John 13:31-35

As Jesus nears the end of his earthly ministry he gathers the disciples to make sure they know the truths that matter most. He returns to the importance of loving others.

Jesus repeatedly teaches and demonstrates how important others are. No doubt the disciples who hear Jesus answer the lawyer (“love your neighbor”) recall Jesus telling the crowds that we are to love our enemies as well (Mt 5:43-48). Now he states that loving each other is a benchmark to being his follower, an even harder ideal to follow.

I was recently introduced to the book Befriend by Scott Sauls. Its bite-sized chapters provide quite a bit to chew on. Consider that when we say we want to be friendly and welcoming to others, we may not have thought that through. Are we really able to love all people? After all, when we put out the welcome mat, those who respond may look, act, or smell differently than we expect. 

What does it mean for the church when those who respond to an invitation are different than we are? Are we less enthusiastic about newcomers when they are a different ethnicity, or an immigrant, or a sexual minority? Do we still welcome people when we learn they are dysfunctional, controlling, filled with shame, or crippled by grief?

A few years ago, our church engaged in a self-study. As we considered the ramifications of what loving our city might look like, our consultant shared his own story. Reading how Jesus wept over Jerusalem in Luke 19, he drove to a spot overlooking his city and sought to feel that same degree of love.

His story moved me as I considered the places I had lived. Could my heart break for my country? My city? My neighbor? 


Who are the people your church would have the most trouble accepting? What about you?


God, make our hearts more tender for our city. Please give us a burden for the needs of those who live here, including our own need for you. Amen.

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