My Body & My Neighbor

April 21, 2024 | Brandon Cooper


Brandon Cooper delivered a sermon series on the embodiment of Christ’s love through our physical bodies. He emphasized the importance of face-to-face relationships and physical presence in serving others according to Scripture. Cooper warned against replacing real human connection with technology and argued for prioritizing local community over national news consumption. He encouraged listeners to evaluate how they can better embody Christ’s love through physical acts of service in their immediate communities.


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Well, if you wanna go ahead, grab your Bibles open up the second Corinthians chapter four will be in verses seven to 12, mostly this morning, kind of zeroing in on verse 10, in particular, second Corinthians chapter four, as you’re turning there we are, of course, living in a digital age. And that means that we increasingly inhabit the thin spaces of virtual communities, you know, marked by things like very nationalized political, or cultural conversations. And these sorts of conversations and communities are replacing the thick spaces of place, and family, and faith communities, they’re, of course, very poor substitutes for all of these things, too. So it’s no surprise that as a culture, we are increasingly lonely. Now, we’ve talked about this before I’ve even quoted Robert Putnams Bowling Alone as kind of the A good example of this, the title comes to the fact that there are more people bowling than ever before, but fewer people bowling in leagues than ever before their bowling by themselves. And he goes through a whole list of different ways that this is manifesting. And some of the issues that come along with it. This is so bad that in the United Kingdom, they have actually appointed a national minister for loneliness, to deal with the epidemic. And it is an epidemic, it is a health epidemic, even it is killing people. Being lonely. Being friendless, is worse for your health makes you more likely to die early than the combination of drinking heavily, eating poorly and smoking. Which is remarkable when you think about it, cuz it’s not a great combination right there as long as we’re talking about the allergy of the body, but it is very real. So for example, 19 93% of men reported that they had no close friends 3%. Today, that number is 15% fivefold increase. And among men under the age of 30, the number is 28%. In other words, the graph is going like this, right. So this is a real problem that we have got to talk about. And we acknowledge the elephant in the room. It is driven by technological advances like that has what has brought this about. And so we’re going to need a critical approach to how we use technology. Technological advancement is a Faustian bargain if you remember your Dr. Faust is from your literature days sold his soul to the devil to get wisdom, yes, there is good stuff that comes from it. But there might be a little bit of a selling of our soul in the process, technological advancement gives but it does also take away and not always an equal measure. So one of the ways we see this, of course, is that we get, you know, we get our news from everywhere, all at once. I mentioned before, we have kind of a national conversation, so we don’t get local news, we just get world news all the time, we are always connected. Like right now you are connected with your devices, the overwhelming majority of you some of you are probably even getting notifications, as I’m talking about different things that are happening around the world. And some of the ways we talk about that even that word connected by the way, it’s almost Orwellian. The way we’re using language at this point, because we’re actually not connected. I’ll give you a really good example. How many of you have used FaceTime before? Like, what a stupid word because you know, the one thing you’re not doing if you’re on FaceTime, having FaceTime. You are looking at a glowing screen, not a person’s face. And why would you got to be aware of what is happening to us because this secular, anxious digital age is going to present us with significant challenges, but also opportunities as the people of God, but it will require a theology of the body, which of course is why we’re here. So last week of the series, as Kyle mentioned, the first week of the series, we talked about my body and myself, came up with a kind of, you know, controversial statement, but we tried to unpack it I am my body and what exactly that means. And then the last week we looked at my body and my God, we learned that my body is the Lord’s. This week, we’re going to look at the body and our neighbor. The big idea here for us this week is I embody Christ’s love, or at least I am meant to embody Christ’s love. And I see this in the passage. So again, Second Corinthians four, I’m going to read seminar 12, this