ONE CHURCH – Committed to Loving
Matthew 22:34-40 (p. 692) August 14, 2016
Anybody here find it hard to love people who are mean to you or who try to put you down?
How about those who get in your face and try to prove how wrong you are and how right they are?
In the next 80 some odd days I promise you we’ll experience more of this in America than any other time in our history…at least in my lifetime.
We will hear 45% of our country proclaim that Donald Trump is a misogynistic jerk, a racist, a me focused egomaniac that should not have his finger anywhere near the red button…and 45% of our country will proclaim Hillary Clinton is a corrupt liar, a soldier abandoning baby killer who only received this nomination because the system was rigged…5% of the nation will vote for the independent Gary Johnson while the 2 major parties shout how can you throw away your vote for this “pot smoking” libertarian?
Instagram, Facebook, and protests will be inundated with caustic strong opinions about how right the posters are and how stupid the opposers are. Spit will spray from mouths shouting in anger…with ears firmly closed.
These are just the facts…It doesn’t take much of a prophet to forsee this truth.
And yes I realize all the important issues from Supreme Court appointments to social inequality. I’m human and have opinions just like every one of you.
But the most important question we as God’s people can answer is “How do I keep the kingdom of God as my priority? How do I seek His Kingdom first?”
Jesus gives us the answer:
I. LOVE GOD WITH EVERY PART OF OUR LIVES
In Matthew 22 Jesus is under verbal attack. Verse 23 tells us that a powerful group called the Sadducees…Religious leaders who took a stance that there would be “No resurrection from the dead,” came to Jesus with a question…I promise you that they weren’t seeking a real answer, they were seeking to make Jesus stumble. They didn’t want dialogue…They wanted His failure.
They call him teacher…And remind him of the Levite law which says…If a man dies, his brother should marry his widow. They then gave an impossible scenario…Suppose 7 brothers die one by one (I’d be a little cautious of that widow). They then ask, “Whose wife will she be at the resurrection?”
Here’s Jesus’ reply:
MATTHEW 22:29-33 (p. 692)
They don’t believe in the resurrection! And the scriptures, God’s Word isn’t their guide…but their fervent hatred of Jesus is…Jesus answers their question…but even more let’s them know God is “I Am”…not “I Was.” He is the God of life and the living. He is firmly saying “God will take care of death.”
When the crowds heard his answer they were astonished…this made sense powerfully.
And it shut the Sadducees up…at least for a while.
So another powerful political and religious group tried to take Jesus to task…The Pharisees, the law keepers and enforcers…remember Saul? He was one of them…They come and test Jesus with this question “Teacher (Rabbi) Which is the greatest commandment in the law?” Jesus answers, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul and mind. This is the first and greatest commandment.”
I passionately believe that scripture teaches that life begins at conception because of what Psalms 139 says…I passionately believe that marriage is a union between one man and one woman because of what Jesus said in Matthew 19…I passionately believe that no matter whether you are black or white or male or female…Jesus can restore and make us one because of what Galatians 3:26-29 reveals.
But I believe this even more passionately. If our love for God and others doesn’t totally overshadow those individual beliefs then all those beliefs profit me nothing. I’ve become a clanging gong…a noisy cymbal…and so have you.
Jesus spoke truth to very political religious people…but in the midst of that truth He firmly stated, “our first priority is to love God with our thoughts…our spirit…our emotions to the core!”
God’s Kingdom is what we are to seek first…and His righteousness (Matt. 6:33). Because the eternal spiritual destinations of men and women will not be determined by Caesar…but by God.
I’m not minimizing the importance of individual issues…I’m maximizing the importance of loving God first, and allowing that “same attitude that Jesus has” to flow through our hearts and lives into a very lost world!
There is a more excellent way of life according to the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 13.
1 CORINTHIANS 13:1-13 (p. 800)
This love, agape, is an action word…and even if you think you have special insight and knowledge and can communicate that insight powerfully…you and I don’t see all that God is doing…just a little part of it…children focus on themselves and speak without thinking of others…but when we become mature…It’s not all about me…It’s about faith, it’s about hope…but even more it’s about love…or it’s worthless.
