“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
You Have More In Common With Jesus Than You Might Think
You have a lot in common with Jesus if you think about it. Especially before his public ministry began. You get up in the morning, clean up, grab some breakfast, and then commute to work. So did Jesus. You have to pay the bills, buy and prepare food, invest in relationships with family and friends. So did Jesus. You have to sleep. So did Jesus. You have to clean up around the house. So did Jesus. You came into the world naked and vulnerable, as a baby. So did Jesus.
We all live similarly to how Jesus lived when it comes to basic daily activities. At least until he was baptized by John.
Something Else You Have In Common
If you happen to be one of my American readers, there’s something else you have in common with Jesus. You’re Rich — and Jesus was rich.
Before he lowered himself into our world, Jesus was rich. He was with his Father in heaven and Jesus enjoyed everything his Father had to offer. He enjoyed everything heaven had to offer.
And when it comes to the people in the same world Jesus lowered himself into, you’re rich by comparison. The majority of Americans make more than 90% of the world’s population. So, you’re rich.
James Barnett Was Rich
Today I read about a guy who was rich. His name is James Barnett. James was raised a Christian, and he lived the life I lived most of my life. He lived the life I see most Christians living. He went to church. He tried to do the right thing. He tried to avoid doing the wrong thing. He ate, he slept, he hung with family, he worked.
And his work was rewarding — financially. He worked at J.P. Morgan & Chase where his annual income was nearly six figures.
But he wasn’t happy. He felt like there had to be more.
He went on some short-term mission trips until the day came when he encountered a woman of God in a dump in Nicaragua who anointed him with oil. After that happened, he sold all his belongings on Craigslist and lived on the streets with the homeless.
James Barnett gave up his riches. (Katy Steele)
What You May Not Have In Common
We read about Jesus in 2 Corinthians 8:9 “that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.”
The thing about Jesus and his riches is that, out of love for you, and for me, and for his Father, Jesus gave up his riches.
That’s what we’re celebrating during Christmas. That’s the Christmas story: he gave up his riches. He left heaven to come down to the world a baby, naked and vulnerable.
For your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty could enjoy the riches of eternal life in heaven with Jesus.
It makes sense that we would have so much in common with Jesus during his life before the Holy Spirit descended upon him like a dove during John’s baptism. When he was doing what we all do: eating, sleeping, hanging with family, and working. But we should also have in common with Jesus the giving up of our riches too. Because Jesus said, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.”
I’m not saying you must do what James Barnett did. I don’t know what it would look like for you to give up your riches so you can obey Jesus’ new commandment to love just as he loved. I knew a twenty-something-year-old machinist named Greg who would go into downtown Portland looking for people who needed sleeping bags, or socks, or food. And he would give them what they needed. Last week I had dinner with a thirty-something-year-old named Robert who does something similar in a nearby town. But Greg and Robert aren’t living on the streets the way James did.
I don’t know what it would look like for you.
I just know that Jesus said we’re to love “just as I have loved you.”
And he gave up his riches to love us.
So we should give up our riches to love people. So we can love, just as Jesus loved us.
“Father, help us. That man James Barnett was single when he did what he did. Most of us reading this are married with kids. So help us to love just as Jesus loved. Help us to give up our riches in the way You have in mind for us to.
“In Jesus’ name we ask this.
Ana Swanson, “You might be among the richest people in the world and not realize it“, Washington Post/ChicagoTribune, January 21, 2016
Katy Steele, “James Barnett, a man who gave up everything he owned to live on the streets and love the poor“, PublicGoodReporting.Wordpress.com, April 23, 2012
Rakesh Kochhar, “How Americans compare with the global middle class“, Pew Research Center, July 9, 2015
Global Wage Calculator, Money.CNN.com
Image of children via pixabay – Creative Commons