Christmas Hope Creates Radical Love - Radical

Christmas Hope Creates Radical Love

You may have heard someone described as being “so heavenly minded that they’re no earthly good.” However, this is a far cry from the way the Bible describes the transforming effect of the gospel. In this message from 1 Peter 3:8–12, David Platt points out the ways that God’s people ought to be distinct from the world based on God’s work in and through us. Our eternal hope radically changes the way we love and relate to one another.

If you have a Bible—and I hope you do—let me invite you to open up to 1 Peter 3. I love God’s Word and how it speaks so clearly and powerfully to where we are in our lives. It was written two thousand years ago and in some cases three thousand, years ago.

Before we dive into it though, I want to mention a letter I wrote to our church this past week. Just writing it was overwhelming. Obviously, none of us knew what this year would hold, but thank you for the way you have stepped up and given and worked. I shared in that letter that over the past eight months, you have contributed to and distributed over 8.5 million pounds of food. Just doing simple math, that’s a million pounds of food a month for people in need all across our city Every single box of food has contained the gospel message, leading to hundreds of people professing faith in Jesus. I praise God for you, church family. Amidst a culture where there is so much division and dissension with people debating over masks and mandates, people are experiencing all kinds of frustration over when or how or whether to gather. In the middle of it all, you have chosen to lock arms and go to the front line of families in need, having given thousands of hours and millions of dollars to care for people and spread the gospel during a pandemic. I commend you!

At the same time, brothers and sisters, I want to challenge us to keep doing it for anyone who is financially able. Obviously not everyone is able right now, but for those who are, let’s think over the next few weeks how we might give over and above our regular giving here at the end of 2020 so we can go into 2021 stronger than ever, more committed than ever to spreading the gospel to the front lines of our city and around the world.

Let me share a letter we received last week: “On behalf of the City of Alexandrea’s Department of Community and Human Services Youth Development Team, I want to express my sincere gratitude to McLean Bible Church for your sponsorship of our food distribution program. Your generosity has helped nourish countless families who faced food insecurity, unemployment, eviction, stress, anxiety, fear of Covid and other concerns daily. You’re very organized, easy to work with, accommodating and extremely kind to everyone you interact with. We have a long history of partnering with local organizations to provide food to families and by far, McLean Bible Church has been one of the best partners to work with.” That’s the grace of God in you, McLean Bible Church family!

They go on to say, “Our work in helping kids and families can’t be done if those kids are hungry, if those parents can’t feed their children. Your contribution to our community allows our kids to have their basic needs met so we can do our job better. For this reason, we consider you part of our team and are pleased to work along you to serve Alexandrea’s most vulnerable residents.”

That’s what I mean by commend and challenge. I commend you church for what you’ve done this year and I challenge us, church, to give over and above during December so we can do even more next year.

That leads right into God’s Word today because God had designed us as His church to be a picture of His love to the world. When a world is brought to a halt by a pandemic, disease and death, God has designed His church to be a display of His love. When a world is full of tension, division and dissension, God has designed His church to live and love in a way that is radically different from the world, precisely because we are residents of another world. That reminds us of what we’ve seen in 1 Peter. Remember our team name? We’re “Elect Exiles” in this world with living hope in the world to come. I have this rope out here again that I used early on in this series. If you remember, we talked about our lives being represented by this little blue area on this long rope. As we look back into eternity past, we imagined this rope going forever backwards. We talked about being people who realize God loved us even before the world even began. He called our names. Then we imagined this rope going in the other direction for all eternity and never stopping. We realized we’re going to a place at the end of our lives here where there is no more sorrow, suffering, death, but rather a place of eternal life with God and everyone who has put their trust in Jesus. We recognized that where we are on this timeline changes everything about how we live right here and now.

Specifically, I want to show you today that the living hope of another world produces a radical love for people in this world. I’m about to show you that radical is the right word. I want to show you how the living hope of Jesus in us, realizing where we are and where we’re going, makes us a radically different kind of people right here. We are to be the kind of people who, in the middle of a pandemic, don’t run from need but run to need; the kind of people when a culture is filled with anger, bitterness, division, dissension, hostility, insult, canceling, accusing each other, we are to be radically different. It’s almost like an alternate society marked by these traits straight from God’s Word.

