[00:00:00] Well, good morning, everyone. Good morning. And I want you to understand when I say good morning, everyone, that's almost true. It's truer than it's ever been. Let me explain to me explain ever since the beginning of our multisite adventure, which was back in 2007, when we have, I can only be in one place at one time.
[00:00:20] And so we would pre-record and then we deliver the message. And today for the first time, since literally, since we went multi-site, I can say good morning to all six of our campuses, because this is going out live, and it is being broadcast to every one of you. So welcome to everyone. Welcome Ahwatukee, Tempe, Glendale, Mesa welcome Queen Creek, man it is so cool that we're together now.
[00:00:46] Here's what's going to happen. I just want you to understand that very shortly, we're going to have a camera up here. And then as we're broadcasting to all of our campuses, I'm also going to be able to directly broadcast to our online community, which [00:01:00] believe it or not is about three times the size of the thousands of people that gather every weekend right now.
[00:01:06] And I'm glad you're here. And again, you're on one of our campuses. If you're seeing this right now, you're on one of our campuses and thanks for coming back. And I said this week to the online community, you're missing the party. And I just think it's so fun to be together. And again, we're not all back. We get this.
[00:01:19] Okay. But you're here. And I commend you for being here and I'm excited that you are okay. Alright, well, listen, we started a series a while back. We called it Love Beyond, and you should be familiar with this by now. And it was all based on one thing that Jesus said, one very important, crucial thing that Jesus said.
[00:01:39] Let me remind you of that. Okay. Every week I've shown you this every week on purpose every week, "A new command I give you: love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this, everyone will know that you are my disciples. If you love one another." And so, so you start to understand, this is the [00:02:00] foundation.
[00:02:00] This is the, this is the distinguishing mark. This is the thing that sets those who are for real, from those who are faking it. And it's when it comes down to is if you get that verse, you get it. If you don't get that verse, you didn't get it. It went right by you. You missed it. So, what we've been talking about in the Love Beyond series is this blank right here.
[00:02:24] Where are the limits of your love? You'll go this far, but you won't go any farther. Where are the limits? And so we've been talking about that, but the first week of the series, we talked about fear of fears. You know, I will go as far as my fears and whatever my fears come to that line, I'm not crossing paths and I'm going, we got to cross past the fears.
[00:02:43] We talked to the second week about the differences between us, you know, we're not all alike. And so I will love, I will love to the edge of where you're different than me, and then I'm done. I can't go past that. And Jesus goes, you gotta go pass that. We talked about that your comfort- I'll go as far as I'm [00:03:00] comfortable, but I'm not going any farther.
[00:03:03] If you want to be a disciple of Jesus, you got to push through it. You got to go farther. And we talked about your politics. That was a couple of weeks ago. And we talked about the fact that as long as we are aligned politically, I can, I can love you, but I can't love you if we're not, we've got to get beyond that.
[00:03:17] And then last week we talked about the whole idea of just kind of your, your, your circumstances, your, your, your constant, you know, kind of the idea that as long as I I'm certain of that, uh, I've got this down then if we're like certain we can love and hey, I, you know, I just got to tell you, I think there's one more element to the series we got to discuss.
[00:03:39] And, uh, in fact, the title of this message is loving beyond my story. I know that doesn't make any sense yet, but it will in just a few moments. Loving beyond my story. And I want to be crystal clear about this message from the very beginning. So everybody look at me wherever you are. Look at me, look at me.
[00:03:57] This is not a political [00:04:00] message. Look at me. This is not a political message. Okay. So if you make this into a political message, boo, that's bad on you. I'm not doing that, this is a message about you, Jesus, empathy and others, alright? It's not a political message. Now will it have political overtones? Whatever you make of it.
[00:04:23] But it's not a political message, and I'm declaring that so it's crystal clear, alright? Now I'm going to give you the big idea and here it is right here. This is what I'm gonna try to spend the next few minutes to try to explain as best as I, as I can. No one should be more empathetic to the story of others than those who walk with Jesus.
