5/19/2019 2:47:21 PM
I Just Wanna Be a Sheep that Loves
Last Sunday, as you know, was Mother’s Day. And it was a very special Mother’s Day for a mom named Munira. When she was 32 years old, she and her 4-year-old son Omar were in an accident. Omar wasn’t seriously injured. But Mom was. She had severe brain damage, and doctors told her family that she would never speak or open her eyes again. That happened in 1991. Over the next 28 years, she was transferred from hospital to hospital, and she did not open her eyes or say anything or give any indication that she was improving – until just a few months ago when she woke up in a German hospital, turned toward the person who was sitting next to her, opened her mouth, and said, “Omar.” Omar was sitting next to her when that happened. He had been waiting 28 years to hear his mom say his name. After 28 years, she finally did.
When I think of what Omar did for his mom over the last 28 years – traveling with her from country to country and hospital to hospital, spending countless hours speaking to her wondering if she would ever say anything back to him – it makes me think of what we read earlier in 1 Corinthians 13, when it said that “love perseveres.” Love keeps going, even when it might feel like giving up. But Omar didn’t give up. He didn’t give up hoping. He didn’t give up loving. And because he didn’t give up, this Mother’s Day is the best one he ever remembers having.
Love is a very powerful thing. That was the obvious conclusion of a 30-year study conducted by a Hungarian psychoanalyst named Rene Spitz. Rene died in 1974. He is best known for a study in which he observed 97 children, ages 3 months to 3 years old, in a South American orphanage that didn’t have enough staff to care for all of them. There were enough nurses to change their diapers and feed the children, but there was little, if any time, to hold them, cuddle with them and talk to them. After three months, many of the children began eating less and sleeping poorly. After five months, many were noticeably in a much weaker condition. Often, when a doctor or nurse would pick them up, the baby would scream in terror because they were so unfamiliar with what was happening. 27 of the 97 children died in the first year, not from lack of food or health care. They died from lack of love and emotional nurture. Only 20 of the 97 lived past childhood. And most who did ended up with severe psychological damage. His study proved what the bible has been saying from the beginning - God created all of us to be loved. Today, Jesus reminds us why love is one of the most powerful gifts we could ever give, and what it’s supposed to look like when we put this powerful gift into practice.
31 When he was gone, Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man is glorified and God is glorified in him. 32 If God is glorified in him, God will glorify the Son in himself, and will glorify him at once. 33 “My children, I will be with you only a little longer. You will look for me, and just as I told the Jews, so I tell you now: Where I am going, you cannot come. 34 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
Parker and Addi were planning to go to prom together this year. A couple months ago, Addi found the perfect dress, but it was too expensive. She was never going to be able to afford it. Yet that’s the dress she ended up wearing to prom. Do you know why? Because Parker did something nice. He didn’t buy it for her. He made it for her. Parker could tell how much Addi loved that particular dress. So over the next couple of months, he taught himself to sew so that he could make Addi her dress, and he did a great job. Addi looked glorious. And so did Parker; not just because of his slick grey suit and clean white shoes. What he did was glorious. It was a glorious act of love.
Notice how important Jesus believes love is. It isn’t just a nice suggestion he gives us. It is the identifying act of each individual Christian. “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples.” In other words, if you don’t love one another, someone really does have the right to question whether or not you really are one of his disciples. But there’s a qualification Jesus adds to love. We must love one another “just as I have loved you,” Jesus said. The most glorious type of love is love that looks just like his. And what does that look like?
In many ways it looks like what Parker did for Addi. He went out of his way to help her, which is something we see Jesus do so often. He often went out of his way to heal someone who was sick or to give a blind man the ability to see again. He fed the hungry 5000. He showed love and concern for the many ways people hunger and hurt on earth. And that love shows up in many different ways today. When a parent gets up in the middle of the night to care for their child, when you stop whatever you were doing to give someone a shoulder to cry on, when you willingly hand over the remote control for the television, when you’re the one in the bathroom when the toilet paper roll ends and you put the new roll on, or when a community overwhelmingly and generously responds to the needs of a mom in the hospital who just lost her 10-year old son, we see the love of Jesus. The love of Jesus helps.
But Jesus didn’t help everyone. He didn’t heal all the sick. He didn’t give every blind man he met the ability to see again. Sometimes when people were begging Jesus to come help, he turned around and walked away in the other direction. But there is one thing he did for absolutely everyone. He paid everyone’s entrance fee into heaven, so that whoever believes in him would get in. He didn’t make everyone comfortable on earth, but he was absolutely determined to get everyone a comfortable seat in the one place where we will never hunger or hurt again. And if this is the one way Jesus loved everyone, then this type of love – a love that more than anything wants everyone together forever – absolutely must show up as we make decisions as to how best to use our time, money, energy, and attention to love those who would have been around the table with us if we were there with Jesus that evening. And we also need to know what that love looks like when we’re with people who wouldn’t have been sitting there with them.
