Last week we talked a little bit about prayer. We just scratched the surface of that topic, but we really wanted to show how prayer can be framed in a missional context, and we looked at the example of Jesus, and how he prayed and listened to his father, setting an example for us to follow.
Prayer is one component in discerning God’s will and recognizing where and how he is at work around us. So last week we were focused a lot on fostering that upward connection we have, our connection to God.
Today we want to get very practical and look at some of the ways our outward connections, the connections we have with those around us, are impacted when approached from a missional context. What are some very specific ways to practice missional love towards others, in our actions and words? What happens when we spend time in scripture, and in prayer, and in meditation, and suddenly we identify needs around us? What does it look like to join God on his mission, and get our hands dirty as workers for his harvest?
One of the easiest ways to stop focusing on your problems or feeling sorry for yourself is to focus on others. And by focus I do not mean to see how bad they have it so you can make your situation seem less grave. I am talking about intentionally finding way to bless others.
To be a Christian (which literally translated means “little Christ”) means to imitate Jesus’ example through our own lives. What example did Jesus give us when he stated his purpose on Earth?
Matthew 20:28 || just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” [LEB]
Jesus came to serve, and if we claim to be Jesus followers, then we need to do the same. God did not save us just to sit in church service and soak in sermons. He saved us to serve others—those who are a part of the church family as well as those that do not yet know God.
John 3:16 || 16 For God loved the world in this way: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. [CSB]
True love produces sacrificial service.
Loving others in the “family”
There are a TON of references to connecting with each other in the Bible, because it is vital to our lives. Here is a quick list of just some of the “one another” commands found in the New Testament, and these are primarily directed towards brothers and sisters in Christ:
Can you think of any Bible commands that we are given about how we are to love each other?
Love one another, Respect one another, Encourage each other, Do not judge each other, Comfort one another, Encourage each other, Teach one another, Serve one another, Confess sins to each other, Pray for each other, Forgive one another, Be kind to each other, Exhort/correct each other, Be patient with each other, Greet each other with a holy kiss, Be committed to meeting together.
There is a LOT expected of love! This type of familial, community love, is not always intuitive (especially in America), and living this way doesn’t always come easy. That’s why it is important to remember that this outward network is only possible out of an overflow of our upward relationship, and why it always must start there:
1 John 4:7–12 || Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God. Anyone who loves is a child of God and knows God. 8 But anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love. 9 God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him. 10 This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins. 11 Dear friends, since God loved us that much, we surely ought to love each other. 12 No one has ever seen God. But if we love each other, God lives in us, and his love is brought to full expression in us. [NLT]
The way that we love others will tell the world around us what we truly believe about God. The way we love each other will demonstrate what we believe it means to be a disciple of Jesus.
John 13:35 || 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” [CSB]
There are so many ways to love each other. This past week I sent out a notice asking you to tell us how you can help. Really, those are all ways that we show love: meeting needs, praying, encouraging – and many of you responded! I am excited about what God is going to do through you in the weeks to come.
Loving those outside the “family”
One of the goals of loving each other in the family to help those that do NOT yet know God understand who God is and what God does. He shows loves and gives us the ability to love like he does.
1 Peter 2:11–12 || 11 Dear friends, I warn you as “temporary residents and foreigners” to keep away from worldly desires that wage war against your very souls. 12 Be careful to live properly among your unbelieving neighbors. Then even if they accuse you of doing wrong, they will see your honorable behavior, and they will give honor to God when he judges the world. [NLT]
Loving each other, without showing love to people who do not yet know Jesus, is not enough to help THEM love Jesus. Loving each other is one of two horizontal relationships we are called to. It is loving those inside the family. So we love God (upward) and we love each other (inward) but also need to focus on the outward.
Our Sunday afternoon group has been going through the book, The Art of Neighboring. That book has challenged us to really think about WHO our neighbor is. I mean, the second greatest commandment is to love our neighbor as ourselves. But who, exactly, is our neighbor?
This is a question that Jesus even took time to address:
Luke 10:25–37 || 25 One day an expert in religious law stood up to test Jesus by asking him this question: “Teacher, what should I do to inherit eternal life?” 26 Jesus replied, “What does the law of Moses say? How do you read it?” 27 The man answered, “ ‘You must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength, and all your mind.’ And, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ ” 28 “Right!” Jesus told him. “Do this and you will live!” 29 The man wanted to justify his actions, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” 30 Jesus replied with a story: “A Jewish man was traveling from Jerusalem down to Jericho, and he was attacked by bandits. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him up, and left him half dead beside the road. 31 “By chance a priest came along. But when he saw the man lying there, he crossed to the other side of the road and passed him by. 32 A Temple assistant walked over and looked at him lying there, but he also passed by on the other side. 33 “Then a despised Samaritan came along, and when he saw the man, he felt compassion for him. 34 Going over to him, the Samaritan soothed his wounds with olive oil and wine and bandaged them. Then he put the man on his own donkey and took him to an inn, where he took care of him. 35 The next day he handed the innkeeper two silver coins, telling him, ‘Take care of this man. If his bill runs higher than this, I’ll pay you the next time I’m here.’ 36 “Now which of these three would you say was a neighbor to the man who was attacked by bandits?” Jesus asked. 37 The man replied, “The one who showed him mercy.” Then Jesus said, “Yes, now go and do the same.” [NLT]
Notice that the “religious person” KNEW the right answer, but wanted to find a way to justify his lifestyle and lack of loving people that were different from him.
- A priest came along (an elder) – and passed by on the other side.
- A temple servant came along (deacon) – and passed by on the other side.
- A Samaritan walked by, stopped, bandaged the man and took care of him.
“Despised” by whom? Probably by the very person that was half dead, and every other Jew. See, Samaritans were not Jews or Gentiles, they were both. Jews had nothing but disdain for them. Yet this man, who would have been despised by the Jew, took care of him. He showed him mercy – giving him what he needed, not what he deserved.
THIS is the kind of love we need to show to our neighbors, the people who live right around us, in our own neighborhoods.
So, we are to demonstrate love upward, inward and outward. And the goal is to accomplish the mission of God. The goal is to join God on his mission to reconciling people to him.
So let’s get real practical, because we are in a season that is very likely to give us more opportunities to show love to others.
Specific acts of love/service
What are some specific ways we can show love to each other as a family, as well as to those outside our family? What does it look like in Jefferson & Lewis county when a group of people is overcome with love that produces sacrificial service?
What if my love is rejected by others?
First of all, don’t call down fire from heaven on them:
When the days were coming to a close for him to be taken up, he determined to journey to Jerusalem. He sent messengers ahead of himself, and on the way they entered a village of the Samaritans to make preparations for him. But they did not welcome him, because he determined to journey to Jerusalem. When the disciples James and John saw this, they said, “Lord, do you want us to call down fire from heaven to consume them?” But he turned and rebuked them, and they went to another village. (Luke 9:51-56)
Remember who they’re really rejecting:
Whoever listens to you listens to me. Whoever rejects you rejects me. And whoever rejects me rejects the one who sent me.”
Either move on or keep trying.
Missional love is sacrificial love. It means putting aside selfish desires and our own comfort for the sake of others. It doesn’t necessarily mean monumental efforts all the time, it can be very simple, small things, but has to start with a mindset, with intentionally looking around and asking yourself “how can I serve my neighbors?” And asking that not just about the people we like, but the people who are…more difficult…as well.
Final thought on loving those outside the family is that if we truly love them we will share with them the good news that they can have a relationship with God through Jesus.
We will talk more about that next week, Lord willing 😊