I was reflecting the other day about the relationships that Jesus had during His earthly ministry and how He related to them. There are many descriptors that we could use for His interactions: the woman at the well (John 4), the lame man by the Bethesda pool (John 5), the adulterous woman (John 8), the blind man (John 9), and the list can go on and on. We could use descriptors like loving, patient, kind, and comforting, but as I thought it occurred to me that the overarching descriptor is “Purposeful”. Jesus was incredibly purposeful in His interactions and it is this purpose that drove how He interacted. More specifically Jesus says of His purpose in Luke 19:10, “For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost (NASB).” Just let that sink in when Jesus interacted with those around Him, He had the purpose of seeking and saving that which was lost.
I wonder, what would it be like if we also purposely approached our interactions with others? I’m not saying that we approach people like a project or a problem to solve. What I’m suggesting, is that our lives individually have a purpose and that purpose translates into how we interact with others with our words, attitudes, actions, and reactions. Further, I am suggesting that our churches have a purpose and that purpose translates into how we interact with others with our words, attitudes, actions, and reactions.
As I read Scripture, I am constantly drawn to three purposes for both the church and individual believers.
The first and second are called the Great Commandment and are found in Matthew 22. Notice with me the first purpose in Matthew 22:36-37, “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?’ And He (Jesus) said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’” What does it mean to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, and mind? We could write a book on all the ins and out of what heart, soul, and mind mean, but for simplicity, it means that we are to love the Lord with all that we are. Let me ask you, what does it look like in your personal life to love the Lord with all that you are? Now before you jump to a mindset of “I’ve got to do this or do that” and “I’ve got to work harder or try harder”, this isn’t the point or the solution. The solution is a heart matter. The solution is an understanding and conviction of the magnitude of His love for you that is exemplified through the cross and that empty tomb. The solution is falling more and more in love with Jesus because of the wonders of His love. Here is the reality, when we fall more and more in love with Him the overflow will be seen through our attitudes, actions, and words.
What does loving the Lord with all that we are look like for the church? How would this love for the Lord affect our prayers? Worship? Preaching and teaching? The way we see our community and world?
This leads us to the second purpose, which is also found in what is called the Great Commandment. In Matthew 22:38-39 Jesus states, “‘This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’” Let me again start individually, what does it look like to love your neighbor as yourself? In this verse, there is an assumption that we are going to love ourselves, that we are going to want to care for ourselves, and that we are going to want the best for ourselves. So what does it look like when we love ourselves and care for ourselves and want the best for ourselves? As you answer this question know that in the same way, we are to love others, care for others, and want the best for others. Think about it this way, if we as believers are to be imitators of Jesus, how did Jesus love those around him? Let me suggest a few descriptors: patient, kind, not jealous, not boastful, polite, not preoccupied with self, guards against being easily irritated and angered and forgiving (1 Corinthians 13). Are you loving others, as Jesus loves them?
For the church, are we loving our communities? I mean truly loving our communities. Are our communities better places because of our presence? Does the community even know you are there? If your doors shut tomorrow, would the community even notice? If I haven’t gone too ‘meddling’ yet, let me dig a little deeper. Gary Chapman writes in The 5 Love Languages that tells us that different people with different personalities give and receive love in different ways. These five ways of giving and receiving love: acts of service (actions speak louder than words), receiving gifts (heartfelt gifts), quality time (undivided attention), words of affirmation (public and individual), and physical touch (a hug, pat on the back, or a high five). Our communities are different with different personalities, are we loving them in a way that is best given and received? Preachers talk about exegeting the Word (interpreting and explaining), do we need to exegete our communities?
Let me share with you the third purpose for us in a passage that is called the Great Commission in Matthew 28. In Matthew 28:19-20 Jesus speaks these words, “‘Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” There is a lot in this verse but for now, I want you to notice the linchpin of this verse—Make disciples. As you are going, make disciples. Where are you to make disciples? Of all nations. How are you to make disciples? Bring them into the fellowship of the church, teach them, and remember that He is with us at all places and at all times. As believers, we are all tasked with the mission to make disciples of Jesus by telling, teaching, showing, and encouraging. In like manner, each church is tasked with the mission to make disciples of Jesus by telling, teaching, showing, and encouraging. If we as individual believers and as a church are not making disciples, what are we doing and why do we exist? In Revelation 2, in the message to the church at Ephesus, we have a startling statement in Revelation 2:5, “‘Therefore remember from where you have fallen, and repent and do the deeds you did at first; or else I am coming to you and will remove your lampstand out of its place—unless you repent.’”
If we were to go and ask a restaurant owner, “How is business?” They would tell us whether it was good or bad based on their sales and the number of customers that have been served. Let me re-couch this question for you and me, and the church, if we look at how deep is our love for Jesus, how we love those around us and our community as a whole, and making disciples who make disciples, “How is business?” Are we being purposeful as we interact with those around us?
Let me close with these familiar words from Jesus in Matthew 5:13-16, “‘You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men. You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.’”
My friends, let me encourage you and challenge you:
How can I help? Can I help you bounce some ideas around? Exegete your community?