2nd December 2012

Contagious Love

“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’”
Matthew 25:37-39

During Jesus’ ministry, he often upset the religious establishment of the day by extending love to people considered “unlovable”. As in all societies, during Jesus’ day, there was the “in crowd” and the outcasts. The “in crowd,” as characterised by the Pharisees and Sadducees, was a group, smug about their goodness and holiness. They could make a great show of treating each other well, but made no time for the lower elements of society.

In contrast, Jesus spent most of his time with the outcasts. He forgave a woman caught in the act of adultery. He treated a prostitute with dignity and respect. He made friends with the much-despised tax collectors and with others who were considered beyond the pale of polite society. He touched and healed lepers—the ultimate outcasts of the day. Jesus found his closest friends among the common working people of his day.

Jesus revealed that our human capacity to love needs to be extended beyond just those we know and like. He told his followers to pay special attention to those whom society has rejected. In the parable of the Sheep and the Goats (Matthew 25:31-46), Jesus identified with the suffering of the sick, the loneliness of the prisoner and the plight of the poor. He told us to help them, saying in verse 40, “…whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” That kind of love is contagious. It often brings out the best in anyone who receives it or witnesses it. Jesus was remembered as a man who “went around doing good,” Acts 10:38 tells us. Those who followed him after his resurrection were soon called “Christians,” and it was not long before their unusual way of life began to be noticed.

In hard economic times Christians were generous. When plagues struck, Christians nursed the sick. When widows and orphans were left to fend for themselves, Christians cared for them. Even though Christians were often despised and persecuted, their lives of love also tended to prick the consciences of those who knew about them, causing many to join them in their labours of love.

We do the same today, but if our labour in Christ is to be genuine, it should never be geared to draw attention to ourselves, or to get people to come to our church. We don’t serve others to show them something about us, but to show them something about them. When we help the poor and the outcasts we let them know that they do matter and that they are included in God’s love, no matter who they are or what they have done.

Once we begin to understand that there is no place and no person whom God’s love does not reach, we can look at ourselves in a different way, as God’s beloved children. We can also look at others in a different way. There is no “in” crowd or outcasts. Everyone matters, and everyone has been included in God’s love. There is redemption for every person; all they have to do is believe it and embrace it. Maybe your life of love and service in Christ will help them do that!

Loving Father, your love to us was unmerited, undeserved. In helping others, help us to remember we do these things not to gain your love and mercy, but because we have received your love and mercy. In Jesus’ name we pray.

Study by Joseph Tkach

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