Command to love

November 12, 2023
 Message: Pastor Ichiro Okiebisu

37 Jesus replied: "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.'
38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.’(NIV)

(I) Introduction
 Today's verse is a scene in which Jesus is asked what is the most important commandment.
In Japanese, the word is "important," but in the original language, the superlative "most important" is used. In English, it is the greatest commandment.
 Three kinds of love in the world

  The three types of love in the world are romantic love, parent-child love, and absolute love. Romantic love is instinctive. Parent-child love is close to absolute love, but it may distort domestic violence.

 The love the Bible speaks of is a relationship rather than an emotion. To love is to have and maintain a relationship of love. To do this, three things are important. Forgiveness, patience, and expectation.

Victor Hugo, author of Les Misérables, had this to say about happiness: "The greatest happiness in life is the happiness we have.
The greatest happiness in life is when we are loved just as we are. Or rather, to have the certainty that we are loved despite who we are." He says.
 In other words, to be loved is to be forgiven, and to love is to forgive.
 Forgiveness means patience, because people make the same mistakes over and over again. It is said, "The Buddha's face is seen three times. If we repeat the same mistake more than three times, the reality is that we can no longer receive the same forgiveness.
 However, God's love is infinite forgiveness. He also teaches us to do so.

Matthew 18:22 Jesus answered, "I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.(NIV)

 Second, forgiveness and patience are not equal to love.
 Love always expects. It is patience while expecting the other person to change.
 1Corinthians 13:7
It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.(NIV)

Now, to better understand today's Scripture passage, let's look at how love is maintained in a love triangle.

I. Love is a right triangle
What this verse means is the interaction of the three parties. It is that it flows right. First, it is God and me. This is God loves me and I respond to His love. Then there is me and my neighbor. God commands us to love our neighbors. In many cases, if you love your neighbor, your neighbor will respond to your love. And then there is God and neighbor. God loves our neighbors as well. So tell your neighbor about it. Then the neighbor will be able to experience love that is irreplaceable. It is important to be aware that this triangle exists everywhere. The biblical command says that this triangle is always properly connected with love and response to love.

Let me explain this triangle of love a little, first, from God to me.

Difference between God's forgiveness and permission
 First, to clear up a misunderstanding, forgiveness and permission are different.
Forgiveness: Forgiveness is based on acknowledging that you are a sinner. This includes failure and weakness.
Permission is permission to do. Permission is usually given out of choice and rarely with good results. The gospel is not permission, but forgiveness.
 Because of our sin nature, when we receive permission, we are more inclined to do what we want to do. Life is full of temptations that can lead to addiction, laziness, hurting others, and many other problems.
 Good parents do not allow their children to do as they please. That is not love, but rather abuse. If you think about the child's life, it is love that allows him or her to control himself or herself.
 Forgiveness takes place in a loving relationship. Forgiveness leads to a change of direction. It helps us to turn away from evil.
 God is the one who loves us and forgives us forever.

 And with forgiveness comes expectation.

 God expects it from us. God's forgiveness of sin is not permission to sin. He expects us to stop sinning. He expects us to one day triumph over our sins and live holy lives. There is no parent who does not expect this of their children. Love expects to the end. This expectation can be called hope.

Now, this is the love of God. Next, the Bible tells us to love ourselves. To love oneself indicates that there are two selves within oneself.

II. I love myself and neigbor
Two selves.
 Unlike animals, we have a subjective self and an objective self within us. The subjective self is instinctive and self-centered. It tries to live the way it wants to. The objective self watches calmly and warns. These two are in conflict. If you are a small child, you are the angel and the devil in your heart. This can be called, in biblical terms, the sin nature and conscience.
 To love self is for the objective self to forgive this subjective self.
 Therefore, reconciliation with oneself is the first step. Especially for those who are perfectionistic, reconciliation with oneself is necessary. But it is about forgiving yourself.

 Forgiveness for our own failures.
However, we blame ourselves. Blaming ourselves is hard. There is no way out. We cannot sleep peacefully at night thinking about it. Some people's lives are marked by regret and remorse.

