God’s greatest commandments were to love God with all our heart and to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. That kind of selfless love for others is a love that engages—one that meets others where they are and is intentional. But what might loving our neighbors, co-workers, and friends in this way really look like day-to-day?
These discussion questions are designed for your life group or family dinner to help you apply the message to your life.
Message Audio from Gateway in South Austin:
Message Notes from John Burke:
Today we’re talking about how Love Engages.
There’s a huge payoff when you engage people – to BLESS our neighbors—Begin Praying, Listen, Engage, Serve, Share.
As you make efforts to intentionally love your neighbors, coworkers, people around you—the payoff is you will eventually experience loving community back. You’ll grow spiritually, experiencing God working in and through you. But it does take intentionality.
We’re looking at how Jesus intentionally loved people, and if you look at his life, he was no social recluse, monk-type—Jesus Engaged people. He ate meals and did things with people the religious shunned.. That’s the easiest way to engage:
Share a Meal
Matthew, also known as Levi, was a tax collector in Galilee.
- A tax collector back then would be close to a gangster today.
- They were Jewish people who had sided with the hated Roman Government just for greedy gain.
- Usually very corrupt.
- Basically, as long as the Romans got their share, they didn’t care how much the Jewish tax collectors could wring out of people—so extortion was part of the trade.
- Not surprising, it was an immoral, unethical, party-til-you-puke group of people. I think the 6th Street Crawl originated with this group.
- Yet Matthew, this immoral tax-collector, finds faith in Jesus and starts to follow him. And Jesus picks him—of all people—to be one of his inner 12 disciples. This is who Jesus banks on to change the world!
- Well, Matthew’s so excited, he throws a party at his house for all his friends to meet Jesus.
10 While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and sinners came and ate with him and his disciples. 11 When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”12 On hearing this, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. 13 But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” Matthew 9:10-13
The religious of Jesus’ day believed that the way of the righteous was to stay in the holy huddle, disconnect from those sinner people out there, and if you did hang out with those people—there’s something wrong with your spiritual condition (ever been to one of those churches?).
- That’s why they are judging Jesus.
- They don’t understand why Jesus, claiming to be from God, would engage with these people who did not share their faith, their morality, their ethical sensibilities—they were the problem with this world.
Jesus responds, “It’s not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.”
- Now, you’ve probably never thought about Sarcastic Jesus—but this is biting sarcasm.
- Jesus says, Go learn what the Jewish Prophets–you claim to be experts on actually mean—and he quotes Hosea 6:6 where God says “I desire mercy, not sacrifice.”
- Jesus is pointing out with biting sarcasm that they make “sacrifices for God to prove they’re righteous, but God wants their hearts to grow to show mercy—which they had none of.
- They in fact, are the sick ones—just as much as the people Jesus is having dinner with.
- I have not come to call the righteous but sinners (but these “righteous” Pharisees would soon crucify Jesus for his compassion and mercy toward Matthew’s sinner friends—biting sarcasm).
And this is an important point if we’re going to be like Jesus.
- It’s important to have a close spiritual community like we have in Life Groups—where we can grow together spiritually with others serious about spiritual growth.
- It’s important to learn together like we do Sundays, but when Christians start thinking it’s all about me and my growth, all about me and my style of worship music, what I need to be fed, and they forget about engaging with a hurting, isolated, depressed world that God cares about—we’re not following Jesus. We’re following the Pharisees.
In fact, this is such a big deal—I want to speak to Mature or maturing Christ followers for a second. Because I have been a part of churches including Gateway that were effective at reaching people like Matthew’s friends, I will sometimes hear:
Our church is “less mature” than churches with people who’ve been walking with Jesus for a long time.
This is a lie, but it works to keep people from truly maturing in Christ-likeness.
- You grow at Gateway by serving and getting in a Life Group—where 8-12 people know you and you know them, and you actually form the loving soil of transparent, accepting community Jesus chose to disciple the 12 into maturity.
