Love is the Greatest – Part 2

There is old Sammy again, digging through the dumpster outside a local market in hopes of finding who-knows-what. Perhaps he scrounges for some small morsel of food for the day. Another’s trash becomes his treasure. As customers walk in and out of the establishment, they pretend not to notice the ragged and haggard homeless man. He thinks to himself, “Being hungry is bad, but being lonely is so much worse. Please, don’t just ignore me! Why do they all just pass by as if I do not exist? If just one person would stop and talk to me for five minutes it would make my day. Does anyone even care? Does anyone love me?”

Veronica, a single mother of three, frantically rushes home to prepare what little supper she can. She just got off her second part-time job and is exhausted from the day’s labor. When she arrives, her oldest daughter is trying to keep the house in order as well as a ten-year-old can. The small dingy apartment is a mess. Bills are looming. Diapers need to be changed. Stomachs are empty and moaning. It is an overwhelming site. The mother ponders, “What am I supposed to do? I just cannot handle this on my own. I am hopeless. Please, somebody, anybody! Is there anyone who can help? Does anyone even know or care? Does anyone love me and my children?”

Young Aashiyana never knew her parents. The streets of Mumbai, India raised her and the streets have been a cruel guardian. Aashi has been in and out of many different situations and tonight she tries to find protection in a small nook underneath a bridge. There are many dangers in this city that the child knows all too well. The worst of them: people. She must try and remain hidden especially throughout the night. Fears encroach on the young girl’s spirit as the sun sets. The child wonders, “Am I safe here for tonight? I am so lonely. I have no family or friends. I am so hungry and cold. Is there any hope for my life? Why am I even alive? Perhaps it would be better to be dead. Is this all there is for my life? Does anyone care? Could anyone love me?”

Do stories like these pierce your heart towards compassion? Is there something that rings true inside? Does not your soul weigh heavy for the poor and afflicted? Many ask, “Why does God not do something?” But God has done something. He has done something miraculous. He has sent His Son Jesus so that all might find life, freedom, and salvation. And now He is sending you to offer that same hope of the Gospel. Perhaps, what we should ask is, “Why have I not done anything?” So now, what are you going to do about it? Do you care? Better yet, do you care enough to do something about it? Can you say to the needy with confidence, “Yes! Someone does care. I care! I love you!”

Have you ever asked the question: “Does anyone love me? Could anyone ever love me?” Take comfort; the answer is “Yes!” God loves you. He has always loved you. And He also loves old Sammy. He loves Veronica. He loves Aashi. He loves them all; He loves us all. So then where is the love? What is God’s plan to show the world His love? Gary Haugen of International Justice Mission answers this way: “We (the body of Christ) are the plan… and there is no other plan.” Amazing! Christians are God’s plan to love and change the world. We are the plan to show the love of Christ and there is no other plan! We are called to be the “light of the world.” Are you shining?

Scripture commands us to love God and to love people (Mark 12:29-31; Matthew 22:37-40; Luke 10:27). Jesus tells us that “No other commandment is greater than these” (Mark 12:31b). The entire Bible rests on these two principles—love God, love people. It is interesting that Jesus felt the need to state the second commission. He just knew we would need to hear both—that we are to love our neighbors as ourselves (Leviticus 19:18). The command to love God and love people goes hand in hand. In fact, they are dependent upon one another. You cannot love God and not love other people. When we truly love God we will love other people. And when we are loving people, we are actually loving God.
Consider what God has to say about service absent love: “What makes you think I want all your sacrifices…? When you come to worship me, who asked you to parade through my courts with all your ceremony? Stop bringing me your meaningless gifts; the incense of your offerings disgusts me!” (Isaiah 1:11, 12-13). Offerings without love are a burden to Him. This is His desire: “Learn to do good. Seek justice. Help the oppressed. Defend the cause of orphans. Fight for the rights of widows” (verse 17). Then God will accept our service and offerings.

How crazy that God does not care so much about our tithe as He does our relationships. To many this is counter-intuitive and counter-culture, but true nonetheless. “So if you are presenting a sacrifice at the altar in the Temple and you suddenly remember that someone has something against you, leave your sacrifice there at the altar. Go and be reconciled to that person. Then come and offer your sacrifice to God” (Matthew 5:23-24). God would rather you go out to coffee with that person you have held a grudge against for the past year than attend an all-night worship service. He would rather you reconcile with your parents than sing praise songs to Him. He would rather you grant forgiveness to the one who wronged you than to donate your whole paycheck to the new church building fund.

Christianity is not about living a life of “do’s and don’ts.” It is living a life of love. Ministry is about changed lives changing lives. Christianity is meant to be practical and relevant. Jesus meets people where they are and tends to their needs. We love others holistically—providing for all felt needs—physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual. “Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you” (James 1:27). Do not be corrupted by the world’s conception of religion. Refuse the unbalanced dangers of legalism and liberalism. Embrace lovism!

Imagine if Jesus Christ were to knock on your front door. What would that be like? How would you respond? Would you invite Him in or leave Him out in the cold? Would you offer Him to stay and dine with your family or recommend the local soup kitchen? Would you seek to serve Him or seek to casually bid Him farewell? Sound absurd? Well, we do it all the time. Jesus offers to come and stay with us, and we oh so graciously decline. But what an honor it is to serve the King of kings and Lord of lords! How could we refuse such an incredible opportunity!?

“And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!’” (Matthew 25:40). When we feed the hungry, refresh the thirsty, invite in the stranger, clothe the naked, visit the sick and the prisoner, we do it unto Christ. We can see the face of Christ in the face of the broken. The downtrodden are in the heart of the Father. The afflicted are held by Him who was afflicted for our sins. When we look into impoverished eyes, we can see the eyes of our Lord staring back at us.

If you want to tithe to God, He says to lift up the lowly and to love the unlovely. God wants your heart. He desires a life that He can use to help change lives. You see, God does not need you—but your neighbor does.  God is God. He does not need your time, money, or charity. The struggling family down the street from you needs you. That single mother at your office needs you. That homeless man you drove past today needs you. That orphan in the charity brochure needs you. The world is crying out in pain and darkness. The world is lost and hopeless, in dire need for the children of God to be who they are called to be. Christians must fulfill their role as salt and light. You must be the change you want to see in the world (Ghandi). We must be the love that the world so desperately needs. We love God by loving others. So go and love!

Finley can be reached at: [email protected]

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