Part 3 brings to a close our ‘Living Visible’ series, which has been all about following Jesus’ example, and taking our place in revealing what God is like in the way we live towards one another and people.
We have referred to the graph below, to show how when Jesus walked the earth He perfectly revealed the nature and character of God, and that He has called us to do the same.
Living Visible to those ‘in between’ (Simon Mills)
Si Mills shared how we are not just called to ‘Live Visible’ to those closest to us, those at home, like we looked at last month, but also those ‘in between’ (see below). The people who we may not know well, the ones we perhaps bump into as we go on our way or maybe those we just don’t know much about at all.
We looked at Matthew 15, and the story of the Canaanite women in the region of Tyne and Sidon, and as we unpacked this portion of Scripture, we saw that what can on surface level look like Jesus is dismissing this Canaanite women, its actually Jesus challenging perspectives and ideas that people held about who was in and who was out.
That Jesus by going to the ‘wrong’ place in Tyne and Sidon, and engaging with the ‘wrong person’ in the Canaanite women is undermining our preconceived ideas about the places and people God is reaching out to. As we dig under that language used in most Bible translations we see that Jesus is playfully calling this women a ‘puppy’ (not a dog as its usually read) and in doing so is pushing the boundaries of the normal Jewish perspective towards the people in this place.
The challenge for us is to allow Jesus example to not just be a nice idea of inclusion and provision for those in the ambiguous places in between, but instead to allow Jesus’ example to unsettle us in our ‘secure’ ideas of the people we should be open to ‘living visible’ towards.
Who is it in our city, neighbourhoods and work places that we have consciously or subconsciously assumed are the ‘wrong people’ and the ones we haven’t ‘needed’ to reach out to?
Living Visible towards our Enemies (Steve Elton)
Then as we move even further along our relational continuum we reach those most distant from us as we encounter our ‘enemies’. Loving our enemies is a fairly central theme of Jesus’ teachings and our familiarity with it can sometimes lead us to not fully appreciate the radical offensive of it!
Jesus however, leaves us in little doubt with His reading of Isaiah 61 as recorded in Luke 4. As Jesus reads from this popular and famous passage of Scripture He pushes the idea of loving our enemies to new levels by excluding the line about God bring vengeance of our enemies.
This leads those who He shares this message with, the people He knew and grew up with in Nazareth, wanting to push Him off a cliff. They wanted to kill Him because He showed how God came to love His and our enemies, and not bring vengeance on them.
The challenge for us then is if we don’t feel that same ‘twinge’ that same sense of offence, or even thought that says ‘This isn’t fair’ then maybe we haven’t understand the radical nature of what Jesus is calling us to do, when He invites us to love our enemies.
And when we realise the ask Jesus is placing before us, we probably come to the conclusion that we cannot do this. We cannot love our enemies in the way Jesus is calling us too. Yet that is the place Jesus wants us to be in, not relying on our own love or goodness to fulfil the call, but instead relying on the Holy Spirit to strength, equip and guide us on the challenging path to love those who persecute and hurt us, to do good to them as Jesus showed when He told the stories of the widow and Naaman in Luke 4.
The reality is that for us to ‘live visible’ and love well, we need Jesus, without Him we cannot do this well, yet with Him, it has the possibility to change the world!
Being Members of something Bigger (Alan Schofield)
Alan shared on the significance and importance of being members of a community. The huge importance of being connected and joined together in a local expression of church. How as we commit and make sacrifices to be part of a community locally we take out place as members of something even bigger, something even further reaching than we could possibly imagine, something that reaches beyond our current time and geographical space. We are part of the Church globally and across time.
In referring to passages in the Bible such as 1 Corinthians and Ephesians 4 we see that each of us is called to play our part, to contribute and be a connected member of the body. That this is true of our place in the Universal Church, but that its worked out in the local expression where we interact daily with people, in both good moments and more challenging ones.
That as we learn to commit to one another, and make sacrifices we create a space in the local expression that helps us to fulfil what Christ has called us to, that helps us to ‘live visible’ in the places and spaces we occupy. That by each joint supplying we’re able to love well, grow and follow Jesus’ example.
Palm Sunday (Alan Schofield)
In the build up to Easter, Palm Sunday represents a key moment, and Alan shared about the moment with Jesus asking His disciples to go and get the donkey. That this seemingly simple request provides a significant window into what Jesus is both asking of us and what He is inviting us into. That Jesus is asking for us to be obedient to His leading and directions, whether that be in ‘living visible’ in the way we love those around us well, or in less ‘seen’ moments of how we are obedient with our money, time and resources. Then secondly, how Jesus is inviting us into something planned, into His Plan, something set up for us to walk out and take our place in. That as members of a body together we take our place in the grand plan for creation.
And then as the story of Palm Sunday unfolds, Jesus enters Jerusalem, and is welcomed as the saviour. Yet even in the way He enters it reveals that He isn’t coming as the Saviour people expect Him to be, not as one who will use military might, force and strength to overthrow an empire, but instead One who comes ready to lay down His life, as One who comes to serve and bring peace. Alan went on to share how as we see Jesus’ example as a Servant King, we are invited into living life the same, serving humanity and each other in the way we lead, love and care for one another.
Jesus changed the model of what a saviour is, and we have the opportunity to follow His world changing example in way we live our lives.
Questions to consider
Where along the continuum of home, those ‘in between’ and enemies do you find it hardest to ‘live visible?
How can you further ‘play your part’ as a member of your church community?
How have you followed God’s guidance and direction for your life?