P AUL BOMBARDS US with a list of commands. A list of how to live — don’t lag in zeal, rejoice in hope and on and on. He doesn’t take the time to explain what he means. Just rattles them off. So, we’re going to focus on what Paul says about love outside the church.
He starts by calling on us to address the cares, concerns and challenges of people in the church. We are to do this out of genuine love. It’s not always easy to love and care for folks in the church.
Our concern extends to a larger circle — our extended family, to existing members of our community, and to people who actively support us.
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PAUL ENLARGES THE CIRCLE even more. We are to care for people in need, regardless of how they fit into various religious, social, or political categories. Care toward people completely different from us. Genuine love, in fact, toward folks who don’t even like us. And let’s be honest, we don’t like them either. How hard is that? Act in genuine love toward people we don’t like — Paul calls them enemies.
If your enemies are hungry, feed them. If your enemies are thirsty, give them a glass of water. If your enemies are naked, clothe them. If they are sick, tend to them. If they are evil toward you, be noble, kind, and caring to them in response. This sounds a lot like Jesus in Matthew 25.
For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.
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WE ASK, “When did we do this?”
Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.
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AN ARTICLE I READ this week raised the question: Did Jesus die for this? The premise of the article is this: When we, as a church, meet, when we act, when we choose mission, ask this question: Did Jesus die for this?
This question changes everything because Jesus didn’t die for most of the things we talk about: policies, programs, paint colors. Jesus didn’t die for the things that generally concern us: membership, denominations, heritage, buildings. And yet, we spend most of our efforts on such things.
Jesus doesn’t care what food we serve at fellowship time.
Jesus doesn’t care if we allow coffee in the sanctuary or not.
Jesus doesn’t care if we paint the sanctuary yellow or blue.
Jesus didn’t die for that.
Jesus did die for:
■ opioid addicts
■ the homeless people living in their car
■ the lonely retirees who can’t get to worship
■ the unemployed banker who is too ashamed to come to church anymore
■ the couple trying to adopt a child
■ the depressed college student
■ the single parent.
Jesus does care:
■ that we use our buildings as tools for ministry to serve the people God loves.
■ that we welcome all those whom God created.
■ that we grapple with issues of justice and compassion.
[►Click here to read “A Church for Starving Artists” blog post, “Did Jesus Die for This?”]
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JESUS DIED FOR PEOPLE, so people are to be our focus. This is what mission activity in a church sets out to do. Tend the sick. Care for the poor. Feed the hungry. Clothe the naked. Comfort the hurt. Seek God’s idea of justice and peace.
All of this is undergirded by love. Jesus calls attention to love as the norm for God’s people. Jesus said that all the law and the prophets hang on two commands: love God and love your neighbor as yourself. Paul echoes something similar. Paul assumes we know that we are to love; he insists we make our love genuine.
The images are powerful: let your love be heartfelt; be eager to show each other honor; be set on fire by the Spirit; be devoted to prayer; contribute to — literally “participate in” — the needs of others.
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TO “PARTICIPATE IN” OTHERS’ NEEDS is to give of yourself and your own resources for their material needs, like food, clothing, and shelter. True love is fervent, relentless, and practical.
This can be done through an official ministry of the church or on your own. God calls only one or two people to do something bold. Individuals. Bible study groups. Youth groups. Choirs. Answer that call. Go and do.
Some mission and ministry requires money. Money buys food. Money buys clothes. Money sends missionaries to the Congo. Money pays for medical care. Either directly or indirectly, money is necessary for mission to happen.
Your 2020 financial support will help a variety of missions through Swift Church.