If you know someone important, what difference does it make? That depends on the situation. When we have a problem, it usually makes a big difference if we know someone important. The important person can either help me, or refer me to someone who can help me, or tell me what I should do.

If your air conditioner stops working in the middle of a heat wave, does it make a difference "to know someone?" If your heater stops working in the middle of a cold wave, does it make a difference "to know someone?" If you have a serious problem with any of your utilities, does it help "to know someone?" If you are having a serious problem of any kind, it makes a significance difference "to know someone." Knowing someone important does two things: (1) it changes what you do, and (2) it provides you helpful information you would not have otherwise.

If you know God, what difference does it make? I find it fascinating to realize how few people regard knowing God as knowing someone important. God is hypothetical. The matters that concern God are hypothetical. The world I live in is real. The physical is real. Only when the hypothetical God can do something about my real world is God important. If God can make a difference in what I call "real," then God is someone I should know.

Many of you may respond by saying, "David, I do not agree with that at all!" May I ask a question? If God is important to you, what difference does God make in the way you treat people?

God has said in many ways, "If I am important, an essential way that you show my importance is seen in the way you treat people."

  1. It is possible for people to treat people in many different ways.
    1. People who understand God's importance treat people differently from people who do not know God.
      1. Regardless of the claims a person makes about knowing God, people who know God are recognized by the way they treat people.
      2. Regardless of what a person says about God's importance, you can recognize people who understand God's importance by the way they treat people.
    2. Understanding God's importance is critically linked to the way we treat others.
      1. There are lots of ways to treat people.
      2. God's way to treat people is learned only through Jesus Christ.

  2. The common rule most people live by says, "Life is about me."
    1. We can call this the self-centered rule.
      1. The self-centered rule says:
        1. "I am the center of my universe."
        2. "What makes me happy is important."
        3. "What I want is important."
        4. "What I prefer is important."
        5. "What pleases me is important."
      2. The self-centered rule says, "Other people are important only to the degree that they benefit me."
        1. "If they make me happy, if they help me get what I want, if they serve my preference, if they please me, they are important."
        2. "But, if they do not benefit me, they are unimportant. In fact, they may be a problem."
    2. To me, Cain is the classic example of the self-centered rule (Genesis 4:1-15).
      1. Everything about Cain was self-centered.
        1. His worship was about Cain, not about God.
        2. When God was not pleased with his worship, Cain was angry with God.
        3. When being angry with God did not produce results, Cain was angry at his brother.
        4. Cain was so angry that he killed his brother.
        5. When God confronted Cain, all Cain thought about was himself and what would happen to him.
        6. Cain was a person who functioned exclusively by the self-centered rule.
      2. "David, we do not live by that rule today."
        1. We do not?
        2. Do you know what really irritates the rest of the world about American newscasts on television?
          1. Americans are far less that ten per cent of the world's population.
          2. Yet, unless American security or interests are directly involved, over 90% of our news discusses only what is happening to us.
          3. When people from other countries visit us, our local news insults them; only Americans can report what is happening in 90% of the world's population in 60 seconds.
          4. Our national newscasts often give little consideration to the rest of the world.
          5. Our local newscasts claim to go "Around the World" in 60 seconds.
      3. The self-centered rule says:
        1. "I do not care what is happening in the rest of the world; I care about what is happening here."
        2. "I do not care what is happening in other parts of the country; I care about what is happening here."
        3. "I do not care what is happening in other parts of Fort Smith; I care about what is happening in my neighborhood."
        4. "I do not care what is happening in your life; I am concerned about what is happening in my life."
      4. The self-centered rule says:
        1. "What I do to you is based on what I imagine you will do to me."
        2. "If something bad is happening in my life, it is your fault."

