Let’s do a little “supposing” before we read today’s verses. Suppose one Sunday, our mayor showed up at LSA. On the same Sunday, a rather ragged looking man came on his bicycle to the service. Which person do you think people would talk to the most? To which person would someone say, “Please come back again. We loved having you.”?
You are in Best Buy hoping to buy a new computer. You see two salespeople chatting in an aisle close to you – a young white man and a young possibly Arabic man. Which one would you approach for help?
You are an automotive engineer just hired in Windsor, and you buy a condo closer to the downtown since there are a lot of classy condo renovations going on there. It’s close to the border where your job will take you to Detroit a few times a month. Which church would you choose to attend? One that’s near the downtown or would you drive further to the suburbs where other professional people live?
A single mom and her 3 children starting attending your church. She begins coming to MOPS, and as she begins sharing her story, you realize this mom has huge problems – lack of money, emotional and mental health problems, a child with some kind of disability that makes her life more difficult … would you want to get involved or would you say kind words, but tend to back away?
I hope you took some time to really consider those “supposes”. I wrote them as I thought about my own reactions. I’d like to think I would be the most loving, kind person in the world, but frankly, I’d struggle with those questions.
Now here is what the Bible says about each one of those situations:
James 2: 1 – 13 NLT
“My dear brothers and sisters, how can you claim to have faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ if you favour some people over others?
2 For example, suppose someone comes into your meeting dressed in fancy clothes and expensive jewellery, and another comes in who is poor and dressed in dirty clothes. 3 If you give special attention and a good seat to the rich person, but you say to the poor one, “You can stand over there, or else sit on the floor”—well, 4 doesn’t this discrimination show that your judgments are guided by evil motives?
5 Listen to me, dear brothers and sisters. Hasn’t God chosen the poor in this world to be rich in faith? Aren’t they the ones who will inherit the Kingdom he promised to those who love him? 6 But you dishonour the poor! Isn’t it the rich who oppress you and drag you into court? 7 Aren’t they the ones who slander Jesus Christ, whose noble name you bear?
8 Yes indeed, it is good when you obey the royal law as found in the Scriptures: “Love your neighbour as yourself.” (Leviticus 19: 18 “Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against a fellow Israelite, but love your neighbour as yourself. I am the Lord.”)
9 But if you favour some people over others, you are committing a sin. You are guilty of breaking the law.
10 For the person who keeps all of the laws except one is as guilty as a person who has broken all of God’s laws. 11 For the same God who said, “You must not commit adultery,” also said, “You must not murder.” So if you murder someone but do not commit adultery, you have still broken the law.
12 So whatever you say or whatever you do, remember that you will be judged by the law that sets you free. 13 There will be no mercy for those who have not shown mercy to others. But if you have been merciful, God will be merciful when he judges you.”
James couldn’t be more blunt. We sure don’t have to consult commentaries to figure out what James was saying. We need to treat everyone we meet the way we would want to be treated. Jesus tells us the same thing. Look at what Jesus told one of the Jewish leaders:
Mark 12: 28 – 31 NLT
“One of the teachers of religious law was standing there listening to the debate. He realized that Jesus had answered well, so he asked, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”
29 Jesus replied, “The most important commandment is this: ‘Listen, O Israel! The Lord our God is the one and only Lord. 30 And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.’ 31 The second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ No other commandment is greater than these.”
Jesus not only told us that loving others – every single ‘other’ person – is crucially important, he demonstrated it completely himself. Read these verses in Colossians, and think about how the God who created this universe treated YOU.
Colossians 1: 13 – 22 NLT
“For he has rescued us from the kingdom of darkness and transferred us into the Kingdom of his dear Son, 14 who purchased our freedom[a] and forgave our sins.
15 Christ is the visible image of the invisible God.
He existed before anything was created and is supreme over all creation,
16 for through him God created everything
in the heavenly realms and on earth.
He made the things we can see
and the things we can’t see—
such as thrones, kingdoms, rulers, and authorities in the unseen world.
Everything was created through him and for him.
17 He existed before anything else,
and he holds all creation together.
18 Christ is also the head of the church,
which is his body.
He is the beginning,
supreme over all who rise from the dead.]
So he is first in everything.
19 For God in all his fullness
was pleased to live in Christ,
20 and through him God reconciled
everything to himself.
He made peace with everything in heaven and on earth
by means of Christ’s blood on the cross.
21 This includes you who were once far away from God. You were his enemies, separated from him by your evil thoughts and actions. 22 Yet now he has reconciled you to himself through the death of Christ in his physical body. As a result, he has brought you into his own presence, and you are holy and blameless as you stand before him without a single fault.”
Is there any other example as amazing as Jesus’ example? Think of the huge difference between Jesus and you. What was he willing to do for you? How can we not love others as we love ourselves? How can the church not be known for its love and care?
Our song for today is If We Are the Body by Casting Crowns.