way of context for our verse 10. There, Paul writes, but we have this treasure, that is the treasure of the gospel. By the way, we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side but not crushed, perplexed, but not in despair, persecuted but not abandoned, struck down but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body, for we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’s sake so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body. So then death is at work in us, but life is at work in you. You see the point that Paul is making there, he is willing to make bodily sacrifice for the sake of others, that they may experience new life, resurrection life in their bodies. So as we’re gonna look at here, we do it a little differently this week, and we’ve got kind of our three fill in the blanks each week. This time, rather than being kind of three totally different ideas. It’s more like we’re going deeper, we’re going to keep going down a layer, develop kind of a single idea in stages. But let’s go ahead and start with that first stage. At first level we are you know, as I embody Christ’s love, embody Christ’s love in a social body. To begin with a social body should be an easy point, I’m gonna try and make it with a lot of Scripture. So you’re gonna try and write down all the references, but good luck to you. It’ll be on YouTube later, you can look it up. So we are made for relationships with other people. Not controversial, not news to any of you. We are social people, even the introverts among us, and I count myself chief among them here, we are still made for relationships and crave relationships that has been that way from the beginning. You may remember Genesis one and two, and it’s good, good, good, good, good, good. Very good. It’s not good. And that’s kind of bracing when you come across the first time, what does God say it is not good for man to be alone. We were made for community. We’ve had the Psalm 133, quoted for us twice already this morning, how good and pleasant it is when brothers and sisters dwell together in unity. And David, who wrote that psalm knew all about this. I mean, he has one of the most famous friendships in history with Jonathan. And that friendship is really what sustained him. During those years, when he was being pursued by Jonathan’s father saw in the New Testament, we see this and that we are called to be family. Very definitely Mark chapter three, Jesus looks around, and some people come to him and say, Hey, your mom and your siblings are looking for you. Because they think you’re crazy. And Jesus says, uh, who is my mother and my brothers and my sisters, and he looks around the table, looks for other people seated around him. And it says here, my mother and my brothers and my sisters, we talked about this back in January of 2020. I remember because COVID Hit not long after. So that was, you know, in my brain forever. But we talked about this, that the the importance of that statement, because the sibling relationship was the most important relationship at that point in culture, stronger than the marriage relationship, which is more how we would think today like the nuclear family. No, it was the extended family. And so Jesus is saying, your new most important relationship is the church, the people of God, he has brought us in other words into the deepest Social Union. And throughout the New Testament, we see that this should help us overcome the divisive particulars of who we are Galatians 328, good representative verse here where Paul says, There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave, nor free, male, nor female, but we’re all one in Christ Jesus. And those are some really important pairs, because Jews and Greeks are not only religiously divided, but ethnically divided, as well slave and free. That’s an economic division. And of course, male and female is the gender division. That’s most of the world’s problems right there. And those three pairs, right, most of the conflict that we’ve experienced, and Paul is saying that’s overcome. Now, in Christ, he says this in Ephesians, two, some of us looked at this this morning in our racial unity class. He says, For He Himself, Jesus himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross by which he put to death, their hostility, and here’s the consequence. Here’s what happens as a result, consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers but fellow citizens, with God’s people and also members of his household. You see the point right, both in creation and in redemption and re creation. God is bringing people together in community, we are made for relationships, we are social creatures. And so we should be marked by the desire, expressed in very concrete even physical ways should be marked by the desire to move towards people in love. We do not exist for ourselves, in other words, but for God and for other people.