It’s why our mission here at GCC is to be “A family committed to loving Jesus and others so our neighbors, community and world can experience good news.”
Are we as Christians, or at least those who claim to be, as passionate about sharing the good news of Jesus as we are about elections?
It’s easy to stand on a soapbox…it’s a lot harder to help homeless men get clean. it’s easy to shout how horrible abortion is while holding a poster…it’s a lot harder to open your heart to young girls at Assurance who need someone to speak life and love.
It’s easy to talk about things you oppose…it’s a lot more difficult to get involved with real people. Posting a Facebook comment makes you feel like you’ve taken a stand…opening your heart and life to real people face to face fulfills the Great Commission of Christ.
Paul tells the Galatians “The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself in love.” (Gal. 5:6) John the Apostle writes in his first letter “Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.” (1 John 3:18)
It’s why Jesus connects loving God with all our heart, soul and mind with loving our neighbor. “Loving God is the first and greatest command…but the 2nd is like it:
II. LOVE OTHERS LIKE YOU LOVE YOURSELF
All of us remember Jesus’ parable about the “Good Samaritan.” Once again he was being tested by the religious Pharisees.
LUKE 10:25-29 (p. 725)
He knew the greatest commandment and the second by heart. He quoted it perfectly…But Jesus said “Do this” and you will live. “Do this” is harder than memorize this…or post this…or teach this.
When the Pharisee wants to justify himself, have you ever wondered why he asked, “Who is my neighbor?” Could it be he wants a list of who he has to love and who he doesn’t have to?”
Could it be that’s exactly why Jesus tells this story?
LUKE 10:30-37 (p. 725)
2 religious people and one enemy…All three are going down the same road. It’s a normal day…when unexpectedly they encounter a naked, beaten, and bloody man in the ditch…But only the Samaritan helps him, and even goes the second mile.
When Jesus asks “Which of those three…do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?” Even the Pharisee, who was testing Jesus, has to answer….“The one who had mercy on him.”
Jesus says, “Go and do likewise.” Go and do.
You cannot truly love God with all your heart, soul and mind if it doesn’t affect your “Go” and “do.” If your knowledge about God doesn’t move you to be like God, or seek to be like Him…You’ll spend a lot of time trying to justify yourself and very little time showing broken and hurting people mercy.
Here’s the thought I’ll close with…when we as God’s people seek to love Him with every part of our being…it’s different than how the world loves…Jesus said:
MATTHEW 5:43-48 (p. 678)
God didn’t design His Church to be a country club where “good ole boys” get together…or a bridge club where “old friends” meet together for fun and cards…when this happens you’re a church by name only…and you’ve stopped being a lighthouse and become a beach club…when this happens “others” stop being as important as “preferences.”
Here are some specifics that can help us show our love for God to our neighbors, community and world.
1. Enjoy your friendships, but invite new people to be a part of your meals, activities and ministries…open your heart to those who need you more than you need them.
2. If physically you are limited, use the phone as an outreach tool…call and pray with those who are hurting…or just to encourage! Whether it’s their child’s award…or an upcoming surgery.
3. Carry a backpack or purse in your car loaded with things that would help someone who is homeless…use your discretion, but be prepared to show tangible mercy.
4. Look for new people at church and ask to help…Can I show you where your kids go? Can I answer any questions for you…Can I sit with you?
5. Live each day looking for Kingdom opportunities. Opportunities happen as we are going…This is true in parables and real life.
6. Pray…pray for not only those who are in the ditch, but for the insight and courage to get off your “donkey” and help them…scripture always connects real love with real service.
7. And finally, don’t live your Christian life as one who expects others to be neighborly to you…you be the neighbor first…and I promise you, “joy” will be God’s gift.
Even if you’ve been hurt…even if you built a protective shell around yourself…join in…join in the family…make the Church a priority…and move from the sidelines into the game. God is good…and our goodness should point others to Him.