- In Life Groups you work through 20 Outcomes of discipleship in the way of Jesus, so you become a self-feeder, and truly mature.
Mature humans don’t neglect children to have someone feed them. Mature humans not only feed themselves, but feed and care for others. That’s true of spiritual maturity as well.
- When you come on Sundays pray: “God would you speak to me today and would you show me someone I can serve or connect with today?”
Last week, we looked at Jesus with the Woman at the Well in Samaria—he cares for her, listens and engages her in dialogue, pointing out her deeper spiritual need—she comes to faith and tells all her friends who also come to faith.
The disciples came back and say, “Here Rabbi, we brought you food.”
Look at his reply:
But Jesus replied, “I have a kind of food you know nothing about.” 33 “Did someone bring him food while we were gone?” the disciples asked each other.34 Then Jesus explained: “My nourishment comes from doing the will of God, who sent me, and from finishing his work. 35 You know the saying, ‘Four months between planting and harvest.’ But I say, wake up and look around. The fields are already ripe for harvest. 36 The harvesters are paid good wages, and the fruit they harvest is people brought to eternal life. John 4:32-36
Jesus would know food for the spiritually mature—right!?
He said mature food is doing the work of God like I just did, caring for those who are alone, hurting, 5 times divorced and living with a guy, tax collectors, partiers, people who don’t fit the religious country club—“I desire mercy, not sacrifice.”
- So yes, we need to be fed when we are infants and little children, but spiritual maturity leads us to self feeding and even reaching, feeding, and growing others.
- So start serving and get in Life Groups and grow, be fed spiritually—but know that it’s not just about you.
- God will mature you to care about all 20 of the neighbors or coworkers around you who may be struggling in unseen ways.
You won’t really know until you Care enough to Pray, then Listen deeply to their story, and Engaging with them in meaningful ways will help you do that.
Jesus engaged with people. He would Eat with people like at this Matthew Party.
You could do the same—Eating a meal is a really easy way to engage. Simply having someone over for dinner or a BBQ, or going out to lunch with a coworker or friend. There’s something about sharing a meal together—it bonds, and it opens up conversation in new ways.
Or throw a Matthew Party—invite all your neighbors or coworkers over for dinner or a BBQ, or get creative.
When was the last time you had a neighbor over for a meal?
Ummm—harder than we thought to do Ordinary love—because Love has to engage in more meaningful ways.
I’ll confess–It’s hard to do—we have so much going on. And often we let it be too big a deal—feels like things won’t be nice enough, or it requires so much, so we don’t do it. That’s why we need this—we need a faith community to remind us—stories like these to challenge us, an App to keep it on our minds. Because Hospitality is a way of loving people.
- 13 Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality. Romans 12:13
- Do not forget to show hospitalityto strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it. Hebrews 13:2
- Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. 1 Peter 4:9
The world is coming to Austin. John Burke recently met with an Austin Demographer and some other pastors—he told us Austin is now a Gateway City—like New York and San Francisco—it’s a city that the best and brightest from India, Africa, Europe, China, South America—they’re coming here to work in high tech.
- Do you know that typically, an international will live in the United States for years and years and never ONCE get invited into an American’s home.
- Unthinkable in most countries, where hospitality is a social command.
- As followers of Jesus, we need to grow in this area, especially to welcome the world God loves. If you’ve ever lived in another country, it gets very lonely—you feel like an outsider, so you want local people to invite you in.
But it doesn’t just have to be a meal—you can find lots of other ways to engage.
Go to Their Events
When there are neighborhood events, work parties, places people gather—to so that you can engage with people.