When we say that here, of course, that we are made to magnify Christ and then sent to serve others yours, to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength, and then to love our neighbors as our selves. And that is, of course, exactly what Paul is doing in our passage. He’s enduring this hardship she describes and in vivid detail, He’s enduring this hardship for the sake of others. He calls it a ministry. Like that’s what’s bringing us about his ministry. And he says, Look at verse, chapter four, verse 15, just down a little bit from our passage, he says, All this is for your benefit. So the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God, this is for your benefit. I’m thinking of other people, as I do this. This is Paul’s am Oh, he is always giving himself up and pouring himself out for others loving God as He loves them. He says this to the church in Thessalonica. Because we loved you so much, we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God, but our lives as well, a little bit later. But brothers and sisters, when we were orphaned, by being separated from you for a short time, in person, not in thought, out of our intense longing, we made every effort to see you. And I want her to be physically present with you guys. We all know this feeling of wanting to be physically present with somebody, some of you who have you know, had kids go off to college or something like that when they come back from college. It’s good, right? Owen just came back from Japan. I’m guessing didn’t ask them a bill and Laura probably happy Laura, did you hug him? Yes. Okay. Right. Of course. That’s how we feel. You see this in the joy, the arrivals gates in airports. I’m so excited to see you again. So the question we have to ask ourselves, we think about this, are you pursuing, developing strong relationships with others, your siblings in Christ, and those who do not yet know Christ, but God has placed in your life so that you can invest in them being physically present is essential to what it means to be human, may take a really simple example. It’s like making eye contact with a server at a restaurant. Like there’s that physical connection that is so important. But one of the dangers of the digital age is that we can be physically present but not really, mentally, or emotionally or spiritually present. Because we’re doing this. It could get worse, by the way, you know, VR goggles, you’ve seen these right? And they’re getting cheaper and cheaper. You know, what comes after VR goggles, is AR goggles. Augmented reality, that’d be glasses, not goggles. But basically what that means is you would have you know, what’s your Google Maps or something like that show you where to go, it would just be right in your glasses, so that we would all be physically present and actually experiencing different realities at the same time. Like that is a really bad sci fi flick right there that is dystopian future that we are headed towards. We also see this in other ways. Like how many of you have had conflict with somebody because you misread a text or an email? Mm hmm. Yep. Why? What was missing? Body language, and tone of voice, which is also physical, of course, right? So we know this, we know how much easier it is to abuse, avatars, and user names. Things you would never say to a person face to face that are really easy to type on a keyboard. That’s why social media can become so vitriolic. Like I’ve seen this before. When I have a really bad customer service experience. Some of you guys have had this to I’m sure and you’re like ready to call and you’re hopping mad and stuff. And I’m like, I’m gonna lay into this person. Like they don’t know I’m a pastor. Okay, so this is fine. Same reason I don’t have a Jesus fish on the back of my car. You know, I don’t need people to know that right? But as soon as the other person answers and you hear a voice, you just go I can’t do it. Like it wasn’t actually at her fault, his fault. Anyway, it’s this company instead, like I’m just gonna be polite to them. Instead, we need to work towards that, like I am. I am grateful for tech. I truly am even things like FaceTime, even if it’s poorly named, because I do like that we can connect better than we could have previously, when we’re distant. Got a lot of friends in Colombia where I live for seven years. I am glad that I can keep up with them that I can see pictures of their families and things like that. But we just need to know that isn’t enough. Is not what we were made for. Like John says, so well. It’s a second John verse 12. I don’t usually get to quote Second John here. So this is exciting for me. He says, I have much to write to you. But I do not want to use paper and ink. instead. I hope to visit you and talk with you face to face that our joy may be complete. If you wanted the Message version of this text up I don’t want to text I don’t want to chat. I don’t even want a video call you right I just that would be an incomplete relationship. I want to be with you in the flesh. I am by Christ’s love in my social body striving to form deep relationships with the people around me. Alright, second level then. So it’s a social body. But beyond that it is also a serving body, a serving body. What I mean by that is we are made for relationships. Yes. But more than that we are made to serve those that we relate to. We talked about Jesus washing the disciples feet last week, again, a physical act of service. It’s exactly what Paul describes, even in these verses that we’re looking at this morning, right? He, if you were to look all the way back at verse one and chapter four, he says he’s not discouraged. He’s not going