[00:04:42] Now I can't tell you whether or not you walk with Jesus. I don't know that. You, you know, that. But if you walk with Jesus, I want to tell you nobody on this planet should be more empathetic towards somebody else's story than those of us who say we walk with Jesus alright? Now, let me just talk for a moment about story, alright?
[00:05:00] [00:04:59] We all have a story. You have a story. We all have a story. Wherever you've gotten to in life, you've gotten there somehow some process. All right, wherever you've arrived, that's there was a way you got there. And let me just kind of make us think about this for just a minute. Cause I think this is really, really important, alright?
[00:05:17] We all come from a family. We all come from a family. We call it our family. It's your family. It's your family of origin. All of you here have a mom and a dad. You don't all have the same mom and dad, right? That would be really weird. Anyway, uh, you, you you're, you're either a son or a daughter in your family of origin.
[00:05:38] Some of you have siblings, not all of you, but some of you have siblings in your family. This family of origin that you have is shared by only a few very special people in your life. That's your family of origin and you have it. And I have it. We we're each born at a certain place at a certain time into a certain [00:06:00] family.
[00:06:01] Okay. You had no control over that. Nobody consulted you as to where you were going to end up, which means one of two things you can take no credit for the family you ended up in and you owe no blame. You spent, you spent a good deal of your life, trying to figure out what was wrong with your parents, right?
[00:06:19] It's not your fault. You had nothing to do with that, alright? You ended up in that family and I would suggest there was a bigger reason why you might have, alright? Now, all of us have been given some kind of an education. I don't know where your education lies, but you it's part of your story. You you've gone to school.
[00:06:38] I don't know how much school. Most of us would say, well, I graduated high school. Some said I didn't. I got, but I got a GED. Okay. That was your education. You're telling me no, I went to, I went to, I got a bachelor's and then some would say I went, I got an advanced degree. We were all educated. But our educations are all different.
[00:06:57] We're not, we weren't educated in the same place by the same [00:07:00] people. We weren't. All right. Our story is unique. Now what, you know, you don't just know because of your education, your formal education. You know, what you know, in part, because of your experiences, your experiences, see, we all have these kind of packaged experiences that we hold on.
[00:07:20] We call the memories. We've we've all experienced a really, really high highs in our life. I don't know what your story is. And we've also experienced some lows, some loss. We've all, we've all gone through that you have. And I have, and we know what it feels like. We've all had certain jobs. Most of the jobs you had in your story, you walked away from them.
[00:07:43] That's okay. They didn't suit you. But for most of you, there was something that you landed on. You said, you know what? I want to do this as a profession. And you. And you spent time in your life trying to excel at that and advance in your career. We call it a career and that's, that's, that's true for most [00:08:00] of us.
[00:08:00] Some, some of us have married in our story. Some of us have divorced. Some of us have had kids, some of us along the way, I would suggest maybe most of us here and where you are, most of us, we, we, uh, we came to faith in Jesus, somewhere on our journey. And we, we believe in God, now each of us were raised in a certain culture by a certain family and your parents came from somewhere and they work that into your story.
[00:08:29] And so you understand some of the culture, right? So here's what I need you to understand. We are all products of these circumstances and these just kind of experiences that we've had. We're in many ways, the sum total of our birth story, the experiences of our life, our education of our life and the decisions that we've made in response to all of those things.
[00:08:54] That's who we are. That's our story. And every one of us here, all of [00:09:00] us understand that our story is unique. The only person on the planet who has your story is you. You're it. You're the only one that's lived all of that out. We are a one of a kind person. Our story explains our lives, validates our beliefs and undergirds the values we cherish.
[00:09:21] And by the way, we love to tell people our story. It's about the most interesting thing we know, but you know why it's the most interesting thing, you know? Cause it's the truest of all truths that you know, cause you know what, you know, cause you went through it. Now I need you to understand something.