Let’s look at 1 Peter 3:8: “Finally, all of you…” As we’ve seen over the past few weeks from Mike’s teaching, this includes servants, masters, wives, husbands and citizens of any country. So no matter who you are, where you are or what position you’re in, as a Christian you are an exile in this world. All of you “…have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind.” So let’s stop after this one verse for now and make a list. What kind of people does the living hope of Jesus produce in this world right here? It starts with unity of mind. Let’s call this a radical unity around God’s Word. What does that mean? Does that mean we’re all clones of one another, thinking exactly the same? Well, no. And yes. No, not about everything; there are plenty of things we disagree on. This is the kind of unity we have in the church, the deepest kind of unity possible. Let me show it to you. We’ve already seen this in 1 Peter 1:22-23 where Peter was talking about the kind of love we experience in the church. He said, “Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart, since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God…” So what creates this loving unity in the church? The life we find in the Word of God.

Watch this in verses 24-25: “…for ‘All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls, but the word of the Lord remains forever.’” Don’t miss this; it’s what we’ve said over and over again during these recent months in our city and country, that what unites us is not politics, position or candidates. Why not? Because when we look at this rope, we realize political parties, positions and candidates don’t last forever. What does? God’s Word. Political parties and candidates do what? They wither and fall. So do countries for that matter. “But the Word of the Lord remains forever.” Politics is just one of a million examples of things we could unite around, but this is why we will always come back, over and over and over again, to the fact that we are McLean Bible Church for a reason. Because we love this Word and know that everything in this world will fade away in the days to come, but this Word lasts forever.

So we have unity and we love this kind of unity. We realize this kind of unity is radically different than any other kind of unity. You see, anywhere in our city, country or world, how else do you explain thousands of people in this church from over a hundred different countries with all kinds of different thoughts, perspectives and opinions experiencing deep, abiding and eternal unity. That’s only possible in a community that revolves around a Word that lasts forever. A radical unity around the Word of the Lord.

Now don’t get the wrong idea that what Peter is talking about here is some cold, intellectual consent to a set of beliefs in a book. Did you hear what verses 22-23 were saying? “Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart, since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God…” This Book, the Word of God, produces new life marked by radical love.

This now leads us back to 1 Peter 3:8. The next thing after unity of mind around God’s Word is what? Let’s keep our list going here: “…sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind.” So now we have sympathy with each other in this world. Sympathy is such a great word. It means to feel with, particularly when it comes to sharing hurt or pain with other people. What a great word for us at the end this year when there has been and continues to be so much hurt and pain on so many levels. God has designed us, as the church, to be a place where people step into each other’s shoes in the middle of hurt and pain. We feel what others feel—their hurts, pains, emotions—as if they are our own.

Here’s the picture I have in my mind. I remember when my older brother, Steve, was getting married. He’s my hero; you might remember me telling you he was the heavy-weight state wrestling champion—he’s a big dude. So get the picture. He’s getting married, I’m officiating the wedding so I’m standing up front next to him. Next to us is our father who is Steve’s best man. Together we are facing out, watching his beautiful bride come down the aisle. When she gets to the front, Steve takes her hand and turns her around toward me and I look in his face. My big brother is bawling like a baby. My big, tough brother has totally lost it. Then I look at my dad and he’s crying like a little kid. I was totally fine until I saw them, then all of a sudden I lost it. What just happened?

I’m the one with a job to do here, but I was bumbling through my words, thinking, “Getting it together, guys.” So I had been totally fine, enjoying the moment even, no problem at all until my brother and dad turn around and all of a sudden I’m crying too. Why? Because they were crying. It was automatic. I looked at these two men I love and I felt exactly what they were feeling. That’s what we are designed by God to do as His people. This to not automatic in a fallen, messed up world filled with all kinds of hurt and pain. Just look around us here.

I read an article last night about a couple who was on vacation and playing miniature golf with their four and six-year-old kids. All of a sudden, a pickup truck came off the road, onto the miniature golf course and hit both kids and killed them. What a fallen world? That’s just one example of countless stories you could look up right now. This is not far from us; this is where we live. There are people in our church right now who are sick or with family members who have died of Covid. Marriages are hurting right now; parents are hurting now; kids are hurting right now. We have the hope of a world to come with no hurt and no pain. But we’re not there yet so while we’re here, when we come together here, we don’t go at each other; we feel with each other. That’s the kind of community we are here in this church. In the words of Romans 12:15, “Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.”