  3. When God rescued the spiritually out-of-control Israelite slaves from Egypt, God introduced them to a new rule for treating others.
    1. This was the rule of limitation.
      1. That rule is called "an eye for an eye; a tooth for a tooth."
      2. When God introduced first generation Israel to this rule, it was a control rule.
        1. It said, "You cannot hurt someone more than they have hurt you."
        2. It was the rule of justice in an unjust world.
    2. "If you leave me alone, I will leave you alone."
      1. "But if you hurt me, I will hurt you as much as you hurt me."
      2. "It does not matter why you hurt me; it does not matter if it was an accident; your motives are not important; just be sure you do not hurt me."

  4. During his earthly ministry, Jesus taught the Jewish people of his day the correct understanding of the rule of proper treatment.
    1. Jesus said you must understand God's intent and purpose in the law.
      1. The foundation of God's law is love.
      2. You love God with your whole self.
      3. You love your neighbor as yourself.
    2. We are more likely to understand this rule by these words: "Treat other people like you want to be treated."
      1. That principle is clearly seen in the ten commandments.
        1. "I want my children to respect and care for me when I am old, so I will respect and care for my parents when they are old."
        2. "I do not want you to commit adultery with my spouse, so I will not commit adultery with your spouse."
        3. "I do not want you to steal my things, so I will not steal your things."
        4. "I do not want you to murder me, so I will not murder you."
        5. "I do not want you to lie about me, so I will not lie about you."
      2. I will not treat you in ways I do not want to be treated.
      3. I will treat you in ways I do want to be treated.

  5. The last night of Jesus' earthly life, he introduced his disciples to the Jesus rule.
    1. Jesus used a strange way to introduce this new form of behavior.
      1. An obvious thread ran through the message Jesus shared with his disciples that night. That thread began with a strange statement in John 13:34, 35.
        "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another."
        1. This "new commandment" sounds strange because it sounds familiar.
        2. We look at what Jesus said and nothing strikes us as new.
        3. Jesus talked about love before.
        4. But this time he said it was loving each other that would set them apart as his disciples.
      2. After stressing the importance of showing love for him by keeping his commandments, Jesus said,
        John 15:12 "This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you."
      3. Then Jesus said again,
        John 15:17 "This I command you, that you love one another."
      4. What is so new about this command? What is so different?
        1. Is it behavior based on the self-centered rule? No, it rejects that behavior.
        2. Is it conduct based on the rule of limitation? No, it is much more than that.
        3. Is it conduct based on the rule of fair treatment? No, it goes far beyond that.
      5. Then what is this new way of treating people?
        1. You are not selfish in determining the way you treat others.
        2. You do not treat others like they have treated you.
        3. You do not even treat others like you want to be treated.
        4. Than what do we do? We treat others with love in the same way Jesus loves us.
        5. "I do not understand that rule of behavior. How is it different?"
    2. Let Jesus illustrate the rule.
      1. That very night, Peter, one of the twelve, one of Jesus' best friends on earth, denied that he even knew Jesus.
        1. When Jesus was arrested, all the disciples ran and hid in the darkness.
        2. Peter slipped back to the courtyard where Jesus was being tried.
        3. Three times he was recognized, and three times he denied knowing Jesus.
      2. In less than a day, Jesus was executed.
        1. But Jesus never stopped loving the disciples.
        2. And Jesus never stopped loving Peter.
        3. Jesus not only forgave them, and claimed them, and encouraged them, but he also had use and purpose for them.
      3. That is the way Jesus wants the people who follow him to love other people.
        1. Love each other enough to forgive.
        2. Love each other enough to be compassionate.
        3. Love each other enough to show mercy.
        4. "Love others like I love you."
      4. This is the greatest love of all, to lay your life down for others (John 15:13).

Jesus' love for us brings our "best" out. If Jesus teaches us how to love, our love for others will bring their "best" out.

There is only one way we can love others with that kind of love. Let Jesus teach us how to love others. When we treat others with that kind of love, it will make us very different. Our marriages will be different. Our homes will be different. Our friendships will be different. We will be different in every context of life.

And people will realize they can explain the difference in only one way: Jesus taught these people to love.

May we have the courage to be different. May we show the world the difference it makes to know God.

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Morning Sermon, 11 March 2001

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