to lose heart, even though his ministry has looked ineffective from the from the outside anyway, and not gonna be discouraged, even though he’s faced all this physical hardship, because he’s willing to be used up bodily, hard pressed, he says persecuted, struck down. And we know because he describes it elsewhere, we got the book of Acts what that means this was all very physical, right, like he was flogged, and stoned, and shipwrecked. So like very physical hardship, he’s willing to endure that to be used up bodily for others, he’s willing to die, so that they may live that’s verses 11 and 12. we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body. So then death is at work in us. But life is that work in you? The story that came to mind as I was thinking through these verses, and probably because my wife just taught on them in our Christians, you should know class a little bit ago is when Jim Elliot and his companions died, were murdered, so that life could come to the hot Donnie people in Ecuador. That’s it? Exactly what happens is interesting, actually, that’s why this text that we have here leads into one of the most common funeral texts. It’s like the very next verses are verses that I preached that many funerals. Why? Because that clay pot, that jar of clay, it eventually breaks. And so what does he say? Here’s verses 16 and following, therefore, we do not lose heart. Though outwardly, we are wasting away physically, yet inwardly, we are being renewed day by day, for late momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes, not what on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. That’s the coming resurrection body just exactly where he goes in the next few verses, the first few verses of chapter five. So you got it, you and I have been given these jars of clay, like we’re made out of clay, that’s, that’s Genesis one again, so that we can carry the treasure of Christ to others, so that we can embody Christ’s love, like Paul sharing himself with the Thessalonians, For suffering on behalf of the Corinthians, or the Philippians. He says there, you know, he’s facing death. And he says, honestly, I’d rather die, to depart would be better by far, because then I get to go be with Jesus. But what does he say? He says, but I know that I need to remain with you, for your sake, so that you can make progress in the faith and in joy. And so he expects that he will continue to serve them. And of course, this is like Jesus as well, who was hungry, thirsty, tired, overwhelmed, physically, of course, tortured, and eventually even killed, why not to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. So here, especially we see the need for physical presence, then when we think about the service we are made, to offer that has to be embodied love, it is very difficult to serve people, virtually. We go over this every quarter or so in our membership class, and talk about one of the reasons why it’s important to be a member of the local church and not just the universal church is because you cannot use your spiritual gifts for example, to serve the church and Mogadishu. You can’t set up chairs there because you’re not physically there. That is the point. Of course, we need to be physically present. So Jonathan Armstrong, many of you will remember him former member here at Cityview is now serving in Germany, but in his book, virtual reality church, he talks about the limits of technology, he’s even generally more positive towards psychology than I am. And he talks about the limits still, you know, he says, at one point in the book, like if I’m sick,
you know, virtual reality might not be good enough here. I might need somebody to show up with a bowl of soup for me. And he can’t send suit virtually. And sometimes he goes on to say, you know, a text with I’m praying for you and a heart emoji just might not be enough. Right like we might need To drive over and show them what that heart emoji stood for, think of Job’s friends who were lousy friends in the end. But they were good friends in the beginning. Because what did they do? They just showed up. They just sat there, and they cried with job. And that’s what we’re called to do is show up right and learn from Job’s friends. I think what holds us back sometimes from showing up is that we’re worried we’re gonna have to talk. And we’re like, I don’t have good enough theology to do this. No, I don’t need to say something profound, I need to just sit my body down. Like, that’s what we’re called to do in those moments. And thinking of this and embodying Christ’s love, I think it’s important for us to remember the power of physical touch as well. We don’t talk a lot about in the church. And in part, because there’s so much focus on inappropriate touch, which is very real, and something of course, that we want to be aware of. But there is a human need for physical touch. So I’ve read that just recently, I can’t remember where I read it. But there’s a new thing in some of the bigger cities, especially where you can basically hire a professional cuddler. Not sexual in the slightest, right? But literally just somebody to hold you. Because people are so lonely, that they don’t have physical touch. And it’s such a human need. I mean, how many times does Paul say things like greet one another with a holy kiss? Right, like, we should be shaking hands, side hug whatever it is. Zack s wine talks about as he was ministering, he’s a pastor. And as he’s ministering to some the elderly in his congregation, he was realizing that they were experiencing a desert of touch. You think about a widow, for example, maybe on her own, let’s say no family around, I don’t