I had the opportunity to attend a family function the other day. At this event, there were two families. They were seated on two separate tables, and the way they interacted was as different as chalk and cheese. One was united, cohesive, and looked like they all appreciated the reunion; while the other was divisive, cliquish, constantly looking at their watches wondering when would be a good time to make a polite exit.

Now, if you think that this is a sermon on why the Christian family is better than the non-Christian family, then you are mistaken. All who were present at the event were pre-believers.

Instead, the question I have for us all today is this; how is it that some families are just so united, while some are not?

Clearly money, or in another words, the family’s state of financial affairs, has got little to do with family unity. These two families were of similar situation. And besides, we have seen enough of wealthy families publicly squabbling over the family fortune to know that money can sometimes be the root of all problems.

No, to live in unity and harmony with those God has put around you, has got little, if not nothing, to do with money. Instead, Paul proposes that the secret to harmonious living is this;

“And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.” Colossians 3:14 [NIV]

Love. Love is that which binds all together in perfect unity. Or in another words,

“But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection.” Colossians 3:14 [NKJV]

Or as Phillips puts it,

“…for love is the golden chain of all the virtues.” Colossians 3:14 [PHILLIPS]

But seriously, what is this ‘love’ and how can it help bind everything together so perfectly? And more importantly, how are we able to love and how do we know that we love?

For this, we need to simplify the human condition, consider the root cause of all conflict and ask ourselves, why is there disharmony? Why do people fight?

The earliest record of discord in the family came from Cain and Abel.

“Time passed. Cain brought an offering to God from the produce of his farm. Abel also brought an offering, but from the firstborn animals of his herd, choice cuts of meat. God liked Abel and his offering, but Cain and his offering didn’t get his approval. Cain lost his temper and went into a sulk.” Genesis 4:3-5 [MSG]

Before we deal with the obvious issue of jealousy, we need to put in context, why our Father was displeased with Cain’s offering.

When Cain and Abel’s parents sinned, their eyes were opened and they realised that they were naked. So to literally cover the consequence of their sin,

“…for Adam and his wife the Lord God made tunics of skin, and clothed them.” Genesis 3:21

Now, I don’t for a moment imagine that our Father gave them sexy leather outfits. But even if he did, it wouldn’t take the essence away from this example; because by doing so, our Father showed, literally, that for sin to be covered, a sacrifice needed to be made, a life had to be given up and blood had to be shed. So when Cain went with what was essentially vegetables as his own sin offering, it was little wonder then that God wasn’t too impressed.

So then, back to the jealousy.

It is no accident that the first family feud was sparked off by jealousy, because isn’t that the root cause of most, if not all, family fights? He’s got more sweets, she’s got ice cream, he’s got better toys…

So if jealousy is the root of disharmony and disunity in the family, then how does love overcome that?

The first thing that we need to come to terms with is that love is not natural to us. That is why Paul said,

“Beyond all these things put on and wrap yourselves in [unselfish] love, which is the perfect bond of unity [for everything is bound together in agreement when each one seeks the best for others].” Colossians 3:14 [AMP]

Love is something outside of our nature, something that we need to wear, put on, wrap ourselves in. He doesn’t say develop, nurture or let grow; he says ‘put on’. Now that’s a revelation in itself, isn’t it? We think that love is something that is spawn of human effort. We should ‘love’ each other more; as if to say that we can develop love within our being to the point when it becomes is enough.

But the fact is, love is not in our nature. So how do we get hold of love so that we can put it on?

“So, as God’s own chosen people, who are holy [set apart, sanctified for His purpose] and well-beloved [by God Himself], put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience [which has the power to endure whatever injustice or unpleasantness comes, with good temper]; bearing graciously with one another, and willingly forgiving each other if one has a cause for complaint against another; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so should you forgive.” Colossians 3:12-13 [AMP]

First and foremost, we need to realise that love is a gift from our Father; and we receive this ability to love when we realise that we are first loved by our Father. In fact, not only are we loved, we are ‘well-loved’ because in loving us, our Father sanctified us, cleared us of all our sins by pinning them onto Jesus when He hung on the cross. And because we have been made blameless because of Christ, we have become our Father’s own, chosen for His purpose. Now, I’d call that ‘well-loved’, wouldn’t you?

So how does knowing that help us love others?

Well, for that, we need to consider the root of jealousy. Why do we get jealous? Why do we get upset that others have and we don’t? The reason is simple. Because we have become accustomed to our world of finite resources and infinite wants.

Think about it, in our world, if our brother gets a toy, that means that daddy has less money to buy toys for us. And if our sister gets an ice-cream, that means daddy has less money to buy ice-cream for us. I don’t care how rich you are, your resources are finite. But what if our parents had infinite resources?

“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.” Matthew 7:7-8

I love this promise that Jesus gives, because I’m selfish and I like to take Him literally. Ask, He says, and it will be given; no conditions, because everyone who asks, yes everyone, not some, not a chosen few, but everyone who asks, receives.

And if you think that Jesus is being a little too good to be true here, check out His reason for giving.

“Or what man is there among you who, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!” Matthew 7:9-11

If I call you my child, if I consider you as mine, says the Lord, how can I possibly allow myself to lose out to even the best of you? And think about it, He’s God, and we’re human. And even if we reduce Him to our level - simple and selfish - doesn’t it stand to reason that He can, want to and therefore will outdo us?

Now don’t get me wrong. If you’re a married and you asked for an affair with that hot someone you saw walking along the street, He’s not going to give it to you. Or if you saw someone drive past in a flashy car and you asked our Father for one, He’s not going to take that person’s car and give it to you. No beloved, remember,

“You call out to God for help and he helps—he’s a good Father that way. But don’t forget, he’s also a responsible Father, and won’t let you get by with sloppy living.” 1 Peter 1:17 [MSG]

But if what you have asked for is good for you, if it is what He has purposed for you to receive, you can bet your bottom dollar that He will give it to you even if you didn’t realise that you needed it.

Now then, that you know that you have a Father who loves you that much, is willing to give you that much, and has limitless resources; is there a need to get jealous of your brother or sister? If you ever see your brother or sister have something that you don’t, wouldn’t you just ask our Father for it?

So once there’s no jealousy, can you selflessly love another? You can, can’t you? Because you know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that there’s so much more where that came from.

And that’s the point. This world often makes us forget that we are children of The Most High. It makes us forget just what a loving Father we have. And it makes us forget that our Father who loves us and only ever wants to give us everything that is good for us, has at His disposal, a limitless bounty of resources.

But when we remember that, when we constantly bask in the glory of His love, when we surround ourselves with scripture, when we open our eyes to the little miracles that fill our lives everyday instead of attributing them to ‘luck’, we will be filled with a peace that comes from knowing that come what may, we are well taken care of; and so, we can love, unreservedly and selflessly because we already know that we are loved.

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