7/17/16 - Tweetables - We Love Others

The Bridge Life Connection

Tweetables: We Love Others                                                                           Sunday, July 17, 2016

Speaker: Lead Pastor Justin Douglas

Well good morning again. I don't know how many of you guys saw this random kid down here head-banging {congregation laughter}. Who is this kid down here? I don't know who his father is. He needs to get on him. It's my son. My son was down here. This is his way of worshiping Jesus {Justin bangs his head}. I've taught him well. Moving on...

So last week, I was in Florida. I was at general conference for the Brethren in Christ, that's the denomination we're a part of, and Carmen brought the life connection. Give it up for Carmen! {applause} She did a great job! Wow. She opened our Tweetables series and did an amazing job. I was so blessed to have her do that but also to listen to the podcast. She did an amazing job.

So last week as Carmen opened, we talked about Twitter, this social media app that allows us to send out a message or a link or a picture or a video or other things. We can send all this stuff out. Here's my Twitter page if you want to follow me: @justindouglas {screen shot on projection screen} This is my page on a desktop if you pulled it up. I was like early adopter to Twitter. I was like, in the first two years, I opened a Twitter and I just left it aside and like never touched it, never played with it. So like I actually have my real name, @justindouglas. Very few people can do that. I'm sure I could probably sell that or something to some other Justin Douglas out there.

But Twitter's this unique thing that allows you to send out a message that only has 140 characters, so a really concise and short message. So the purpose of it is to make communication simple, right? Because none of us love reading a novel. None of us really love even anymore reading an article, right? The truth is, the way you read articles now is you see the headline and then you start commenting on Facebook without reading ever reading the article, right? {Justin laughs} Let's be honest {Justin raises his hand} if you've done that. I've done that. Right? We've all done that.

So you read the article. You're like, headline! What are they talking about? And then you comment and someone comments under you, 'Did you actually read the article?' and you're like, 'You caught me.' Right? But we do this. We love concise information, simple information, simplify the conversation. Some might say oversimplify the conversation and the information because sometimes it's far more complex than you can throw into 140 characters. Nonetheless, Twitter has changed the way we communicate.

They're only 10 years old, and it's a massive platform for social media, but now we communicate more short and to the point. Not only Twitter but other things have brought our attention span to an all-time low. Like we have no attention span for information anymore because we're so used to consuming information in small, little clips. And Twitter has been this.

So this Tweetables series, what we're thinking about in this Tweetables series is there are small passages of scripture that pack big meaning. But there's really...it's under 140 characters, but it has huge punch and it has huge influence in the way that we live out our faith. Big meaning can be packed into 140 characters or less, and we see this throughout the Bible.

So last week, we saw that Jesus was asked a question on what the greatest commandment was. So just a recap, a Pharisee asked Jesus this question, and here's what He said, and we're going to do it in Twitter form. ".@Jesus, because then everyone sees it, right? Those of you who use Twitter know this. Okay, I'll walk you through it really quick. If you say @Jesus, just @Jesus, then it just goes to Jesus and no one else sees it. Wow, this is really weird that the Twitter name is Jesus, I feel like this is awkward. But if you have a Twitter handle, if you're sending me a message, you could say @justindouglas and then it just goes to me, but if you put the period before it (.@justindouglas), then it actually goes to everyone. Everyone sees it. So, there we go.

Jesus replied..." {Justin laughs} I don't know why I went all that. @Jesus replied to @ReligiousLeaders, Love the Lord your God with all your #heart and with all your #soul and with all your #mind. Jesus said it just like that actually. But Carmen showed us last week about all these different ways that we love God and how we love God fully with our heart, our soul, and our mind.

Now, Jesus, interestingly enough, doesn't end the conversation there. Jesus is asked one question, 'What's the greatest commandment?' And Jesus, usually when asked a question, replies in a parable. He doesn't reply straight up. He kind of makes you think about it, makes you have to unpack it. He replies straight up, 'The greatest commandment Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind.' Okay. Then, He says, 'There's more.' {Justin chuckles} Jesus said more to the religious leaders. "Love your neighbor as yourself." #micdrop, #loveothers, right?