visit very often, the only time she may be touched is when she’s being poked and prodded by the medical establishment. That is a failure the church, right, so sometimes serving the Lord physically just looks like hugging is sitting with someone. I think we also see the need for physical engagement, embodied love when we look at, you know, trending social issues, because how do most people respond to trending social issues today? Hashtag campaigns, which are just to be clear, worthless, just useless. I mean, maybe they raise some awareness, but I don’t think awareness is our problem. For the most part, engagement is our problem, like what is going to be more powerful? A pointed tweet with hashtag, BLM? Or an honest conversation with someone in your life? Who’s had different experiences than you have had? Or what about you guys? Remember the Ice Bucket Challenge? Do you even remember what that was for? No, a lot of you some of you got it. Yes. But a lot of you were like, no. Okay, so good. It raised a lot of awareness, didn’t it? Like just my point? Exactly. But what what do we do there? So we’re just pouring an ice bucket on our head bucket of ice water on our heads, which got very performative and self focus, so that sin, not love right? Instead of writing a check, or even better, how about instead of doing was for ALS, by the way, how about going and ministering to those who are suffering this disease, volunteering in an assisted living facility or something like that? Which one would have been more helpful? Embodied love, physical presence? And I think of this and I think of the church community, especially the the verse that comes to mind is Proverbs 27, verse 10. The proverb says, Do not go to your relative’s house when disaster strikes you. Seems weird until you realize the next part is because your relative is far away. Better a neighbor nearby than a relative far away. Why? Why? Why would that be better than family? Because they’re here. That’s why that’s what makes it better than family. Somebody who can actually sit with you hug you bring you soup, right. And there’s a both sides to the story. Of course, when you need help, it means you should ask the physical community and here’s the good news, by the way, it is family. We just saw that in you know, Ephesians two and elsewhere mark three. So this is your family and they are nearby, so you can go straight to us. But it also I think tells us on the flip side that we should be going to those in need. If we’re nearby, we go and we serve I embody Christ’s love and my serving body by showing up with soup hugging a widow, engaging physically with the issues that plague us today. And then last level, here would be that I am a specific body I embody Christ’s love in my specific body. Here’s what I mean by this. We are made for relationships. And we are made to serve those we relate to, but we are made to serve specific people. That is specific people at a specific place in a specific time. This is an extension of what we talked about in week one that we are a limited body like A finite body I exist here and now not everywhere, always. And so this is where we talk to Esther a little bit week one right where for such a time as this are for such a place as here for people like the ease. So Alan noble in his wonderful book, you are not your own, which by the way is taken from the Catechism. We started week one of the series with that catechism question, what’s our only hope and life and death, you are not your own but belong body and soul to God, you are not your own. In other words, he’s saying expressive individualism, that kind of rules our culture. Today, it’s all about me discovering and expressing myself. That’s not what’s true of us. Right, we belong to God. But he goes on to say, but that then means that we also belong to a place and a time and to people. Like where God placed you matters. All my ways are known to you, we just say, like, God doesn’t make mistakes, they’re no accident, he didn’t get your address wrong, you are where you are supposed to be. And you belong then to a church to a neighborhood to a community. And so in serving, we have to consider the needs of our specific community, especially in a transient society. Like, this is not how we think anymore. We don’t think in terms of routes any longer. You look at how people choose a career today, or where they’ll end up as a result of their career. What’s gonna make me happy? What do I want to do? Where’s the pay bass? We’re gonna get most house for my money. Very selfish, self oriented, as opposed to looking around, what are the needs in my community? And how has God made me specifically able to meet those needs? Doesn’t mean that God won’t move you like, I’m not saying if you move you send, like, remember Abraham. Okay, so yeah, God’s all about that I’ve moved before, like, that’s okay. But when God moves people, he moves them for the sake of himself, and for the sake of others, not for you, right? Like, that’s what drives the moving. You think of, you know, I mean, the most obvious example would be like a missionary or something like that. Exactly. Like Paul. Now, Paul moved around a lot. So we know moving is not bad, right? He’s already been in Corinth and Philippi and Thessalonica. We’ve seen him there already this morning. But he’s there to serve a specific people to a specific place and a specific place at a specific time. Even when he says things, you know, First Corinthians nine, he says, quite famously, I become all things to all people. So by all possible means, I might save some. And you think, okay, that’s very cosmopolitan of him, which it is. But it wasn’t all