This is why God has designed the church to be together, in person. That’s why this year has been so strained. We’ve been designed by God to relate to one another; not through screens but with each other in person. In large groups and small groups; in settings where we genuinely feel with each other according to His Word.

This leads right into the next thing on our list. The living hope of Jesus in another world produces brotherly love. Let’s call this a radical sense of family that transcends biology in this world—brotherly love. The Bible uses the word philadelphus here, from which we get Philadelphia—the City of Brotherly Love. It’s a Greek word that describes the love that a physical family experiences with each other. God is saying, “Think about physical family. That’s the kind of love and commitment that I’ve designed for My family, the church, to experience together.” This is the biblical reason why we use the term McLean Bible Church family a lot as a church. Even as I say that I know not everyone who has been part of the church has experienced the love of a family, which is why we’re working non-stop behind the scenes right now, so that when we’re able to open up again as a church we’re going to work to get every member of this church into a group that loves like family.

I realize this goes totally against the grain of individualism that marks our culture—and us more than we realize. We live in a culture where individualism trumps community every time, thinking that if our individual preferences are being prioritized in a community, then we’ll be part of that community. But as soon as others’ preferences are being prioritized over us, we’ll go find another community that revolves around us. We don’t do that with family so why do we do that with the church?

A number of people are becoming members of McLean Bible Church at our congregation meeting this week. If you are one of those people and you’ve recently come to faith in Jesus or you’ve moved here from another city, that’s great. If you’re coming from another gospel-preaching, Bible-believing church here in the city, let me encourage you first to make sure you’re not jumping from church to church. I get uneasy when someone says, “I love McLean Bible Church…” but then they start talking about another church in the city and what they didn’t like there. I think, “It’s not going to be long before you find some flaws here and you go somewhere else; then you’ll be talking there about what you don’t like here.” That’s the way it works in the church culture where there are so many options, but this is not what God has designed for His people. God has designed His people to experience a radical sense of family that transcends and is even greater than biology.

I think about brothers and sisters in this church family who, when they came to Christ, were disowned by their physical family. I think of people I’ve spoken with who have been trembling, afraid to even be here because of what their family might do if they found out. I remember a congregational meeting when a brother from a Muslim background was becoming a member of our church. He came up on the stage and I said to him, “We see you as our brother. You are our family; we are your family.”

Now let me be clear today just in case there’s any doubt. We’re not perfect. Your family of ten people is not perfect. Try a family with ten thousand people. We have some crazy aunts and uncles and cousins around here. Amen? And I would add, crazy leaders. You can amen that, too. Our leaders don’t always get everything right. But we have a Father Who is perfect, so we do everything we can to keep our eyes fixed on Him and He fills us with a love for each other that transcends our imperfections and different perspectives, which is the point. In the American church, we normally find people who look like us and think like us. We divide churches according to skin color, politics, preferences, music styles, all sorts of things. But at that point, we need to ask what is really bringing us together—our Father in heaven or these things on earth?

We’re a different kind of people; we’re elect exiles in this world. We’re united by the hope of Jesus in another world which means we experience a radical sense of family that transcends biology, taste or preference. We experience the love of the Father for every member of His family here, not just the ones who look or think most like us.

This means we have tender hearts to add to our list—a radical tenderness toward each other. What a word in 1 Peter 3:8—“a tender heart”!

I have a son turning 13 today. I think about when I’m playing out in the yard with him or wrestling in the den against Heather’s wishes. We do things now that I did not do with him when he was a baby. We adopted our first son when he was ten-months old, so this was our first new born. I remember when he was born and we brought him home. He was so small and frail; I was afraid I was going to break him. I remember the first bath we gave him in this little tub we had. I pulled out the step-by-step instructions from the hospital because I didn’t want to do it wrong. “First, wet the rag. Second, put a dab of light, tear-free, alcohol-free, bacteria-free, lactose-free, gluten-free baby soap on the rag.” We were walking through this step by step and he was wailing with this cold water on him, thinking “Why did I get stuck with a rookie. This guy doesn’t have a clue.” I was trying to be so tender with him.

