I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but it appears as if we live in a country that is somewhat divided. Okay, that may be an understatement. Upon reflection, I think our country has always been divided over one thing or another yet comes together’ish in unity – albeit brief – when we must. Perhaps division is inevitable in such a diverse country as ours, when different people and groups broker for power in every sector.
I love our country, but we suck at how we talk about our differences. We have surely made progress in so many ways, but I have to think it could have been less bloody (literally in some cases) if we took a different tactic. The different approach I think has everything to do with how we think about ourselves and everybody else. Perhaps if we took an approach to people like that modeled by Jesus, we would see a lot more love in a world where hate seems to show up all too regularly.
Everybody Always, by Bob Goff, is all about helping us become more lovely in all we do to make the world a better place by following Jesus’ lead. The book is filled with really great stories from Bob’s life experience and adventures, all tied together with quick wit and poignant observations. I found myself laughing out loud, tearing up, on the edge of my seat with some stories, and even filled with righteous anger as I read through the work. And I highlighted a lot of great insights, too, thanks to Goff’s ability to turn a phrase.
I really appreciate the gracious view of the human experience that Goff brings. He is realistic while remaining hopeful, understanding the we are all in process. Using this book – his 2nd or 3rd depending on your perspective – he writes about our lives: God continues to rewrite our lives the way I rewrote my book – in beautiful and unexpected ways, knowing the next version of us will usually be better than the previous one. Here are some other notable quotes I highlighted:
Whenever I make my opinions more important than the difficult people God made, I turn wine back to water. I’m trying to resist the bait that darkness offers me every day to trade kindness for rightness.
Only Jesus has the power to change people, and it will be harder for them to see Jesus if their view of Him is blocked by our big opinions.
While we might be known for our opinions, we’ll be remembered for our love.
Love isn’t something we fall into; love is someone we become.
Burning down others’ opinions doesn’t make us right. It makes us arsonists.
If you really want one statement that gets at Goff’s goal for the living in the Way of Jesus, it might be this: God wants us to grow love in our hearts and then cultivate it by the acre in the world. We’ll become in our lives what we do with our love. And to encourage us on our way:
Loving each other is what we were meant to do and how we were made to roll. It’s not where we start when we begin following Jesus; it’s the beautiful path we travel the rest of our lives. Will it be messy and ambiguous and uncomfortable when we love people the way Jesus said to love them? You bet it will. Will we be misunderstood? Constantly. But extravagant love often means coloring outside the lines and going beyond the norms. Loving the neighbors we don’t understand takes work and humility and patience and guts. It means leaving the security of our easy relationships to engage in some tremendously awkward ones.
We will be playing with the theme of this book all summer long. On weeks when we hear from Bob Goff via video, I will give some highlights. Some weeks I will offer a related teaching and will do my normal summary in this blog. Some weeks we will hear from community members who have something to share with us about certain aspects of our collective “everybody” who may get overlooked. I will hope to provide some questions to help you take the series a few steps further. Enjoy!
Stuff that was on this week’s insert:
Quotables from Bob Goff
• Let the people in your life know that they are not only invited but welcome.
• You do business with buyers, but you do life with neighbors.
• Loving your neighbors is woven into your DNA and your faith.
• God’s message to you is that you don’t have to be afraid anymore.
• We are given a peek at what God is doing in the world through the people around us.
• Part of finding your joy in life is helping others find their joy.
• God wants you to love everyone, but what you need to do is start across the street.
Which of the above quotes is especially relevant to you today? Why?
How might you get to know your least known neighbor better this week? What questions can you ask to get to know their story?
During the week…
Matthew 18:1-5 (MSG)
At about the same time, the disciples came to Jesus asking, "Who gets the highest rank in God's kingdom?"
For an answer Jesus called over a child, whom he stood in the middle of the room, and said, "I'm telling you, once and for all, that unless you return to square one and start over like children, you're not even going to get a look at the kingdom, let alone get in. Whoever becomes simple and elemental again, like this child, will rank high in God's kingdom. What's more, when you receive the childlike on my account, it's the same as receiving me.”
There is a lot in Jesus’ statement here to chew on. Children in antiquity were to maybe be seen, yet definitely not heard. They did not have a voice, and their rights were limited. They could not survive on their own – they were dependent on their caregivers. They also had a lot to learn – and they knew it! In addition, they had to learn to trust those looking after them, taking their advice and direction.
Questions to think about…
1. What else might this metaphor communicate?
2. What aspect of being childlike in your faith comes easiest to you?
3. What aspect of being childlike in your faith is more difficult? Why?
4. How does being childlike differ from our cultural view of success?
5. How/why does welcoming a child translate into welcoming Jesus?
6. How is all of this related to living in the Spirit of God?
Questions about loving your neighbor…
1. Who do you know that loves their neighbor well?
2. What barriers do you encounter when trying to love difficult people? How might you learn from Jesus about how to deal with them?
3. What does extravagant love look like in your life?
4. What are some ways that you are actively loving your neighbors? How has this involved more than just speaking with them occasionally?