people all the time. He became all things to specific people at a specific time, specific place. And he even says that right to the Jew, I became like a Jew to the Greek I became like a Greek. So wherever I am, I was ministering to those specific people in specific ways that would be most helpful to them. So what we’re going to rabbit trail a little bit here, but just run with me. Okay. What is it that keeps us from serving our specific place and time today? I think one of the biggest areas, the biggest causes of that is the news. So let me make that argument. The news, first of all, you think about it is interesting. When you read the news, which is most of the reading that we do, or at least our most common reading experience, I would say today is the news. And what is it that you’re reading in the news, you’re reading totally unrelated topics, about totally unrelated places, the only thing that connects them is time. It’s just that it just happened. Which, by the way, we could ask a question at that point. So like, why is that necessarily what I need to be learning about right now, the fact that it just happen to happen somewhere. And worse, of course, in a consumer society, we are now selecting the news that we read, because there’s too much information available to us probably more than we were created for. And so we have to choose our information streams, like you know a lot about a person or at least you would think you would in your mind, if you found out they watch Newsmax, Fox News, CNN, MSNBC, whatever it
may be. And so we’ve got now get a nationalized conversation, where we begin to feel more in common with people who have the same political cultural tribe than we do with the people who are maybe even living right next door to us. Like same weather, same pothole out in front of the driveway, all that kind of stuff, and yet we go, that’s not my neighbor. My neighbor is the person in rural Oklahoma who’s got the same set of opinions that I Do Charles Taylor philosopher he refers to this as meta topical news. So meta meaning beyond right like metaphysical beyond the physical, meta topical, he’s got a pun there, topical meaning subject guests. But top offs in Greek means place like typography. So he’s saying it’s now meta topical, it’s beyond place, and subject. It’s a conversation happening in many places about many topics related by nothing again, except for time. So it’s not a specific topic, the way like a book club would be, or even, you know, coming around something like bowling in a league, and it’s not a specific place, like the water cooler, or the local coffee shop or your front yard. And so it is a fracture and polarizing conversation. And all this happens as a result of technology, technology, the printing press, movable type leads to newspapers, that’s where it starts. It’s not that recent telegraph then meant that all this information could come to a newspaper from lots of different places. Henry David Thoreau, for example, he talked about how opposed he was to The Telegraph, because he knew the first bit of news that was going to come over the wire was the fact that Princess Adelaide had a cough. And his point was, do we need to know that? And as a culture that is still obsessed with the royal family? No, no, we did not need to know that. We still don’t need to know any of that. And yet, that’s what’s happening. It’s getting worse, because of course, now New Tech has exacerbated this problem. We get global news. We’re all connected everything all the time. And it is newer news. Because it’s instant reactions. We call them a hot takes probably a bad idea. Read the Book of Proverbs, look for the word hot. Tell me if it’s good or not. Okay, because usually, the answer is no. And of course, our attention span is getting shorter and more visual. Like if you’re getting your news from Tik Tok, you’re not getting smarter. Sorry, had to say it. Somebody had to say it. Why does this matter? Why does this matter? I mean, it’s just the way things are right? Like, let’s just embrace our cultural moment. No, let’s embody Christ’s love by pursuing a new strategy, which is really just the old strategy. If you caught none of that, by the way, I know that was a rabbit trail. That’s probably more interesting to me than you, but I’m the one talking. So that’s just how it rolls. Okay. Here’s the summary point from John Summerville. He says, For some of us, the news is where we live. Our identities are found in the periodicals we read in the programs we watch, rather than in the places we live, or the people we associate with, what if we plunged into our own lives instead? That’s the point, right, the specific time and place and people like what matters more getting outraged over a story you read about something that’s happening in a school in Virginia, or tutoring some students at the school down your street? That’s such an easy answer. And it is not the way we’re living our lives. Right now. We need an embodied presence. We need to abandon those meta topical spaces to foster real participation in a real specific place a specific time with specific people. It is probably more important, in other words, to read the Elmhurst independent. That is to read New York Times and Wall Street Journal. Chicago Tribune, maybe but you know, it gets to be pretty global, of course, as well. It might be if you’re like really desperate for social media, probably better to be on next door. Which gets a little dicey, I’ll admit, but all social media does than it is to be on Facebook or tick tock. I mean, just think about this. We’ve talked about this before, people believe what they believe. And because of