That is the word that God uses to describe how we are to relate to each other in this family—a tender heart, not with a hard, brash or harsh heart. Isn’t this different from the world? A world where hard, angry, harsh, brash, sarcastic, accusatory, critical speech is so common. Just look at news headlines. Spend some time on social media. See what happens during a pandemic when people are not face-to-face with each other any more and they start relating to each other through posts and emails. Just see what happens when political leaders engage in name calling and character slandering, then everybody else joins in the fray. In the middle of it all, God says, “Not so with My people. My people are radically different. My people are tender-hearted and it shows. Why? Because My hope has transformed them from the inside out. Out of the heart the mouth speaks. My people once had hard hearts, but I saved them from that sin. I gave them new hearts—soft hearts—toward Me and toward other sinners like themselves.”

Which leads right into the next trait on this list. In verse eight, a humble mind. Let’s add it to our list as a radical humility before each other. In a world that shouts at every turn, “Advance yourself,” God says, “Not My people. My people humble themselves.” We don’t assert ourselves in this world. Remember, we’re living for another world which means we actually lay down ourselves here for others. We’re not living for here; we’re living for there. We put others’ interests here above our own.

You ask, “Are you saying this is a totally, radically different way to live in this world?” When you have the hope of Jesus in another world to come, you have a radical unity around His Word here, showing sympathy to each other in a world that is so painful. You love one another like family with tenderness of heart, with a humility that is always looking for ways to put others above yourself.

If all of that is not radical enough, the last thing on this list takes the cake and it comes in verse nine: “Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing.” Did you hear that? God says, “When someone does evil to you or reviles you, when someone harms or insults you…” Goes doesn’t just say don’t retaliate. God doesn’t say just stay quiet, which would be hard enough. Let’s be honest; we are hard-wired to retaliate, if not on the outside then on the inside. When you hear, read or experience an offense against you, you want to rise up and offend in return. Regardless of how you may or may not act on that, God says, don’t do it. But He doesn’t stop there even though He could have just said, “Don’t attack back.” That would be hard enough for us to do, but God takes it one step further. He says, “Bless them.”

You say, “Are you serious? That’s absurd. Someone does evil or reviles me and I’m to bless them? How is it even possible to bless people who insult and harm me?” God says, “It’s only possible because of the hope of Jesus in you.” This hope we have in another world produces a radical result to bless those who insult or harm us in this world.

Did you hear the language here in verse nine? “For to this you were called…” Christian, it is the calling of your life in this world to bless people who insult or harm you. That’s your calling in life. This is straight from the mouth of Jesus. This is not just Peter. This is not my word. This is Jesus in Luke 6:27- 28: ““But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.”

Now, to be clear, this doesn’t mean you don’t report abuse to the appropriate authorities or take actions for your protection. We have already seen in 1 Peter 2 and Romans 13 that God has given the government responsibility to protect against evil and to wield the sword to that end. So don’t take these verses in Luke 6 or 1 Peter 2 to think, “Okay, so police officers are supposed to bless and be tender with people who are committing a crime.” No, they are supposed to promote good and protect people from evil. Soldiers, when justifiable, are to do the same.

An example may help with what this looks like. When you hear these words, think about Stephen in the New Testament when he was being stoned and could do nothing about it (Acts 6-7). They were pelting him with massive rocks with the intent to kill him. There was nothing he could do as these rocks were flying at him. So what did he do? He prayed, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” That’s radical love and that’s not easy.

I think about ways I’ve been insulted or slandered and the hurt that causes. I’m not immune to it and I know I haven’t even come close to ways so many of you have been hurt and harmed. What God is saying here is not easy; it’s actually impossible apart from the hope of Jesus. It’s impossible apart from this bigger picture. So Christian, listen closely. Non-Christian—those of you who are exploring Christianity, listen closely. This is what Christmas hope is all about.

In the big picture, you and I are sinners before a holy God. We have rebelled against God with evil in our hearts. We have all turned from God’s ways to our own ways and we all deserve His just judgment for all of eternity. But God loves us so much that 2,000 years ago He sent His Son Jesus to be born and live in this sinful world and in radical love for sinners. Then He died on a cross to pay the price for sin so that anyone anywhere in this world who trusts in Jesus will be forgiven of all their sin and evil against God, will be restored to relationship with God and experience eternal life with God for all eternity. When you experience that kind of hope in God, that kind of love from a holy God toward you and your sin and evil, you are now free to love the most evil, injurious person in this world with a radical love for two reasons.