Because the interesting thing here, and the reason this is a mic drop moment...and we're kind of all watching the political stage right now, right? When you ask a politician a question, what's the first thing they do? Don't answer it, right? They sidestep it, what else can I say? And this is on both sides, so I don't care what side of the aisle you're on. They are masters at not answering the question you asked and answering something else. Jesus says, 'I'm going to answer your question, and I'm going to tell you what the second greatest commandment is.' And it's like, whoa! Jesus is offering more information than even the question He was asked, and He's going to make a point with this.

The point is...He says this after that, 'All the law and the prophets hang on these two commandments.' When He says all the law and the prophets, what He's meaning is the entire Old Testament, which at that time was the Bible. Okay? The New Testament was being lived. The entire Old Testament hangs on these two commandments: Love God; love others. Who's he looking at when he says this? People who have done a great job loving God, at least outwardly. They show up to the temple, they pray, they give a tenth of their stuff, but they have done a pretty poor job of loving others. And so Jesus goes to the extra step to say, 'Love others.'

So today as we talk about this, as we think about this - the second commandment - and we ask ourselves why...why is this so important that Jesus answers the question of love God, and this is so important, this is the greatest commandment, but then feels this need to throw out the second greatest commandment in that moment...and then link them both together, that everything hangs on these two. Why is that so important? Because the Pharisees loved God, but they did not love others. They had this reputation, all throughout the New Testament they had this reputation. Jesus is reminding them that the first and second commandments are linked. You can't have one and not the other; they go together. You can't love God without loving God's creation. Right?

So the Pharisees had a reputation, right? Here's the definition of reputation just because we're going to talk a lot today about the word reputation. "The beliefs or opinions that are generally held about someone or something." So, do you know that you have a reputation? Think for a minute. What is your reputation? Take a moment; think about it. If you're bold enough, lean over to your spouse and ask 'Dude, what's my reputation?' Don't do it; don't do it. That's a bad idea. No, I'm just kidding. {Justin laughs.} Right? Lean over to your child and be like, 'Tell me what my reputation is.' 'Dad, I just wanna play XBox. I'm grounded.' No, I'm just kidding.

But we have a reputation, and sometimes our reputation goes through seasons where it can be maybe on a mountaintop. 'Man, I feel good the way people look at me, the way people see me, the way people perceive me.' And then it can go through valleys where our reputation is struggling. Sometimes it's really not a matter of our integrity. It can be a perception. It's not reality maybe. Other times it can be reality. It can be that we've treated other people wrongly.

It seems that the Pharisees had a clear reputation of treating the marginalized in their community really as outsiders, as if they weren't worthy of God. Jesus has a big problem with this. Jesus has a big problem, so when He comes, He says, well, why don't I go on the other side of that and hang out with the prostitutes and hang out with the tax collectors and show the love of God to these individuals that are so starved for the love of God because all of the religious leaders of their day have said, "No, no, you're not worthy. You're not worthy.' And you're just watching this radical person constantly come into conflict with this system that says loving God is the greatest command. Loving God is the greatest command. These people don't love God so they're not worthy. Jesus says, 'Hold on, you've missed another very vital command. These commands balance each other out. These commands are to be put together. Love God, love others.'

So the last three weeks, I've been trying to buy a used car, okay? And what's the largest adopted perception/reputation of a used car salesman? Holler! Holler it out! {responses from audience called out} Slippery? Yes! Yes! I wrote a few down from my experiences, but then I realized I can't say those in church, so I ended up going with dishonest, cheat, liar, sketchy. Sorry if there's a used car salesman in the room right now. But this is the large perception, right, of used car salesmen? Used car salesmen are kind of like, 'I will do anything to get that sale.'

