We have been talking about what it looks like for us to follow Jesus and perhaps the best news we have heard sofar is that we don’t have to be perfect to follow and we don’t have to understand everything there is to know about Jesus before we follow because the first followers of Jesus were unbelieving sinners. They followed just the way they were and Jesus led them to places of forgiveness, strength and new life. So if we are sincere about wanting to follow Jesus, we can follow him just the way we are today and allow him to lead us in a path of grace and truth.
Jesus also only calls for us to take small next steps when we turn to follow. We don’t jump into the deep end and swim strong; we wade into the water one step at a time and when we do Jesus will increase our courage and strength so that we do not need to be afraid. The promise Jesus makes to those who follow is that no matter what we face in life we can be fearless because God will be with us and God in each and every situation. Today we are going to talk about what we need to wear if we are going to follow.
People can tell who and what we follow by looking at what we wear. Let’s take a little quiz here. Who do these people follow?
There are times we can also tell what religion someone follows by what they were:
What should we wear if we follow Jesus? Maybe you think of this
Jesus never called us to wear different clothes but he did call us to live a different life so if we are going to follow we need to be identified by something and Jesus makes clear that what needs to mark and identify his followers is love. John 13:34-35.
There is an old hymn that has a chorus that goes, and they’ll know we are Christians by our love, by our love, yes they’ll know we are Christians by our love. So it is love that we need to put on and it is the apostle Paul who not only tells us that love needs to be our clothing but he defines what these clothes and what this love is to look like. Colossians 3:12-14.
So what would this love look like if we were to put it on our feet? How about this… What to wear
It’s hard not to be compassionate, kind, humble, gentle and patient when you are wearing bunny slippers. Let’s face it, these aren’t worn by warriors and cut throat competitors. Bunny slippers aren’t worn by people whose only goal is to win and get ahead; they are worn by those who are humble, gentle and kind. Today they are a symbol for us of love, the love needed by those who follow.
So let’s explore what this love looks like. Paul says this love is compassion. The word for compassion here is not one that talks about a feeling from the heart but a feeling from the gut, or more explicitly, the bowels, the very depth of our being. In Jesus day they talked about a deep seated love coming from deep within us and while bowels might be a little too graphic for us, let’s talk about a feeling that moves us in the gut. Compassion isn’t a warm fuzzy feeling where we might say “ahh” like when we see a cute puppy,
it is the deep care and concern that moves us and even brings a sense of pain and sorrow into our lives like when we see a child in need. Compassion is the kind of gut level emotions that stirs us and that tells us that we have to do something to alleviate the pain of sufferings of someone else. Compassion is about doing something to help lift someone up.
When I was in college, what moved me to feel this gut level kind of compassion were the pictures of children dying of starvation in Ethiopia.
A three year drought during the 1980’s caused mass migration of people into camps where the death of children and adults to the lack of food and water was a horrifying event which took place day after day after day. When picture like this make us sick – that’s compassion. When what we feel in our gut moves us to do something – that’s compassion.
When I became a pastor and had the financial means and heard there was a way to help children in need, I decided to sponsor a child in Ethiopia because of what I felt when I was in college. Today I am on my second little boy in Ethiopia and because of the compassion I physically felt in college, I want to always support a child in Ethiopia. More recently people have been moved with compassion when they saw or heard about the plight of refugees from Syria
or the ebola virus in Africa
and now the Zika virus in South America.
When we are moved to do something to alleviate pain and suffering – that’s compassion and that is what is to mark God’s people.
Kindness. A great definition of kindness comes from Andy Stanley who says kindness is loaning our strength to others when they need it. Kindness is making ourselves available and offering what we have to others. Think of those who have been kind to you. Many times it is those who are willing to give you time or a listening ear. It’s people who loan their strength or service. When people have been there for us, giving us their time and help, we see them as kind and that’s the kind of love Jesus says needs to be part of our lives. Kindness is loaning seniors and afternoon to help around their homes and yards. Kindness is signing up to help with S.O.S.
