Love Like Jesus

Oh, my goodness, it’s already February!…a month where “love is in the air” and celebrated in a number of different ways.

At our recent February First Friday event, I chose to teach and provide the opportunity for attendees to engage in small-group table discussions on the topic.  Several who were in attendance wrote on their Connection Cards asking if the teaching was recorded and/or if it would be possible to get a recording of the message.

Well, fortunately, or unfortunately, we haven’t yet gotten to the place where we’re recording what takes place at First Friday.

In the spirit of follow-up, rather than just sending it to those who asked for it, I decided to publish it for others as well.

I titled my message, Love Like Jesus.

I recognize right out of the gate this might sound like kind of a setup…

And, it is, admittedly and purposefully, a bit of a tongue-in-cheek title in that, on the one hand, we know that this side of heaven, we’ll never fully love as Jesus does.

And yet (it’s) fitting in that He provides such a great example and sets such a great standard for us to aim for in our lives.

Though, in this world,  we may never truly be able to love like Jesus, we should always be working toward that end.

Fortunately, as is so often the case, we have so many excellent stories in the Bible to choose from about Jesus loving people well to encourage and help us to feel not so alone in our journeys.

Man, when I think back to some of the challenging and painful situations in my life and the way Jesus was there to faithfully, lovingly, and sometimes correctively walk me through them, I’m again reminded and inspired by the Old Testament story of Joseph.

It was not until I originally started making notes for this message, however, that I saw it through the lens of a love story.

Sometimes in our lives, it’s not just what happens but how we respond and then what happens, Amen?

So, in this post, I’d like for us to take a look at the life and some of the experiences of this man in the Bible named Joseph.

Now, there are a number of guys with that same name in the Bible. In fact, there are as many as 14 men named Joseph (or a derivative thereof) who are mentioned in the Bible.

But one of the most prominent in the overall story of the Bible, and the Joseph we’re talking about here, is from the Old Testament.

He had a lot of things we might consider less than desirable happen to him and yet, because of his relationship with and love for God, he was able to respond well and with love to others, including those who sought to harm him.

Joseph was a descendant of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, from whom God had promised to build a nation. This man, Joseph was the eleventh of Jacob’s 12 sons.

And Joseph was Jacob’s first son through his favorite wife, Rachel. (I know…that’s a whole ‘nother can of worms.) But since he was the first-born son by her, Joseph was, therefore, favored by his father.  If you’ve heard of his story, you might recall that one of the ways Joe’s father favored him was by making an ornate robe for him.

Joseph knew it was special, that it made HIM feel special.  It set him apart from the others, so he tended to wear it all the time.

Jacob’s family was blessed with a pretty fair amount of land and with it, a fair amount of livestock and Joseph and his brothers were responsible for tending the family’s flocks and binding sheaves of grain out in the fields. It was hard and dirty work – hardly the place for a fancy garment like that.

But the robe symbolized a position of honor and esteem.

And Joe’s wearing these fancy threads out to the fields likely excused him from many, if not most of the dirty jobs.

In fact, on one occasion Joe, in addition to ducking the dirty work, actually went so far as to bring his father Jacob back a bad report about his brothers.

His half-brothers resented it – big time – as we’ll learn more about in a minute.

I should pause here and let you know, if maybe you don’t, that the story of Joseph can be found at the end of Genesis; the first book in the Bible.

The story is meant to be so meaningful for us, that 13 of the 50 chapters of Genesis are dedicated to telling it.  If you’re not familiar or would like to gain greater context, it can be found in Genesis, Chapters 37-50.

And I think you’ll find, as you page through it, it’s a pretty crazy tale.

I mean, it plays out as well as any dramatic literature, suspenseful reality TV or action-packed movie you’ll find, with a ton of twists and turns.

With some dramatic license, it was even made into a Broadway musical and Hollywood film.

The scripture verse we’ll begin with tonight is taken from near the end of Joseph’s story.