So let me take you on a journey really quick, okay? The first vehicle that I looked at, this was back before 4th of July, the first vehicle I looked at and got serious about and started, you know, wheelin' and dealin', you know, because that's how it works. I went to him, I'm sitting down, and I'm like, 'I want to have my mechanic look at it.' And this is what they say, they say {in Justin's best disreputable, reptilian used car salesman voice}, "Your mechanic doesn't need to look at it, Mr. Douglas. Let me tell you why. Our service department operates independently of us, so they ran through the whole car and it is all good. It is great! It is perfect! It passed inspection, everything's good.' I said, 'Sir, your service department has the same name as your used car salesman, so like I don't think, since the service department and you have the same name, that they can really fully operate independent.' 'Well trust me, Mr. Douglas. Here's the CarFax, here's all this.' I'm like, 'Mike, I'm having my guy look at it.' And he's like, 'Well, we're up against the holiday weekend, and you know, I don't know if we can do that, you know. I'm sure that there's other people interested in this vehicle.' And I just sat there and said, 'Well, I'm going to be here until you guys close. I'm going to sit right here until you close, and if you want to think creatively about how you can loan me the car for the weekend so that I can have my mechanic look at it, then I'll leave here and I'll go have my mechanic look at it.'

Finally, five minutes to close, he finally decided, 'Alright, I'll let you have the car for the weekend.' And so I take the car for the weekend, I have my mechanic look at it. My mechanic looks at it and says there's three things wrong with it: there's a broken engine motor mount, there's like a rusted-out transmission line, and there's all this stuff. So I take it back to him, and I'm like, okay, here's pictures, here's proof this is all messed up, and they're like, 'Hey, you're getting a great deal. You should just fix it yourself.' What?! What world are you living in, sir? And so I'm like, 'No, no, no, no, no, I'm not interested.' And then he says, 'No, here's what you should do. Here, I got a better idea. I got a better idea. Let's just go through it, sign everything, and then activate the warranty right afterwards, and we'll fix it for you because you'll activate the warranty.' I'm like, 'Sir, I know how warranties work. If I know there's issues before, those issues aren't valid on warranty.' I'm just sitting here like, can a guy buy a car? Like, I just wanna buy a car. Why is this so difficult?

So then I go to my second place, and this was on Thursday, this last week on Thursday. And the second place I go to, I find a car, but it's a decent click away. It's like an hour and a half away. And so because it's the car I'm looking for, so I'm like, 'I'll go.' But I call ahead of time, we're negotiating over the phone, they're like, 'We won't negotiate price over the phone. You have to come here.' So I ask her, I say, 'So, when I get there, there's room on the sticker price, right? There's room on the sticker price.' And she goes, 'Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. Once you get here, we can negotiate.' So I pull on the lot, and of course, Sara, who I'm talking to...I should not have said a name. I don't know. Oh, well, you guys don't know Sara, so she's just...anyway, she sends Juan out to me, and Juan comes out to me and this is interesting how used car salesmen work, just the whole hierarchy of it. I almost want to go study it for a week because it's interesting. But, sends him out to me, and he's like, 'Hey, man!' And the thing is they always compliment you, right? They're like, they shake your hand like, 'Hey, man! Ohhh, nice tattoo, man! Ohhh, I like your hair, man!' It's like, 'Stop kissing my butt, I'm just trying to buy a car!' Like, come on! Like, what are you doing? I'm not here to be your friend, I'm here to make a transaction.

And they want to make you feel good because they know you'll buy something if you feel good. That's not me, though. I'm there to buy a car. So I'm sitting here, I'm talking to him, and he's trying to hand me the keys, and I won't take them. Because I'm like, 'Uh, we talked over the phone and we said there was wiggle room, so let's start, you know, talking about this before I take it to go get it inspected.' You know? Let's talk about this. And he's like, 'Oh, man, I wish there was, but you know man, there's just not room on the sticker price.' I'm like, 'Dude, I just drove an hour and a half, so Sara's going to need to come out here and have a conversation with me because there was wiggle room over the phone and now there's not wiggle room.' And he goes, 'Well, here's the deal, man, we did everything we could to get you that interest rate, you know? We worked so hard to haggle with the bank to get you that great interest rate, so we just don't have room.' I'm like, 'Man, my credit score got me that interest rate, sir.' That's what, I'm like, 'You didn't haggle with any bank.' I'm sitting here having an argument with this guy, and I'm like why can't I just buy a car? Finally he said, 'There is room. Just take it and get it inspected. There's room.' You know? So finally I take it and get it inspected, and it has an oil leak, which the mechanic said, 'I wouldn't touch this car with a 10-foot pole because it could be a broken head gasket.' You're about to get this nice, you know, newer car, and you don't want to start it off with an oil leak.

