The Greatest Love of All
The story is told of a group of prisoners during World War 2. They were made to do hard labour in a prison camp. Each had a shovel and would dig all day, then come in and give an account of his tool in the evening. One evening 20 prisoners were lined up by the guard and the shovels were counted.
The guard counted nineteen shovels and turned in rage on the 20 prisoners demanding to know which one did not bring his shovel back. No one responded. The guard took out his gun and said that he would shoot five men if the guilty prisoner did not step forward. After a moment of tense silence, a 19-year-old soldier—stepped forward with his head bowed down.
The guard grabbed him, took him to the side and shot him in the head, and turned to warn the others that they better be more careful than he was. When he left, the men counted the shovels and there were 20. The guard had miscounted. And the boy had given his life for his friends.
Can you imagine the emotions that must have filled their hearts as they knelt down over his body? In the five or ten seconds of silence, the boy had weighed his whole future in the balance—a future wife, an education, a new truck, children, a career and he chose death so that others might live.
Today, thankfully, we do not live in times or regions of war. We may never be called to lay down our life as a demonstration of love for someone else. However, we should learn to develop a selfless, unconditional love that will make us willing to make great sacrifices for the benefit of others, just as The father gave up his son to be sacrificed for our eternal benefit.
Opening Song: # 311 – I Would Be Like Jesus
Scripture Reading: Romans 5:7,8
For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die.
But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
Prayer: Pray in groups of two that we will learn to have true unconditional love.
The pop singer Whitney Houston sang a song with the lyrics: “Learning to love yourself is the greatest love of all”. Is there any love greater than loving yourself? Jesus said in John 15:13, "Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends." Self-less love is the greatest form of love, this might seem contrary in an age where so many people suffer from low self-esteem and depression. However, “ A recent study examined two ways of trying to increase one's sense of self-worth in a sample of adults with depression and/or anxiety:
1. Self-image goals: Where a person focuses on getting status and approval. Examples included "getting others to notice your positive qualities" and "avoiding showing your weaknesses."
2. Compassionate goals were about "striving to help others and avoiding selfish behavior"—for example, "making a positive difference in someone else's life."
The researchers measured how much each participant focused on these goals, and also assessed their depression and anxiety symptoms and their degree of conflict with other people.
Analyses showed that a greater focus on self-image goals was linked with more relationship conflict and a worsening of symptoms during the 6-week study period. In contrast, compassionate goals were associated with lower levels of symptoms and less relationship conflict.
The research confirms that by loving others, you learn to love yourself. This conclusion gives clearer meaning to the commandment to love our neighbours as ourselves. Love is not partial, it means we have unconditional love for God, and mankind, whether that means ourselves or others.
Pop Rhetorical Quiz.
How selfless is your love?
1. You worked hard for a whole year serving the church and community. Sleepless nights working with the youth and elderly and ensuring the community is served. As a gift to yourself, you take a weekend vacation at the end of the year to an all-inclusive hotel.
The next year comes and you take a rest, the person who replaced you does an even better job, but works just as hard, would you treat them with a gift?
2. Imagine you are a single mother with three children, things have not been going well for you lately. You are working a minimum wage job and barely making ends meet. To make things worse you have a surgery that you have been putting off for months because of the cost, and the doctors are adamant you have to do it now or risk your health getting even worse. One morning as you are rushing to take the children to school, the kids are fighting in the backseat and your mind was lost in thinking about how to find money for your medical bills them “Wham!” you hit the back of the car in front that stopped for a stop sign. You break down crying because you remember your insurance expired the day before. As the driver came out to inspect his vehicle and speak to you, you tell him your story in tears. He then gives you a hug, gives you the address of his mechanic who will fix your car for free, walks back to his vehicle and drives away. How would you feel?
Now imagine you Just purchased a brand new car from the dealership, you never wanted a car loan so you saved for years to get it. You are a careful driver so you stop at every stop sign. Not 5 minutes after you drive out of the car dealership, this single mother rear ends your brand new car, what would you do?
The most shocking example of true selfless love is shown when Jesus gave up everything to ensure we had access to salvation from sin and death even while we were still loving our sins and rejecting him.
Do we understand and appreciate the depth of this? What are some ways we can use to measure the depth of unconditional love Christ has for us?
Christ love gives us choice, assurance and most importantly freedom. He did not withdraw the gift of choice from us, he didn’t confine us. Instead he gave us freedom from sin and a gift of eternal life. This is the ultimate measure of his love for us.
One of the most known characteristics of God is his unconditional love. Love is the very nature of Christ. He is so much in love with us that he laid down his life for us. Do you feel his love? In the beauty of the seasons, in the beauty of nature, in the love of your family? We are asked to share this love with persons we come into contact with. Everyone must know that God is love.
Let us repeat John 3:16, 17
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.
Sabbath school is now adjourned until next Sabbath.