The mission of the church, in relation to God, is to love, worship, and serve Him together as one people. The mission in relation to people, is to preach the Gospel, equip the saints for ministry, and love each other. But what do we mean when we say we should love each other? In America love is so often defined by what we feel, but God defines love by actions, not feelings alone.
There is an Old Testament passage that captures the spirit of God’s heart towards how people can love each other in simple practical ways, it’s found in Ecclesiastes chapter 4.
Ec 4:9 Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work: 10 If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up! 11 Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? 12 Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.
Solomon contrasts this passage with the verses that precede it where he describes and isolated, stingy, self-absorbed, materialistic man. He says that instead of being a loner and pursuing things that will not last, how about walking with other people because there is great benefit in not going alone. What Solomon writes in verse 9-12 is a very practical application of what it means to love and help another person.
In a recent sermon I told the congregation that a way to love another person is to look for a limp. I told them this story as an illustration:
Several years ago I decided to get into better shape by running on a running track near my home. Without stretching, I ran 4 times around the track, as I crossed the finish I felt something strange in the heel on my right foot. It was like something had given way. It didn’t hurt, just felt funny. The next morning, I woke with excruciating pain in my foot and over the next few months I experienced pain and stiffness that caused me to walk with a bad limp.
Thankfully I ended up at a podiatrist’s office where I was fitted with an insert to wear inside my shoe that literally changed my life. Today I have no pain at all, and no longer walk with a noticeable limp – or so I thought. One day some ladies from the church were walking behind me. They tapped me on the shoulder and asked me a question, why are you walking with a limp? This was amazing to me because the limp was so slight that I thought it was unnoticeable, but they noticed it.
Last week I was thinking about this story and it was as though God was saying, tell the people that when they look at each other, look for those who walk with a limp. Something you notice in their eyes, the tone of their voice, the way they hold themselves, something that signals that they are hurting somewhere. Then be willing to offer to let them, in some way, lean on you. You make their burden just a little lighter by noticing their limp.
There is an old Bill Withers song entitled, “Lean On Me”. Bill wrote this song all alone in L.A. He was remembering and longing for the closeness that he knew as a boy in the coal mining community of West Virginia.
Bill’s lyrics are very similar to the words of Solomon in Ecclesiastes 4:9-12.
Lean on me when you’re not strong
I’ll be your friend I’ll help you carry on
For it won’t be long ’til I’m gonna need
Somebody to lean on.
So, let’s look for the limp in people’s walk, and offer to let them lean on us, and be their friend.