Love

Weep with those who weep.

Another day has gone by, and another black man has been shot by police. Social media is once again loud with folks either claiming injustice, or trying to dispel the myth of it. People are scared and people are angry, and this is true from every side of the discussion.

I’ll be perfectly honest, I have no answers. Many of the videos I see are disturbing. The stories I hear are things that I can’t imagine. I don’t pretend to understand what it’s like to be black in America, nor can I understand what it must be like to be a police officer during these turbulent times. Everyone is on edge, and it seems like everyone is responding in the worst possible way. This isn’t true in every situation of course, but to a large degree it is what we see being played out in the media.

Again, I don’t have the answers. I can’t tell people how to feel. I certainly can’t mend the divisions that I see in our country that are unlike anything I’ve ever experienced in my lifetime…but I do know how I feel, and the truth is that I’m hurting.

All morning I’ve been struggling to put into words what I’m feeling. I’m still not sure I can. But, as I look to social media this morning, the one thing that stands out to me is this: Many Christians seem to have lost the ability to “weep with those who weep” or “mourn with those who mourn.” (Romans 12:15)

The fact is, our Christian compassion can’t be dictated by whether or not we agree or disagree with the fact that there is systemic injustice in our legal system. It doesn’t matter whether or not we know all the facts, or variables in a case. It doesn’t matter the character of the individuals who are suffering, or have lost their lives. The only thing we need to see, as Christians, is that people are hurting. This is true from all sides, and if so as Christians, we have only one proper response: To “weep with those who weep.” We must weep for those who have lost their lives. We must mourn for the families who have had their lives turned upside down. Tears should flow freely over a world so broken by sin. When we see our neighbors suffering and struggling to deal with loss, fear, or even anger, we must come alongside them and join them in their struggle. Christian compassion leaves us no other choice. The love of our neighbors that Jesus commanded gives us no other option. (Matthew 22:39)

I was reminded this morning of Jesus just before he raises Lazarus from the dead. Jesus knew he was going to raise him, he knew the end of the story, yet what does he do when he sees the sister of Lazarus weeping? He too weeps. The Scripture says, “…he was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled,” (John 11:33) and that “Jesus wept.” (John 11:35)

Jesus identified with Mary in her pain and in her suffering. This is the type of compassion we as Christians must emulate. There were some who were standing by while Jesus wept, and they even accused him of “injustice” if you will…they said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man also have kept this man from dying?” (John 11:37) Everyone didn’t understand the big picture, they didn’t have all the answers, but still they saw our savior weeping over the tragedy of death. In the same way, we may not have all the answers, but we do know how Jesus feels about the tragedy of death, and the reality of sin. He weeps and mourns over it. As we should.

There were others there that day, and as they saw Jesus weeping over the death of Lazarus and they said, “See how he loved him!” (John 11:36) So, too as people see us mourning with those who mourn, and weeping with those who weep, they will see our love. Jesus said, “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:35) Can many of us honestly say people know us by our love? Does our love for others make it plain that we belong to Jesus?

Again, whether or not you agree that there is indeed systemic injustice, it doesn’t give you an out clause to not weep and mourn alongside our brothers and sisters who are hurting. Whether or not we know all of the variables, doesn’t excuse us from the command to love our neighbors. If our political slants, beliefs, and agendas get in the way of our compassion and love for others, then the truth is we need to reevaluate ourselves, and where we are with Jesus.

“He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore…” (Revelation 21:4)

Amen. Come quickly, Lord Jesus…

Your Relationship With God

relationship

God desires to have a relationship with you. God loves you, and so desires to be in a relationship with you that he sent his Son Jesus Christ to die for you and to make it possible. (John 3:16, Romans 5:6) I could write pages upon page about the lengths that God went to in order to draw you into a relationship with him, but that isn’t why I’m writing this. My purpose for writing today is that I want to pause and contemplate the unbelievable reality that the God of the universe desires a relationship with you and to think through the implications of that truth.

I’m sure you have heard the phrase, “Christianity isn’t a religion it’s a relationship.” Normally that statement makes me cringe because I believe it to be too simplistic. That being said, there is an element of truth there that we would be wise to take notice of. Christianity is indeed a relationship with God through Jesus Christ, and since it is a relationship there are some things that we need to understand.

Relationships take work. Anyone who has ever been in a relationship understands this. It doesn’t matter if you are speaking of romantic relationships, parent/child relationships, friendships, or work relationships, it takes work. If you want a relationship to work you have to put in time and effort. If this is true of human relationships, why would we think it isn’t also true of our relationship with God?

How often do you talk to God? How often do you take time to listen for what God might be trying to tell you? Do you make time to just be in the presence of God? Do you enjoy being with him? Do you want to get to know him better? What are you doing to try to make this happen? What do you hope to get out of your relationship with God? And here is a big one: Do you love God simply for who he is, or because of what you hope he can give you?

How successful will a marriage be if there is no communication? Not very. If children aren’t listening to their parents, or speaking to them, that relationship is in trouble. How happy would a wife be if her husband never came home? Husbands would be crushed if their wives never wanted to spend time with them. When couples begin dating, they do everything they can to learn what the other person enjoys. The parent is hurt when their child only calls when they need something, and not just so say “I love you.”

It’s not hard to see the parallels that I’m making here. It’s easy to see the correlation between what makes human relationships work and what we ought to be doing to cultivate our relationship with God. If we aren’t spending time in prayer communicating with God, if we aren’t spending time in his presence and listening for him, and learning more about him as we spend time in the Bible, then our relationship with God will suffer. Are your prayers always about what you can get from God instead of simply praising God for who he is? Do you ever simply tell God you love him? Do you thank him for the many blessings he has given you?

The wonderful thing about God is that he takes the initiative in our relationship with him. He made the first move, and even in spite of our failures to do what it is we should be doing, if we have truly entered into a relationship with him, he won’t ever let go of us. He loves us in spite of our many failures. But this isn’t an excuse to try less, it is motivation to try harder to love a God who has loved us so much. Even though we can rest assured that God will never turn his back on us, we are robbing ourselves of so much joy by not seeking him as we should. If you are missing time in prayer or bible study, you are missing more pleasure than you can imagine. If you are neglecting times of worship, both personal and corporate, you are missing one of the greatest blessings the Christian life has to offer and your growth in grace is suffering.

All relationships take work and must be intentional, I think we all know this. We also know that successful healthy relationships are a beautiful thing, and are worth every ounce of effort we put into them. This is infinitely true as it relates to our relationship with God, for there is no greater joy, no greater pleasure, and no more beautiful relationship than this. There is no one more worthy of your love and affection, and certainly no one more worthy of the effort you’ll put in.

You’ll never give God more than he’s already given you.