Arthur is a cartoon that has been on PBS since 1996. It’s a children’s show that, for many years, has taught children many important life lessons. This past week, for the first time, Arthur celebrated gay marriage. One of Arthur’s male teachers got married to a man. Imagine you’re hanging out somewhere this afternoon and you start talking with someone you’ve never met before. The topic of this recent Arthur episode comes up, they tell you that their child’s teacher showed it to the class last week, they say how wonderful that is, and then they ask you what you think of gay marriage. What do you tell them?
Let’s imagine that you tell them that homosexuality is wrong (as we know it is; homosexual relationships are just as sinful as lying, cheating, or physical intimacy between a man and woman who aren’t married). And let’s imagine that, after some back and forth, you are somehow able to convince them that homosexuality is wrong. But let’s also imagine that they don’t believe that Jesus is the Savior of the world who loves them and forgives their sins, and that never comes up at any point in the conversation. If that’s what they believe when they die, will that person go to hell or to heaven? They would go to hell because they don’t believe in Jesus. Even though you would have succeeded in changing their mind about something, you wouldn’t have actually loved them because you didn’t try to love them forever.
The question of whether or not homosexuality is wrong is an important one. It certainly comes up a lot in the world today. But the next time someone asks you if you think homosexuality or abortion is wrong, maybe instead of quickly answering the question, ask them a different one. Ask them who they believe Jesus is. If someone doesn’t first care about who Jesus is, they won’t care about what his Word teaches. Unless we point people to the cross of Jesus, then whatever we successfully get them to believe about life on earth, we haven’t done anything to prevent their eternal hurt. And to put that kind of hurt in perspective – the kind of hurt that goes on forever – I want you to think about how much you hurt when someone ignores your needs for just a moment, or when your teenager lies to you again, or when your spouse obviously believes that their hobbies, buddies, or pleasure are more important than you. We see that kind of hurt in the verses we read.
In our first verse, Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man is glorified.” To “glorify” means to shine the spotlight on something wonderful. In other words, he’s saying, ‘Now you’re about to see something wonderful happen.’ But he only said that “When he was gone.” Do you know who the “he” is in that sentence and what he was going to do? The “he” was Judas. And Judas was going to betray him. He was going to do the opposite of love. He was going to be selfish. He was going to hurt his friend. And Jesus responded to that hurt by shining the spotlight on something that is especially glorious about the love of Jesus that we haven’t yet mentioned.
Dave Simmons is a Christian author. He has two children – Helen and Brandon. Many years ago, when the kids were young, Helen was 8 and Brandon was 5, he took them to the Cloverleaf Mall in Hattiesburg, Mississippi to do a little shopping. Outside the mall that day was a traveling “Petting Zoo.” They traveled around from city to city, setting up at malls, offering, for a small fee, to entertain your kids while you did some shopping. Sounded great to dad. Sounded even better to the kids. Dad flipped them each a quarter, which was the price the last time the zoo was in town. A few minutes later, as Dad was looking at a scroll saw in Sears, Helen walked up to him, crying. “Daddy,” she said, “it cost fifty cents. So, I gave Brandon my quarter because the bible says that, if you love someone, you have to do things to show them.” Dad happened to have another 50 cents sitting in his pocket. After he finished in Sears, he walked back to the petting zoo with Helen. As they got close, they saw Brandon petting and feeding all the animals that Helen loves. Do you know what Dad did next? Nothing. He just stood outside the fence with his daughter right next to him. She put her hands on the fence, rested her chin on them and just watched her brother have a great time. He never gave her the fifty cents and she never asked for it. Love, at least the type that Jesus expects us to imitate, isn’t really love unless it involves a sacrifice.
“This is how people will know that you are my disciples,” Jesus said. When you love like him. If there’s something in it for you, then you aren’t really loving like him, and it wouldn’t really be a sacrifice. And if it weren’t a sacrifice, then there really wouldn’t be anything all that special about it, and Jesus wouldn’t be any different than anyone else that wants you to follow them. But look at his tears in the garden and hear his cries on the cross and tell me that you have seen another love like his. Watch him bite his lip and watch his neck snap to the side every time another nail is pounded in. Look at the veins bulge from his skin; veins that, in just a few short hours, will run dry because there won’t be much blood left in them. Picture him looking out from the cross, wishing that Judas would have been there to hear him say, “It is finished. You’re forgiven;” so that he and every sinner just like him would finally find the only thing that, deep down, you’ve only ever wanted in life – acceptance; honest acceptance from a friend who, deep down, believes that you are someone for whom it is well worth dying.
Isn’t that why you love him? Isn’t that why you’re here today? It’s because someone, somewhere along the way, didn’t do any of the many other things they could be doing so they could share with you the truth that someone important sacrificed something really big for you. And, as a result, we love him, and we want to follow him. There are so many people in this world who don’t. And maybe one of the reasons why is because the love of Jesus is a pretty rare thing. Maybe they’ve never met a disciple who really does love like him. So introduce yourself to them. Sacrifice your time, your energy, your pride, or your desire to be right to help them see the promise Jesus made to his disciples that night. He told them to love one another “just as I have loved you.” “I have loved you.” He has. He does. Look at his cross. He always will. The sacrifices we make for one another will never be bigger than those the Good Shepherd makes for the sheep he loves so perfectly. That’s a love worth showing. It’s the only love worth following.