President Reagan told a funny story during the last days of his administration. It was about Alexander Dumas, author of The Three Musketeers. It seems that Dumas and a friend had a severe argument. The matter got so out of hand that one challenged the other to a duel. Both Dumas and his friend were superb marksmen. Fearing that they both might die, they resolved to draw straws instead. Whoever drew to shorter straw would then agree to shoot himself.
Dumas was the unlucky one. He drew the short straw. With a heavy sigh, he picked up his pistol and trudged into the library and closed the door. A small crowd gathered outside, waiting to hear the gunfire. In a few moments, a solitary shot echoed from the library. All the curious pressed into the library. They found Dumas standing with his pistol still smoking. “An amazing thing just happened,” said Dumas. “I missed.”
I am amazed how many people go to church all their lives and still miss the point. So many folks become experts at the Ten Commandments, but absolute failures at the Eleventh Commandment.
What is the Eleventh Commandment? Jesus said, “A new commandment I give to you: Love one another.” That is the Eleventh and most important commandment. Why? Because, first of all …
This is what God most desires of us – that we love one another.
You may teach Sunday School. You may sing in the choir. You may be an officer in the church. All of these are wonderful. But if you don’t have love, you’ve missed the point.
Even Charlie Brown got the point. In one comic strip, Lucy stands with her arms folded and a critical expression on her face. Charlie Brown says, “Lucy, you must be more loving. This world really needs love. You have to let yourself love to make this world a better place in which to live!” Lucy whirls around angrily, causing Charlie Brown to do a backwards flip, and she screams at him: “Look, block-head, the world I love. It’s people I can’t stand.”
Some of us resemble that remark. We love the world. It’s people we can’t stand. But you can see how real your faith is by looking at how real your love is – especially your love in difficult situations.
Two businessmen were having lunch at a downtown restaurant. The waitress accidentally spilled a bowl of hot soup right over one of the men. Everyone in the restaurant gasped and stared. They couldn’t wait for the manager to run over and fire the woman. They couldn’t wait for this man, standing there dripping, with his suit ruined, to curse at the waitress. But the man looked at the waitress and said, “Young lady, I’m so sorry this happened to you today. I know it embarrasses you, but I’m perfectly fine.”
That man was following the Eleventh Commandment. He was doing the most loving thing in a difficult situation. That leads us to a second point …
Love is our primary witness to the world.
Jesus said, “By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you love one another.”
Let me tell you about a preschool teacher. She loved children … then her mother died. She took a week off from school to attend to her mother’s funeral.
The first day back was about what she expected. Her hurt and despair produced resentment which she kept carefully hidden. She went through the paces like the competent professional she was. She smiled at the right times and was admirably patient considering her raw feelings.
But then it happened. She came around the corner to discover Rachel picking the last flower from the flowerpot in the hall. Rachel, by the way, was the most distant and disruptive child in the class. In a stern voice, the teacher demanded, “Rachel, what are you doing?”
Rachel held out in her little hand the flower she had picked. “Teacher,” she said, “You used to be like my mother. Would this flower help you be like a mother again?
The teacher asked, “Rachel, what is a mother like?”
“A mother is like you used to be,” Rachel said. “A mother likes being with children.”
“But Rachel,” said the teacher, “I like being with children. I’ve just … well, I’ve been … well, Rachel, my mother died and …”
Rachel looked up at her teacher and asked, “Did she live until she died?”
The teacher thought, What kind of a question is that? “Well, sweetheart, of course,” she said. “All people live until they die; they …”
Rachel interrupted her once again. “Oh, no they don’t, Teacher. Some people seem to die while they are still walking around. They stop being what they used to be. Teacher, don’t die just because your mother did.”
Are you alive? Is your heart? I can tell you how to witness to the world that Christ is alive. We do it by being alive ourselves. I can tell you how to convince the world that God is love. We do it by loving one another.
In the movie, The Color Purple, Sophie experienced some kindnesses during a dark time in her life. Looking back on it all, she said, “It was then that I knew that there was a God.”
Intuitively she knew that this is the best evidence we have for the existence of God. In a tough, cold world, there are some people who really do care about others.
Where did this love originate? It came from the very heart of God Himself.