First, because you know God’s justice will prevail in the end. You know that evil will not have the last world in the big picture.

Second, because you actually desire mercy in that person’s life, you desire their good. Why? Because you know where you would be if it were not for God’s mercy in your life. Another way to put it is that you don’t return evil for evil here, because the greatest hope of your life is that God will not return evil for evil to you in the world to come. You see it now? The living hope of Jesus in another world produces a radical love for people in this world. This radical love is not just for others’ good; it’s for our good.

Let’s keep going in 1 Peter 3:10-12. Peter quotes here from Psalm 34 in the Old Testament, saying: “For ‘Whoever desires to love life and see good days…” Let me ask every person listening right now, do you desire to love life? Do you desire to see good days? I think everybody wants this. Who among us would say, “I just want to hate life. I want to see bad days.” I know we’re all on the same page here. This is God saying to each of us—to teenagers, senior adults, from the youngest to the oldest—“Do you want to see good life? Good days? Here’s what you do.”

Picking up at Psalm 34:13: “ Let him keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit;let him turn away from evil and do good; let him seek peace and pursue it.” What a phrase! Think how different our dialogue would be if we were always seeking and pursing peace, which is what the Bible

commands in Romans 12:18: “If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.” That’s talking about when people outside the church do evil to you. This should be all the more so inside the church with sons and daughters of God.

Psalm 34:15-16: “For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayer. But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil…” There’s so much here. Let me summarize what we just read in two statements:

When we love like God has designed us to love—the kind of radical love we’ve been talking about in 1 Peter 3:8-9—then we will, according to God, enjoy the good life and experience the blessing of God. The good life in this world involves radical unity around God’s Word that lasts forever. Radical sympathy with each other. A sense of family that transcends biology. Tenderness toward each other. Humility before each. And a resolve to bless those who harm or insult us.

Let’s just pause and consider a few questions. Supposing you want to live the good life, do the people closest to you see this kind of radical love in you? Honestly ask the people in your home if they see radical sympathy, tenderness and humility in you. Do they see in you a radical resolve to bless other people who do evil or bring insult to you? Think about your closest friends. Do they see this? Does your extended family? What about the people you work with? Do your coworkers see this kind of love in you? Teenagers, do other students around you see this kind of love in you?

Here’s another series of questions to consider. Do other people in the church see this kind of radical love in you? People beyond your home? Your closest friends? Maybe people who are even less like you? Do they see this kind of radical love in your life?

As I ask these questions, I want to encourage you, based on the Word of God and by the hope of Jesus in you as an elect exile, to consider one or two practical ways that you can show this kind of radical love to people close to you and people in the church this week. You might even ask a few people close to you, “How can I grow in sympathy or tenderness or humility?” Just see what they say. Then think about creative ways to show this radical love to other people you don’t know as well in the church. I challenge you to do this, not just for their good but for your good, knowing that when we love the way God has designed us to love, we will enjoy the good life and experience the blessing of God.

Did you hear the beauty of the language in Psalm 34:15? “For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayer…” This is a picture of intimacy in relationship with God which is the key to the good life. But then, listen to how verse 16 ends: “But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.” In other words, if we don’t love like God has designed us to love, we will miss the good life and experience the opposition of God. God is saying to us today, “My face will be against you when you do evil. When you respond to evil with evil, My face will be against you.”

The same thing goes for the other things listed in verse eight. Humility? God makes clear throughout His Word that He opposes the proud. When you are prideful, you will experience the opposition of God Himself. Tender, sympathetic, brotherly love? God opposes anyone who treats His children harshly. Unity of mind? God opposes those who divide His people. In other words, God takes radical love in His church very seriously in this world and it all hinges on the hope of Jesus in another world.