three things they believe, because of evidence, like facts, their personal experiences, and community, the people that are around them. As I’ve shared before, what’s really interesting about that is they believe in reverse order. The most important factor is your community, then your experiences. And then generally speaking, we will go and find facts and evidence that support what we already planned to believe. But think about what that means that people believe things for which they have no evidence except the beliefs of the people they love. As fascinating. John Piper says, at one point, somebody had asked him, you know, why is it that you trust the Bible? And he goes on to give an answer. That’s theological. You know, good apologetics. There’s lots of evidence for why you should trust the Bible. But his first answer, why do you trust the Bible? He said, because my Mamaw said, it’s true. That’s it. That’s the point that I’m trying to make right here. That means effective evangelism must include real community wedded to embodied love. Here’s a specific example of what this might look like, comes from Gracie Olmstead an article she wrote the American Conservative Hold the art of the stroll, she talks about walking with her grandpa in Moscow, Idaho. He was, you know, multi generation, Idaho native, and her grandfather walk around as they’re walking, he would point out, you know, the homes and he would tell the history of the people who lived there. The homes themselves what it used to look, I mean, this is information you probably couldn’t get from Google even. And yet he could share it because of his experience, their irregular walks, connected him to that place and to those people. And so she calls it a ritual of love. These regular walks that he would take says that walking is a slow, porous experience. I like that porous, meaning it’s got little holes. So like, stuff gets into you, stuff goes out from you. As a result of this, she says this to walk is to be vulnerable. It forces us into physical interaction with surrounding streets, homes, and people. This can delay us, annoy us even put us in danger. But it connects us to a community in ways that cars never can. My wife lived this this week, we take frequent walks, and she was walking, I was not there. But she was walking with the boys in the stroller and just happened to be walking the same time someone else in our neighbor was was one of those like, I guess we’re walking together now kinds of things. This is a neighborhood of, you know, few Hort houses down and didn’t know her well, kind of we were the you know, wave as we walked by sorts of people. And they went around the block together. And she heard this woman’s life story, which was intense involves suffering that we had no idea about, you know, very different generation and stuff like not necessary the person we would have connected with otherwise, except because of the walk and body, Christ’s love, in my specific body engaging with specific people to specific time in a specific place. I got one last application I want to hit kind of as we wrap up this series, and actually was the impetus for this series. I was listening to a podcast some months ago on artificial intelligence. And the person being interviewed and this podcast was talking about, like, if you could go back and talk to pastors in 2006 2007, right when social media was coming like Facebook in particular at that time, and he said, you go back and you listen, and pastors weren’t talking about Facebook, because their thought was, this is dumb. Like, nobody’s really going to use this or anything. This is not affecting my people. I’m gonna talk about something more important. If you could go back 18 years and talk to those pastors, you think they do something differently? Like, just don’t get on this, it’s probably better. It’s like heroin, okay, just it’s easy not to use it, it’s hard to quit using it. And so I don’t want to make the same mistake with AI. We are already hearing stories of very lonely people who are forming very real, even romantic relationships with artificial intelligence. Again, sounds like a bad sci fi movie, except it is our present. And it’s, of course, understandable why this happens, because artificial intelligence is made to understand and respond to you to serve you think of how different that is, from the give and take have a real relationship, who is somebody who is expecting to be understood and loved and served themselves? So we’re reinforcing our self absorption, which is at the heart of all sin. Technology is no surprise dehumanizing us, we’re all worried that AI is getting like human. Like, no, I’m worried that we’re turning into AI. Like, that’s the bigger issue to my mind. But here’s how it relates to this idea of a specific body. I’ll come at this from the side here. You guys heard of WebMD? Right? How many of you need to confess that you use WebMD? Before you go to the doctor, right? Okay, your doctor hates WebMD. I’m sure of this, because people come in knowing what’s wrong with them, because they looked it up on WebMD. And usually, they’re wrong. And even still, people don’t always trust the doctor in front of them. Which is crazy, because the doctor is physically present and like, look at you take your vitals, you know, check the symptoms, all that kind of stuff in a very different way. Why do I mention that? So if you go to chat GPT and type in your symptoms, it will give you this warning. Here’s what I think. And I looked it up on WebMD for you, okay, and here’s what I think you have. I am not a doctor. I’m basically just a search engine. And so you should go talk to your doctor.
