God Running is a place for anyone who wants to (or even anyone who wants to want to) love Jesus more deeply, follow Jesus more closely, and love people the way Jesus wants us to.
In our last post from the book of Acts we saw the radical way Jesus’ disciples responded to injustice and abuse. If you’re interested you can learn more here: “The Way” the Disciples of Jesus Responded to Suffering: Acts 5:33-42.
Today I want to take a break from the book of Acts. And I want to start by telling you about my daughter. Technically she’s my daughter (in-law) but both my daughters-in-law have such amazing loving beautiful hearts that I don’t think of them as in-laws at all. I see them as part of my family, as daughters, and most importantly as part of my family in Christ. So one of my daughters, Anastasia, sent a text this morning to the family. I want to tell you something about Anastasia. You know the saying about how there are two types of people, those who see the glass half empty and those who see the glass half full? Well Anastasia’s neither one of those people. Anastasia is a person who, when she’s holding an empty glass, says, “Hey, at least I have a glass.”
So it was Anastasia who inspired me this morning, as she often does, when she sent this text:
“And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?” – Matthew 7:5
It really hit me thinking about the Lord’s Prayer – “… and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.”
Note to self: Throw around forgiveness like it’s going out of business
Anastasia’s text got me to thinking about how some of my unvaccinated pro civil liberties friends feel about those who choose to be vaccinated and are more concerned about the spread of COVID.
And also about how some of my vaccinated friends feel about those who choose to forgo vaccination and are more concerned about losing civil liberties, or, whether or not the vaccine is safe.
So let’s say you’re vaccinated. Maybe you’re part of my brother’s megachurch in Springfield, Missouri that launched a vaccination campaign and held a big vaccination clinic in their massive parking lot.
Or maybe you’re a fan of the megachurch pastor and Christian author Max Lucado who said the way his body responded to his breakthrough COVID infection is “a case study on the power of the vaccine.” (Martin, ChristianLeaders.com)
Or maybe you’re a fan of the deep dive Bible scholar and commentator Craig Keener who also advocates vaccination. (Keener)
Or maybe you agree with the Pope who said getting vaccinated is “an act of love.” And, “Vaccination is a simple but profound way of promoting the common good and caring for each other, especially the most vulnerable.” (NPR)
If you are that’s great! You’re concerned about the vulnerable. Jesus loves the vulnerable. You’re concerned about the greater good. Jesus gave his life for the entire world. You have valid concerns.
Or maybe you agree with those who are concerned about the loss of civil liberties. Today, the day this blog post published, it’s the twentieth anniversary of the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center. Shortly after that attack our government responded by passing the Patriot Act. Both parties were overwhelmingly in favor of this legislation that dramatically impacted our civil liberties. Seemed logical at the time. Our country was under attack. The problem is, now, decades later, the government hasn’t restored those civil liberties that were taken away.
And then there are those who are concerned about what the vaccine might do to their body. The opioid epidemic is just one reminder that pharmaceutical companies are profit driven and they don’t always have the greater good of the people in mind. They will make billions of dollars off these vaccines.
And then there’s the Tuskegee atrocity. That program continued all the way to 1972! Unbelievable! (Tuskegee Syphilis Study) So if you have trust issues with the government and/or pharmaceutical companies you’re concerns are warranted.
And if you’re concerned about your freedom to choose, you have something in common with Jesus and God. They’re both radical when it comes to our free will. They want us to be able to make our own decisions.
Jesus and Free Will
“What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked the blind man sitting by the road near Jericho. (Luke 18:38-41)
“Do you want to get well?” Jesus asked the invalid at the pool of Bethesda. (John 5:6)
“Shall I come to heal him?” Jesus asked the centurion with the paralyzed servant. (Matthew 8:7)
“Will you give me a drink?” Jesus asked the Samaritan woman at the well. (John 4:7)
He asked. He asked people what it was that they wanted, or even if they wanted. He left the choice up to them.
Ever notice that Jesus never went out looking for individual Pharisees to engage? Nicodemus had to come to Jesus. (John 3:1-21)
And then there’s the man driving demons out in Jesus’ name: “Master,” said John, “we saw someone driving out demons in your name and we tried to stop him, because he is not one of us.”
“Do not stop him,” Jesus said. (Luke 9:50)
And there’s the synagogue official who told the people not to come on the Sabbath to be healed. But Jesus said, No! Let them come! (Luke 13:14-17)
Even his own disciples tried to constrain the will of certain people. They refused to let the little children come to Jesus. And when Jesus saw this, he said, Let them come! (Mark 10:14)
Finally there’s Judas objecting to Mary pouring her perfume out onto Jesus’ feet. How did Jesus respond? He said, Leave her alone! (John 12:3-7)
Even when it broke cultural convention, Jesus let people do what they wanted to.