Last night, as I was looking over my notes for today, an email came in from a church member and I want to read a portion of it in closing. Let’s keep the first two verses we started with, 1 Peter 3:8-9, and our list in front of us as a summary of what we’ve heard from God. The living hope of another world produces a radical unity, sympathy, sense of family, tenderness, humility and resolve to bless others. I want you to hear what these words look like in real life. So here’s the email, changed slightly so as not to draw attention to specific people:

“Dear Pastor Platt, I started attending McLean Bible Church about the time you started to preach on a semi-regular basis. At that time, I was still healing from my parents’ passing and an unexpected divorce. I was living alone without any family in the area. Through the help of a pastor, I was connected to a community group led by John and Ashley. I was the first single person without children grafted into their group. It’s been almost two years that I’ve been part of this family. Not long after I met them, I was laid off and had to return my company car. John and Ashley insisted that I used their car until I could land a new job and while I looked for a car to purchase. I asked them when they wanted it back and they responded, “Whenever. We’re not worried about it.” They said their car was a blessing from God and they wanted to bless me by having a vehicle to drive. Thank God that I was able to get a new job within a few weeks.

“Fast forward six months. Several group members offered to help me tackle neglected projects around my home after the divorce. An army of them came to my house in waves. They purchased furniture, laid down sod, planted bushes in front, picked weeds, pruned rose bushes in the backyard. They replaced old and weathered lighting fixtures, moved my router, purged, organized and more. Their love and support brought me to tears.

“In March of this year I became unemployed again, this time due to Covid. A few months ago I was about to run out of money. Several group members helped me pay some of my bills. I promised to pay them back, but they told me not to worry about it. John and Ashley were faithful for over a month to make sure I had groceries. They either took me shopping or would shop for me. Most important of all, they were praying for me. God blessed me with a new position on September 28; His timing is perfect.”

This email goes on, talking about how much she has learned from God’s Word from John and Ashley. How she has seen God’s love through this group, through their marriages, families, love for neighbors, involvement in outreach. Then she writes: “Because my family is in Florida, I decided to stay in northern Virginia for Thanksgiving. John and Ashley asked me weeks before to join them. They have become my local family.”

Then she asks at the end, “What would our church and city look like if we had these types of relationships and groups scattered over the most powerful city of the world? Thank you. Erica” Now she had no idea what I was preparing last night as this email came in, but I would say, “Erica, indeed!” Unity, sympathy, family, tenderness, humility, resolve to bless—it’s true, church. The living hope of Jesus in another world produces a radical love for people around us in this world. So let’s be the people God has designed us to be.

Bow your heads with me. As you close your eyes wherever you are listening right now, I want to ask do you have the living hope of Jesus in you? I wish I could ask every single one of you, one on one, if you have the living hope of Jesus in another world in you. Do you know if you were to die today, you would have eternal life with God in heaven because you’ve put your trust in Jesus to save you from your sin and bring you into relationship with God? Has He changed your heart in this way? If the answer to that question is not a resounding yes, I invite you right now to pray, saying, “God, I want to become part of your family today. I confess my sin before You, that evil in my heart. I believe Jesus died on the cross for my sin and today I put my faith into Him as the One Who can save me from my sin and lead me through eternal life. Give me eternal life. Today I receive Your hope in my heart.”

I invite you to pray that to God and as you do, know that God in heaven hears that prayer and answers it. He saves you from your sin, draws you into His family, transforms your heart and gives you His hope through faith in Jesus. When you do, and for all who have this hope in you, let’s ask God to help us live with radical love for other people in this world based on the living hope we have in our hearts.

God, make us this kind of people. We know what we’ve seen and heard from Your Word today goes totally against the grain of the world around us. It goes totally goes against the grain of our flesh and the propensities we all have in so many different ways. God, help us we pray, to love like this. We pray that You would make our lives and this church a place of radical unity around Your Word. Radical sympathy with each other. Give us the sense of family that transcends biology. We pray for radical tenderness toward each other, humility before each other and God. We pray that You will help us bless those who insult or harm us, for their good, for Your glory and we trust for our good. We pray all these things in Jesus’ name. Amen.


How can we apply this passage to our lives?

Question 1

Thinking back on last week’s message on marriage, how was your approach to relationships helped or changed in light of what we learned and discussed?

Question 2

God has designed His church to live and love in a way that is radically different from the world. Considering the radical differences highlighted in this week’s sermon, in what ways have you seen these differences demonstrated in and through the McLean Bible Church family (especially in and through your small group) in this uniquely challenging season? Take time to praise God for His presence and work in and through our church family.

