greek word for “bond” — the love bond nurtures growth
• I’ve mentioned attachment theory several times before
◦ it has to do with the crucial importance of forming healthy bonds in infancy and childhood
• what about those of us who did not receive that?
Marion Solomon, “Research shows that a good relationship can alter earlier disturbed attachment patterns.”
◦ we can form bonds now that heal our broken selves
◦ in the process, we also bring health to the community

If what Paul says is not our experience where does it break down?

With me, it breaks down when I do not have a love for others that I can sustain
– I think my heart has something like a “love battery”
• when fully charged, I have enough love for everyone
◦ with partial charge, I have less love for people on the periphery or strangers
◦ a dead battery means I love only me; so I’m guarded, defensive, closed-off
• I need God’s grace, because it does not depend on me or my love battery
◦ everywhere that I am small and weak and powerless is a place for God’s grace to enter (cf. 2 Cor. 12:9)
– grace always does something new, something unexpected
• to “put on” love is first to surrender to God’s love
◦ we let him love us, down to our deepest wounds
Henri Nouwen, “. . . we know that everyone who has allowed God’s love to enter into his or her heart has not only become a better human being, but has also contributed significantly to making a better world. The lives of the saints show us that.”
God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us (Ro. 5:5)

Conclusion: My sixth-grade teacher did me a great disservice in my relationship with my dad

On the last day of my school year, she told him, “I don’t think your son is working to his potential”

I may never live to my potential in anything that I do
But in this one thing, I can live beyond my potential
With the love of God flowing through me,
I can love anyone he brings across my path

Through God’s infinite grace, let’s surrender to love
We want all Christians to put on love,
so God can save the world

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