[00:09:38] That story is unique to you. I don't share that story. You don't share my story. Other people's stories are different, uh, in their story, most, everything is different than your story. And I mean, literally just about everything, a different family of origin, a different education, different experiences, you know, different places that their story would be told, [00:10:00] but see, that's what makes their story, their story, not your story.
[00:10:02] That's their story. Now listen, you can dislike somebody else's story, but you have no right to disagree with their story. You have no right to argue with, you have no right to tell them their story wasn't their story. Or they shouldn't have felt what they felt as they lived out their story. That's just not something that we're granted.
[00:10:21] Um, no two stories are identical. Each one is unique. Now here's the thing I want to wrestle with. So with all of us being so different and having so many different stories, and again, wherever you are, we're all in this together. How can we possibly get along with one another? There's so much divergence.
[00:10:42] There's so much diversity. How can we possibly begin to understand each other? I would suggest what we ought to do is exactly what Jesus did. What, what, what do you mean? Yeah, we should just do exactly what Jesus did. Let me take you to the second book of, uh, of the second chapter of the book of Philippians.
[00:10:58] How should we all get along? [00:11:00] See, I want you to see the context in your relationships with one another. Why are you going to tell us this Paul, because I want to tell you get along with one another, all right. "Have the same mindset as Christ Jesus, who being in the very, very nature God did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage. Rather he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant being made in human likeness and being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross." Well, what exactly did Jesus do? Now listen, listen, listen.
[00:11:42] He left the safety and comfort of where he existed to traverse a universe to enter into your story. That's what Jesus did. He, he left. He emptied himself is the way it's expressed in the, in the original language. He [00:12:00] emptied himself of all that he had. So that he could relate to you and me. All right. He made his life about others and not about himself.
[00:12:09] And he did this because he had extreme empathy for our story. Now, let me show you another passage. It comes from the book of Colossians. When you I'm looking at you, you, when you were dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, you were toast. God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all of our sins having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us.
[00:12:37] He has taken it away, nailing it to the cross. See said differently, he put aside our differences for our sake. Let me say that again. He put aside our differences for our sake. Wow. See, I guess if you tried to say Jesus lived the life we were supposed to [00:13:00] live and died the death we were supposed to die.
[00:13:05] We didn't live the life we should have lived and we didn't have to die the death we should have died. He did it for us. Now, he did it because he died to himself. I want to suggest it until you're willing to die to yourself. And again, this is a huge thought folks, until you're willing to die to yourself, you will never really comprehend somebody
[00:13:22] else's story. To understand the struggles of another, the challenges, the setbacks, the heartbreak, the plight of another, you must be willing to enter into their story, not simply preserve your story and the safety of it. We call being able to do this empathy. Now, empathy is a word that's very popular today and lots of different definitions.
[00:13:46] One of the best I think is by Brene Brown. She says this empathy is simply listening, holding space, withholding judgment, emotionally connecting and communicating that incredibly [00:14:00] healing message that you're not alone. So, so when you come across somebody and you hear their story and, and, and they're like down and out, something's happened to them.
[00:14:13] It's the willingness to be there for them to assure them. I'm with you. I'm with you in this. I love the way the message quotes this passage, Galatians 6:2-3, Stoop down and reach out to those who are oppressed, share their burdens and so complete Christ's law. If you think you're too good for that, you are badly deceived. Isn't that sweet.
[00:14:38] Love it when the word just calls it out. You think you're too good to stoop down and help somebody who's oppressed. You're just deceived. And Paul is trying to wake us up. So to the degree that you can see yourself in somebody else's story to that degree, you can understand their heart, their emotions, their thinking, [00:15:00] their values and their behaviors.
[00:15:03] Now, obviously we're a country in conflict right now. All of us Americans, we share the same country. All of us who are Americans, we share the same story. We share the same history. Our interaction with the history could be very, very different, but we're all in it together. Our stories are all melded together, but, but you know, it's part of the coolness of America is this incredible diversity that we share, but, um, we have a different like interaction with history. It all kind of depends on where your story was compared to somebody else's story. But nonetheless, we're still all called and challenged to live together in this country. Can I, can I, [00:16:00] right now, I want to say something incredibly important.
