Summary: A message preached along with our 2008 Palm Sunday program, focusing on the importance of loving people who are not like us...just like Jesus did.

What the Cross Teaches Us

Part 3: Our Biggest Challenge

“Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.”

Luke 23:34 (KJV)

The 3 Biggest Challenges of Every Christian

1. To have compassion on those who don’t know God.

Illustration: I had been praying regularly with the deacons for one of our members. His wife, Pat, attended our small congregation faithfully, but John hadn’t been to church in years. So every Sunday afternoon before the evening service, we prayed for ways to communicate our commitment to John and his family.

It wasn’t long before we received an answer. During the morning service one week, Pat told us through tears that John had been diagnosed with prostate cancer. A surgery was planned for the following week, and doctors were confident John would make a full recovery.

The bad news was John would be out of work for months. He drove a log truck and was paid by the mile. There was no way he could recover while spending ten hours a day in a bumpy eighteen-wheeler, but if he didn’t drive, John and Pat didn’t get a paycheck.

The congregation sprang immediately to action. There was no question whether the congregation would pitch in to support the family in their time of need. That afternoon in an emergency business meeting, we sat around a long folding table and our head deacon, a trucker himself, asked with his characteristic boldness, "How much can everyone give?" Some pledged $50 or $100 a month; one family committed to pay for utilities and another for groceries, whatever the cost. Beginning immediately, Anchor Baptist Church took responsibility for the wellbeing of one of its families. All bills were paid on time; there was a new supply of groceries on the front steps every weekend; some of the men made sure the lawn was mowed and other maintenance issues around the house were addressed.

John has since rejoined the congregation. Months after his surgery John testified on a Sunday morning that the church’s tireless care of his family had convinced him that the congregation did not simply want another warm body in the seats or an extra dollar in the offering plate; they were committed to sharing their lives and resources with him unconditionally.

Brandon O’Brien, assistant editor,

Questions: Why would a church support someone like that who had had little to do with their congregation for years?

Statement: You know, it’s always easier to judge than it is to have compassion. If fact, that’s one of the biggest challenges that a follower of Christ will face: Having compassion on those who don’t know God.

-Nevertheless, if we really want to honor the God we believe in, He says to show the compassion that Jesus did when He looked at the women mourning for Him and told them not to weep for Him, but for themselves because of what mankind was doing to the Son of God. He had compassion for them.

-Let me ask you: Do you have anyone in your life who doesn’t know God?

-Jesus had compassion on the lost people of Jerusalem in his day. Listen to this song that reflects the heart he had for those people.

Song: Jerusalem Called

2. To love those who hate you.

Illustration: After a tough and discouraging day at work, Melvin plopped himself on the couch and began wallowing in self-pity. His moaned to his wife, "Nobody cares about me. In fact, the whole world hates me." Without even looking up from her work, Melvin’s wife replied, "That’s not true, honey. The whole world couldn’t possibly hate you because most of them don’t even know you." Houston Chronicle, 11/29/6, p.E2

Questions: Did you ever sing that old song, “Nobody like me, everybody hates me, guess I’ll go eat worms” when you were little? Have you ever run into somebody you just really didn’t get along with? Have you ever had someone tell you they hated you?

Statement: You know, Jesus told his disciples that they should expect to be hated. He said, “If the world has hated me, it will hate you…” There’s a pep talk for you, huh? But you know, there were lots of people who hated Jesus standing around that cross. And what did he say? “I’m gonna nail you guys?” “You’re all going to Hell?” No. He said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

-And you know what? There are still people who look at Jesus and despise Him. And there are still people who will look at you when they find out you’re a Christian and despise you. So what do you do? Hate them back. Not if you want to be like your savior. The 2nd biggest challenge is to love those who hate you.

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