Question 3

Unity around God’s word begins with a surrender to the Spirit of God and a personal commitment to consistent Bible study. How has your time in the word of God been in recent weeks? What, if any, passages you have meditated on or clung to amid all that’s happening in your life and the world? This week, what steps would you like to take to grow in your commitment to studying the word?

Question 4

Have you ever experienced the radical sympathy of another person in the midst of a crisis or a particularly challenging circumstance? If so, what about that experience made you feel valued, supported and cared for? In what ways did their sincere compassion reflect the character, life, and heart of the Lord (Psalm 23:4; John 11:34- 36, 17:20-23; Romans 12:15; 1 Corinthians 12:24-27; Galatians 6:2)? In what ways did it impact you, either during or after the circumstance?

Question 5

Read Romans 12:9-21, which describes God’s instructions for life and interactions in the family of faith. If our sense of family (which transcends biology) is to look like this, what personal preferences or inclinations must we be willing to set aside? Have you witnessed these characteristics in other members of your group? Which of these commands do you feel you need to grow in?

Question 6

Based on Galatians 6:2 and Romans 12:9-21, what (if any) burdens can your group members can help you or your family bear in the days ahead? How could your group members practically extend radical love toward you and your family as you navigate your specific challenge?

Question 7

Read Luke 6:43-45. What might tenderness toward one another look like in our speech (e.g., in conversations; online posts; when people are absent)? On a scale of 1-10 (1 meaning “Not at all”, 10 meaning “Perfectly”), how well did your words/thoughts toward or about others reflect tenderness, humility, and compassion over the past month?

Question 8

When you discover ways in which you differ from another person, what is your instinctive reaction? What thoughts begin to form in you about the other person? About yourself? Are these thoughts more reflective of the world’s mindset or of the Spirit of God within you (Romans 8:6-16)? If they are more reflective of the world’s thoughts, what change of mind is needed in order for you to reflect the Spirit and will of God (Romans 12:1-2)?

Question 9

Read Philippians 2:1-13. What truths should motivate our humility towards others? With whom do you find it difficult to carry out this command? How might you look at that person/people through a different lens?

Question 10

The world universally promotes a focus on loving, serving, and preferring oneself. In what Biblically countercultural ways might you radically reflect the opposite bearing, especially toward those who have intentionally offended you (Psalm 34:12-20; Matthew 16:24-26; Acts 7:55-60; Philippians 2:3; 1 Peter 3:8-11)?

Question 12

How well do the people closest to you (e.g., family members, friends, neighbors, co workers) see radical love, tenderness, and sympathy in you? Rate yourself on a scale of 1-10 (1 meaning “Not at all”, 10 meaning “Perfectly”). How might you grow in this area?

Question 13

How well do people in the church see radical love in you, particularly those who are not like you? Rate yourself on a scale of 1-10 (1 meaning “Not at all”, 10 meaning “Perfectly”). What are some creative ways you can show this kind of radical love to others in our church family and in your small group?

Question 14

What are 1-2 practical ways that you can show radical love to those in and around your life this week? To become more aware of ways you can grow along these lines, ask the following question to a trusted accountability partner in the family of faith: “How can I grow in sympathy, or tenderness, or humility?”

God has designed His church to be a display of His love to the world.

  • When we love like God has designed us to love, we will enjoy the good life and experience the blessing of God.
  • If we don’t love like God has designed us to love, we will miss the good life and experience the opposition of God.

The living hope of another world produces a radical love for people in this world. This brings:

1. A radical unity around God’s Word.
2. A radical sympathy with each other.
3. A radical sense of family that transcends biology.
4. A radical tenderness toward each other.
5. A radical humility before each other.
6. A radical resolve to bless those who insult or harm us.

David Platt

David Platt serves as a pastor in metro Washington, D.C. He is the founder of Radical.

David received his Ph.D. from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary and is the author of Don’t Hold Back, Radical, Follow MeCounter CultureSomething Needs to ChangeBefore You Vote, as well as the multiple volumes of the Christ-Centered Exposition Commentary series.

Along with his wife and children, he lives in the Washington, D.C. metro area.


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