Shaping Christian Love

Pastor Kyle McIver

Shaping Christian Love
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This morning I want to briefly unpack a metaphor to help us understand Christian love. And when I say love, I mean the “love your neighbor as yourself” kind of love - the love that each of us is called to walk in as we follow Jesus.

Here’s the picture I want you to hold in your mind for the next few minutes. Do you remember seeing those old water wheels? Think of a river with a strong current and a giant wooden wheel continuously spun around by the force of the river. These wheels were a means of capturing energy a long time ago, but I think this picture of the river and the water wheel can help us grasp an essential element of loving our neighbor as ourselves.

I was reading Philippians 1 this past week and was struck again by Paul’s prayer, which opens with: And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment… so what we have here is a growing love for others accompanied by knowledge and discernment. Now, this might feel like a bit of a stretched metaphor but hang with me. In the picture of the water wheel, love is the river - the strong current that turns the wheel. And what do all rivers with a strong current have in common? They’re deep - they run in channels dug deep with solid walls on either side to focus the moving water in a specific direction.

When it comes to Christian love, the two walls of the river are knowledge and discernment. Without these walls the water simply tapers off in every direction - the current ceases and the water wheel no longer turns. Much of the so-called “love” that we hear about today is the same - it’s a river without walls… void of knowledge and discernment it is much more like a stagnant pond than a flowing river!

You see, genuine love is not blanket approval nor blind affirmation. It must be shaped by the knowledge of God and a growing discernment produced by the Spirit’s work in us. Love has a direction, a purpose, a destination, just like the strong current of a river. What is that direction? Let’s pick up where we left off in Philippians 1: …so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.

Church - we need to know that the love Jesus calls us to demands an accompanying knowledge and discernment. If we are trying to love those around us without knowledge and discernment, that love is like a puddle after a summer thunderstorm - there for a moment and gone the next, lacking the strong current required to turn the water wheel and produce something useful.

So Redeemer, your exhortation this morning is simple: pursue knowledge and discernment, so that your love for others can produce good fruit - or as Philippians 1 says it, the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.