|From the Church on the Hill
by D. Eric Williams
Pastor, Cottonwood Community Church
Jesus also said to love God with all your strength. Thus, if you want to respond to God properly, you will love him in action as well. As James, the half-brother of Jesus, said, pure and undefiled religion before our God and Father is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself unstained by the world (James 1:27 HCSB). That's practical. Looking after orphans and widows in their distress doesn't happen by whipping up your emotions or thinking happy thoughts. Instead, it requires elbow grease and concrete acts of service. By the way, this puts us on track to fulfill the second part of our primary response to God. Remember, when asked about the most important commandment in the law Jesus gave a three-part answer. Think rightly about God, love Him with all you've got and love your neighbor too.
We need to understand this wasn't a new teaching. Jesus was simply quoting the Bible of his day (what we call the Old Testament). In fact, there's another place in the Bible that will help us in our quest to find the proper response to God.
Around the eighth century BC, the prophet Micah said, He has shown you, O man, what is good; And what does the LORD require of you But to do justly, To love mercy, And to walk humbly with your God? (Micah 6:8 NKJV). Even then Micah wasn't saying something new. Learning to imitate God was what the law was all about (Leviticus 19:2). Furthermore, the call to justice - evenhanded dealings with everyone regardless of their station in life - was also an obvious part of God's word. But that doesn't mean it was observed.
You see, that evenhanded behavior was supposed to be salted with mercy and humility. Mercy because it is sometimes difficult to do right for those who are powerless. It's a temptation as old as mankind to show preference to those who have wealth and power. But mercy calls us to show justice to people who can't do anything to repay us. That brings us right back to what James said about looking after orphans and widows in their distress. That's practical mercy.
In addition, it's humbling. After all, showing justice and mercy to those beneath us requires us to stoop down to raise them up - sometimes literally. But this is what God has done: You stoop down to make me great says David (Psalms 18:35b NIV84). This shouldn't shock us. God's fullness dwells in Jesus (Colossians 1:19) and one of his chief characteristics is humility. After all, he didn't wash his disciples feet because he was bored. As Andrew Murray said, "what is the incarnation but his heavenly humility, his emptying himself in becoming man? What is his life on earth but humility; his taking the form of a servant? And what was his atonement but humility? 'He humbled himself and became obedient unto death.'" This coincides with Paul's admonition to, make your own attitude that of Christ Jesus, who, existing in the form of God, did not consider equality with God as something to be used for His own advantage. Instead He emptied Himself by assuming the form of a slave, taking on the likeness of men. And when He had come as a man in His external form, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death - even to death on a cross (Philippians 2:5-8 HCSB).
So, Christians properly respond to God by loving him with our entire person. That love is displayed best through practical acts of humble service to those "less fortunate than ourselves." After all, we are supposed to imitate Jesus Christ and this is what he did. And he knew exactly how to respond to God.