Humility. It’s important to remember that humility is not putting ourselves down and it is not thinking less of ourselves, it is thinking about honestly about ourselves in relationship to God others. Who are we in comparison to God? Many times we think we know what God should do or how God should act. While we would never come out and say it, we often have the attitude of knowing God’s job better than God does. But if we are honest, compared to God, we are nothing. Job got a real lesson in this kind of humility – Job 38:4-20
This helps put our relationship with God into some perspective. We are not God, but we are children of God created in God’s image which means we have value, worth and dignity. As children we are also connected to one another which means we are brothers and sisters. We are not better than anyone else but together we share in all of humanity which means treating everyone with grace and begin willing to do whatever it takes to support and care for one another.
Gentleness. Being gentle is making the decision to deal with people on their terms and not ours. It is responding to people according to their strengths and weaknesses and not just according to our strengths. Being gentle means we have to stop and think about the person we are reaching out to and understand a little of who they are, where they are in life and faith and how to best help, support and inspire them.
A great analogy of how we need to treat people according their strengths and weaknesses is thinking about how we would pick up a contact lens and a baseball. A contact lens calls for us to barely touch the lens so that it sticks to our finger and then we place it carefully in our hands, but a baseball we can just grab. We are picking both of them up, but we do it differently and we do it according to what works for them, not what is best for us. So being gentle takes some time and thought and energy because it requires us to think first about the other person before we think about ourselves.
And then the last definition Paul gives is for love is Patience, something none of us really like to talk about. Patience in relationships is simply working with others at their speed and not ours. Most of the time we want to go through life at our speed and sometimes even warp speed and so patience often requires us to slow down – but really, slowing down is not always a bad thing.
Now if you haven’t noticed, one of the things we see in each of these definitions of love is that we have to be willing to consider the other person before we think about ourselves. Compassion sees the needs in others. Kindness looks for the opportunity to give ourselves to others. Humility calls us to see the value in others. Gentleness calls us to work with others on their terms and not ours and patience means walking and working at the speed of others and not ours, so the common characteristic we see in all of love is that it always requires us to look at others before ourselves. Paul says this more specifically in his letter to the Philippian, Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others.
Compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience is how we are to treat others because it is how Jesus treats us. Jesus was often moved with compassion and when he was it always led to action. Jesus would do something to alleviate the pain he saw. Jesus is still moved with compassion when he sees us and comes to our aid. Jesus is also kind to us and gives us his time and presence. Jesus not only humbled himself by coming to us but his humility is powerfully outlined in Philippians 2:6-8. And this was the example Paul said we are to follow when he said, have the same midest as Christ Jesus. In other words, this is what we need to look like and live.
Jesus is also very gentle with us and works in our lives in ways that are good for us. Sometimes Jesus might speak softly to us like he is picking up a contact lens and other times he might speak or act boldly to get our attention, but even then he is gentle and doesn’t crush us. And then there is the patience of God. God is so patient with us, working at our speed and forgiving us over and over and over again. Jesus works with us at our speed and not warp speed and that makes all the difference.
So we are called to love this way because Jesus loves us this way and if we want to follow we need to look like Jesus and clothe ourselves in compassion, kindness, humility, gentles and patience. We need to walk softly and carefully with others and that happens in bunny slippers not combat boots.
FOLLOW ~ Follow-wear
Read Colossians 3:12-17.
In each of the following areas:
1. Define what these qualities of love mean to you.
2. Identify someone who has shown you this kind of love.
3. Identify someone who needs this kind of love.
4. What one specific act can you do this week which
expresses this quality of love.
Compassion – the feeling in our gut that moves us to help
Kindness – loaning our strength (and selves) to others
Humility – being honest about ourselves with God and others
Gentleness – dealing with people on their terms and not ours
Patience – working and walking at the speed of others