Summary: We are called to lay down our lives for others.
"Lay It Down"
Facebook is a funny thing.
It's a forum where people often post pictures of their beautiful children and grandchildren, and inspirational quotes to help others through the day.
I often use it to promote things that are going on here at East Ridge United Methodist Church, and a number of other pastors do the same for the churches they serve.
Some of us use it kind of like the editorial section or "rant" section of a newspaper.
We complain about the state of politics, morals, local government--you name it.
Oftentimes, others get involved in the discussions and they can soon turn ugly and heated.
Some people lose friendships and even their jobs over what they put on social media.
I think there are some good things and bad things about Facebook.
In any event, it enables us to stay in contact with a lot of people whom we wouldn't even know anything about otherwise...
...folks we went to high school with, people who now live hundreds or thousands of miles away...
...people we may have all but forgotten about or never would have known what happened to them if it weren't for Facebook.
I don't know about you, but one of the things I don't enjoy about Facebook are the heated political and sometimes angry religious arguments which take place.
I have a cousin who, fairly recently, became an atheist.
Several times a week he will unload on Christians--usually lumping us all together as a very hypocritical, hyper-conservative, right wing hate group.
And I must say that there are many, many people who do view us this way.
Many things are said and done in the name of Christianity which, I believe, have nothing to do with the teachings of Jesus Christ.
Jesus is often used as a political pawn for this or that candidate or party.
And this, understandably makes people angry.
Jesus, is sometimes manipulated and used as an excuse to judge, exclude and hate other people.
It's a horrible tragedy.
And it's one of the main reasons why many folks turn away from the church and Jesus Christ altogether.
And the truth of it is that Jesus is anything but a political figure.
Jesus is not a bigot.
Jesus is not an advocate for war and violence.
Jesus is a pacifist Who instructed His followers to "Put away their weapons," and "turn the other cheek."
I think the world sees "Christians behaving badly" and they think this is what Jesus taught us to do.
I don't know about you, but I couldn't worship a God Who was a bigot, hateful, violent, mean, exclusive, vengeful, judgmental and no better than me.
I wish no one else could either.
Our Scripture passage from 1 John is about Who the God we worship is and how we are to imitate the God we seek to follow.
"This is how we know love: Jesus laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters."
Now, what in the world does John mean when He says we ought to "lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters"?
Does he mean that we are to be killed or martyred?
Does he mean we jump in front of a train in order to push another out of the way, and thus save them at the cost of our lives?
But I believe it goes even deeper than this.
Notice that John goes on to say: "But if anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need and that person doesn't care--how can the love of God remain in him?
Little children, let's not love with words or speech but with action and truth."
Could it be that we lay down our lives when we put others first?
Could it be that we lay down our lives when we live for the good of others?
Could it be that we lay down our lives when we lay down the completely normal human desire to live for ourselves, and instead allow the love of God to transform us into people who care about the needs of others?
Could it be that we lay down our lives when we stop arguing among ourselves about the details, and instead work together for the sake of Christ?
Could it be that we lay down our lives when we humble ourselves and serve?
John says, "This is [God's] commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and love each other..."
How are you doing at that?
How am I doing?
How is the Christian Church as a whole doing?
It's been said that Churches should have a 'Love-Radius.'
Bombs have what's called a "blast-radius," defined as the distance from the source that will be affected when an explosion occurs.