The next day there was a wedding celebration in the village of Cana in Galilee. Jesus’ mother was there, 2 and Jesus and his disciples were also invited to the celebration. 3 The wine supply ran out during the festivities, so Jesus’ mother told him, “They have no more wine.”4 …6 Standing nearby were six stone water jars, used for Jewish ceremonial washing. Each could hold twenty to thirty gallons. 7 Jesus told the servants, “Fill the jars with water.” When the jars had been filled, 8 he said, “Now dip some out, and take it to the master of ceremonies.” So the servants followed his instructions. 9 When the master of ceremonies tasted the water that was now wine, not knowing where it had come from (though, of course, the servants knew), he called the bridegroom over. 10 “A host always serves the best wine first,” he said. “Then, when everyone has had a lot to drink, he brings out the less expensive wine. But you have kept the best until now!” John 2:1-10
Notice several things:
- Jesus and his disciples go to local events. In this case, the host was embarrassed for running out of wine (a big-time faux pas back then—plus it was the cheap stuff).
- Jesus makes about 150 gallons of Duckhorn Merlot Napa Valley. That’s a lot of fine wine—like 3,800 glasses. That’s more than enough for people to have way too much.
So here’s what we take from this.
First, Jesus was accused of being a drunkard and friend of sinners because he engaged with them—but Jesus never got drunk. And told in his word, “Don’t be drunk with wine, because that will ruin your life. Instead, be filled with the Holy Spirit….” Ephesians 5:18
Yet Jesus brings enough wine to the party that people could abuse it. Which means—God’s main goal is not to control our moral decisions, but to be among us showing us the path to life—to guide our freedom to learn to enjoy all his good gifts with moderation under His Spirit’s guidance.
For some, addictive tendencies means moderation is not going to work for you. And as friends, we should limit our freedoms if it would cause another to stumble.
But let God’s Spirit guide you going into morally challenging situations—don’t let their behavior dictate or corrupt yours, but also don’t push people away because they don’t know God’s ways or follow them. They’ll never know if you don’t engage with them and model a better way.
Jesus engaged people where they lived life.
Engage the Outcast
If we’re going to follow Jesus, we need to Engage the outcast, the marginalized, the one’s at work who get left out or gossiped about at the water cooler. Or the people who are not so easy to love.
That’s often where God’s most at work—in the people the world doesn’t easily love.
One time it says Jesus was just passing through Jericho—so he’s not intending to stop. But as the crowds flock into the streets because they’ve heard about this miracle worker who might be the Messiah.
[Zacchaeus] tried to get a look at Jesus, but he was too short to see over the crowd. 4 So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree…. Luke 19:3-4
Jesus notices him, says Zacchaeus, come down [which is an important reminder, you may end up with 20 people you’re praying for (maybe 1-2 per day), but you can’t engage all equally. That’s okay, God will show you when there’s openness, and linger there.
Jesus does this—“I’m going to stay at your house tonight, Zacchaeus.”
That’s one way to engage—invite yourself to spend the night. Zacchaeus is excited, but it says the whole town erupts:
6 [Zacchaeus] hurried and came down and received [Jesus] gladly. 7 When they saw it, they all began to grumble, saying, “He has gone to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.” Luke 19:6-7
Zacchaeus was a notorious little gangster with a Napolean-complex the size of Jerusalem–no one liked him.
Yet Jesus realizes, there’s something else going on under all that—and no one is too far for the saving arm of God. After that day with Jesus, Zacchaeus promises to pay back anyone he’s robbed 4 times,
Jesus says: “Today salvation has come to this house…For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.” Luke 19:9-10
- Think about the person left out at work..
- Think about the one everybody hates, or gossips about, and they may deserve it..
- Think about the marginalized or demonized or hard for you to love.
- See if God’s prompting you to pray, listen, engage with that person. Often those who seem farthest from God may actually be closest.
Imagine If all of us who have downloaded our app “Join In” to love our 20 neighbors and coworkers over the next few years?! It’s a long-term effort and we need reminders and ongoing encouragement.
We could demonstrate the love of God to 100,000 people over the next few years—if you are faithful with the 20 people around you. Imagine what a unifying difference we could make in such divided times!