In this introductory sermon to the “Cross Examination” series, Greg lays out the all-important challenge to live in love in the way that is defined by Christ on the cross. This sermon also details how this mandate to love goes against the grain of our culture which is dominated by divisiveness and judgment.
This sermon introduces our new series entitled “Cross Examination,” which explores the call to live in love, a central teaching that Woodland has emphasized over the last two decades. While some might find this repetitive, we can never actually outgrow or move beyond it. The call to live in love is absolutely central to the life of the Christian, and because it is so important, we need to be saturated in this teaching repeatedly.
This topic is crucial in our current setting, which is characterized by toxic divisiveness. Our culture is devoid of love and jammed-packed with judgments—the very kind of judgments Jesus forbids. There hasn’t been this level of hostility and division among Americans since the Civil War, and tragically, the church has been caught up in these polarizing judgments. Everything depends on our learning to love others, including our worst enemies. To love like this we must become aware that we are deluged with messages and powers to keep us from loving.
In addition to seeing how our culture is operating in a way that is antithetical to love, we also must ascertain what love actually means. Because the English language uses the word “love” in so many ways, it is important that we understand the love that looks like God. The Bible is very specific about this. In 1 John 3:16 we read: “We know love by this, that he laid down his life for us—and we ought to lay down our lives for one another.” Love is ascribing worth to another at cost to oneself. It means that we are agreeing with God that a person has unsurpassable worth, and was worth Jesus dying for, regardless of how they treat others or what they think. This is cruciform love and it is our central mandate.
Paul writes, “Be imitators of God… live in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us…” (Ephesians 5:2) and “Above all, clothe yourselves with love…” (Colossians 3:14). The most important thing that we can do is to love others. Love is the mark of a Christ follower.
The opposite of love is judgement, which is highlighted in the focus scripture quoted above. We cannot love and judge others at the same time. It is not our calling to judge others. We are only called to love them and entrust all judgment to God.
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