Maria Medina is 17 years old, and she is a member of Presbyterian Welcome's youth group. She preached this sermon in both Spanish and English on August 25 at her church in Brooklyn, NY.
Sometimes when people go out of church they say, "Boy, I wish so and so had heard that message." I don’t want you to do that this morning. I want you to take it personally. Ask: "How does it apply to me?" instead of: "How does it apply to someone else?"
You see, I am preaching this morning on "caring about others," and I am convinced this is a message needed by us all.
While writing this sermon I went through many trials and tribulations where I was so close to just giving up, but I had to remember that God was there with me to guide me through this process, and I was not alone. As I prepared this sermon I often thought of the things I need to hear. So this message is just as much for me as it is for you.
Now turn with me to Philippians 2:19-24. In it, we will listen to the apostle Paul because he is such a good example of a tender and compassionate friend.
In fact, someone has noted that there are more than 100 people listed as Paul’s friends in the New Testament. And one of the reasons Paul had so many friends was because he was such a good friend, himself.
So as we look at this passage, I want us to consider a very important lesson—the need to cultivate a genuine interest in others.
In vs. 19, Paul says, "I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon, that I also may be cheered when I receive news about you."
Now Paul is a missionary, and sometimes missionaries write appeal letters. So it would have been logical for Paul to have written a letter saying, "I’m in prison here at Rome, & the conditions are really bad. I need help, so please take up a special offering & send it to me quickly."
But Paul doesn’t do that. Instead, he is concerned about his friends. So he sends Timothy to find out how things are doing, and he wants so much for the news to be good.
For a lot of people, Saturday mornings are "check on family" times. Married children call their parents, parents call their children, and brothers and sisters call each other just to visit and hear about what is happening in each other’s lives.
When you hear good news, there is joy all around.
In Philippians 2:3-4, Paul writes, "Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others." In other words: "be genuinely concerned about others."
Do you ever ask yourself on Sunday morning, "Why am I going to church? Am I going because I feel I owe a debt to God, so I’m trying to pay it back? Or am I going because I am carrying a heavy burden I hope will be lifted? Or because I like the music & the fellowship & even the preaching? Why am I going?"
Why should we go? Well, if we’re genuinely interested in others, the church becomes a training ground where we learn how to help one another.
So when you come to church, be on the lookout.
Over there is a mother with both hands full, trying to herd her kids through the door. Maybe she could use your help.
Or if you are sitting near a guest, here for the first time, introduce yourself and tell them: "I am glad you came." Let them know that if we can help them in any way to grow in their faith, that is why we are here.
When you look at the prayer list and learn of someone who is having a difficult time—get a card and write them a note. Let them know that you will be praying for them.
If someone you know is struggling with a heavy burden of grief or loss, hold their hand, and maybe weep with them. Just let them know that you care.
Now I realize that many of you are already doing that, and I praise God for you. Isn’t it refreshing to know that we can care about each other without any hidden agendas—to care about each other because "you are my brother," or "you are my sister in the Lord Jesus Christ."
Things happen when you are genuinely concerned about others.
First of all, you begin to forget your own problems. We seldom realize that. We think that when we are having trouble, we need to do something just for ourselves, something extravagant or indulgent.
But that is not the answer. The Bible teaches us, and psychologists are learning, that the quickest way to get rid of our troubles is to become involved in helping someone else.
The prophet Isaiah knew that a long time ago. Isaiah 58:10-12 says:
If you spend yourselves on behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday. The Lord will guide you always; He will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail.
Isaiah tells us through the word of the Lord that as we do good onto others God will take care of our needs.
Through taking care of another we must learn to love each other unconditionally—meaning without any barriers or limitations.
For us to know how to love each other, we must understand the character of the rich deep love that Jesus Christ showed to others and continues to show every day. His love is unmerited. His love is unlimited. His love is unselfish. His love is unreviling. His love is unending.
We must be a family and treat each other with love and understanding; even if we don’t understand or agree. Our job on earth is to “love thy neighbor as self." We must be there for our brother or sister as they fall and we must pick them up, if they are already down.
It is so easy to tell someone the words “I love you” or “I’m here for you if you need me,” but do we really mean it?
We must all learn to stop judging and instead greet each other with smiles and open arms.
In 1 John 4:21, the commandment that God gives us is to “love God and love each other”. In 1 Corinthians 16: 14, the Bible tell us to “show love in everything you do." From the moment we wake up until we lay our heads to sleep at night, we must show love in everything.
Love is being polite, and caring for those in need. Love is understanding someone’s pain and not being judgmental of the things they have been through.
Everyone who walks in church should feel welcomed. We must not turn them away because of their appearance, hygiene or even the way they may speak. We must follow in the footsteps of Jesus and keep our arms and hearts wide open. Let them know that there is love in the church and that God’s temple is a place they can call home.
Through our actions we can either hinder someone, or we may be able to spread a little bit of light on their life.
Throughout the course of drafting this sermon, I talked to many people and got different perspectives of what love means and opinions on this question: “Are we reflecting the Love of God onto others?”
After listening to so many different opinions, one response really stuck to me. Someone responded to me:
No. We are not because if we were then we wouldn’t be so judgmental to others and we wouldn’t try to tell to them that God does not love them because what they have done or what they went through. We do not realize the things we say or the way we look at people may be the difference between life and death for that person.
Yes, we are all human, and no one is perfect, but how can we say that everyone is welcome in the home of Our Father God, yet we turn away those who look different, speak different, or maybe even love differently?
There are many people in this world today who love differently.
If what they are doing is showing love, then why can't we accept that? Why can’t we accept that there are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people?
They are human, and at the end of the day, it is not our job to judge them or tell them they won’t get into heaven because of that.
Many people are ashamed to say that they have someone who is gay or lesbian in their family but I have learned that I am no one to judge and that whether or not I agree with that God has told me to love and that is exactly what I will do.
So I now ask you all “Are you reflecting God’s Love onto each other?"
If not—what are you going to do to change that?
Photo via Maria Medina: "Unity"