[00:16:02] Okay. Everybody, please catch this. Everybody. If you are a Christ follower, you are the only people on this planet, you are the only people in this country who were commissioned to actually love one another. And you got to stop for a minute and let that one soak in. Everyone else who's going into chaos, they were, they don't share a commitment to a Christ who said "A new command I give you that you love one another." They don't, they don't. That didn't mean anything to them. But I want to tell you something. If you're a Christ follower, you were commanded to live differently. You were commanded to see people differently. By this all men will know that you're one of mine. If you love one another, nobody else carries that weight on them.
[00:16:55] That's for you and me. So our country is being torn apart right now [00:17:00] over all these differences. Our country is on fire. Racial tensions are- we're literally on fire. I mean, we're on fire. You can see it in the air and you can feel it in the air. We are on fire right now. Why, why are we on fire? Well, folks, because we differ from one another. We don't all have the same story.
[00:17:25] We're at odds with one another. We differ in our values and our dreams and our hopes and our aspirations. We do it personally. We do it corporately. There are those who want to take the country one way and when people want to take it another way. We differ on all of these things, we differ in our politics.
[00:17:41] The easiest thing for you and me to do is to defend my story at the price of negating your story. Cause I'm what matters. Not you. And it's so easy to do because you see it modeled everywhere. I want to suggest that if you're a Christ follower, it's [00:18:00] not an option. It's not an option. We don't get to do that.
[00:18:04] No one should be more empathetic to the story of others than those who walk with Jesus because no one was more empathetic to your story than Jesus was. And we ought to get this clear in our soul. There's an author, uh, Isabelle Wilkerson. She's written two fantastic books. If you're a reader, read these books. Her most recent one is called caste CASTE. Her first book was called The Warmth of Other Suns, both fantastically, insightful books. She said this, "radical empathy means putting in the work to educate oneself and to listen with a humble heart, to understand another's experience from their perspective, not as we imagine we would feel. Radical empathy is not about you and what you think you would do in a situation you have never been in and perhaps never will. It is the kindred [00:19:00] connection from a place of deep knowing that opens your spirit to the pain of another, as they perceive it." Do do, do we care enough though? This is the acid test folks. This is it. Do we care enough? Do we care enough to listen? Do we care enough to try to understand? There's a price to listening.
[00:19:22] And there is a price to understanding, but most of us don't want to listen to any point that we become uncomfortable. That's the line you cross out of my story. Now you'll make you're in some other, I don't want to go there. But until we learn how to listen past our discomfort, we're never going to understand. Well, I wanna, I want to share something.
[00:19:47] Um, our Ahwatukee campus pastor, so, hey Ahwatukee, Hey John, Jon Moton, um, big-hearted black man, fantastic guy. Anyway, he [00:20:00] wrote something right after the whole George Floyd incident broke and I want to quote what he wrote. Cause I think this is so good. This is what he said. "Don't dismiss the narrative that makes you feel uncomfortable or uneasy.
[00:20:15] I recently had a terribly uncomfortable conversation with an individual who was really struggling with the recent protests. 'This makes me so mad.' This is what the person said. 'This makes me so mad. They should not be doing this. How disrespectful.'" I can understand that. Right. Okay. "When I asked them, why do you think they're doing this?
[00:20:37] This person's response was 'I don't care. It's just wrong.'" And then he said this, Jon did. "The, 'I don't care' is the bigger problem, their outrage, eclipsed, their opportunity to learn. How are you going to learn why somebody else does something until you enter into the story of their life and begin to grasp what they're dealing [00:21:00] with?"
[00:21:01] So I recently sat down on a few different occasions with a group of people of color in our church. And they spanned all of our campuses to my knowledge and a fantastic group of people. And I just sit down with them and it wasn't all the people of color in our church by any means, but it was a good representation, I think, of people of color in our church. And, and I wish I could sit down with everyone. It's a large church, a lot larger than maybe you realize. Can't do that. In this particular group that I'm referencing were African Americans and Hispanics and Native Americans. There were various numbers represented.
