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As a servant evangelist, I have never hesitated to stand in the pulpit and encourage people to stand for and vote for what is just and right by the teachings of Jesus. However, I draw the line when it comes to telling people who to vote for.
The Sunday after Jimmy Carter’s inauguration my sermon title was, “The Plains Truth.” Obviously, I was glad about the results of that election. I am glad about the results of this election. I pray that Joe Biden will do his best to bring healing and civility back to our country. But I wonder if this task is achievable with the deep divisions we have created politically, socially, and economically.
I think of the Apostle Paul and the church at Corinth, which was a mess. There were many problems causing division from fractionalizing behind rival leaders to marriage, remarriage and divorce, to chaos in worship because of speaking in tongues, to collection of a large sum of money to be sent to Jerusalem. So, Paul wrote in his letter to the church:
“Love is patient, love is kind, It does not envy, it does not boast, is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered. It keeps no secrets of wrong. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.” I Corinthians 13: 4-8a NIV)
We, the American people, face a tremendous challenge in the years ahead. According to the 2020 election, there are 80 million Americans who believe in living life one way and 74 million who believe in another way. This is a moment that calls us to walk in each other’s shoes — to be sensitive to others with differing views and backgrounds, regardless of educational or economic status. We’re to be kind and considerate towards one another. Love doesn’t mean we have to agree on everything. It means we care for one another. So much so, that we’re willing to listen and try to understand how the other feels.
Richard Niebuhr writes, “Nothing we do, however virtuous, can be accomplished alone; therefore we must be saved by love.” It’s Christ-like love that brings healing and hope. This is the love we need to practice as a nation. God’s love never fails!
The greatest word in the Greek language is Agape. And boy, do we need it now!
I figure it’s the only way out of the mess we are in nationally and internationally. God gave us the gift of love for the situations we are dealing with today. There is not a political or military way out of these turbulent times. Only love can heal the brokenness and bring peace.
Maybe we should start using the Greek word, “agape” when we talk about love. Using the English word “love” has been misused and overused so much we forget the depth of the word. It’s become a word that has lost its true meaning by the way we use it; I love my new car … I love playing golf … I love my favorite food or TV show, etc. Agape will remind us of the love of God and Christ-like love.
I remember the first day in Greek class during my seminary days. Although I had just graduated from college and was feeling full of myself, I felt a little apprehensive about the Greek class. If you’ve heard the expression, “sounds like Greek to me”, then you understand what I was feeling. I think the professor sensed the anxiety among her students, so she started with the Greek word for love, agape. Not only did she tell us the translation of the word, she also took time to dig deep into its meaning and engage us in a discussion.
Agape is Christ-like love, which means a self-giving love seen supremely in God’s love for the world (John 3:16) and as a mark of the Christian life (I Corinthians 13). It is a way of thinking and living life that can change everything. It can bring the end to war and rumors of war. It can tear down walls that divide and break chains that bind. It can stop us from hurting each other. I heard the Nobel Peace Prize winner, Elie Wiesel, speaking at the Claremont Colleges and he told this story:
Two men were talking and drinking together. One of them asked the other, “Do you love me?” and his friend answered, “Yes, I do.” After a while, the man said again, “Do you love me? And his friend answered, “Yes, I love you.” As the evening grew late the man asked one more time, “Do you love me? “ The friend said, “Yes, I do love you.” To which the man responded, “Then why don’t you know what hurts me?”
So, as we live our daily lives, let’s remember that love is agape and agape is love. It allows God’s Will to be done.
Historically, Methodists were known to be warm people with warm hearts, warm fellowship, warm worship, warm music, and warm outreach. John Wesley’s life was changed when his heart felt strangely warmed. Having and conveying that feeling was one of the major factors in growing the church.
The difference between a warm church and a cooler routine type is quite noticeable. Warm churches enjoy fellowship on a deeper level. They understand the bond that brings them together and their mission they share. Even though each member is unique, in Christ their hearts are one. They’re relaxed and glad to see one another and enjoy sharing what’s going on in their lives.
Warm churches are joyful. There’s joy in their liturgy, joy in their singing, joy in their response to preaching and joy in their hearts when they go into the world to be the church in everyday life. Warm churches give generously and serve faithfully. They don’t get lost in survival and self. They preach a welcoming and personal Jesus. They preach his calling to build the Kingdom of God and take the social action necessary. Warm churches do something better than any clubs or organizations. They create a level playing field for all people — an environment where no one is better, smarter, richer, or more important than anyone else. God created us unique and precious in his sight. We worship and work together, shoulder to shoulder as a team with a focus.
I’ve been told if I were a consultant instead of a servant evangelist, I could make a lot more money. Consultants are sellers of their expertise while servant evangelists are messengers of Christ’s Good News. Being a servant-messenger sounds so much warmer – don’t you agree?! But if I were a consultant, the first thing I would tell you is: For God’s Sake, Warm It Up! Warm churches are communities of people who know they are the Church — the Body of Christ. And to be the Body of Christ means we’re warm in our being, warm in our methods, and warm in our touch.
When I am writing a sermon, I think if I could convince people that God’s love never fails I would give them the merriest Christmas of all. Just think of the words from the Bible, “God’s steadfast love endures forever” or in other words, God’s love surrounds us and never fails.
Christmas is a time of giving and this is the greatest gift of all. We should let God’s gift of love be our example of giving to others. When we love others as God loves us, the circle is complete.
We become one with Christ Jesus and experience peace that passes all understanding. When we stumble, love is there to steady us. When we fall, love is there to pick us up. When we sin, love is there to forgive us. When we are broken, love is there to mend us. When we are discouraged, love is there to give us hope.
“God so loved the world that he gave his only son.” Every time I read or hear these words, I get a lump in my throat. God’s love never fails and endures forever. I know this, I believe this, and I want you to feel the same.
We wish you Love, and the Merriest Christmas of all!
Kimball and Pam
I love my wife in a romantic way. I love my children in a fatherly way. I love you in a humbled servant way. God called me to be a servant evangelist and you have sustained me in this Calling. You have prayed for me. You have supported me financially. You have believed in me and shared that belief with others by inviting me to your churches.
Yes, God started it all, reaching out to me and taking me by the hand. But with the other hand, I began to feel your hands and knew that I was not alone. Now for thirty-six years you have walked and served with me giving me confidence, courage and a renewed commitment to keep on keeping on.
I am deeply honored to call you friends and fellow servants of the Lord. I wish for you and your family a Blessed and Merry Christmas. I love you all more than you can imagine.