Rather together than alone!

A bunch of people are sitting together in a discussion group. The moderator asks them to list one another’s strengths and weaknesses. This is an introduction exercise that is frequently put to use.

Discovering the special characteristics of my neighbour is not so easy. After all, everyone has his own unique fingerprint. One person may have strengths such as patience, good listening skills, or empathy, and another may have weaknesses such as stubbornness or boastfulness. Some may even have a little bit of everything, and are therefore not known for any special characteristic in particular.

People often want to know who Jesus is. “He is the Son of God,” say Christians. But what does that mean in concrete terms? The special characteristics of Jesus are mentioned in the Bible: He is the Prince of Peace, the Mediator, a listener, a guide, a sympathiser, a multiplier of bread, a defender, a helper, an innovator, a role model, a healer, a raiser of the dead, and the bringer of salvation. The manner in which He lived and acted is an eloquent example of how well He was able to identify with the cares and needs of His neighbour. Some of the related biblical events will be explored in the divine services of the month of February.

Loneliness? Not with Jesus!

Once there was an elderly woman who had lost her only son. The Bible relates this tragic, disturbing, and sad event. Jesus was right there in the thick of things. He suffered along with her. His heart was filled with sympathy: “And when He came near the gate of the city, behold, a dead man was being carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow. And a large crowd from the city was with her. When the Lord saw her, He had compassion on her and said to her, ‘Do not weep’” (Luke 7: 12–13). This woman had lost her husband, and now she had even lost her son—her situation could hardly have been any worse! But Jesus helped without even inquiring as to the widow’s faith.

Oh, if only we human beings also had such power! But wait a moment. What would we do? Let us assume we had the ability to stand by someone, to help them, to help lift them up, to be close to them, or to restore their joy in life—would we do it? Would we manage to get over the threshold of “lamenting” and make our way to the level of helping, of giving ourselves, of supporting? Jesus sets precisely this example for us: He approaches the woman, comforts her, and helps her. Compassion turns to words, and words become deeds.

Anyone who has his sights set on following Jesus will also care about others. Being a disciple of Christ makes it impossible for us to “go it alone”.

Say yes to the Lord!

Dying with Him, and living with Him—this is the response of the gospel to the egoism of this modern age. Sharing our sufferings, sharing our joys, pursuing our path together—that is what it means to follow Jesus! This also implies a collective battle against sin. Especially in our day, when sin is so often trivialised, it is so important for us to remind one another of the old values and the biblical truths. It is all about remaining steadfast in faith!

At the same time it is also true that the transgression of man does nothing to impede God’s faithfulness toward us. Even when we human beings are lacking, God remains faithful to us. Our shortcomings do not call His love for us into question. Jesus is our faithful Advocate: for Him, our determination to be in fellowship with him—and our efforts to attain this—count more than the results achieved.

God can do more!

All of these experiences of our acceptance by God, of the awareness of Christ’s proximity, lead us to the profession that God can do more! He desires mankind’s eternal salvation. He wants to have His followers with Him forever. The example of the Samaritan woman in John 4 teaches us to spread this testimony to the outside world. She went to the people in her family and her village, and told all of them: “Outside at the well sits the Messiah!” Her genuine, credible testimony had an effect, and awakened the curiosity of her neighbours. They came with her to Jesus and listened to Him speak. And Jesus’ words persuaded them! They invited Him to stay with them. He remained in their village for two days and changed their lives. But it was this woman who had given them the nudge—and then they were able to experience the Lord for themselves.

Christians must never be content with merely having found salvation in Jesus for themselves, but must remain in a missionary mindset and never stop professing Jesus Christ as the Saviour of the world.

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Peter Johanning
Divine service