[00:21:37] These folks were lawyers, university faculty, teachers, pastors, professionals, homemakers, caregivers. I would say these things about these people. Well, there are people who love people. All right. I just there with all of their hearts, they love people. They are people who love our church. It was not a "bash on Central" session.
[00:21:57] It was a [00:22:00] "help me to see," and I'll explain this in a moment, but they were trying to explain it. My suggestion is their interaction with our church might be a little bit different than maybe some of the rest of us. These are people who love people, by the way. They're not bitter people. They're not caustic angry.
[00:22:15] They love people and they want- the worst way for reconciliation to happen between people groups, so just so we're clear. But something else I would tell you about this group is this group, this is a group of people that does not have the benefit of not having to deal every day of their life with racism.
[00:22:33] I don't have to. I just don't. Most of you don't either, but every single day they're confronted with it. Every single day, they have to respond to navigate way through a, a culture that's dealing with racism. I would just suggest that they know a whole lot more about racism than I know. And if I want to understand really the roots and the deal with racism, I should probably stop talking when I'm with them and just listen, [00:23:00] ask questions, try to get insight.
[00:23:03] So that's what I did. I said, you know, basically help, help me understand your story. Just help me. And I asked questions, like what, what does it feel like to be a part of this country right now? We talked about that. And, and then I asked them, what does it feel like to be a part of our church right now? And that was really interesting to me.
[00:23:25] They didn't say what I'm about to say, so I'm not quoting them just so we're clear. But if I summed up what our conversations, like, what did I walk away with? I think they have two really- people of color in our church have two really pressing questions about us as a church. Here, here they are. Okay. One- are we seen?
[00:23:46] Do you see us? And two, even maybe more important, do we matter? Those are heavy questions. So hey, [00:24:00] people of color, uh, everyone in this room with me now, everyone on any of our campuses, wherever you are, if you're a person of color, look at me right now. Look at me. Yes. You matter. Yes. We see you. I want you to understand something you're yeah.
[00:24:21] Yeah. You're not, you're not just some other section of you are our church. You are us. We are, you. We want you here. You matter. If anything I have done, if anything, we, as a church have done to communicate to you that you don't matter and you're not seen, I personally am apologizing to you. And by the way, while I'm here, just the, okay.
[00:24:43] This is, let me just chase a rabbit for a minute. Law enforcement. If you are a part of law enforcement, look at me right now. Please look at me. Law enforcement, wherever you are. Look at me. I think you're asking the same questions. I want you to understand [00:25:00] something. Yes. You matter to us. Yes. We see you. You, you, you, you are not indicted by by what's happened in our country, but you're impacted by it. You're in the middle of this. And I fear that you, you might be feeling like somehow we, we, we don't see you or you don't matter anymore. If we, if I, or if we, as a church have done anything to communicate to you, you don't matter. Please accept my and our apology.
[00:25:32] You are us. And you matter. Alright, now let me, uh, let me, uh, let me explain something that came out of this that was really, really kind of wrecked me. Let me get ready to get personal, alright? It's a number of years ago, I was in a conversation with a black man in our church who was on our staff, who was leaving our staff.
[00:25:59] And I [00:26:00] talked to him and I said, help me to understand. And he was trying to explain to me the dynamics of why he felt he needed to leave our church. And, uh, I said, okay, give me some examples. And this is what I, this is what he said. I'll never forget it. It really impacted me. He said, you say, pastor, that we're a family. We're together a family, this is our family of origin in our faith.
[00:26:24] All right, this is our roots. This is who we are. And then he said, you know, but what I've noticed. Every time something happens to someone in my specific family or my family of color, you don't ever mention it in church. That's what he said to me, and I said, give me an example. And he said this, I'll never forget it. He goes, how could Trayvon Martin have been murdered, and you never felt the need to mention it?
