Read 1 John 3:16-24
If you see someone about to step out in front of a moving car, you scream at them at the top of your lungs. If you are nearby, you pull them out of traffic.
When someone in town is out driving on ice—thankfully that has not been a big deal this year—but when someone is stuck, we stop and help and push and pull. This is Oklahoma. You don’t just drive by shouting, “If you can’t drive on ice, then stay home.”
Now after you get them out of wherever they were stuck, you might suggest that they spend the rest of the day at home, but we help first.
Parents, if you catch your kids texting and driving or riding with friends who text and drive, you most likely take away some liberties closely associated with vehicular transportation. When they complain that you are mean and that’s not the Christian thing to do, you remind them that Jesus walked.
If you see a friend about to try crystal meth for the first time, you might just grab them by the collar and pull them out of whatever mess they are about to get into. There are no apologies for the abruptness of your actions.
When we find people that are hungry, we feed them.
When we find people who don’t have coats for the winter, we get them a coat.
When people have had their water cut off, we often help with a water bill or gas bill, especially if there are children in the home. Yes, the parents are sometimes self-centered, financially irresponsible, and are trying harder to stay out of the family of faith than they are to budget their money, but we often help anyway.
There are so many physical manifestations of being love that you know and do and are a part of while you walk this earth.
You may go buy some food for hungry neighbors or may stop by the church and get some of the food that we keep here just for those purposes. Your heart leads you. God’s Spirit that lives inside of you leads you.
You understand that we cannot know the great love that God has for us and do nothing for others in need. We get that. We really do.
But sometimes, we forget the most important thing. Sometimes we forget that we carry not just food and money and love in so many various forms for our neighbor; but we carry the gospel with us.
We always carry the gospel with us!
I’m not talking about the little books that I have dared you to give out so that I have none left. As I brought that up, I double dog dare you to run me out of those books because you gave them all away.
I am talking about the message of God’s great love for all of humankind, for all of creation. We have the gospel, the good news of how much God loves us. It is not something that we throw in at the end of giving someone food or help with a bill or a ride home. The good news must never play second fiddle.
We must be people of good news first and foremost. What we forget sometimes is that the delivery of the gospel is action. It is action that is more powerful than food or money or anything else that we may help others with in this world. Yes, we help with things that are only temporary but never at the expense of what is eternal.
When we are known as people of good news, not just good people, and then help with food or with a bill or with gas to get granny to the hospital or anything else, the physical things that we do are leveraged. They become so much more.
When we leave out the good news or truncate it to an afterthought or just throw in a God loves you to check the block that this is a church thing, we have not been faithful to the One who gave his blood to atone for our sins.
We began this year with the topic of love. We have graduated to love and action. The latter proceeds from the former.
Peter and John were headed to the temple. They had been emboldened by the Holy Spirit. Peter was proclaiming the gospel. A man who had been lame since birth called out to them asking for money.
That was what he did. He was a beggar. That’s all that he knew. He was lame and his career choice in those days was beggar.
Peter said, “Look at us.” That’s an interesting response to please give me some money. The man complied.
Then Peter said, “Silver and gold I have none, but what I have I give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk!”
The disciples helped the man up. His strength returned. He walked. He even jumped up and down. He praised God.
The man asked for money. These two disciples knew they had more than money. They ignored the man’s request for money—which would have been enough to eat for a day or to make sure that they added to what he had so he could eat for a day.
Evidently, the disciples didn’t have any spare change on them. There’s a message in that all by itself, but today we look at what they gave this man. They were equipped by the Holy Spirit to heal this man.
This man may have very well given up on healing. He was likely at the temple in the hope that people might be a little more compassionate. He would have probably been fine with a donation made out of guilt. The disciples saw what he needed most.
The man only wanted to be able to eat for a day. The disciples knew that what they had was so much greater than what the man was seeking.
The gospel author John reminds us that words and speech are not enough by themselves. Read the book of James and you will see these thoughts echoed. Action is the fruit of our love. If we see someone in need and can help, love compels us to help. We don’t turn a blind eye, walk on the other side of the road, or dispense condemnation.
We are called to action!
For a brother or sister who have received salvation, knows Jesus as Lord, and is an active part of the family of faith, sometimes all they need is a little help with food or a bill or a budget. But for the person who does not know Jesus as Lord, or they live as if he is not their Lord; they need the gospel before they need gas money for their car. They need to know there is a way to abundant life and eternal life through Christ Jesus before they need their electric turned back on.
In our time, we sometimes jump right to paying the bill and skip over the best news this world has ever known. When we see someone in need, we help. We help, but sometimes we skip the real help.
But we who have eyes to see know that the greatest need in this broken world is to know the love of God in Christ Jesus.
Here’s something that you hear a lot, even from longtime Christians.
“Jesus always met the physical need before attending to the spiritual need.”
It’s just not so. Read your Bibles. Jesus always took care of what was most important. That most often involved the truth or forgiveness or some manner of teaching and instruction. Where there was seemingly unprompted healing, Jesus noted that it was faith that was first present.
He fed the multitudes after he ministered to them by teaching all day long. He told the man who was lowered through the roof that his sins were forgiven before he told him to get up and walk.
He came to earth on a mission to take care of the most important thing—being the Lamb of God who took away the sin of the world.
Our most important thing is delivery of the good news. We know how to deliver food and help with bills or get someone a bus ticket back home. We know that part.
We must do our very best to make sure that the temporary part is not the only part. We are vehicles of God’s love that sometimes comes in a box of food but must always be accompanied by the truth. That truth is that God loves you.
We are uniquely equipped with God’s own Spirit inside of us. God’s Spirit walks with us. When we help those in need, we are without excuse not to be God’s messengers. Love must be fully evident in our physical help.
We don’t beat people over the head with Bible verses. We bring God’s love with words and deeds that are in harmony. One without the other is incomplete.
We know God and we must be his love in this world. We cannot deny that dynamic.
I don’t ever want to give out a box of food that’s just food.
I don’t ever want to pay a bill that only turns the power back on.
I don’t ever want to put gas in a tank that only fuels the vehicle.
I want to meet the full need and that includes putting God’s love squarely in the middle.
This should sound familiar. We need to get out of the business of transactions and into the business of transformation. We know the One who transforms.
If we only give out food for food’s sake, we miss the mark. The love of God and witness to his goodness and a desire to bring people into the family of faith where they may know fellowship and abundance are the real sustenance. Man shall not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God. We must live the words that proceed from the mouth of God not forgetting the God part.
God’s love, God’s word, God’s abundance in the fellowship of believers must be foremost in all of our acts of compassion and benevolence.
We get the stuff part. We do this all of the time. Let us lead with love and good news. Let our words and our deeds be in harmony with God’s will.
We are sometimes challenged by the fact that some people only want their physical needs met. They don’t want the gospel. They don’t want to hear about God’s love for them.
We are not people of condemnation, but we are faithful to our God. That means that we are people of good news and our words and our deeds are in harmony. We never leave out the truth of how much God loves us just because someone doesn’t want to hear it.
That means that for us, God’s love governs and is central in all that we do. We are people of good news. The delivery of good news is action prompted by love.
We are God’s love in action and our action must always includes good news.