In Genesis, Chapter 50, verse 20, after all that had happened to Joseph, he was blessed with the presence of mind and forgiveness of heart to say to his brothers, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.”

Sometimes in life, we’re forced to learn that while our dreams don’t have to die, they may not play out the way we imagine; they may need to be amended.

Jacob’s and Joseph’s plans for his life were significantly upended by the plans and actions of his jealous and spiteful half-brothers.

On two occasions, Joseph told them about dreams he’d dreamt – insinuating that one day he might reign and rule over them and they resented him all the more for it.

Whether acting out of some form of teenage pride or as an actual prophet of God, we’re not told at this point in the story, but, for his brothers, it was the last straw.

They first plotted to throw him into a cistern and leave him for dead but ultimately sold him into slavery, but then told their father that he was devoured by a ferocious animal.

But even the brother’s evil work could not derail God’s love and ultimate plan for His chosen family and people.

Several times throughout the story of Joseph including in Chapter 39, verse 2, it says, “The Lord was with Joseph so that he prospered…”.

This means that God loved Joseph, He had a meaningful relationship with Joseph, and had a specific plan and purpose for his life.

And this brings me to my first key point in this message:

For us to begin to be able to learn to love like Jesus, we first need to recognize that like Joseph,


Pause and think about that for a minute, do you recognize that God genuinely loves you and desires to be in relationship with you?

Joseph did. And it made all of the difference in his life.

And Joseph had a knack that we can all learn to adopt as well; the notion of learning to bloom (and love) wherever he was “planted.”

“The Lord was with Joseph…” – another verse includes that He “was kind to Joseph,” which again, simply means that He had a relationship with him – He loved Joseph and therefore, Joseph, in return loved and carried the Lord in his heart.

In addition to this meaning that Joseph was chosen by the Lord to be a part of His plan, I believe this means that Joseph would listen for and follow the Lord’s guidance by doing what the Lord said to do in his life.

Over time, Joseph came to understand and was able to explain that he wasn’t just left for dead or sold into slavery by his brothers, but that God had sent him to Egypt so that he could preserve his family’s lives, not seek judgment or vengeance against his brothers.

Whatever Joseph did, he first looked to God and sought to follow His ways.  So, God looked favorably on him and he prospered in all that he did.

God didn’t just bless Joseph.  He recognized Joseph’s faithfulness and used him to help accomplish the larger plan that He had for His Chosen People.

I believe that because the Lord was with Joseph and Joseph allowed Him to be the Lord of his life, this was what allowed Joseph to ultimately prosper, even when people or the odds were stacked against him.

Now I don’t mean this as any sort of prosperity gospel, because we know that in this life, even when we love the Lord, bad things sometimes happen, don’t they?

In our fallen (sinful) state, we can sometimes act horribly toward others and others can act horribly toward us, right?

And yet God’s love and ultimately His plan, prevails.

In fact, God frequently overrules people’s evil intentions and overcomes crazy odds to accomplish His own purposes, doesn’t He?

Our Sovereign Lord works EVERYTHING out to its PROPER END.

When we’re hurt by the actions (or non-action) of others, as believers we can be assured that God still loves us.

He feels our pain and can use what is meant for evil, instead, for good.

Other times, we need to remain aware and respectful of the fact that when God makes a promise, we can be assured that no actions on the part of mere mortals can ultimately spoil His almighty plan.

But you likely know, as I have had to learn, this requires that we place our complete trust in Him.

In whatever may happen to us in this world, we can trust in God’s love for those who believe in Him and that He’s ultimately got the victory.

If not in this world, then in the world to come; in the life everlasting.

Okay. So, the Lord was with Joseph and Joseph loved the Lord but how can we begin to love like Jesus?

What does Jesus’ love look like in our culture and in our lives today?

When you think of love in today’s world, what kind of things come to mind?

In our Life Group studies in recent weeks, one of the questions even asked us to list examples of how we would define love in action.

