This Monday morning I thought back over my weekend, one full of interaction with people. There were a couple of shared meals, visits with those who are sick, a meeting with several other men about getting a service group started, so many greetings and exchanges at church, time with children at our Kid’s ministry on Sunday afternoon. Thrown in were a few dozen text messages and phone calls.
While I understand the need to retreat from people (and need to do it sometimes to find my sanity!), I also know that the best experience of our Christian faith is not is found in a life without the give and take of social interaction. Jesus was a Man deeply involved with others and, as we bear His Name in this world, we must be engaged and involved, too!
In my reading from Romans this morning, I came to this passage, packed with practical directions about life with others. “Share with God’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody.” (Romans 12:13-17, NIV) There is so much to take in here.
Life conspires to get us wrapped up in Me, so concerned about our place, doesn’t it? The great deception that can quickly overtake us is that we must live on the defense, ready to challenge those who we feel are threatening our well-being. Our present American scene has divided us, somehow convincing us that we are under siege.
Even many Christians are convinced that it is time to take up their holy guns and fire ‘the Truth’ on the world that surrounds them. That life is the very opposite of what Jesus asks of us, friend.
Here are Paul’s inspired words again, this time from The Message. “Help needy Christians; be inventive in hospitality. Bless your enemies; no cursing under your breath. Laugh with your happy friends when they’re happy; share tears when they’re down. Get along with each other; don’t be stuck-up. Make friends with nobodies; don’t be the great somebody. Don’t hit back; discover beauty in everyone.” (Romans 12:13-17, The Message)
That is a description of what it means to be a great lover, in the likeness of Love personified! Tell me where you find a defensive, self-protective life recommended in those words. Self-centeredness is just incompatible with being a disciple of Jesus Christ.
Yes, I live in the same world as you. I know those things that feel threatening in this rapidly changing world. I, too, have to resist becoming angry at those with whom I disagree. I feel the tug of the constant propaganda that is thrown at me by every political faction in our land. But… there is Someone greater, who gave Himself away, who shows me a completely different way to live, freely, lovingly. The truth is that “He had equal status with God but didn’t think so much of himself that he had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what. Not at all. When the time came, he set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human! Having become human, he stayed human. It was an incredibly humbling process. He didn’t claim special privileges. Instead, he lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a selfless, obedient death—and the worst kind of death at that—a crucifixion. Because of that obedience, God lifted him high and honored him far beyond anyone or anything, ever.” (Philippians 2:6-9, The Message)
He is our example, the One who shows us the way. We will never live this kind of selfless life, quick to forgive, ready to engage with the ‘other,’ or the ‘different’ until we have found the amazing love of Jesus and let Him secure us, heal us, and hold us in His embrace. “We love, because He loved us first,” John teaches. The love of which he writes is far more than some sloppy sentimental moment. It is a way of life that boldly engages with people – all kinds of people.
Christmas is the celebration of God’s love. Make it personal. Yes, my friend, the One who knows you best, loves you most! It is true. Pray for a relational faith, a Christianity is far more than accepting a creed, belonging to a church, or a Sunday habit. Be loved and go love.
Here is a word from the Word for this Monday morning. May it be transforming truth to us. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. God did not send his Son into the world to condemn it, but to save it.” (John 3:16-17, NLT) “If we love our Christian brothers and sisters, it proves that we have passed from death to eternal life. But a person who has no love is still dead.” (1 John 3:14, NLT)
Abba, thank for Love come to us in Your Son.
Bathe me in love; real, deep, profoundly transformative love.
Release me from the fears that divide this world in which I live.
Cause me to find joy in serving those who are least in the eyes of others.
Give me a ready smile, a willingness to look at others with Your eyes.
Let me love and so to make it clear that I know You,
Beyond my creed and my church songs.
Make this Christmas one that is different
By revealing to me anew the depth of Your love.
Let Jesus be seen in me. Amen
Love Came Down At Christmas
Love came down at Christmas
Love all lovely love divine
Love was born at Christmas
Star and angels gave the sign
Worship we the Godhead
Love incarnate love divine
Worship we our Jesus
But wherewith for sacred sign
Love shall be our token
Love be yours and love be mine
Love to God and all men
Love for plea and gift and sign
Love for plea and gift and sign
For plea for gift for sign
Christina Georgina Rossetti | Gilbert M. Martin © Words: Public Domain