So finally, third time's the charm apparently, so yesterday we actually, I actually drove off the lot with a car, but here's how the conversation went. The guy answers the phone, because this is another one that's further away, and I say, 'Listen, man, please...it has been a heckuva time trying to find a car. Just be honest with me, and I will not walk. We will have a deal if you can just be honest with me.' And he like really actually respected that and was super honest with me through the whole process. But there's a reputation, okay, for used car salesmen, and I guess, at least in my experience, I would argue the reputation has not changed {Justin laughs}. I don't know if that's how you've experienced car sales, and maybe you have a dealer that you're like, 'Justin, this is the dealer to go to,' please come tell me afterwards because I would love to not have gone through what I've gone through the last three weeks.

But we know certain people have certain reputations that are in our life, certain organizations, or certain job titles might have a perception. Now that's not the case for every used car salesman. I've got to believe, I have hope, that there are some good used car salesmen out there who are honest individuals, but the truth is there's a reputation.

Now let's all take some time to think inwardly. What is the reputation of a Christian? What is the reputation of a Christian? Specifically a Christian in North America. What is the reputation of a Christian? In 2007, unChristian was published. There's a picture of the book cover right here {on projection screen}. The subtitle was What a New Generation Really Thinks about Christianity...and Why It Matters. 

So this was done in 2007. It was done with the Barna Research Group, and they did extensive research primarily asking young people 16 to 29 this question: What is your perception of Christians? In essence, what is Christianity's reputation in North America? Let me show you what this said.

91% - anti-homosexual

87% - judgmental

85% - hypocritical

75% - too involved in politics

71% - insensitive to others

Here's a quote from their research: "Many of the young Christians have found their elder believers to be unChristian in their attitudes and actions. They, too, may easily become as disaffected as their outsider peers. We have a serious problem. A huge chunk of a new generation has concluded that they want nothing to do with us. As Christians, we are widely mistrusted by a skeptical generation." Our reputation in 2007 amongst young people 16 to 29 was widely mistrusted. Those 16- to 29-year-olds are now 25- to 38-year-olds, and the gap seems to be growing.

Now, let me acknowledge that this is 9-year-old research, so certainly a lot could change, but most people...lists that I look at that are more current, maybe not as research-based data, but other more recent lists say things like this:

Christians are opposed to science.

Christians just want my money.

Christians are out of touch; they're not relevant.

Christians are hostile toward the LGBT community.

Christians are behind on issues of social justice.

Christians are arrogant.

Christians are too political.

And I could go on and on about things and lists that I find that are out there that are real, but most of us would probably agree that these 2007 perceptions and reputation still exist today. And I guess what I would say is this, as I've talked to many of you, I would say some of you have felt the consequences of that reputation. Some of you have been hurt by the very things that are listed on that page. The same way buying a car was exhausting because of the dishonesty that I had to work through, the reputation of the church can be exhausting to people who are looking for hope, people who are looking to feel loved, people who are saying, 'Tell me more about this Jesus guy because I know there's something more in life than what I'm living,' and then they're met with something very different.

What was missing from this list? What was missing from this list? Love. Love! You're telling me that an entire generation...and you can say 16- to 29-year-olds, 'Oh, those young whippersnappers. They don't know anything about life.' Right? You know, I mean, you can say that, but I'm saying we didn't even get like 51% look at the church and say, 'They love me. They love others.' That's hard.

