Sunday, August 10, 2008

What If Jesus Lived In My Neighborhood

The sun shone brilliant from a faultless sky as we gathered this Sunday for worship at New Life Covenant. Pastor Shannon welcomed us with informality and warmth, stating that today’s theme was to be on Kindness, the third in a series of messages about what it means to love others.

Key announcements:
1. The outdoor service scheduled for August 31 has been temporarily postponed.
2. Sunday School will begin soon, but we’re still in need of teachers.
3. Pam Johnson is helping organize the collecting of school supplies for needy families.
4. There will be a “hymn sing” and pot luck dinner at the Newman’s on September 14. Newman’s will provide the meat.

Today’s Scripture readings:
Genesis 37:1-4, 12-28
Romans 10:5-15

What If Jesus Lived In My Neighborhood

The Bible says we exist for others. As we mature in Christ, and the fruits of our relationship with Christ will mature in us, we’ll be increasingly growing in acts of kindness. If you’re not growing in kindness, then it should cause us to question our union with Christ, for kindness is a fruit of the Spirit.

The word for kindness in Scripture is chrestotes, which not only refers to our external behavior, but also incorporates the the idea of something inside us that is flowing out through our behavior.

Pastor Shannon pointed out that many external acts of kindness are driven by wrong motives. Biblical kindness is uncontaminated by internal selfish motives. In Ephesians 4:32 we see that Christ’s kindness toward us, an undeserved favor from God, is to be a pattern we exhibit toward others. In addition, our kind actions are to be motivated by a moral rightness.

The definition of Biblical kindness then is: “I show kindness to others because Christ showed kindness to me, and it’s the right thing to do.”

Using this as a springboard, we returned to Old Testament stories from the life of David to illustrate this additional facet of love.

In I Samuel 20:14-16 we see David’s covenant commitment to his friend Jonathan. In review, we note that many years pass before David, who had been anointed for kingship at age 16, can assume the throne as king of Israel at age thirty.

All this is a setup to paint the backdrop for the story of Mephibosheth in II Samuel in chapter nine.

2 Samuel 9
David and Mephibosheth

1 David asked, "Is there anyone still left of the house of Saul to whom I can show kindness for Jonathan's sake?"
2 Now there was a servant of Saul's household named Ziba. They called him to appear before David, and the king said to him, "Are you Ziba?" "Your servant," he replied.
3 The king asked, "Is there no one still left of the house of Saul to whom I can show God's kindness?" Ziba answered the king, "There is still a son of Jonathan; he is crippled in both feet."
4 "Where is he?" the king asked. Ziba answered, "He is at the house of Makir son of Ammiel in Lo Debar."
5 So King David had him brought from Lo Debar, from the house of Makir son of Ammiel.
6 When Mephibosheth son of Jonathan, the son of Saul, came to David, he bowed down to pay him honor. David said, "Mephibosheth!" "Your servant," he replied.
7 "Don't be afraid," David said to him, "for I will surely show you kindness for the sake of your father Jonathan. I will restore to you all the land that belonged to your grandfather Saul, and you will always eat at my table."
8 Mephibosheth bowed down and said, "What is your servant, that you should notice a dead dog like me?"
9 Then the king summoned Ziba, Saul's servant, and said to him, "I have given your master's grandson everything that belonged to Saul and his family. 10 You and your sons and your servants are to farm the land for him and bring in the crops, so that your master's grandson may be provided for. And Mephibosheth, grandson of your master, will always eat at my table." (Now Ziba had fifteen sons and twenty servants.)
11 Then Ziba said to the king, "Your servant will do whatever my lord the king commands his servant to do." So Mephibosheth ate at David's [
a] table like one of the king's sons.
12 Mephibosheth had a young son named Mica, and all the members of Ziba's household were servants of Mephibosheth. 13 And Mephibosheth lived in Jerusalem, because he always ate at the king's table, and he was crippled in both feet.

Pastor Shannon drew our attention to several highlights from this passage. First, that David initiated the act of kindness (vs. 3). So, too, Christ pursued us, even while we were running from Him. Christ’s kindness, as was David’s here, is proactive and intentional.
Next, it is noteworthy that Mephibosheth was unworthy of this kindness. He had been hiding out in a place called Lo Debar, which means “place of no pasture.” He was lame and useless. David’s kindness was shown while expecting nothing in return. Mephibosheth had nothing to give in return anyways. David was aware of this.

So it is that we are to extend our own kindness to those who are undeserving, far from God and have nothing they can give back in return.

Biblically, our kindness flows out of our commitment to show devotion to Christ. It’s not based on how we feel at this moment or that, but is a commitment based on the reality of his kindness toward us.

In David’s case, kindness was exhibited in three ways. First, he saw to it that Mephibosheth’s daily needs were met. Second, Mephibosheth received his inheritance. And most significantly, third, Mephibosheth was given a seat at the king’s table.

In other words, I am to give my best, not leftovers.

Later in his life, there had been a rebellion in the kingdom. David learned that Mephibosheth had purportedly betrayed the king, revealing the truth that sometimes kindness backfires and is not always rewarded with reciprocity. Nevertheless, we are to show kindness anyways. David did not abandon his commitments.

In a re-statement of the original definition, Pastor Shannon once again said, ““I show kindness to others because Christ showed kindness to me, and it’s the right thing to do.” He then expressed his own gratitude for our capacity for God, and encouraged us to do still more. Christ has offered each of us a seat at His banquet table.

In closing he asked who our own Mephibosheths were. Think about it… and show kindness.

No comments: