Lenten Meditation (Fifth Sunday)

When I was five, my family visited my grandparents in California during Christmas vacation. They lived in an apartment building with an alley beside it – very exciting for a boy who lived on a farm in Michigan. At some point in my exploration of the alley, I decided to make a Christmas present for my dad out of the things I had found there. So on the morning of the twenty-fifth, my father had the privilege of opening a gift of a piece of black and green drainpipe glued to a flat gray rock with little white stones resting on the inside of it.

A masterpiece, to say the least.

The reason I remember this is because I visited my dad at his office a few days ago, and while I waited for him to finish his meeting, I wandered around looking at the pictures on his walls and the papers on his desk and the things on his shelves. On one of his shelves sat the drainpipe and rock sculpture, thirty years later.

He still has it.

He brought it home with him and put it in his office in 1977 and hasn’t gotten rid of it.

We know why he kept it. How you treat the creation reflects how you feel about the creator.

When a human being is mistreated, objectified, or neglected, when they are treated as less than human, these actions are actions against God. Because how you treat the creation reflects how you feel about the Creator.

To be a Christian is to work for the new humanity. Jesus commanded his followers to feed and clothe and visit and take care of those who need it. They’re fellow image-bearers, they’re just like us, and when we love them, we’re loving God.

A church exists to be a display of the new humanity. A community of people who honor and respect the poor and rich and educated and uneducated and Jew and Gentile and black and white and old and young and powerful and helpless as fully human, created in the image of God…

When I respect the image of God in others, I protect the image of God in me. When Jesus speaks of loving our neighbor, it isn’t just for our neighbor’s sake. If we don’t love our neighbor, something happens to us.
(Rob Bell. Sex God: Exploring the Endless Connections Between Sexuality and Spirituality. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan. 2007. 27-28)

This past week, there were a couple of responses to last Sunday’s post that I want to address today. Actually, their concerns were the very things I was going to address today. The issue is this: What is God’s will?

I said last week that anyone who does the will of God is our brother. Actually, this is what Jesus stated,

Whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother. (Mark 3:35 ESV)

I basically said that our family consists of all of those people who are doing the will of God. So, what is God’s will? One responder wrote and said that God’s will was getting saved. She quoted John 3:16 as proof of this.

And I agree. God’s will IS that people get saved. In fact,

The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. (2 Peter 3:9 ESV)

But I don’t think it stops there. God’s will is much more than that. Even Jesus makes it clear that what God’s wants is more than mere religious experience. God wants action.

And a ruler asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone. You know the commandments: ‘Do not commit adultery, Do not murder, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Honor your father and mother.'” And he said, “All these I have kept from my youth.” When Jesus heard this, he said to him, “One thing you still lack. Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” But when he heard these things, he became very sad, for he was extremely rich. (Luke 18:18-23 ESV)

And in another place, Jesus says,

“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 22:36-40 ESV)

You see, there is more to loving God than just loving God. You must love others as well. Because “How [we] treat the creation reflects how [we] feel about the Creator.”

Something else I want to show this morning is that our brother goes beyond even simply those who are doing God’s will (and next Sunday as we begin the holy week I will more clearly define God’s will). If all of us are human, and all came from one bloodline (that of Adam and Eve), then all of us are related. Our family is every other person on the face of the earth. An illustration.

Let’s pretend that my brother decides to become a devil worshiper. As his brother, it is my responsibility to correct him, to show him what he is doing wrong and to try to turn him from his ways of devil worship. But just because he turns to another religion, even one like devil worship, does not mean that he ceases to be my brother. On the contrary, he is still my brother, and his lack of obedience to the commands of God makes it even more imperative that I take care of him. Because I am my brother’s keeper. And my brother is doing something that, in the long run, may very well really really hurt him.

Well, it goes beyond that. Since we all share a common ancestry as humans, we are all connected in some way by blood. We are one family in this world. All of us are people. We all bleed red. We all have scars from the curse of original sin. After all, if we weren’t all related, then how could we ALL have the stain of original sin?

Next Sunday begins the holy week leading up to the climax of the celebration of the resurrection of our Savior. All of the implications of all of this will come together that week. Sorry for how disjointed this all was; how disconnected. I just have SO many things I want to say and SO many things that I want to say on this topic.

I want to challenge you this week, in preparation for holy week, to begin to examine your heart. Is there anything that you do that shows a lack of respect of the Creator? Is there some part of your lifestyle that needs tweaking to better show how you feel about God? How about your fellow man? After all,

They’re fellow image-bearers, they’re just like us, and when we love them, we’re loving God.

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