Your Picture in the Dictionary

What is a Christian? says as Christian is, “a person who believes in Jesus Christ.” It also defines a Christian as, “a person who exemplifies in his or her life the teachings of Christ.” If you were going to add a picture or a short video of a person you know to this definition to make it clearer, whose picture would you place there? What would they be doing? Would they be preaching, teaching Sabbath School, singing or playing for a choir or praise band? Would they be greeting people and welcoming them to church? Would they be preparing potluck or decorating the sanctuary, running our audio/visual department our hanging out with our young people?

There are a couple of instances where it seems that Jesus supplies pictures/videos for the definition of a Christian/Christ follower in the gospels. One is found in Luke 10:25-37 where Jesus had been asked by an expert in the law what needed to be done to inherit eternal life? Jesus asks the man how he reads the law. The man quotes from the Shema in Deuteronomy 6, something the Jews knew by heart better than we know the song Jesus Loves Me, and Leviticus 19:18. Here, you’ll recognize it, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” This is what Moses said to do with the Shema which was and is the center of the Jewish morning and evening prayer services, “Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.”

Jesus response to the expert’s answer that everyone knew, “Do this and you will live.”

I think the expert might have been embarrassed to take everyone’s time with this question or maybe he was afraid of the implications Jesus’ pithy yet all-embracing response, that you actually need to live this thing out. So he tries to limit his obligation and retorts, “And who is my neighbor?”

Jesus gives us the picture of a Christian for the dictionary when He shares the story of the two religious guys who might have actually had miniature versions of the Shema strapped to their foreheads…men who knew the right answers by heart but didn’t stop to help their fallen brother, half-dead on the side of the road. They would not be pictured in the picture. But a Samaritan, one the expert in the law would have expected Jesus to exclude in his definition of a neighbor, stopped to help. He was self-sacrificing and cared for the wounded man like a family member would.

Jesus concludes simply asking, ““Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.” Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.””

The person in this picture in the dictionary would be going and doing likewise. They would be loving their neighbors in the world, those like them and those unlike them. They would not be against racism. They would be for healing. They would care about the needy and in Jesus words, “the least of these.”

The second and final instance I’ll share where Jesus gives us a story of what His followers look like is in Matthew 25:31-46. I’d encourage you to read it now. The people are divided based on what they did for Jesus by serving the neediest. Those who fed the hungry, quenched thirst, welcomed the new person, clothed the naked, helped the sick and visited prisoners were invited into God’s eternal kingdom. Those who didn’t love their neighbors whether near or far were sent to hell, a place not prepared for them but for the devil and the demons.

If you truly love God you will love your neighbor however needy or different, and in loving your neighbor you are loving God. You will enjoy living with God forever. You could even be pictured in the dictionary next to the word Christian. If you question if you love God but you want to know Him better and you want to love people more than you do, God is already working on you. Just let Him. Keep opening up to Him. If you don’t even want to know God or His diverse creation on earth that is humanity, you wouldn’t like Heaven anyway so don’t worry about it.

That last line was painful to write because I hope no one would feel that way. I hope no one will take a pass on the beautiful life in Heaven that God promises for all who let Him fill them with His love. It’s wonder is beyond my ability to describe. God is love and there is no better way to live than letting Him free you from the all consuming feeling that you only have time and energy and resources for you and yours. 

Think back to the best person you can think of to exemplify a Christian. They probably did something or many things that were very kind for you. They are probably admirable in character. You probably like them a lot. There’s a good reason you hold them in high esteem. You see the love of Jesus in them. Hear Jesus say, “Go and do likewise.” Join the joy of sacrificial service. Experience as much of Heaven on earth as you can. Live well by loving well. Don’t worry, take the plunge into a new way of life. God will take care of you as you move beyond knowing the right answers to living the right way by the power of Jesus He puts inside of you when you receive Him and step out in trust. Who knows, maybe someone will put your picture in their dictionary.

If you are looking for a service opportunity, click this link and join us Sabbath afternoon as we serve real people with real needs in our community.

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