Are you significant?
One of the things I like about CNN.com is that as soon as you get to their webpage you are able to see what the most important stories of the day are. They have a "Buzzworthy" bar up in the corner that keeps track of which stories have had the most views.
About three weeks ago is when the chemical warfare attack in Syria happened. I signed on to that site thinking that the talks that ensued and the investigation that followed were significant.
And, to a certain extent, it was. I found it ranked the number two most trending story.
But it wasn't number one. There was lots more web traffic devoted to an entirely different topic.
If you don't know what that is, it's ok. Don't Google it. You're better off not knowing. Just know that a young Miley Cyrus did something that wasn’t so appropriate at an awards show.
It's amazing how our culture defines significance. We have become convinced that significance comes when you have millions of views on your YouTube video, thousands of Facebook friends, and hundreds of Twitter followers.
This is why people film their children biting one another's fingers and dress their cats up like Yankee Doodle! Because they think that these stunts will make them significant?
This is the same reason that reality stars act over the top. For rating and invites back to the All Star version (As if they didn't know that they'd be on an island fending for food when they signed up for Survivor.) It's why pop stars come to music awards shows in dresses made entirely of meat. These are all ways for people to say: "Hey World, I'm significant!"
In this world of self-made stardom, I wonder if we aren't affected. Maybe, you have the idea that unless you develop some sort of talent and get past the first round of America's Got Talent you cannot truly say that you're significant. And maybe, that's a dream of your. Maybe, you long to have your name in 14 point bold print at the bottom of the CNN website highlighting how "You did something significant."
And since you haven't made it yet, then, maybe, you've begun to think of yourself as insignificant. Pathetic. Never going to do anything worthwhile.
If that's the case, may I suggest that we look beyond B -rate daytime TV to discover what really makes someone significant. Let's look to Jesus, a man whose words and work are only growing in significance thousands of years later.
We’re looking at John 13:34-35. And it sure is significant. Jesus calls their attention to what he's about to tell them by saying, "A new command I have for you..."
Perhaps the disciples’ ears perked up. They had devoted years of their life to Jesus and now, maybe, it was going to pay off. Maybe, this was finally the time that he would tell them how they were going to make a difference. How they would overtake the Roman empire. How they would become significant and be Jesus’ secretary of state and treasury in his earthly kingdom.
But Jesus had something entirely different in mind.
He said, "A new command I have for you: love one another as I have loved you."
Do you think the disciples were just a little bit disappointed? No glorious battle. No fanfare. No revelation. Just love one another.
Maybe you're disappointed too. "Is that all there is to being significant? It doesn't take much to impress this Jesus does it? Because if all Jesus wants me to do is to love one another, then, I've done that. Most of the time. So, I guess, I've earned my significance, right?”
There are two letters you aren’t paying attention to. Jesus didn't simply say, "love one another." He also included a little word that changes the scope of what we're talking about. "as" Two letters in English. Two letters in the original Greek. Same concept. "Similar to, the same as, in the same way." It changes the entire scope of what Jesus is asking us to do.
Look at the passage again: "Love one another, as I have loved you."
Do you love your friends and family like Jesus? Consider the following:
1. First off, Jesus' love was never too busy for anyone! He always helped whenever people needed it, even if he was supposed to be doing something else. It's why he stopped to help the bleeding woman as he was heading to help a sick girl—a matter of life and death! It's why, when he went up to a mountain to catch a quick break, he heard a crowd, turned around, and gave his attention to thousands of people who were looking for his help!
Compare Jesus to you. Do you always take the time to show love to others? Do you drop the TV remote to go help your spouse with the groceries? After a long, hard day at work, are you super willing and ready to listen to your friends day at work on the phone? When you are supposed to be at the Day Spa appointment, do you respond to your kids request to "play a game?"
If you have ever been too busy to show love, then you haven't loved like Jesus.
2. One of the reasons Jesus was always ready to help, was that Jesus always thought of other people first! His actions were backed up by his thought process. He thought of helping others before his own safety. He was hungry and he fed others. He was tired and he got up to deal with everyone else's fears.
What about you? When you are filling out your schedule, is it more important for you to block out "HELPING OTHERS" time or "ME" time? When it comes to spending money, do you insist it go towards something for someone else in the family? Or do you think it would be better spent on your hobby? Do you ever help some one out because it's helpful to them? Or because it makes you feel good? Or maybe they'll owe you a favor later?
If you have ever been thinking about yourself, instead of thinking of others, then you haven't loved like Jesus.
3. Finally, consider this: Jesus put others first, that included: his enemies! He healed the daughter of one who was his enemy's friend. He reached out and healed the ear of a soldier who had come to arrest him. Goodness, even when his enemies were nailing him hand and foot to a crosss, Jesus cried out, "Father, forgive them for they don't know what they are doing!"
