Did You See?

From Pastor Todd’s Weekly Email . . . 

My parents live off of 104th in south Oklahoma City. Recently I was heading back to Tuttle after a visit and noticed a fellow pan-handling. You know, you have seen them located near on-ramps or off-ramps throughout Oklahoma City. They have found themselves in hard times and resorted to asking for money on these street corners.

Many of us would as soon express what Bruce Horsnby did in his song, That’s Just the Way It Is, when in lyrical form he noted how we respond to people in need by saying, “Just get a job.” We quickly point to the Scripture that describes that a person should not expect to eat if they do not work. We feel justified in our feelings. After all we can support our opinion with Scripture. But, is it that easy, that simple? I have a good friend who has been applying for jobs of every sort from at least six months only to be told he is over-qualified or under-qualified. It is not so simple.

Our text from 1 John 3 for this coming Sunday challenges the way we structure our thinking about these matters. John writes, “But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him?” The frame of reference for John in 1 John appears to be Jesus’ words in John 10. The reference to laying down his life is surely tied to Jesus’ self-description as the Good Shepherd.

We spend time trying to nuance how this works. One move is to emphasize the description “brother” as making our actions exclusively for those “in” the Faith. Jesus’ own words problematize this. The religious establishment of Jesus’ day thought in exclusive terms. That is, those the approved of and who followed their dictates were considered “in.” Jesus, in John 10, suggests in their hearing that he had sheep not of this fold. They did not like Jesus’ words. Love breaks the barriers we construct. We do not know who will or who will not find the love of God in Jesus. So, we do not get to be the filter that says “yes” to this person we see, and “no” to that person. John, in 1 John, seems to suggest the evidence God’s love as a resident part of our life is bound to our willingness to lay down our lives for those we see in need.

Augustine offered sermons on 1 John where he described what we might do. In Ten Homilies on 1 John 5:12 we find,

If you are not yet able to die for your brother, at least show him your ability to give him your goods. Let love be stirring your inmost heart to do it, not for display but out of the very marrow of compassion, thinking only of the brother and his need.” (Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, New Testament XI, Ed. Gerald Bray,p.203)

Those pan-handlers are hard to miss. Others slip through the cracks. Maybe we should ask God to grant us the sensitivity of his love to recognize those in need. Once aware, let’s together not shut our heart against them in hopes our actions of love might be received as the very acts of God’s love.

Jesus invites people into his life and his way. He takes what is and points to the new way of the Kingdom of God.  Come see what this journey is all about!

One way to think about the mission of Jesus - He calls into question the way things are and points to the way things may be in the Kingdom of God. 

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