On February 18, 2018, I preached a sermon titled Loving Like Jesus. During that message, I showed a RightNow Media video clip called Community Safari. It was about a group of Christians who were riding around a neighborhood in a church bus viewing people the way an African safari looks at animals through the bus windows. They were taking pictures of a single mom who struggled with disciplining her children, a young married couple fighting on the front lawn and an elderly woman who fell in her driveway. No one got off the bus to help because they needed to let “nature take its course.” The clip concluded with the bus pulling back into the church parking lot while the host shared how great it was to be back in the safety of the church. Obviously, this was a spoof that challenged us Christians to think about how we’re engaging the world around us.
I then shared the following 5 points that disciples of Jesus should be doing in their everyday lives.
How to Share Jesus with Those Around Us:
1) Stop judging non-Christians.
2) Empathize with non-Christians.
3) Hang out with non-Christians.
4) Pray for the unchurched.
5) Live out my faith authentically.
A few days after I preached that sermon, a member of our congregation said, “The sermon on Sunday was good. But how do we get off the bus?” That’s a valid question. The points I gave are good biblical and theological instructions. But what does that look like in real life?
There isn’t a person on our congregation who wouldn’t get off the bus the help the senior servant that fell in her driveway. But how exactly do we help the single mom who doesn’t know how to discipline her children? Or the man and wife that has so much hostility towards each other that they don’t care who sees them fighting? Or helping with all of the other needs that are right around us?
Let’s look at some examples of how people in the Snake Spring Valley Church of the Brethren are doing this. Jackie Koontz currently helps with visiting our shut-ins and senior members who live in retirement homes. When she started visiting, she didn’t know where some of these sisters and brothers even lived. She overcame her fear of saying or doing the wrong thing -which we all do from time to time – and stepped out in faith. Now she has a wonderful ministry that blesses a lot of people.
The reason we get off the bus is because God opens our eyes to the needs around us. Then he tells us to use the spiritual gifts he gave us to serve others. We can do this because the power of the Holy Spirit and presence of Jesus lives inside anyone who has salvation in Jesus Christ.
There are many different spiritual gifts. Even though we’re focusing on serving others today, all of the gifts are equally important. No spiritual gift is more vital to God’s kingdom than any other.
There’s one common element that has to fuel us when we use them. 1 Corinthians 13:1-13 says, “ If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast but do not have love, I gain nothing.
4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
8 Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. 11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. 12 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”
The church at Corinth was in conflict. They were arguing about whether to follow Paul or Apollos. Paul told them to follow Jesus. One man was sleeping with his father’s wife. They were suing each other in court. It also appears they were arguing over which spiritual gifts were the most important. Right after Paul tell them they have spiritual gifts and how to use them as one body working together, he stops to tell them to make sure they love each other.
Everything they’re worried about – and arguing about – will pass away. Eventually they will pass on and they won’t be using their gifts anyway. The only thing that matters and that will remain is love.
Showing love doesn’t always have to be difficult. It can be done in very practical ways. One day while driving on a local road, Jeff Dibert noticed one of his neighbors wasn’t mowing his lawn due to his health issues. A few days later, Jeff took his lawn mower and mowed the man’s yard. When the man asked, “Why are you doing this?” Jeff said, “God sent me to do it.” Showing the love of God to this man didn’t require Jeff to give up anything but some time and a little bit of gasoline.
There are times when showing love isn’t as easy as mowing a lawn. It requires major sacrifices along with a deep faith and trust in God. Last fall, Heather Koontz became aware she was a good match to be an organ donor for a local man who needed a liver transplant. When she first heard the news, she was excited that she could help save someone’s life. That emotion soon turned into fear as she became aware of potential complications of this major surgery. However, she faced her fear and donated part of her liver. She saved his life.
Getting off the bus requires time, effort and love. The biggest thing it requires is a willingness to do it. When we love others, we’re willing to help.
A good question for us to constantly ask ourselves is: When people look at me, do they see love? If the answer is “yes,” then we’re probably getting off the bus to be a blessing to those that need us to bless them with the love of Jesus.