What about you and your enemies? Are you always nice to them? Maybe, a better question is are you ever nice to them? Do you say nice things about them to your other coworkers? Do you always send them nice emails? Do you always send nice Facebook messages about them? Do you love calling up your estranged brother to see how he's doing?
Not so much? Then, again, you haven't loved like Jesus.
So, show of hands. Who here has loved like Jesus? Who here qualifies as "Significant"?
This is a big deal! Because if we don't qualify as significant in God's eyes. Then, we are insignificant. Worthless.
Why? Because “God is love.” (1 John 4:8) And anything that isn't loving, is worthless to him! Evil. Selfish. Sin. These are the things that are worthless to God. 1 John 4:8 says, “Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.”
It makes sense too. It's like a dentist being given a tube of toothpaste made entirely out of Hershey’s chocolate syrup. Not only is it worthless for what he has in mind, but it actually works against him!
So it is with God. He hates evil. He hates evil doers. They are worthless to his good plans.
And what do you do with worthless things?
Well, garbage men takes worthless things to the incinerator. They have it burned.
God threatens the same burning destruction to all evildoers.
Do you see the horror of our situation? We are the evil ones. We are the one's whose love is worthless in God's sight. And we are the ones who deserve to be treated as the worthless, insignificant creatures that we are.
We have not loved like Jesus, but thank God Jesus still loved like Jesus.
When you think about Jesus' last days, they don't seem very significant. He was arrested in a garden. He was quickly put on trial without any audience. He was beaten and bloodied till he looked like any other criminal who had been in a brawl. Then, he went to the hill where they killed every other criminal. There, he was nailed to a big piece of wood like every other criminal. There he was spat on. Ridiculed. Mocked. Despised.
Thought of as worthless.
And when he died, I'm sure everyone was convinced that Jesus was exactly that: worthless.
That is, until Sunday morning. Until the soldiers on guard fainted at the sight of an angel. Until a few women discovered an empty tomb. Until one woman--then a man---then a few more--than a large group--- saw Jesus...alive!
Now in my book that doesn''t happen too often. In fact, it never happens. There aren't any resurrections on YouTube. Nor will you find any "I will rise from the dead." Tweets from beyond the grave.
But Jesus did rise from the dead! And it's absolutely significant!
But it's not remotely significant on the CNN radar compared with what happened behind the curtain.
Picture a courtroom. There sits the judge. It’s God Almighty. Eyes of blazing red. His gavel, a lightning bolt. HE hates sin and he hates injustice.
Before him stands the one on trial. Sad. Nervous. Scared before the All Powerful judge.
The Prosecution steps forward. It’s the devil. He smirks, "This person is a sinner! He sold his soul to me. I offered him a chance to be significant in his earthly life and he fell for it! He chose significance. The temporal. The day to day in exchange for spending eternity with me. Now it's time to finish our agreement. God, send this person to hell!”
There's silence. The angels in the courtroom look toward the ground with sadness. The devil smirks, because he thinks he's won. God Almighty in all his wrath lifts his gavel. Soon it will come thundering down with a verdict of "guilty!"
Everyone looks across the courtroom. It's Jesus. Hand raised.
He says, "Don't punish him/her. I'll take the punishment. I'll do it God. I'll suffer hell as long as they don't have to."
And the devil gets incredulous! "Why? This is ludicrous! Why? Why would you do that?" It's what they deserve.”
"Because," Jesus says, "because I love that one."
Think about that. Jesus thought (and still thinks) you are most significant.
Want proof? Jesus came to earth and he suffered for you. He died for you. He rose from the dead for you! You were worth his blood. You were worth his soul. You were worth every awful, terrible moment on that awful, terrible cross.
And now, think about this, even if your name is never in big Hollywood light or on the front page of the CNN website or running around the bottom scroller of WRAL news, your name is written in heaven! It's reserving a spot for you. A spot that's your through faith in Jesus!
Jesus says, “I find you significant. Now, do significant things!? Love one another. Jesus says "because this is how they will know that you are my disciples when you love one another."
Think about that: Jesus wants you to show love, not to gain a better name for yourself, but to share his name with others.
Think about what we've already talked about in this series. : Jesus wants others to share the peace of sins forgiven that you already know. He wants others to share the joy of salvation that you have in your heart. He wants others to hold to the hope of eternal riches that get us through the struggles of the day to day. He wants others to feel love, perfect love. The love of a God who gave his life for you and for me.
So...love one another! It's so significant!
You can almost read the heavenly headlines now: "Mother, gets three children dressed and brings them all to church on Sunday--people are impressed" "Dad, reads a devotion to his family at the dinner table, even though the game was on." "Wife forgives husband." "Husband forgives wife." "Grandma offers to take child to Sunday School." "Man overcomes fear and invites neighbor to Back to Church Sunday!"
Brothers and sisters, these are the things of significance. The day to day. The love. The sharing of Jesus' love for the sake of Jesus' love.
May our prayer be that God guide us to live lives of love for him, because that's significant. Amen.