But what if you ask the same question about a spiritual matter? What if you said to AI? I don’t know how to forgive my parents. You know what, it’s not going to say to you? I’m not a pastor. You should talk to your pastor. You should talk to your community group. Are you in a community group? You should talk to your community group then? Like of course not. And that’s where the trouble comes in. You guys might remember that scene in Downton Abbey. I’m in trouble. All right, we’re gonna late today sorry, buckle in. So the scene in Downton Abbey where one of the daughters is pregnant about to give birth and the dad brings in the superstar London Doctor instead of the local doctor who’d been with his family and knew them inside and out and the girl dies in childbirth as a result, because the superstar London doctor didn’t know her personally. That’s what I’m trying to communicate to us. You bring your issues into the community with people who know you, personally, you start with real physical community, turn off your devices turn toward real people, specific people who can love you in specific ways. And I grant this is not an issue yet. I don’t think any of you are using artificial intelligence in this way yet. But 18 years from now, we might all be doing it. And don’t say you weren’t warned at that point we are made to embody Christ’s love is social serving specific people, bodies and souls. Wrap up the series. By sharing a story, I cried my way through the book, a quiet mind to suffer with by John Andrew Bryant, wonderful book, highly recommend if you want to understand what it’s like to experience mental health struggles. So he had significant OCD was actually institutionalized at one point, which is about as dehumanizing an experience as you can have. But he was not a danger to himself or to the people around him, they kind of caught on to that pretty quickly. And so he was granted a little bit more freedom, just while they like, we’re tweaking his meds, basically. And so you still walk up and down the halls at night, and he says, at 1.1 of these nights, and older nurse came and walked within, there’s the power of walking again. And he says that by her physical proximity and gentle tone of voice, she made it clear that she was not afraid of me, which means a lot when your hair is all messed up, and you can’t have things with edges, which is true. And then she asked, he says beautiful, simple questions. Tell me about your wife. Why do you like the Psalms so much? There’s the power of, you know, questions, eye contact, all of that. It’s interesting, too. He says he would love to meet this lady again, like in Costco or something. And he actually says I would like to give her a hug. There’s the power of touch. He said, I’m not a touchy person, but I would like to give her a hug. But here’s the part that really wrecked me and why I mentioned it now. He was one of only two people out of the 40 that were in the ward who had visitors every day when his wife came. And mess with me, especially as I thought of even some of the shut ins that we have in this congregation, people who don’t have visitors either I connected with one this week connected with one this week, not on FaceTime, but on Zoom. And right there, like felt the sting of conviction, like I haven’t been physically present enough to this person. But he does something interesting is in this ward, and he’s trying to find a hope in Christ. He says that what he would do when he would lie down each night is he would touch the wooden bedpost because it was important for him to know that Jesus died on a cross that he could touch, a physical cross. So he says this, he says I would lie down with the back of my head against the foot of the cross his bedpost, with his dirty dead feet, just over my head, I knew that Jesus was not a beautiful thought, or special feeling because a thought or a feeling could not get stapled to a piece of wood. That’s the idea. Right? Christ came to show us real bodily love. Jesus is literally the embodiment of God’s love, and the Spirit of Jesus lives in us. So we embody Christ’s love to the people around us, specific people, this specific time, specific place. For his sake, let’s pray. Lord, we pray that You would help us even now to see the people around us that you have given to us entrusted to us to serve physically, bodily by being present to them. Help us to evaluate our lives, to look at some of our rhythms and patterns and habits to see if there are changes we need to make so that we can better love them for your name’s sake, and for their sake that even though death may be working itself out in our lives, life may be blooming in theirs. We pray this in Christ’s name, Amen.

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