Disciples of Jesus must love the world. No, I’m not saying that we must love the things of the world, the sin of the world, the brokenness of the world. I’m saying Christians must love the people of the world – sinners, the lost, “those people.” It’s important to make this distinction because far too many Christians are quick to say, “Hate the sin, but love the sinner,” yet approach “those sinners” with caution. Worse, perhaps, is the sterile environment we typically find in many churches, where judgmental indifference is the silent, invisible bouncer at the door. Sure, we have an open invitation to any who might join us, but unless “they” get their act cleaned up, they find no reason to stay. Even when strangers slip in and just fade away, far too often, we’re OK with that.
We often take that indifference with us into the world. Because Jesus told his disciples that we are not of this world (John 15:19), many Christians choose to disconnect from the world. We keep our homes as sterile from sinful outside influences as we do the church (never mind our own secret struggles with sin; that’s another article for another time). We streamline our relationships, giving up the people we won’t see if they don’t follow the church’s calendar. Somehow we even reduce our interactions with other people to the bare essentials for getting what we need, responding only to their questions – “A half pound of bologna,” “Credit,” “Plastic” – eliminating even simple pleasantries with cashiers, servers, and other people in line with us. The sad thing is, we often interact with the same people from day to day, and we hardly notice. Even though it’s not outright hostility, it’s not love.
As I’ve mentioned several times in sermons and articles, my yearlong theme for preaching, teaching, and writing has been discipleship, what it means to be and make followers of Jesus. The most recent sermon series has focused on being witnesses of Jesus, based on one of the iterations of the Great Commission; Jesus told his disciples in Acts 1:8, “You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (NIV 1984). The primary idea of the sermon series is that as followers of Jesus, we are sent to be witnesses of Jesus; we are sent to show and tell others what Jesus said and did so that we might accomplish his mission, which is, in part, to seek and save the lost (Luke 19:10). This is our mission because it was Jesus’ mission; again, Jesus told his disciples, “As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.”
God sent Jesus because of his love: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16, NIV 1984). God sent Jesus to demonstrate his love: “This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him” (1 John 4:9, NIV 1984). Jesus sent his disciples to demonstrate his love: “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:34, 35, NIV 1984). And before anyone gets distracted, thinking that Jesus commanded us to love only each other within the church, remember, Jesus also said, “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:39, NIV 1984).
As disciples of Jesus, we must be witnesses of his love. The self-righteous religious leaders of Jesus’ day insulted Jesus, calling him a “friend of sinners,” but Jesus turned it around and justified his lifestyle of loving others saying, “Wisdom is proved right by her actions” (Matthew 11:19, NIV 1984). Do the people around you know that you’re a disciple of Jesus by your love for others? Prove Jesus right by your actions.