How much are your relationships worth to you? There are a lot of factors at play in this question. For instance, if you’re an extrovert and love people, you probably place a higher value on friendships, but if you’re an introvert… you could probably do without them! Any of you introverts want to amen that one?
We tend to place a higher value on our family than our friendships. Our mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, sons, daughters, grandchildren, grandparents, cousins, aunts, uncles, nephews, nieces, etc… tend to hold a special place in our hearts not only because they are related to us, but also because we know them, they know us, and in many cases, we have grown up together.
Some of our friends are so close that they are considered family. Do you know anyone like that? These are precious relationships – kindred spirits that we have grown to know and love throughout our lives. There are some people that almost no matter what we’re doing, if they call, we will stop whatever that is and make time for them. These are friendships that have formed through times of trial and transformation in our lives that we will never forget- no matter how much time or distance may threaten to bring separation. My prayer is that this church, this community, becomes a place where many such friendships are forged.
But how much do you value these relationships? How much are we willing to sacrifice for the well-being of these friends and family members? Let’s face it, anyone can claim to love another person, but there are certain elements required for a close relationship to endure. There must be mutual respect, a willingness to give, humility to receive, to listen, to forgive, repeatedly giving preference and priority to the other person.
Our actions ultimately reveal how much these people mean to us. We show how much we value them by how much we are willing to be generous to, or suffer for, or suffer with them. The ultimate test for any relationship is whether or not we’d be willing to die for someone. Sure, they may be worth a vase full of dying plants, but are they worth dying for? This requires dying to self. This mentality is not just an idealistic philosophy- we are commanded to love this way by Jesus Christ. John recorded his words in John 13:34-35 when He said “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
Who do you love so much that you are willing to die for them? Jesus said that the Church, our brothers and sisters in Christ, should be one such group of people. What about Christ? What is your relationship with Jesus worth to you? Is He worth dying for? Thankfully, we are rarely, if ever, asked to sacrifice our lives for our faith here in America today. But what if that changed? What if being a Christian in America became illegal and the penalty was death? We can’t rule that out as a possibility for the future of this nation.
This weekend we are looking at a church where this was not only a possibility, but a certainty promised by Christ Himself. We will explore the letter from Jesus to the Church in the ancient city of Smyrna, a thriving city in Asia Minor, or modern-day Turkey.
I invite you to join with us this weekend as we learn from Revelation 2:8-11 how to endure suffering and persecution well. Our socially distanced service is Saturday afternoon at 3:30, and our Sunday morning service is at 10:15, where you can join us online or in person. We also have Sunday School classes at 9 for all ages.
Have a great weekend and I look forward to pursuing Christ, Community, and the Great Commission Together with you soon!
-Pastor Nathan Rice