You know I am glad that many businesses and even people have decided to say “Merry Christmas” instead of “Happy Holidays.” I’m glad people are slowly understanding that there would be no holiday season at all if it were not for the birth of Jesus. But, I’ve been struck by the ardent effort that many have undertaken to write letters and boycott businesses, write editorials, put signs in yards, etc. pushing for folks to say the words “Merry Christmas.” I admire their effort. But, I was thinking. What if as Christians, as believers and followers of Jesus Christ…just what if we put that kind of effort into loving people into the kingdom?
Earlier this week I was talking to a young man who had strayed away from the Lord in his early 20’s, yet now he is back…sincerely following Jesus’ teachings. I asked him, “What happened? What brought you back?” This is what he told me. “The love of people who stepped out of their comfort zone to show me love.” He told me the time a man stopped him in WalMart and said, “I want to pray for you” and then he did! Now I want to ask you…which do you think is better…that the man in WalMart had on a button that said “Jesus Loves You” or to actually “show” Jesus’ love? Which is more challenging…putting a sign in our yard or putting a fish on the back of our car…or…to actually invite someone into our homes or to get “involved” in the messy business of “someone else’s life”?
Much to consider huh? Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying people shouldn’t have bumper stickers, wear buttons, put signs in their yards or write emails to businesses that say “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas.” But, what I am saying…is what if we used the same amount of fervent effort, energy and zeal to be involved in other people’s lives? What if we took the Great Commission to “go and make disciples…teaching them…” as seriously as we did these things I’ve mentioned? Jesus said, “Go and make disciples of all nations.” We are to make disciples of Jesus…not to our political agendas or our “way of thinking.” We are to make disciples of Jesus.
How does that look? Well…how did it look in Jesus’ life? He didn’t start a campaign to “Reduce Roman Taxes” and have a table set up to sign a petition. He met people where they were “at” in their lives. He met a tax collector in a tree and then went to his house. He met the woman at the well in the heat of the day (a Samaritan woman at that) and gave her “living water.” He healed, He loved, He taught, He encouraged, He ultimately died for the people He cared for. Am I dying for people or my “cause?” Do I desire to get involved into someone’s life to help and encourage them…or is it easier to type an email, buy a sign or put my signature on a petition? Again…I’m “all for” making sure that we stand up for our “rights” as Americans…but, if we were to put even half of that effort into “making disciples” and mentoring folks, showing hospitality in our homes…and getting out of our comfort zones…wow…what a difference we could make!!
Here’s a video that I thought was one of the most precious things I’ve ever seen.
It’s of a child singing with his mom and dad in church. I love it! You know…as I look through Scripture, I never see a Children’s Church. I never see a single time when the children were NOT in the meeting with the rest of the believers. Jesus didn’t say to the Apostles…”Ok guys…I’m going to take the adults to the top of the hill and teach them the Beatitudes and because it will be ‘over the heads’ of the kids…Peter…you and John take the kids to the bottom of the hill and play with them till I get done.” Doesn’t that sound silly?
In fact…if you read the New Testament and you look for a single time when the children were not involved or a part of the service, you’ll look in vain. Paul taught in the “vocative voice” when he penned the words, “Children obey your parents in the Lord, for this right.” (Ephesians 6:1). Do you know what that means? When writing in the vocative voice, it was understood when the letter was read to the church at Ephesus that the people whom Paul addressed would be in the meeting. Therefore, when he addressed the “children” in Ephesians 6:1, it was understood that they would be in the meeting (in the hearing of the letter).
We don’t have a nursery at the church I help Elder. Why? Because we sincerely want our children to be with us. We want the children to experience everything in the worship service that they just can’t get in a room watching a video eating Cheetos. My children get to participate in seeing people lifting hands in praise to the Lord as they lift their voices in song. They get to hear testimonies of those that have come to Christ. They see people weeping under the conviction of the Holy Spirit at the altar. They see Dads praying over their families. They hear the Word of God brought by the man of God that has been called to pastor the church. They sit under that shepherd’s teaching. (After all, if that shepherd has been called to “shepherd” the flock…shouldn’t he shepherd the entire flock? Why should this be handed off to anyone else?)
But, I know…I know…this is messy! They talk out loud…they cry…they…well…you name it. And yes…this is true…but, they ultimately learn to listen. And oh do they listen! They are sponges. It’s amazing. When we first got 3 1/2 year old, Andrew home from China (got him home on a Thursday…and had him in church on that Sunday), he couldn’t speak a word of English.
But, the church knows and has given a “license” to each family to say to them, “It’s ok…we know what you are doing…you are training him/her.”
Let me tell you what happened the next week. He was BAD! But…not as bad as the week before. And to make a long story short…a month later…you couldn’t even tell he was there. That’s right. 6 weeks in and you couldn’t even tell he was there. What happened? He had been trained to know what to do in church. You know a child will learn anything in life…when we make up our mind and DECIDE to teach them and train them. It doesn’t matter if they are 3 1/2 and from a foreign country or they are 1 or 4 (when they are told they can’t be in the nursery anymore). At some point we teach them don’t we? “Children obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.” I’m grateful for a church that sees small children not as a nuisance but as children…whom Jesus said, “Suffer the little children to come unto me and forbid them not, for such is the kingdom of God.” Thank you MPBC for being willing to “suffer’ for the children. What a joyful and fertile training ground!