Responses came back with things like thoughtful gifts, kind words, being loyal, fulfilling our commitments, making time for people we care about, extending warmth and affection – kind of sounds like things we’ve learned from Gary Chapman about the Love Languages, huh?

And those are great and genuinely important.

Now, let’s take a closer look at how the Bible defines love for us.

In perhaps one of the most commonly referenced pieces of scripture on the subject of love, from the Apostle Paul’s first letter to believers in Corinth who he felt needed to be reminded, in what is now known as the 13th chapter of  1st Corinthians and beginning with verse 4, Paul defines love in this way:

He writes this,

[4] Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. [5] It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. [6] Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. [7] It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. [8] Love never fails.

Some of you have likely engaged in the exercise of checking how loving you are by inserting your own name in the place of the word “love” in these passages and seeing how you measure up in each of these areas as a means through which to learn where some additional work may need to be done.

It’s a decent and fairly convicting exercise.

And as we consider and begin to learn what Jesus may have meant when, as reported in the Gospel of John, Jesus said,

34“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” (John 13:34-35 NIV)

Hmmmmm…”As I have loved you”…just how did Jesus love?  Is it possible that in his letter to the Corinthians, Paul was defining love by the examples Jesus lived out?

Let’s check that by doing the exercise with our inserting Jesus’ name in front of each attribute of love:

  • Jesus is patient, (there certainly may be some stories in the Bible where this seems to be tested but man, he certainly has been patient with me.).
  • Jesus is kind.
  • Jesus does not envy,
  • Jesus does not boast
  • Jesus is not proud
  • Jesus does not dishonor others
  • Jesus is not self-seeking
  • Jesus is not easily angered
  • Jesus keeps no record of wrongs
  • Jesus does not delight in evil
  • Jesus rejoices with the truth
  • Jesus always protects
  • Jesus always trusts
  • Jesus always hopes
  • Jesus always perseveres
  • Jesus never fails.

Whoa, I’d have to say Jesus scores way better than I do on this “love test.”

In fact, by my tally, Jesus scored perfectly.

Jesus’ love is perfect.

And so, church, it is why I’m saying that we need to continuously practice loving like Jesus.

Because, what do we say?  Practice makes…(that’s right) better.

If we’re going to be able to learn to LOVE LIKE JESUS, we are going to need to keep PRACTICING.

And really…is there any better place to begin than with one another?  …here in our singles’ community that we’re seeking to build with one another?

Sometimes, I get the question, why is it that at First Friday, our Saturday4Singles events and even our Single Adult Ministries Life Groups, the emphasis is so heavy on building community instead of helping singles to find a date, or even a mate?

And part of my response is, “How are we going to be able to love in the world – perhaps even in a dating relationship or a marriage, if we aren’t able to love well within our church community?

So, one of the exercises I ask you to think about is ways you believe we, as Jesus followers, can love those around us and especially within our Singles’ Community, better.

What might it look like to love others more like Jesus does at First Friday, or our Saturday4Singles events, in our outdoor ministry and in our Life Groups?

It might include things like making others, especially those who are new to our community, feel welcome and comfortable.

It might include things like:

  • being willing to actively listen to others more than overwhelmingly share.
  • Asking good questions to get to know other people’s stories before forming any erroneous first impressions, jumping to any unfair conclusions or rushing to any kind of inappropriate judgment.
  • Being willing to be vulnerable and sharing your story with appropriate levels of transparency.
  • Making space in your plans, at your table or meeting place and being inclusive.
  • Going out of your way (or comfort zone) to be kind and engaging with phrases like, “Hi, how can I help…?”
  • Even a smile or friendly “hello” can make such a difference.

Of course, this kind of interaction is a two-way street, but it warms my heart as your pastor when I hear from, or read someone having written on their connection card things like, “Thank you for providing this ministry… It’s such a great opportunity to meet and do life with other people.”  Or, “I was pleasantly surprised at how, when I engaged even a little, people were so friendly, welcoming and engaging back.”

