Sermon Outline (Youth)

United in peace, we are called to be servant leaders


“My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you” (John 15:12).

INTRODUCTION : Love, Invitation, Unity

In today’s society, with seemingly insurmountable divisions in our country and in our churches regarding race, politics, sexuality, etc., nothing is more essential to our faith than cultivating a deep understanding of God’s love for us and our call to love one another.

This command from Jesus appears to be so simple, yet it carries profound implications. Jesus reveals to us the very heart of servant leadership—one of love, invitation, and unity.

Throughout the Gospels we see Jesus exhibit extraordinary love for people. He reached across social barriers and brought unlikely people together. His love unified the disciples—and it also unifies us. The church needs leaders who can help us grow in learning to love one another as Jesus loves us. This is what servant leadership looks like. We are called to lead and to love like Jesus.

It is absolutely vital for the church today to raise up servant leaders and to learn together what it means to love one another as Jesus loves us. May we be challenged to ask how we can lead the way in extending such love to others. And may we be challenged to ask what it means for us to extend such love to others.

Called to Love

Read John 15:5-17.

At the heart of this passage Jesus gives his disciples a poignant command to love one another as he has loved them. In this command we glimpse the heart of servant leadership—a call to love.

What does it mean to love as Jesus loved?

To answer this question, we must first look at how Jesus showed love to his disciples, asking what did Jesus’s love look like? Then we will explore what this means for us. As servant leaders, how are we to show love to one another?

Along the way we may find that loving as Jesus loved is no easy task. How are we ever to replicate such divine love? How are we to become servant leaders like Jesus? This is where the passage of the vine comes in.

Let’s start by examining what Jesus’s love looked like.

Jesus’s Love
Love as Invitation
Throughout the Gospels, it is clear that Jesus’s relationship with the disciples started with a simple invitation: Come, follow me.

Along the way, he invites them to continue the journey with him: Come and see. Come, remain in me. Remain in my love. These simple phrases are as much commands as they are requests. “Come. Walk with me. This is the way to life. Here you may flourish.” This gift of invitation is the first way Jesus shows love to his disciples.

Unconditional and Sacrificial Love
In the Gospel of John, we find the passage of the vine located between the Last Supper and Jesus’s arrest. These two events show Jesus’s love to be both unconditional and sacrificial,.

In John 13, just a couple chapters before the passage of the vine, Jesus washes the disciples’ feet during the Passover meal. While this itself is an incredible act of service, showing care to his disciples, John makes sure to note that Jesus does this with full knowledge of the events about to unfold throughout the evening—Judas’s betrayal, Jesus’s arrest, and Peter’s denial. Jesus washes the feet of his disciples knowing that he will be betrayed, abandoned, and denied by his closest companions. He chooses to show the depth of his love for them, even if they didn’t realize it. His love is unconditional.

“My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you” (John 15:12). In the next verse we read, “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (v. 13). Jesus shares these words on his way to Gethsemane where he would be arrested, knowing he would ultimately be crucified. In John 18 Jesus is arrested, and he gives himself over willingly. Jesus’s love for his disciples is so great he was willing to sacrifice himself for them—and for us.

Wow. This is how Jesus loved. Unconditional, inviting, giving of himself so that others may have life.

How are we to show love to one another?
Now that we know what Jesus’s love looked like, we ask what this means for us. As servant leaders, how are we to show love to one another?

Invitation to Relationship
We are called to extend the unconditional and sacrificial love of Jesus by inviting others into relationship.

As followers of Jesus, we are called to invite others to come and see, to come and experience God’s love for themselves, to come and enter into new relationships where we walk through life together and seek each other’s flourishing.  

Invitation implies an effort to draw closer to people we don’t already know. This love we experience through Jesus is not reserved for just our friends and family or people in our inner circles. This love is meant to also reach the stranger, the foreigner, the odd one out.

Can you think of anyone who God might be calling you to invite into relationship?

Extending Unconditional Love Up Close
Throughout John’s Gospel we see Jesus exhibit unconditional love not just for his disciples but for others who were pushed to the margins of society—the woman at the well and her Samaritan town (John 4:1-42), a royal official and his son (John 4:46-54), the man who had been an invalid for 38 years (John 5:1-9), the woman caught in adultery (John 8:2-11), the man who had been blind since birth (John 9:1-12). Jesus’s love reaches beyond borders and boundaries and social division. In other words, this kind of love cannot happen at a distance.

Friends, are there people you keep at a distance? People you have excluded from relationship?

