10/23, 2005, P23A

“God and Folks”
Matthew 22: 34-40

addy had a distant cousin who was something of a recluse. The only persons that she would allow in the house were Daddy and me. This cousin had a daughter, who was also something of a hermit too.

Although we were allowed to visit she would not allow herself to benefit from his many years of experience counseling with his flocks. She just wanted to talk about their childhood and how they were going to outlive the other cousins their age.

On one of our infrequent visits I overheard Daddy ask Elvalina if she had any friends to call on just in case she got sick or ran out of stove wood during a snow storm. “No, I don’t like people!”  Daddy then responded, “You know that one of the great promises in the Bible is that we will be reunited with our friends in heaven.  Elvalina said sadly, “If I get there I’ll just hide in a hole.

“The Pharisees asked Jesus, ‘Teacher, which commandment in the Law is the greatest? He said, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul and mind. And the second is like it: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Mt. 22:36-40)

Don’t count on hiding in a hole. The New Testament knows of no isolationist Christianity. There is never any record of anybody becoming a disciple and just going home and keeping to themselves. There is something about discovering a relationship with God through Christ that draws us out of our holes. Gregariousness is a characteristic of Christianity.

But how do we learn to love God and folks?

Our love for God is not learned, it is implanted within our souls. We are born with an awareness of God. However, sadly, many religious systems have instilled into some a fear of God. We are fortunate that the influence of the Judeo-Christian tradition has instilled an awareness of a good and gracious God who wants to befriend us. In Jesus Christ we experience the magnanimous love of God. Hopefully, we all grew up hearing the Good News that Jesus loves us and that we can know His love.

For me it was a short step from being enraptured by God’s love to also loving the dear persons who were teaching me about His love. Many of you recall being in Sunday School in the basement of this church and you can call the names of the teachers who loved you into the love of God. Some may have discovered God’s love later in life, but all can attest that a natural result of loving God is to also discover a new love for folks. Friendship with God brings a new respect for all of His people. This new love is meant to be a beautiful and natural occurrence in our Christian life. The main purpose of the church is to allow us to become Christ’s evangelists as we extend His graciousness to all people everywhere. The wellspring of church growth is love for people.

C. S. Lewis connected salvation with the question that some ask about the theory of human evolution: “When will the next step in evolution occur?” Lewis, who believed in a Divine Creationist approach, answered, “In Christ a new kind of man appeared: and the new kind of life which began in Him is to be put into us.” (Mere Christianity, ch. 5, par.1)    

The catch is this new humanity does not happen automatically, but must be accepted by each person. It sounds like an easy decision for us to make but sin enters in and rebellion can appeal to us more than acceptance. Some of us end up postponing submission to God’s plan and some have never acquiesced.

It is never too late to catch up with the new human race and begin to live the higher and nobler life; A new life of love for God and all humanity. The great characteristic of the new person in Christ is a love and concern for others, especially the folks in the flock.

This might not be so automatic for some reticent personalities. However, as they take baby steps toward pulling out of their shells they are soon drawn out by the power of God’s Holy Spirit working inside of them. Divine friendship is all encompassing.  

Lewis advises us that if we do not find it natural to express love toward other human beings that we can begin by, “Acting as if you loved them and soon you will.” Lewis’ own experience was as a naturally shy person in reaching out to a broader audience but once he made himself do it, God gave him grace to really care for his students and his circle of friends broadened greatly. Soon, the tight vested Irishman was intentionally reaching out to persons from all walks of life and he became a stoic extrovert and one of the most beloved persons in England and the world. Through his books people feel like they know him and they love him still.

My friend, Frank Boggs, who had been on tour throughout England as Billy Graham’s crusade soloist, had a brief lunch scheduled with Dr. Lewis which extended to an all afternoon warm and friendly conversation at his favorite pub, The Eagle and Child. The once closed and distant personality had been made into a gracious friend of all.

Love of God and folks is basic Christianity. His Agape Love in us gives us a new outlook on life and a new love for the people that God loves, which is everyone. None are excluded by Him. God wants to include everyone into His Church and we share in that great vision.

But some might be thinking: I must have missed out on the new upgrade that God wants to put inside of me. This free upgrade has to come from the manufacturer of your soulful computer, and all you have to do is hit on the “yes” to have it.  It beats hiding in a hole!

a sermon synopsis by C. Robert Allred, Th.D., Pastor
10/23, 2005, P23A