So many of you share similar stories, backgrounds, and experiences in this single stage of life.

What might it look like to be and act in a more loving way with one another?

You know, one of the phrases we seem to be fond of using here at North Coast in one form or another is:

“You were MADE by God on purpose, for a PURPOSE.”

Some have even gone so far as to say, “for a Single Purpose.”

Imagine with me, that the Single Purpose for which we were made, is love.

That we were made, specifically and intentionally for the purpose of learning to love God and to love others.

Because the Lord was with Joseph; because He first loved Joseph, Joseph was therefore empowered to love Him back; to do extraordinary things in spite of his circumstances and to love his brothers and others just as Jesus called and equipped him to.

Oh, he may not have started out that way and neither, certainly, did they.

God’s love has a way of CHANGING and TRANSFORMING us.

They were able to change and become more loving through humility and difficult circumstances.

I believe God desires for each of us to go through change and transformation as well.

And that sometimes He will walk us through hardship, difficulty and even humility to get us to a place of being able to love more deeply.

We love because He (God) first loved us. 1 John 4:19.

One writer puts it this way, “It is the effectual love of God that first changes our hearts in order to make us capable of love, and it is His example of love that reminds us again and again of our need to love other people.”

When we focus fully on God’s love for us, it makes it easier and easier for us to love others.

While no one on earth will ever truly love us like Jesus, when we follow His example; His lead, it helps us to more easily follow His command to love one another. Jesus is our example.

If we look only to OTHER PEOPLE for love, we will frequently be DEEPLY DISAPPOINTED.

Whether we stay single or ever become married, when we begin with the love of Jesus and place our trust in Him, we can be assured of victory.

In a world full of people who couldn’t care less, Jesus calls us to be a people who care (and love) more.

God’s ULTIMATE PLANS for our lives are BIGGER than the problems that creep into our lives.

Like so many of the characters in the Bible, Jesus’ love for us supersedes even the greatest challenges we’ll face.

It most certainly may not seem like it as we’re going through it, but if we remain faithful, obedient and keep trusting in His love for us, as we look back on those troubling times, we’ll see that He was right there, walking with us through it.

At times as Joseph faced each problem that he did, I’m sure there were times when he wondered.

But just as the Lord was with Joseph, Jesus can be with you, too.  His Holy Spirit can begin to reside within you and equip you to be able to love the way Jesus loved when you acknowledge Him as Savior and the Lord of your life.

When you believe and genuinely trust that Jesus was crucified, he died and paid the price for your sin (and for mine).  …that He overcame death through His resurrection and offers eternal life to all who believe in Him and live according to his purpose and command, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’[; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Luke 10: 27; Deut. 6:5)

Joseph’s story can be an example and inspiration to us in that he overcame so much and yet cultivated love, grace, mercy and ultimately forgiveness in his heart for those who wronged him.

GRACE is getting something we don’t deserve; maybe kindness, forgiveness or another loving act in the midst of our being horrible.  Sometimes we’ll hear it called, “unmerited favor.”

MERCY has been defined as NOT getting what we do deserve (as in not getting mowed down by your half-brother for having treated him horribly, OR, death and eternal separation from God as a result of our sinfulness.)

God extends grace and mercy to us through the provision of His Son, Jesus.

And God desires that we exercise this same grace and mercy toward others – above any/all other sacrifices, as He calls us to love one another.

I’ll close with this; think about some of the less-than-ideal circumstances taking place in your life right now.

What is Jesus’ love – and your respect for and trust in His ultimate plan calling you to do?

What does love require?  What is the most loving thing you can do in the midst of your current circumstances?

Like Joseph, our love, obedience and faithfulness may just result in God’s “working to save the lives of many others.”

How can you remain loving obedient and trustworthy as Joseph was to the belief and action; that, after all, God’s got the victory?

It’s not easy…but just another reason I believe he’s placed us to be here for one another.  …to learn to genuinely love one another.  …like Jesus.

Right here with you,