[00:27:02] [00:27:00] He said how come part of my family's mourning, but the rest of my family didn't even come to the funeral. Oh man. Yeah. Lesson learned, um, I I've become so convicted in recent years that when something happens to part of our family, all of the family needs to show up. And so I've kind of made it a habit now get ready.
[00:27:26] Okay. Buckle up. I'm going to take you somewhere. I don't know if you know this, but we're in a series called, loving beyond. Did you know that? A couple of weeks ago, I said loving beyond politics. And I said, Hey, I know this is going to be a trigger point, but something just happened in our country. And I want us to stop and think about that.
[00:27:46] I want us to pray about this. And I mentioned a name, alright? The name I mentioned was Jacob Blake. And I said this about Jacob Blake. Okay. I said, look, I'm not saying he's innocent [00:28:00] and I'm not saying he's guilty. I'm not saying the police did the right thing. I'm not saying the police are doing the wrong thing.
[00:28:05] I'm simply saying that we need to pray. And we need to mourn over the fact that this affected him. It affected his family. It affected his community and it affected our country, and church, we need to pray. And man, did I receive some hate mail.
[00:28:23] How dare I? Do I not know? Listen, listen. Let, let me, okay. Let me explain something to you. All right, church, please. Listen to me. Alright, I'm pleading my heart here. If you're driving down the street. Okay. You're driving down the street and you saw that two cars, collided and bodies are shooting all over and people are bleeding on the concrete.
[00:28:42] Can I suggest the first and most important thing you want to do is pray for them. Don't go, Oh, I want to know who caused the wreck. Who's at fault here. Who's the victim and who's the perpetrator. You don't do that. You pray and you do what you can do to help. [00:29:00] Cause that's what Jesus would do. That's what it means to be a Christ follower.
[00:29:06] Okay. I got that off my chest. I feel good. I maybe none of the rest of you. So here's what I want you to understand. I realized when I got that mail, we're not done. We're not done. We got to talk more about it. By the way, that's who I am. I'm not going to run from stuff. I just don't do that. So this whole, this whole message was not part of the original series.
[00:29:30] I called an audible. I said, we're adding one more week. And I'll add another week if I have to, based on the hate mail I get this week. Okay. But we'll, but that's what this is. All right. This is an audible. So I asked him to understand what are we not seeing? What is not, what needs to be said that isn't being said, and they shared with me, I want you to understand I'm going to finish this message.
[00:29:52] You're going to get out of here. I promise you, ok? Um, but these are my words, not their words. All right. They've certainly, well, by the way, this group, I need to [00:30:00] explain this. I got a little ahead of myself. I said, I need your input. I'm going to, I'm going to call an audible. I told them that. And I said, I'm going to try to address this.
[00:30:07] I need your input. They gave me tons of insights, really, really good stuff. And then I put this in my words, as best as I could. And as their, their fingerprints are all over this, I need you to understand that I need a credit them, but I need you to understand as a pastor, this is what I heard. This is what I feel like I need to preach.
[00:30:23] This is what I need to say. So in the next few minutes, let me go there. All right. So what is it that we need to hear? And then we need to hear again? Here. First thing is this right here. How we treat others matters to God. I was so reminded of this and this passage in Amos is so powerful. I wish I had tons of time and I could just unpack this.
[00:30:42] "I hate," God says "I hate, I despise your religious festivals. Your assemblies are a stench to me, even though you bring me burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them. Though you bring choice fellowship offerings, I will have no regard for them. Away with the noise of your songs. I will not listen to [00:31:00] the music of your harps."
[00:31:02] Wow. "But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness, like a never failing stream." Let me make sure you're understanding what God's saying. And when, when, when, when, when justice is ignored, unrighteousness reigns. When unrighteousness reigns, God ignores. And we can go through all the church services-that's what he was saying- all your sacred assembly, all your worship, all that stuff. All your offerings become a stench in my nose, God says, because you tolerate injustice. Oh guys, there are lessons to learn. Church, what must we do? Again I've only got a few minutes. These are my words, not anyone else's so were clear.