As servant leaders, we must grow in our awareness of those who are in the margins, those we distance ourselves from, intentionally or unintentionally. We must learn to see those we have difficulty understanding or relating to. This is not easy and it is most certainly not comfortable. But this is how we learn to love as Jesus loved. In the other Gospel accounts, we see stories of Jesus breaking bread and sharing meals with people from all different levels of society. This is how Jesus brought people together. This is how Jesus loved and how we are called to love.

Being a servant leader means going out of our way to intentionally walk through life with people we might not be expected to be in relationship with. It means connecting deeply with others and sharing in their experiences to the point where you recognize their pain as your pain and their joy as your joy. It is incarnation, sacrificing your own comfort, safety, and/or reputation to enter into relationships and learn from people around us whose experiences are different from our own.

This is how Jesus loved and it’s how we are to show love to one another. This is the heart of servant leadership.

How can we become servant leaders?
To be honest, this kind of love sounds a little intimidating. It’s one thing to be nice to people or tolerate differences from a distance or do service projects to help others. But do we have to actually be in real relationships and stay in community with people who don’t act, look, or think like us?

Remain in Me
Let’s go back to John 15. It’s so important to notice that this command from Jesus is tied to this passage of the vine. Here Jesus reveals that the love we are to extend to one another is not actually our own. Rather, it is his love poured out through us. Additionally, we find that being connected to Jesus means we are connected to one another. Understanding this connection helps us develop a sense of unity and enables us to truly love one another as Jesus loved.

The word remain appears eleven times in the eleven verses preceding Jesus’s command to love as he loved. Usually when a word is repeated like that, it’s pretty important.

Other words that could be used here for remain are abide, dwell, inhabit, reside, camp out, stay put, or hang around. In other words, Jesus is calling the disciples to stay connected to him, to stick around and carry on in his love. Jesus repeatedly tells his disciples to remain in him because he is the source of life and love itself.

Jesus calls us to love as he loved, not because he wants to place upon us some impossible or unrealistic standard, but because he knows that if we stay connected to him, his love will sustain us and flow through us. Just as the branches cannot grow apart from the vine, so we must remain connected to Jesus in order to grow in his love.

Cultivating our connection to Jesus must be a priority for servant leaders because connection to Jesus is what helps us become like him. Grounded in his love, we will find ourselves empowered and compelled to love one another just as he loves us.

Stick Together
Moreover, Jesus calls the disciples to remain in him so that they will remain connected to one another even after he is gone. Jesus knows his time with them on earth is coming to an end and he wants to prepare them for what is ahead. Remain in me. Stick together. Continue to love one another, he says.

In fact, the command in John 15 is actually the second time Jesus instructs his disciples to love one another. The first time is in John 13 at the Last Supper: “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:34-35).

Jesus went through this Passover meal with the full knowledge of how the evening was yet to unfold. Knowing the downward spiral of events that would eventually lead to his death, Jesus implores his disciples to stick together, to love one another. He calls them to remain united, knowing that the road ahead would not be easy.

Jesus’s death had the potential to fracture the disciples’ relationships with one another. With Judas’s betrayal and Peter’s denial, fear and confusion could have torn the disciples apart. But rather than turning and blaming one another, they gathered together, mourning together. They remain united. This unity undoubtedly required them to extend extraordinary love and grace to one another. Sure, they may have fled and perhaps denied even knowing Jesus, but when all was said and done, they came back together. They held onto their connection with Jesus and to each other. Their unity revealed their love for one another.

Remain in me. Stick together. Continue to love one another.

Connected to the vine, we are connected to one another. This sense of unity through Jesus is what compels us to love one another, to view strangers as friends and enemies as family. In the face of division, fear and confusion, the church needs servant leaders who will guide us toward love, grace, and unity. Rather than dividing, isolating, and blaming one another, servant leaders, like Jesus, invite us to remain in community together. This is how we love one another.

So, friends, as we seek to become servant leaders like Jesus, what does it mean for you today to love as Jesus loved?

Who might God be calling you to invite into relationship? Maybe someone who is often overlooked or who doesn’t have many friends.

Who do you need to show unconditional or sacrificial love to? Perhaps a friend or family member who you disagree with or someone who holds a different political opinion than you?

And finally, where can you be a voice of unity? Perhaps there is a division with your community or maybe even within your family (because, let’s be real, what family doesn’t have some conflict?). How might you be uniquely situated to bring people together?

Whatever your next step, does it seem easy or difficult? Deepening our connection to Jesus is essential for shaping our hearts and becoming servant leaders who love others as Jesus loves us. What can you do this week to deepen your connection with Jesus?

United through Jesus Christ, may we learn to love as Jesus loved. As servant leaders, may we exhibit unconditional and sacrificial love, inviting all to come. Remain in the vine. Remain in Love. This is the way to life. Here you may flourish. Come, let us flourish together.