Seven billion people. It’s a big number. I know that there are more than seven billion people living on this planet, but I can't comprehend what that means.
God doesn't see the number; He sees faces; behind which are personal histories and heartaches, individual predicaments and potentials. He sees actual people with names. Each one lives in a particular place, wakes up each day, faces their issues and deals with the obstacles that confront them. God feels everything each one of them feels. He sees every detail of every experience that has gone into making each of them exactly who they are at this very moment. He loves each one of these people so much that he gave his only Son as a sacrifice for them.
In his song Maybe, I’m Amazed, Paul McCartney wrote, I'm amazed at the way you love me all the time. He finished the song with these words.
"I'm amazed at the way you're with me all the time; Maybe I'm afraid of the way I leave you. Maybe I'm amazed at the way you help me sing my song, Right me when I'm wrong- Maybe I'm amazed at the way I really need you."
Are you amazed by Jesus and the sacrifice he made for you? You should be. Remember, God loves each one of the seven billion people who live on this planet so much that he gave his only son as a sacrifice for them. Jesus loves each one of them so much that he was willing to come to this earth and sacrifice his life.
God loves each one of the seven billion and that includes you. 1 John 4:7-11 (NKJV) "Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God, for God is love. In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” The Bible clearly states that God is love and that He loves us. It also tells us that we are to love Him and each other.
In Matthew 22:37-39 Jesus said, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” What He meant is that a person’s love ought to reach in three directions—upward to God, outward to others, and inward to self.
Most Christians agree that loving God and others is important, but is it important to love yourself? Self-esteem isn't considered a Christian attribute. It’s often associated with pride and self-centeredness—and there are plenty of both in our world. However, that’s not what Jesus meant. He was saying we should recognize and appreciate our worth. God created us in His image so we could have a relationship with Him. Jesus died for us so we could be forgiven and reconciled to the Father.
Since God values us so highly, shouldn't we love ourselves? I’m not talking about a boastful attitude, but a quiet peace that comes from knowing we’re deeply loved by our heavenly Father.
A healthy self-love is essential. If it is missing or in some way incomplete, we can’t love God or others as we should. A sense of unworthiness leaves us empty and prevents us from looking up to God in devotion and reaching out to others with affection. God does not want us to have low self-esteem.
The Bible has many passages that tell us what God has to say about our worth and our value in His eyes. Genesis 1:27 says that “God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.”
1. You were made in the image of God.
Psalm 139:13-14 says “You made my whole being; you formed me in my mother’s body. I praise you because you made me in an amazing and wonderful way”.
2. God made you in an amazing and wonderful way.
Ephesians 1:4 says that “God chose us before the world was made so that we would be his holy people—people without blame before him.”
3. God chose you even before the world was made.
In Romans 5:8, the Bible tells us that “while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us”
4. Jesus died for you not because you were good enough, but because he loved you.
If we focus on how much God loves us and the price He paid to redeem us, we will come to see ourselves as God sees us, and that will help us understand just how much we’re worth as children of God.
Our self-worth is often based on what other people tell us about ourselves. Jesus is the true authority on our self-worth. Since He gave His own life up for us by dying on a cross, that should tell us just how valuable we are.
When we fully accept God’s love for us, we’ll have a healthy appreciation for ourselves, an ever-growing passion for Him, and the ability to care for others.
How much are you and I truly worth? And what value should we place upon each other? Often we'll look at the work someone is doing, and if they're doing a poor job, making mistakes, then we view that person as of little value. But is this the correct way of seeing value in someone?
Think about it, if we truly saw the value of people as God does, would we still treat each other the way we do? Mathew 25:45 tells us, “I tell you the truth, anything you refused to do for even the least of my people here, you refused to do for me.”
The key to seeing and understanding the value of you and me and all other people in the world is to see our value in light of what Jesus did to save us! Are there people that we don’t think are worthy of our love?
There’s no question that Christians should want to be loved and to love others. But it’s not enough to tell others that you love them – you must SHOW you love others! Love is not an abstract idea. True love is not just something you feel – it’s something you demonstrate!
