Once again we meet. There’s a song by the band Jack’s Mannequin that goes “So this is morning, it’s when I spend the most time thinking about what I’m giving up.” Now, I don’t support much of what that band has to say about anything… in fact I disagree with most of it. I think this lyric can get us started today.
It is morning. You may be tired because you stayed up most of the night pranking your room leaders (I surely hope not) or because you have left over Red Bull and for some horrendous reason decided to pull an all-nighter. So here’s what I’d like you to do. Before you read any more of this page I want you to stand up and stretch a bit. Run in place for a couple seconds or try to touch the ceiling of your room or something to wake yourself up. Go ahead. (Insert Jeopardy music here)
Alright, now that everyone is done stretching out, spend a few minutes in prayer. Ask God to help you to understand the things He wants you to learn today. Look back at those notes you wrote down last night about giving all you have to give to God. Spend some time talking with God about those things and asking how you live them out. Maybe even today you could do one of those things. Spend some time in prayer now.
Ok, now we’re ready. Open your Bible, or share with someone, and turn back to the same passage we were in last night in Matthew 22:35-40. We want to look at verse 39. The verse talks about loving your neighbor as you love yourself. This is the “Love People.” part of the phrase in the top corner of your pages. Jesus doesn’t just give us the command to love God with all we are, He gives us a second command to love your neighbor as you love yourself.
So who is my neighbor? Are we talking Mr. Rogers, “Could you be my? Would you be my?” kind of stuff or is this the guy that lives next door to me or what? The word neighbor in the passage is actually referring to everyone. Other translations read “to love others as your love yourself.” In other words, “love people”.
This, once again, is easier to read than it is to live out. Loving people can be hard. Period. This means Jesus wants us to love the unlovable, the people who get on our nerves, the people who we don’t get along with at school, those who pick on us, those who we pick on, the nerdy kids, the band and choir kids, the jocks, the preps, the goths and punks, the kid who sits alone in the lunch room day after day. We need to love them. Why? Because Jesus first loved us. Yesterday we learned how much Jesus loves us. He died for us on the cross. What else does He have to say about loving people?
Turn in your Bible, or follow along with your friend, to Matthew 25:34-40. (No it’s not a typo I know it sounds and looks like 22:35-40, but its different. Just go there.) Go ahead and read that passage.
Jesus is saying some pretty heavy stuff here. The scenario is this: Jesus is telling us to look around us, to look for those who are sick, tired, poor, or imprisoned. He’s telling us to look for these people because He wants us to love these people. Now we may be thinking, are you kidding me? You want me to find someone who is sick? Someone who is in prison? I know these types of people can make us uncomfortable. It’s not easy to go into a nursing home and see the residents tired, sick, and alone. But the truth is, if we don’t go and love them, who will? It’s easy to say, “Well, maybe some kid from another church will go.” It’s easy to pass that responsibility off to other people, but Jesus says something at the end of this passage in Matthew 25 that should change our perspective. Jesus says, “Whatever you do for the least of these, you do for Me”. When Jesus says the least of these, He is referring to all the people we have been talking about: the ones that are uncomfortable to be around. He’s telling us that how we treat these people is the same way we treat Him. In other words, by loving people, we are also loving God. This requires more of us than simply going to church on Sunday morning. This requires more of us than going to a retreat in Ghent, WV. This may even require more of us than going out for a couple of hours on a Saturday with a SURV team to meet the needs of some of these people. When Jesus says to love people, He doesn’t put a time limit on it. He doesn’t put a price tag on it. He doesn’t put conditions at all. Jesus’ only condition is for us to love people as we love ourselves. That’s a lot of love. It sounds to me like that means giving all I have to give. So the question that we have to ask ourselves is quite simply…are we? Are we giving all that we have to give? Are we going out of our way to love the unlovable? To love the least of these?
Let’s spend some time this morning thinking about what we can give up: our comfort zones, our selfishness, and our fear. End this time like we began, in prayer. Ask God to make you aware of the least of these in your life, the least of these all around you. Ask Him to give you the courage to love them.