 My problem is that I am thoughtless. I should have done my research first and understood what I was doing, but instead I try to do it without thinking much about it. Therefore, I fail. When you fail, are you forgiving yourself? Do you blame yourself or feel regret forever?
 At some point in my life, I began to see myself as the Lord loves me. In other words, the Lord loves me when I fail. And with failure comes damage. Because of that damage, we fear after failure. However, we can trust that the Lord will compensate us for the damage. Of course, there is a difference between intentionally failing and asking the Lord for help, but the Lord is the One who owns everything, so He helps us.
 Forgiving ourselves means to believe and accept that the Lord has forgiven us.
 And to forgive ourselves, then, is to be patient with ourselves, to expect it of ourselves.

 Applying this to our neighbors, they too have various failures and weaknesses, and live according to their sin nature. But we are to forgive them. The triangle mentioned earlier is a triangle of mutual forgiveness. Just as you are weak, your neighbor is weak. Just as you forgive and accept yourself, you also forgive and do not accept that person.

III. Do not become a narcissist

 But forgiving and accepting yourself is not the same as becoming a narcissist.
 Narcissism is what is psychologically known as narcissistic personality disorder. It is the constant glorification of oneself, the self-centeredness of everything, and the use of others for one's own benefit. This is not love, but indulgence, giving oneself permission to do whatever one wants with Luko. Biblically speaking, it is slavery to sin.
 Love is not the direction of selfishness and self-centeredness; rather, it is the opposite. To love is also to sacrifice.

IV. How to put into action
 Now, as for patience, the unbreakable friendship on earth is that of husband and wife. A husband and wife are patient with each other. It is impossible to live with an imperfect, weak partner to the end without forgiveness and acceptance. Children of divorced families divorce because they do not see this patience. They cannot persevere and give up along the way.

The hardest thing to do is to hope. Patience alone will not change the other person at all, only self-sacrifice and no reward. There are certainly times when that is the case. But people are affected by evil, but they are also affected by good. Anger and hatred are infectious, but so is love.

 When we grow weary of patience to love, remember that the Lord God loved the sinner to the end.
Jeremiah33:3 the LORD appeared to him from far away. I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you. (ESV)

God's love is perfect and never changes. Once God decides to love, He loves forever.
We are enemies to God. We destroy God's world, ignore Him, and do things He hates every day. But God has decided to love us. So he decided to send Jesus to earth and he is doing it. Also, the Holy Spirit dwells within to transform our hearts.
 The Lord Jesus calls us friends. So He Himself said

John 15:13 Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. (NIV)

No earthly love can even compare to God's love for us. Who could take up the cross for you? And how can a parent crucify his or her own child for the sake of another?

 We can love when we are loved. God's love is the driving force for us to love and the energy that keeps us loving.

 When we are tired of loving, it is time to return to the love of Jesus.
 Tora-san's home will always be with the Tora-ya family in Shibamata. God is the home where He comforts our souls. No matter where we are, whether in Canada or anywhere else, the comfort of our souls is in the bosom of the Lord God.

 Finally, who is our neighbor?
 We need not begin our love of neighbor from afar. We need not strive to love Hamas or Russia. We can begin with our closest neighbors.
 That is your spouse, your parents, your children, your co-workers, your friends, your brothers and sisters in the church. If we can love them, we can love our neighbors far away. But often it is those closest to us who have broken our hearts. And so we continue to pray and strive for forgiveness, patience, and expectancy.

 The Lord told the story of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10. The conclusion of this story is, "Go and do likewise. To this Samaritan, the Jews are his enemies. Normally, we would say, "Suck it up.” But the Samaritan took care of him and even paid him the necessary lodging. Love begins with God and extends to ourselves, our neighbors near and far.

 Let us pray.
 Father, we are loved and created to love. I have heard that when a baby is born, the first thing it looks for is not milk, but the love of its mother. It is the same when we grow up. Everyone is looking for love. But man's love has been turned into self-love by sin, and love for his neighbor has been turned into likes and dislikes. Jesus came and set an example of loving God and loving one's neighbor. Jesus loved his disciples to the end, transforming them into people of love.
 Please help us to love not as self-centered love, but as love that serves and sacrifices.
 May thousands of years of hostility between Jews and Arabs come to an end. May hundreds of years of prejudice and hatred because of the color of their skin end by your power. May decades of warfare between peoples living in the same country come to an end by your love.