Happy Labor Day, everyone! It’s been nice to see the temperatures start to return back to some sense of normal after the last two days of extreme heat. On Friday, I posted a picture of our weather on social media, and heard back from some of my friends and family who live in Phoenix. They weren’t impressed. I don’t know how anyone could live there! I couldn’t do it.
On Sunday, our family attended our church, Creekside Community Church (check out their website sometime! www.creeksidecommunity.org). As some of you know, our pastor, John Bruce, used to work with Cru at Berkeley back in the 1970s and 80s. We love how he communicates and teaches, and I am consistently walking away from his sermons challenged in my faith and encouraged to apply what God is teaching me through John.
Sunday’s sermon focused in on Jesus’ heart for people, and how that really challenged the religious leaders of the day. While their desire was to bring God glory through their obedience, they were missing the point when their obedience did not lead them to love and mercy towards others. In Matthew 12, Jesus was asked a question regarding the lawfulness of healing on the Sabbath. “If any of you has a sheep and it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will you not take hold of it and lift it out? How much more valuable is a man than sheep.”
These religious leaders were more focused on getting life right than loving their neighbors. While we often give the Pharisees a hard time, more often than not I find myself harboring similar heart attitudes. I’d like to think I’m further along then they were, but when I stop and think about what I fill my day with, and how often I’m looking out for the needs of others, I’m convicted that I might just be as self-focused and task-driven as they were.
Pastor John shared a list of things he often found valuing more than other people, and I wanted to pass it along to you, as this list has caused me to stop and think about my approach towards others.
What Matters More to Me than People
When I get done working, I want my time to be MY time. It’s really difficult to think about allowing interruptions, or to provide space for unanticipated conversations. I want to retreat and get away. Thankfully, I matter more to Jesus than His privacy.
It is an incredible struggle for me to have my plans altered or changed. If I am intending to get something done, and someone desires some of my time or has a request for me, it is with great difficulty that I can change my plans.
When I don’t connect with someone, it’s easy for me to find reasons to avoid interactions with them. It’s easy for me to struggle with seeing someone’s worth tied up with how I feel about their personality. That was not a struggle for Jesus, for which I am thankful, considering I’m sure my personality drives some people crazy sometimes.
Jesus didn’t say, ‘love your neighbor, so long as she is a fellow democrat.’ If our politics matter more to us than the personhood of another, we have to ask the question if we are viewing people the same way as Jesus did.
My stuff can easily matter more to me than others. But what really gets me, is how my drive towards comfort and ease, which is tied up with possessions, can get in the way of my desire to spend time with others.
- People’s Approval
I would rather people think of me as a great guy than challenge something wrong in their life. If I have a friend who I believe is making unwise decisions, it is far more loving to bring that to their attention and help them move back towards Christlikeness. But the temptation is to avoid the potentially awkward moment, in which case we prove that we value how people think of us more than the actual person.
Really, all of these things which matter more to me than others are different forms of protection. It’s driven by self-interest. I want to protect myself from things I don’t want to do, or people with whom I don’t want to engage. But if I am a follower of Christ, I don’t have the right to make those decisions any longer. I was bought at a price (1 Cor 6:20), I’m a new creation (2 Cor 5:17), and my goal is to love the things that God loves.
Guess what God loves? You. Me. My neighbors. Your neighbors. Democrats. Republicans. Antifa. The President. Children. Your Roommates. Your Professors.
God loves everyone, and desires a relationship with every single person. And until Jesus returns, or I go to be with Him, my call is to love people more than myself, and point them as best I can towards the God who loves them.
Unless they live in Phoenix. (JK)