We all need to grow in this area because everybody needs to know they are loved. You especially need to know how to show love if you are a follower of Jesus. In 1 John 3:17-18 the Bible says, “What if a person has enough money to live on and sees his brother in need of food and clothing? If he does not help him, how can the love of God be in him? My children, let us not love with words or in talk only. Let us love by what we do and in truth.”
James says something along these same lines in James 2:15-17, “Someone might need clothes or food. If you say to that person, ‘God be with you! I hope you stay warm and get plenty to eat,’ but you do not give what that person needs; your words are worth nothing. In the same way, faith by itself—that does nothing—is dead."
We show our love through our actions. God has asked us to love others. There are so many people in this world who don’t know love.
Let’s remember how valuable we are in God's eyes! All of us! And remember to be kind and loving to all the people in this world because of what Jesus has done for us, and the great worth He has placed on each of his children.
As I was writing this sermon, I was thinking about how I view different people groups, and how in my mind I have decided that some are not worth my time or love. Their problems are caused by their own bad decisions. They chose to live that way.
My thoughts came to rest on Nick. He was in my youth class at church some years ago. On October first, 2014, he was shot to death in Oklahoma City. He was just 23 years old.
The news report read, “around 9 p.m. on Wednesday, police were called out to the apartment complex on NW 25th and Penn on a shots fired call with a man down. On arrival, Nick Scott was discovered in the courtyard of an apartment complex. An apartment resident told police that they heard 5 or 6 shots. ‘I ran outside, everyone says Nick, it's Nick! He's dead; he's dead!’ The witness described Nick as a homeless man.”
When I heard the news, I was shaken up. I know that things like this are a daily occurrence, but it is different when you know the person. I knew that Nick had made some bad choices as a teenager. I didn’t realize that he had ended up homeless on the streets of Oklahoma City. When I attended his funeral, I found out more about his situation. His parents had been missionaries in Africa and had adopted him there. When they retired, they moved back to the U.S. There was a problem with Nick’s paperwork that his parents spent years trying to straighten out. They were never able to get citizenship papers for Nick, so he was living as an illegal immigrant.
At his funeral those who showed the most emotion where young street people who didn’t look the best or smell the best. Nick’s cousin gave the eulogy, and it made me think about my attitudes towards people. The eulogy made such an impact on me that I asked Nick’s cousin if he would permit me to publish it on my blog. He graciously gave his permission. I would like you to read it. I hope that it makes an impact on you like it did me.
The last few years of Nick’s life were hard. Certainly harder than anything I've been through. There is no way to sugar coat it: as a homeless man in Oklahoma City, Nick suffered a lot. At Nick’s age, he should have been looking forward to an open-ended vista of possibilities. The American Dream, with all its hopes and promises, should have been tantalizing him with its optimism. And on his good days, Nick did dream of future success the way a young person should. He dreamt of getting his G.E.D. and going back to school, of making enough money to pay back everyone he had ever hurt, and of becoming a lawyer and helping people in situations like his.
But most days, Nicolas was trapped in a sense of futility. Robert Frost described an old man in a similar position in one of his poems, “The Death of the Hired Man.” Young as he was, it could easily have been Nick, Nick who lived as an illegal immigrant in his own country, barely eking out a living as a hired hand. Frost writes of him: So concerned for other folk, And nothing to look backward to with pride, And nothing to look forward to with hope, So now and never any different.
If there’s one thing that I've consistently heard from Nick’s friends and acquaintances over the years, it was that he was truly concerned for other folk. Nick did many things that he regretted, some things as innocent as stealing food to survive, and some things less easy to forgive. I don’t know what it’s like to be locked in the cycle of hopelessness that so many people living in poverty experience from day to day. I’m told that money loses value when there is never enough of it. There is a certain logic to irresponsibility in situations where human flourishing is rare and precious.
