Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Loving God, Loving People

Here is another "sermonette" for your enjoyment. I'm sure there will probably be edits as the week goes on, but this is what the next sermon will be about, or close to it.

Today is probably going to be something you've heard before, but I really feel God is leading me to share this message with you as He is showing me how to improve on this area of my life. "Loving God, Loving People."

There are verses all over the Bible that talk about loving God, about living in a community with Him as the center. The Israelites were His chosen instrument to show us that, I believe. He gave them all these instructions about clean and unclean, sacrifices, war, and I believe it wasn't them following the rules that He wanted. Yes, they should obey, but not out of obligation, but out of love. The same applies to us, we should obey out of a love for God, a desire to obey because we love Him. Jesus Himself says:

If you love me, you will obey my commands."
John 14:15

And again in Matthew 22:36-40 Jesus says:

"Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?" And he said to him, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets."

We are to love God with our very being, with all of who we are, our heart, our soul, our mind, and even our strength. But there is another part of that command, "Love your neighbor as yourself." You see, God loves people, He loves us, and He wants us to love others. So many people remember the first command, but not the second, which is JUST LIKE THE FIRST!

And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.

He considers it to be just as important as the first. In reality this command is practically a 2-in-1 kind of deal. Yes, they are two commands, but at the same time, you can't have one without the other. Now look at the last verse.

On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets."

Everything that God commands of us in based on this law. God wants us to love Him and love people, and I believe you cannot do one without the other. Not truly anyway. Loving God IS loving people, and you can't love people without having a love for God.

[At church we have talked about the sex trade and slavery that has been going on in southeast Asia, and the AIDS problem in Africa. If you did a little research on them you would realize that there is a lot of hurt in these areas (edited for relevance to reading group)] Does it concern you that real people are dying daily? Real people are getting raped, abused, molested, and murdered on a daily basis. Does it concern you that a world that was created to be good and growing is dying because of our sin? Ever wonder why people are able to do the things they do? Are you also capable of rape, murder, or any other heinous crime?

If you think "no" then let me ask you this. What makes you better than them? You might be thinking, "Because I am a Christian." Sadly, Christians are not impervious to these crimes and are just as guilty of adultery, murder, molestation, and even theft. And just because you don't act on it doesn't mean you are not capable of it.

I've been reading a book [recently] called, Blue Like Jazz, written by Donald Miller, and while I was reading it he said something that really hit me. To give you some context, he is talking about how he grew up in church and knew all the answers, but he wasn't sure if he really followed what he said. He came to the conclusion he didn't love people.

"I sat there above the city wondering if I was like the parrot in Lewis' poem, swinging in my cage, reciting Homer, all the while having no idea what I was saying. I talk about love, forgiveness, social justice; I rage against American materialism in the name of altruism, but have I even controlled my own heart? The overwhelming majority of time I spend thinking about myself, pleasing myself, reassuring myself, and when I am done there is nothing to spare for the needy. Six billion people live in this world, and I can only muster thoughts for one. Me."

Have we controlled our hearts? Have we willingly, passionately sought after God and persistently asked Him to give us a concern for people? You may say, "But Austin, I am concerned. I don't want people in Africa to die of aids, or want others to be sold into the sex trade." Then what are you doing about it? You may not be able to physically save them from their sickness or their situation, but there are ways to support those who are, and prayer is the easiest.

It is so easy and yet so hard to be concerned about people when they are across the world, because you don't feel the need to be active in it. It is a reality that is only a facade. Sure you might pray about it every now and then, but you aren't being fully, passionately, involved in it. It doesn't count as concern if you put money in the offering plate or pray for them when you hear about it, and only do it a couple of times. That is a reaction of guilt and not authentic concern. But let me bring our love for people back to the U.S. Do you love your neighbor? Who is your neighbor?

Do you love God enough to deny yourself to do what He asks? Then why do you not deny your wants, fears, and time for people? God not only asks us to love people, it is His command. Are you willing to share your faith with them? That is one of the best ways you can show them love, by taking the gospel to them. And don't show love by your words only, show it by living your love for them as well. "Actions speak louder than words." Right?

And it is not always easy, in fact, oftentimes it will hurt, but when you choose, commit, and take action of loving them because you love God, then God can and will eventually give you His compassion for them.

So love people. I don't think I need to give specifics on how to love; everyone knows what it is. Treat them as you would want to be treated, love them as you love yourself.

Love God, Love People.