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Day 15: “Sharing”

A sacrifice is not a sacrifice unless it is actually a sacrifice. How does the sacrifice of Jesus for us lead toward radical generosity toward others in the body?

MEDITATION

“By this we know love, that He laid down His life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? – 1 John 3:16–17

REFLECTION

Because He Loves us, God radically shares with us until all our needs are met. The more we believe and rest in this reality the more we love and sacrificially share with others in need. This is the simple gospel that is turning the world upside down as it is believed and lived out with a heart of love.  In the early church, we see God’s people joyfully contributing and experiencing such a community.  People who were blessed with the world’s goods shared with those in need through their local house church where they shared life, worshipped, fellowshipped, ate, prayed and heard the gospel proclaimed and applied to their hearts (Acts 2:42-47; 4:32-37). It says “there was not a needy person among them.” How is that possible? How could a person be so compelled to give up their own individual “flourishing” for the sake of the whole not having a need?

The church is made up of recovering addicts. Yes, we are all addicted to ourselves, and so the gospel community described in Acts and the radical communal sharing challenge in 1 John 3 pushes against everything we are as selfish consumeristic individuals. Our natural bent is not to share with those in need, especially those who in our minds didn’t earn it or don’t deserve it because of their behavior. Our own addictions to personal comfort, security, money, vacations, nice stuff, and cool toys keep us from sharing to meet others’ desperate needs we see in society and in the community of faith. We also have major trust issues when it comes to sharing with others of a different color, culture or class than us. We actually see this struggle happening in the Acts church as well. They weren’t perfect either. In Acts 6 we see one ethnicity of widows favored over another in the distribution of food. Fortunately, there was immediate action to address that issue and make sure the needy widows of the faith community, regardless of their culture, were treated equally and with dignity and cared for in such a way that made the world shake their heads in wonder. And the world is still blown away today when they watch people selflessly give up the things most people work so hard for in order that the most vulnerable humans might be lifted and restored to a place of dignity and hope. How does this happen?

The key is in knowing and living out of the abiding love of God. John asks the million-dollar question that challenges what we think we know about the love of God. He basically says: “If you say you believe in the love of God but yet can’t share with someone else in need, are you sure you are in the real love of God and it’s really in you?”  It is a good question. We need to ask it often, not to try to guilt us more into giving to the needy, but to challenge our motives in our giving and where our heart is finding its ultimate rest and fulfillment. What “love” are we leaning into in order to find our ultimate pleasure and purpose? Where is our core abiding?

In Jesus’ famous last words to His disciples before He went to the cross He said this: “I have loved you even as the Father has loved me. Abide in my love” (John 15:9), and “There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:13). What we don’t realize is that while Jesus has graciously called us friends, the reality is that we actually were His enemies. We were rebels doing everything we could to go against God’s design for the world, haters of the true God and followers of our own desires (Colossians 1:21-22; Romans 1:30; 5:8). We deserve nothing from God but justice for our atrocities against Him, other human beings and this beautiful planet. “But God who is rich in mercy,” yes mercy, “because of His great love…” showed us grace… yes, grace (Ephesians 2:4-9). Unmerited favor. GRACE: God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense… Free because it is based on the radical, eternal, sacrificially shared love of God and not based on anything we could ever pay for or actions that could earn it.

And here is the beauty of this cosmic eternal love of God: it was for a group of people, not just you individually. We often make salvation an individual thing, but all those pronouns in the text are plural. Salvation was for a corporate “you” a “body” or group comprised of many individuals, each playing their part as God’s corporate workmanship on planet earth, created in Christ Jesus to do good works that God prepared in advance for US to do” (Ephesians 2:10). That is why John is saying it is inconceivable that one part of the body (abiding in the love of Christ) who has the “nutrients” to help another part of the body (also abiding in the love of Christ) would actually hold back those nutrients for selfish gain. If we really believed this gospel of abiding love that has united us all together in the body of Christ, then we would of course love and serve a hurting part of the body, since if that part fails the rest of the body fails. We are connected. It is not “me and Jesus” it is “we IN Jesus,” and we love because He first loved US, and gave Himself for US, so that WE might love Him and love each other with that same everlasting love flowing through the body of our sharing Savior. If someone says they love God but hates their brother they are not abiding in the love of the true God (1 John 4:19-21). If a follower of Jesus has material goods and sees their brother, another part of the body of Christ, struggling to survive, they will do everything they can to lift their brother up in love and dignity because in doing so they are lifting up the very body of Christ in whom they also abide.

ACTION

1. Take some time to repent for ways you have closed your heart toward those in need and have not lived out the generous abiding love of Jesus toward your brothers and sisters in Christ.

2. Rejoice in God’s generous eternal abiding love and forgiveness toward you despite your selfishness toward those who are hurting. Praise Him for His grace and let that grace and the reality of your union with Christ, and our other brothers and sisters in the body, compel you toward radical joyful generosity of your time, talent and treasures.

3. Write out a list of those in your life who God might be calling you to share life with. Ask God to show you ways you can meet those various needs in Jesus’ name (even in small ways).


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