But people never lost value for Nick. Nick was a passionate believer in compassion and empathy. Nick stood in judgment over himself for his failures to do justice to people and their experiences. And he stood in judgment over me, over society and criminal justice, and over the church. The one person I never heard him criticize was his late mother, Tilly Scott, who for Nick embodied a complete and unconditional regard for the well-being of her son.
Nick went back and forth on his religious beliefs. Life on the street doesn't afford much luxury for debating academic arguments about God and theology. He didn't know what he believed, but he read his Bible regularly, and Nick seemed to genuinely feel that Christ was often more present in the homeless shelters and jail cells of Oklahoma City than in its churches. He tried many times to explain to me his belief that there is good in everyone, a source of dignity even in what most of us would consider broken and violent souls. Nick knew convicted murderers that he believed were among the most profound representatives of Christ-like compassion that you could find.
A few weeks ago the minister at my church in Virginia delivered a message on forgiveness and challenged everyone in our congregation to forgive one person that week, and to ask forgiveness from someone. Things were tense between Nick and I at the time. He’d told some fibs while trying to get my family to help him with rent money, and I was feeling pretty stern. It was a busy week for me, and I procrastinated on my homework, but finally, I told Nick that I forgave him and that supporting him was what was most important to us. He died that evening.
Because of my minister’s challenge, I have the comfort of knowing that Nick’s last words to me were of gratitude. That week, his family had chosen to love him unconditionally. He told me that it meant a lot and that he would try to do better toward us.
But what I failed to do, and what I wish I could do now, is ask Nick’s forgiveness. Not just for the times I wasn't there to help him. I want Nick’s forgiveness for being slow to learn how to see the dignity in every human being. It is always far easier to judge the homeless than to help them, even with family. On Nick’s behalf, I challenge all of us, myself included, to see the Christ in those in need. We have to go beyond feeling sorry for others and build relationships that allow us to truly understand them. Nick is no longer here for us to learn to love, but his belief in love is something we can carry on now that he is gone.
I hope that today’s talk will help you see the dignity in every human being. If we can do that; see the dignity in every person regardless of race, gender, religion, social standing, politics, nationality; We become more like Jesus. We become like the Jesus of John 3:16,17 For God so loved the world (all seven billion people of every possible nationality, race, religion, social standing, and sexual orientation) that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.
I’ve always like the song, Jesus loves the little children. I’m sure you know it. “Jesus loves the little children, All the children of the world, Red and yellow, black and white; they are precious in his sight, Jesus loves the little children of the world.”
In Matthew 25:40, Jesus said, "whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did it to Me." I have always understood that helping the "least of these" was, in reality, helping Jesus. Recently I have come to realize that when I judge or criticize people, I do it to Jesus Himself. When I talk badly about people groups, I’m talking badly about Jesus.
When God looks at His children today, he sees billions of people selfishly divided and opinionated. He sees people who were created in His image to be like Him, to love mercy and do justly and walk humbly. He sees people who claim to follow Jesus and yet can't see when He, "the least of these," needs their help.
We as Christians have been given a message to spread around the world, but we have failed. We have passed judgment on many of those around us. We say "they don't deserve the love of God; they don't deserve my time because they are no good.”
Instead of judging others, we need to look into the mirror of God’s law of love and recognize how bad we are. James 1;23,24 says, "if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was.”
We need to look into the mirror of God’s law and see ourselves as we really are instead of spending our energy judging others. When we judge or criticize people, we do it to Jesus Himself.
Let’s remember how much we are of value in God's eyes! All of us! And remember to be kind and loving to all the people in this world because of what Jesus has done for us, and the great worth He has placed on each of his children.
1 John 4:7,8 Beloved, “let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God, for God is love.”
We show our love through our actions. God has asked us to love others to help them thrive. There are so many people in this world who are failing to thrive. Are there those that we know who are failing to thrive because we are not loving them – by what we do?
Let’s remember how much we are of value in God's eyes! All of us! And remember to be kind and loving to all the people in this world because of what Jesus has done for us, and the great worth He has placed on each of his children. Seven billion people and counting. It’s a big number. But God loves them all. Red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in his sight. Are they precious in your sight?