When I say Scott and Carolann / Paula and Karen, these names may not mean anything to you. But for my family and I, these are the people who we call neighbors. We watch out for each other, bring food when someone is sick, dog sit, and hang out at neighborhood gatherings.
Our neighborhood has a social media rule that we don’t talk about politics and religion in our interactions. It’s a posture of respect for the diversity of ethnicity, religious and non-religious affiliations, and the political nuance we have represented. That does not mean we do not have meaningful conversations, or that all relationships in the neighborhood are superficial. Scott (my neighbor) was the best man for another neighbor who also shares the name, Scott. Then there’s Crystal, she organized the Easter Egg hunt this year. Only 25 people signed up, and over 200 showed up. My youngest son Max, who is 7, wanted to show up early, and when we did we were able to help Crystal set up and figure out how to accommodate 200 people when we planned for 25.
You might be asking yourself, “why is this guy telling random stories about his neighborhood?” The truth is that at Gateway we truly believe that you have a unique story, which is why we say Love Everyone Life by Life. There is no throwaway person or story. And if each person has a story, then each friendship, partnership, marriage, family, and neighborhood has a story. Our neighborhood has grown 5 times over in two years, and our story is growing faster than we can keep up with. What’s the story of your neighborhood, your place of employment? What is your place in that story?
Now, the reason we’re all watching this on video this weekend is that we’re just a weird enough church to believe that we should put our money/time/energy where our mouth is. So this weekend has been dubbed “The Church Has Left The Building,” because the truth is what most of us know as Church is not an accurate depiction of what scripture (or the bible) tells us about the Church. The truth is people are the church, and buildings house the church itself. I know I know, it’s the splicing of words and intent, but in this case, it matters. Last weekend in our inspire services across Austin, we talked about this passage from Mark 12. The religious leaders of Jesus’ day were asking him about the most important laws/commandments, and Jesus said this:
Mark 12:30 – 31 – “The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.
Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’
The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”
Did you catch that? Right behind believing in God and loving God, is loving our neighbor. Many of us may not know that about the Christian tradition. We may have preconceived notions because we grew up in church (and loving people was not a priority) and/or we grew up hearing about these Christians and their churches and how legalistic and hate-filled they were. And if you experienced that, I’m sorry, because that goes directly against what Jesus said.
As a matter of fact, the foundation for us to close all of our physical locations is because Jesus took it one step further with those who believed in him, what the Bible calls disciples. He said:
John 13:34-35 – “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples if you love one another.”
So let’s close out our time together talking about these two things:
- Love one another (as I have loved you)
We have an example in Jesus of how to do this neighborly thing. To love people where they are, and know that God has a bigger/better plan than one that we create on our own. He did this by putting others first, serving the marginalized and unseen in society. He finished it off by laying down his life for all of humanity.
We all have hang-ups, things that bring us down, and what some may call skeletons in our closet. The bible calls it “sin” and all that really means is that when we choose to live our life through our own lens, we do things that are opposed to how God created us. That sin separates us from God, and Jesus came to introduce a new way, a less legal and strict way, but one that does force us to see ourselves for who we are. And yet, it is also infused with hope and joy that we don’t have to pay the price for that sin, the mistakes of our life. It almost seems too good to be true, but it is.
John 3:16 & 17 – 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. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.
So when Jesus says, love your neighbor and those around you, the way I have loved you, he doesn’t mean you are called to die for each other, he already did that. What he’s saying is that it’s a heart posture, am I willing to lay down my preferences and position for the sake of others? He’s the example and standard for us to live by.
- Everyone will know you believe (by how you love others)
In ancient times the dirtiest part of a person’s body was their feet. Very few paved roads and sandals were the norms. So it was hospitable to have a basin of water and towels for people to wash their feet as they entered your home. But it was a whole different story when Jesus did it. He loved his friends so much and wanted to set the right example, that he actually washed their feet. I know some of you are gagging right now, and you’re wondering, “Is this what Jesus is expecting from us? If so, I’m out!”
The answer is NO, we are not expected to wash people’s feet, but the answer is also YES, we are supposed to go above and beyond to love others. What does that mean or look like for you? We don’t do it to garner attention, or to make a spectacle of ourselves. We are lavish with our praise and love for our friends, we sacrifice to cook a meal or meet someone’s needs, NOT so we can gain notoriety, but so that the person on the receiving end knows that there is a God who loves them, and his son, Jesus, came to this earth to show us a new way to love.
Your friend who invited you may be grilling a mean burger, or maybe you’re just hanging out on your own and someone sent you the link to this message. But today we want you to know we hope you feel cared for and loved by us, AND we do this as a direct result of the work Jesus did for us. You are loved on so many fronts!