Let's read our Tweetable for today. This is our scripture for today. It comes from John 13:35. "Jesus said, 'By this, #everyone will know you are my #disciples if you #loveoneanother.'" By this, everyone will know you are my disciples if you love one another.

Who will know? Everyone will know. What will they know? They will know that you are My disciples; you are followers of Jesus. How will they know it? Not because of the things we saw listed a moment ago. How will they know that you're My disciples? They'll know that because of your love for others.

At The Bridge, we want to be a place that challenges and even dares to challenge the reputation that the church has. Our first core value out of the gate and probably the one we lead with in nearly everything is Belonging By Acceptance. Creating a space of belonging and acceptance for everyone. Here's the tagline under it: We believe people need relationships with God and others in which they will be received with non-judgmental love. We desire to give people the right to explore, ask questions, voice doubts in a community that accepts and expresses the love of God.

This is our value and this has been our value or coming up on 16 years. This isn't something new for us. Nine years ago when that research was made, this was us, this continues to be us today because we believe Jesus says 'Love God,' and certainly we love God, but we can't do that without tangibly loving others. And here's the deal, here's the thing the Pharisees didn't want to do. They recognize loving others means you're going to get messy. Loving others means you're going to be around people who don't have everything together all the time. But really, if you're just loving people who have everything together, they're just wearing a mask anyway. Both are essential to what it means to follow Jesus.

So today, I asked you earlier, 'What is your reputation? What are you known for?' Well, if you follow Jesus, if you believe in Jesus, the thing you should be first and foremost known for is your love for others. That you're a person who's patient, that you're a person who's kind, that you're a person who's humble, that you're a person who's selfless, that you're a person who cares about others. These are just some of the many markers of love that are listed in the scriptures. So how are we doing? Because I want to take it away from just The Bridge, I want to think about you personally, think about myself personally. How am I doing? Am I taking advantage of every opportunity to show that I follow Jesus through the way I love each individual I interact with on a daily basis?

We fail. We're never going to get this all the time right. This is the beautiful thing about grace is that we fail; our reputation suffers. None of us in this room has a perfect reputation because none of us are deserving of a perfect reputation. We've done things. The point is, though, as we desire to follow Jesus, we recognize we can't do that without loving others, even above ourselves. What a crazy thing to command.

The world wants to know Jesus. I firmly believe this. People know there's something else, and they don't know what it is. The want to know Jesus, but the only way they can really, truly know Jesus is through the power of love. We get to be that. The best evangelism, the best outreach we can possibly do, is to love the people that we have opportunities to love...tangibly. So today, may your reputation be love. May you take the steps to love those around you even when it's difficult because it probably will be difficult at times. And may you discover that loving others is the greatest way to share the hope of Jesus to the world. Let's pray.

Good and gracious God, we love You so much. We love You with all of our heart, with all of our soul, and with all of our mind, and we recognize Your call for us to love our neighbors as ourselves. Even further, we recognize that we are marked as followers of You, and the world knows us as that when we love. So, Lord, we love others. That is a marker of what it means to follow You. It is such a short and simple concept, yet it can take a whole lifetime to even come to a place where we feel like we've even roughly figured it out. So we pray for Your spirit to be alive and work within us because we fail more often at this than we succeed, but we strive to take hold of every opportunity to love the people that You place around us. You have given us opportunities to be more patient, even though we want to stop praying for those because it's so hard to be patient sometimes. You've given us opportunities to be kind even though sometimes we're short-tempered.

Lord, as You give us opportunities to show tangible love to the people around us, we pray that we would take those opportunities, that we would say yes to those opportunities, that we would love fully because when we love fully, it is an extension of Jesus to our world. Be with us in those times, in those opportunities, and may our reputation grow. When this statistic is done again, when this research is done again and we see the statistics, may it be that love defines the church. May it be that they felt cared for and that's their impression of the church. Lord, restore the reputation to where we would look more and more like You each and every day. In the name of Jesus, amen.