[00:31:54] The church must one, stand for justice, mercy, and compassion [00:32:00] for all people for all time. Micah 6:8 says this. "He has shown you, oh mortal, what is good and what does the Lord require of you- to act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God?" You can't get around that. You might personally be tired or tiring of hearing about justice and justice issues, but I need you to understand God never tires of it.
[00:32:25] It matters to him. Because it matters so much to him, it's got to matter to us or all the rest of this we're doing is pretend church, pretend worship. Here's the second one, I would tell you, embrace the verse with the church. Must embrace diversity in order to reflect God's purpose for the church. The apostle John was given a vision of heaven.
[00:32:45] God said, I want to show you what it looks like. And he, he wrote these words in Revelation 7:9. "After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count from every nation, tribe, people and language standing [00:33:00] before the throne. And before the lamb." Do you understand this?
[00:33:04] This is heaven. He was given a glimpse into heaven. And if that doesn't appeal to you, can I just call it out - heaven doesn't appeal to you? That's heaven. We're all going to be together. My contention is if that's the case, let's just lean into the future. Let's just get going. Let's get ready for it. Let's make it happen.
[00:33:25] Let's invite everybody of all nationalities in color, all of it into worship. Here's the third one. Always it just must always be about reconciliation. Again, I feel like we could pound this and pound this and pound this. The church, we are the ones given the task. We are the only ones qualified to reconcile people to God, do you understand this? We're ambassadors for Christ?
[00:33:50] And while we've read this passage, many times it's worth repeating. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, are you, I don't know if you are, the new creation has come. You're different. You're a little [00:34:00] hard to explain to people who used to know you. The old has gone. The new is here. All of this is from God who reconciled to us as to himself because he got into our story because he cared that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people's sins against them.
[00:34:18] He set aside our differences so that we could be together and he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. This is what we do, church. We bring people together and we bring God to people. And the fourth one I hit on here is the church must speak up for those who don't have the voice of the majority.
[00:34:41] We just have to. Proverbs 31:8-9. Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly defend the rights of the poor and the needy. Silence to injustice is complicity with injustice. [00:35:00] Silence to injustice is complicity with injustice.
[00:35:03] In fact, there's a book out. It's called The Color of Compromise by Jemar Tisby. I told you, we, our board went down South and we met with people down South, and in Jackson, Mississippi, we had the privilege of having dinner with Jemar. Our board did, and I want to quote something he wrote in that book. "Racism is a system of oppression based on race.
[00:35:27] Indifference to oppression perpetuates oppression. Refusing to act in the midst of injustice is in itself injustice. Therefore the church can no longer be complicit in racism by remaining silent on this issue." It can't happen. And the fifth one, I would add what the church must do: place the kingdom of God first.
[00:35:49] What does that mean? What does that mean? Well, We, we must always reflect the values of the kingdom of God first, before we [00:36:00] concern ourselves with reflecting the values of our country. Now this is going to set some of you off, but I want to wrestle with it. We've tragically merged in mesh love of God and love for country into the same thing.
[00:36:14] And folks, I just need to tell you, I love you. I respect you. Love of country and love of God are not the same thing. One of those is going to take dominance in your heart. One of those is going to have supremacy. Whichever one does, the other one will suffer. You cannot love both your country and God equally. You will love one of those two entities more.
[00:36:39] And I'm telling you, if you are a Christ follower, love the kingdom of God. Get ready for the future now. And align your values to that first and foremost. Hey, we have dual citizenship. I talked about this two weeks ago. I I'm a citizen of heaven and I'm a citizen of the United States. I love them both, but I know clearly which one [00:37:00] I love more.
[00:37:01] And if I had to give up my passport to one of the two of them, I know which one I'd give up. And I know which one I would never touch. Get it clear. One's going to come at the cost of the other. You can't have equal heart for both. And I know that's offensive to some of your ears, but that's what I do, alright? Now, let me close. Church, what's it going to take? What's it going to take? Well, here, let me just rattle off some: die to ourselves. We have to die to ourselves. You don't want to die to yourself- Luke 9:23. If you want to be one of my followers, Jesus said you got to die to yourself.