Jesus loved those people and all people, whatever their choices. He was never surprised or offended by somebody’s sin (except for the offence he took at the sins of the Pharisees). Jesus’ expectations were never violated by somebody’s sin. I used to have a barber who had attended Celebrate Recovery meetings. One of the most insightful statements I’ve ever heard came from what was learned at one of those meetings:
An expectation of how other people should behave is simply premeditated resentment and angst.
So for me, and for you, to love like Jesus, we need to rethink our expectations of others. Jesus demonstrated a radical respect for the freedom of others to choose to do what they want to do. To love like Jesus we also have to show that same radical respect for people’s freedom.
God is love and our enemy is the opposite of God. So: Satan doesn’t care who you hate, he only cares that you hate.
Jesus made it clear what he wants from us is the opposite of hate. And . . .
Jesus said he wants us to experience his joy. And . . .
Jesus said he came so we could experience the abundant life. And . . .
Jesus emphasized forgiving other people’s behavior — a lot.
Jesus, Forgiveness, and Happiness
It’s interesting the huge correlation found between forgiveness and happiness. There’s a great article in USA Today about what makes people happy. A statement from that article by University of Michigan psychologist Christopher Peterson sums up what science says about forgiveness and happiness. The statement is this:
“Forgiveness is the trait most strongly linked to happiness.”University of Michigan psychologist Christopher Peterson
Forgiveness, forgiveness, forgiveness. No wonder Jesus emphasized it so. His desire is for us to enter into a big abundant life, walking with him here on earth, and dwelling with him later in heaven. (John 10:10) To live that abundant life on earth, he tells us, we must learn to forgive. (Matthew 6:14, 18:21-22, 18:23-35, Mark 11:25) Do you want to love like Jesus, unencumbered?
Do you want to be free from anger, resentment, and disappointment during this global pandemic?
And do you want to be happy, independent of your circumstances? Then learn to forgive. Forgive everyone, of everything. Forgive 77 times. (Matthew 18:21-22)
Jesus loved people by forgiving, he forgave the paralytic, he forgave the woman who anointed him at dinner, and he forgave us all when he hung there, dying, on the cross. (Matthew 9:2-7, Luke 7:48, Luke 23:34)
Jesus tells us he wants us to experience a life full of joy, an abundant life, a life full of love for God and love for people, and then he tells us how to get there:
Or as my daughter Anastasia says,
“Throw around forgiveness like it’s going out of business.”
Stephanie Martin, Max Lucado Says Breakthrough COVID Infection Is ‘A Case Study on the Power of the Vaccine’, ChurchLeaders.com, July 29, 2021
AP, In A Message To Americans, Pope Francis Says Getting Vaccinated Is ‘An Act Of Love’, via NPR, 8/18/2021
Craig Keener, Anti-antichrist-anti-vaxxers: or, why the vaccine is not the mark of the beast, Bible Background, 8/18/2021
Tuskegee Syphilis Study, Wikipedia
University of Michigan psychologist Christopher Peterson in an article by Marilyn Elias, Psychologists now know what makes people happy, USA TODAY, 12/8/2002, URL: http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/news/health/2002-12-08-happy-main_x.htm
Love Like Jesus by Kurt Bennett, now available on Amazon!
Love Like Jesus: How Jesus Loved People (and how you can love like Jesus)
Love Like Jesus begins with the story of how after a life of regular church attendance and Bible study, Bennett was challenged by a pastor to study Jesus. That led to an obsessive seven year deep dive. After pouring over Jesus’ every interaction with another human being, he realized he was doing a much better job of studying Jesus’ words than he was following Jesus’ words and example. The honest and fearless revelations of Bennett’s own moral failures affirm he wrote this book for himself as much as for others.
Love Like Jesus examines a variety of stories, examples, and research, including:
- Specific examples of how Jesus communicated God’s love to others.
- How Jesus demonstrated all five of Gary Chapman’s love languages (and how you can too).
- The story of how Billy Graham extended Christ’s extraordinary love and grace toward a man who misrepresented Jesus to millions.
- How to respond to critics the way Jesus did.
- How to love unlovable people the way Jesus did.
- How to survive a life of loving like Jesus (or how not to become a Christian doormat).
- How Jesus didn’t love everyone the same (and why you shouldn’t either).
- How Jesus guarded his heart by taking care of himself–he even napped–and why you should do the same.
- How Jesus loved his betrayer Judas, even to the very end.
With genuine unfiltered honesty, Love Like Jesus, shows you how to live a life according to God’s definition of success: A life of loving God well, and loving the people around you well too.
A life of loving like Jesus.