Refresh: Begin today in prayer. Ask God for understanding through the Holy Spirit and for God’s character to be revealed.
Read: Matthew 22:37 in the New International Version (NIV). As you read through this brief exchange, note 1-3 insights which deal with the necessity of empathy in Jesus’ words to the religious leaders who seek to persecute Him.
Reflect: In attempting to give shape to his passion, the world-renowned photographer Platon recounts moving from Greece to England at the age of eight and being regarded as a “bloody foreigner.” This designation came to a head years later when he was attacked in the streets one Saturday afternoon, and suffered a fractured skull, broken cheekbones, shattered eye sockets, and multiple broken ribs. While recovering in a hospital bed in London, he mumbled out loud, “Why me? Why did this happen to me?” From the bed next to him, an old woman responded, “Young man, why not you? What makes you so special?” It was this interaction which taught Platon that if he were able to harness the pain and hurt that he experienced, he could gain access to a door that he had never had before—a door that leads to empathy.
I don’t believe that Platon would have asked for someone to put him in the ICU to allow him to learn this lesson. Nor do I believe that Jesus sought to hang from a cross so that He could accomplish His desire to save the world from sin. But there are times when we have to walk through a door that we never expected to encounter by harnessing our past and allowing it to shape our future.
Jesus sat before powerful men who wanted Him to die and tested Him every chance they got. Facing inevitable pain and suffering, Jesus spoke truth to power through the language of love. While it would have been so simple to adjust His message and give them what they wanted, Jesus never relented in speaking the Truth which was centered in unconditional love.
That message spoken to those men on that day set in motion His ultimate demise—which He would meet soon after they dispersed. That message was meant as the standard for all human life. Love God. Love others.
Sometimes this decision to love, to be the good Samaritan, to seek the lost sheep, to give the last coin, to share the few loaves and fish you possess, to admit that you know Jesus, will land you in harm’s way. Jesus says it is the only way.
What do you say?
Recalibrate: Where might you need to be willing to lean into the lessons which await you on the other side of a decision to act against your self-protective stance?
Respond: Pray for God to reveal to you the places where you are in position to choose love when it is difficult, dangerous, and personally compromising. Ask for Jesus to give you the courage to be loving anyway.
Research: How do you plan to use the time before death and the money you keep after taxes to serve God?
Live Wonder (ages 0–3)
Talk to your child about how following Jesus is more important than anything else in the world—yes, anything. Ask them to share a prayer making Jesus first in their lives and in your family.
Live Adventure (ages 4–11)
Ask your child if following Jesus has ever been hard for them. Share a few of the stories mentioned in the above Reflection (good Samaritan, lost sheep, lost Coin, loaves and fishes, Peter denying Jesus). Tell them it’s not always easy to follow Jesus, but it’s always worth it.
Live Purpose (ages 12–16)
Have you ever been mocked for your faith? Does following Jesus cost you anything today? Some of the most valuable things in life cost the most. Pray that you will always follow Jesus no matter the cost.