[00:37:37] Enter into somebody else's story. You got to die to yourself. It's gotta be more about them than it's about you. Second, you've got to declare war on contempt, declare war on contempt. At the beginning of the summer in a message, I interviewed a Harvard professor, Dr. Arthur C. Brooks. And I don't know if you got a chance to hear that message, but he said so many profound things.
[00:37:59] He had written the book, [00:38:00] Loving our Enemies, and he said this, let me just, again, it's just worth repeating. If we want to be the ones who will bring people together, I don't know. Do we? I don't know. Okay. Um, if we want to be responsible for bringing people together in bonds of love. Okay. I do. Um, which our Savior told us we get to do not have to do we get to do it's our great privilege, the way to do it - how are we going to bring people together - the way to do it is by declaring war on contempt, because contempt is what destroys us. And the first thing to do in that battle is to declare war on contempt in ourselves to never let anyone see us displaying contempt.
[00:38:40] To literally make a vow to God I will not do that. What's it going to take die to ourselves. Declare war and contempt. Embrace empathy. When you hear somebody else's story, hear the hurt. Listen to the hurt, not the news. Listen to the hurt. [00:39:00] In 1 Corinthians 12, If one part suffers, every part suffers with it.
[00:39:05] If one part is honored, every part rejoices with it, we're in it together. And lastly, engage fervently with people. Engage fervently with people. Who do you know who's different than you? Who do you see around you who's different than you? Would you take the time to meet them? Would you take the time to get to know them?
[00:39:25] Would you take the time to go to a meal with them or go to coffee to ask them, tell me your story. Would you make the effort, engage fervently with history? History. History is being rewritten by things like TikTok. Alright, scholarly study history, get the, get the facts, right. And educate yourself by reading. Know our history, know how we got here.
[00:40:00] [00:40:00] Know what's at stake. So I've spent the last time, you've been fantastic, so thank you. I, and again, all of you in the campuses, you've been awesome. I don't have any idea. You guys here with me, you have been awesome. Thank you for listening to this, but I want to just close. I wanted this idea. I don't know if you've ever thought about this.
[00:40:17] Let me close with this. No one should be more empathetic to the story of others than those who walk with Jesus. No one has shown you more empathy to your story than Jesus. So we're going to close right now in a prayer. And I'm excited about this. I'm going to turn this over to Jon Moton, Jon Moton's, our Ahwatukee campus pastor.
[00:40:35] He was a guy I quoted earlier and he's going to lead us in a prayer and I encourage you. Don't go there anywhere God has work to do in us. And it, it starts when we open ourselves up and we pray and we listen. So Jon, take it away.
[00:40:51] Prayer is essential for our faith. Prayer in those moments in which we are challenged or even uncomfortable is even more essential.
[00:40:58] We don't have all of [00:41:00] what we just talked about figured out, but we have been challenged to love beyond our differences, our disagreements in our perspectives. We need God more than ever before. I think this is the best place for us to be because we are family. Families have differences. They have disagreements and perspectives too, and families can come together and that's great news, but even better is that our heavenly Father hears our prayers.
[00:41:26] So we can now go to him as a family, as his children, looking to depend on our heavenly Father. Let's pray together. Father, we your children pray for healing of our nation from political division, social injustice, racism, hatred, and self-centeredness. We confess our own inadequacies as we ask for your spirit to help us through challenging times that we face. Help us to love beyond ourselves and love one another better. Father, we pray for healing globally from this global pandemic. We specifically [00:42:00] pray for those who are suffering physically, mentally, financially from this pandemic. May they find comfort in your presence through these challenging times. And finally Father, we pray for healing in our church. Father help us to empathize, help us to hear, help us understand one another. May we allow your spirit to prompt meaningful conversations that lead to unity as a church family. We pray all this in Jesus' name. Amen.