Stop. Look. Love.
If you hang around long enough, you’ll hear me talk about my kids. Not because my kids are perfect. I assure you, they are not. And it’s not because Alisha & I are the perfect parents. I assure you, I am not!
Alisha & I have a son & two daughters. Our girls are 9 & 7. The other day I heard them arguing over toys in the playroom. One had done something the other didn’t like & here we go. They start raising their voices, stomping their feet, throwing toys down.
I listened for a moment. Then I called both girls into the living room where I was sitting. I asked them what the problem was and got both sides of the story. We talked through maybe some better ways to handle this kind of disagreement in the future… I know… this is a great parenting moment, right?
Then I did that thing that kids absolutely hate but at least at this age it always works. I made them hug each other & count to 60. At first, their faces were all grumpy. They were upset. But as they’re hugging & counting those frowns turned into smiles. Then they started giggling.
Then I made them look each other in the eye & say the words I love you. And by the time they were done they were friends again.
Why? Because this principle is true.
It’s hard to hate when you hold someone close.
If you can keep your distance, you can remain angry. But if you draw near, the walls can start coming down.
Why we choose avoidance.
This is our problem. When we get angry, when we experience tension, when we’re hurt, when someone does something we don’t like, when someone irritates us, we withdraw. We avoid.
OK, time to be honest for a moment. Have you ever changed your direction because you saw someone coming & you wanted to avoid that person if possible?
Have you ever done that at church!?
See, we all do this. This is our problem, we do our very best to keep our distance from people.
But… Living the Jesus life requires us to draw near.
Think about it another way… Make a quick list in your head of all the people you’ve tried to keep your distance from at one time or another.
Now, make a quick list in your head of all the people you can think of that Jesus kept his distance from.
Here’s my problem. I’ve got a long list of people over the years that I’ve separated myself from. That I’ve tried to keep my distance from. But I can’t think of a single person Jesus ever avoided. And I want to be more like Jesus.
But to be more like Jesus we’ve got to conquer the distance. We have to find ways to draw near to people. Especially the people we try to avoid. That we try not to see.
The art of seeing.
The truth is there are people we try not to see, that we try to avoid. And then there are people who we never see because they have simply become completely invisible to us.
That’s what happens in this story in Acts 3.
Peter and John went to the Temple one afternoon to take part in the three o’clock prayer service.
Before we jump into this story, I think it’s important for you & I to notice what Peter & John are doing. They’re on their way to pray.
One of the things we receive in prayer is being seen by God. Is being loved by God. Being seen by God & being loved by God prepares us to SEE others & love others.
And here’s why I think you & I need to see this…
Because being a difference maker often starts by remaining committed to the private practices, the spiritual disciplines.
Because it’s never our goal to become known by the masses, but it should always be our goal to know & be known by our Maker.
When we commit our lives to being who God wants is to be, we will be given opportunities to do what he wants us to do.
I know this is true because this is what happens next…
As they approached the Temple, a man lame from birth was being carried in. Each day he was put beside the Temple gate, the one called the Beautiful Gate, so he could beg from the people going into the Temple. When he saw Peter and John about to enter, he asked them for some money.
Peter and John LOOKED at him intently,
Peter & John SAW this man. Let’s be honest, for many people this man had become invisible.
He was brought to this gate everyday to beg for money. It was the only way he could survive. His life depended on the generosity of the people of God.
There was no welfare system. In fact, you may not even know this, but the Rabbis of that day were against a welfare system because they thought if there were an organized welfare system to care for people in need that it would make it impossible for the people of God to practice the command of God to, “do justice.” For people going to worship, giving money to those who were unable to work for a living was one way you obeyed the command of God to “love your neighbor” & “do justice.”
But because he was there every day, begging for money, he had become invisible. He had become invisible because, in the eyes of those around him, he had little value.
This man was a beggar because he was lame. He was broken, blemished, of little value in his culture & time. Unable to bring in an income to help his family, he was judged as worthless.
Everyday that judgement was felt, that label was verified, because every day this man had to beg for money & most people just walked on by.
Those people that we devalue, that we judge as worthless, whoever they are, whatever the reason, become invisible to us.
But that’s not what Peter & John do. Three years ago, before they met Jesus… maybe? Before they met Jesus, back when they were fishermen, they might have come to the temple to pray & walked right on by this man.
But after spending three years with Jesus, after seeing Jesus SEE every person as a person of incredible worth, they’ve learned to SEE people too, all people, as people created in the image of God no matter their present problem or circumstance.
So Peter & John SEE this man that no one else really sees…
When we LOOK what we communicate is LOVE
and Peter said, “LOOK at us!”
When’s the last time anyone asked this man to look up? When was the last time this man had had eye contact with another person? Peter immediately restores this man’s dignity & sense of worth because he looks him in the eye. Looking someone in the eye communicates love.
The lame man looked at them eagerly, expecting some money. But Peter said, “I don’t have any silver or gold for you.
But I’ll give you what I have. In the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, get up and walk!”
Then Peter took the lame man by the right hand and helped him up. And as he did, the man’s feet and ankles were instantly healed and strengthened. He jumped up, stood on his feet, and began to walk! Then, walking, leaping, and praising God, he went into the Temple with them.
Peter didn’t have money, but he had Jesus.
Money is the answer to only a small amount of people’s problems. But Jesus & the community of Jesus is the answer we all need.
Our job is to see people & love people. It’s God’s job to heal them.
All the people saw him walking and heard him praising God. When they realized he was the lame beggar they had seen so often at the Beautiful Gate, they were absolutely astounded! They all rushed out in amazement to Solomon’s Colonnade, where the man was holding tightly to Peter and John.
Peter & John didn’t know what God was going to do that day through them.
Because they were willing to look past the man’s request to see his real need, because they were willing to love the person everyone else was willing to walk by, because they wanted to participate in making things on earth as they are in Heaven, they did something no one else had ever done.
They stopped. They took notice. They loved. And they made a difference.
The faithful action of Peter & John resulted in faith-filled praise to God!
You & I are called to be difference makers too.
Here’s what Difference Makers do… they: STOP. LOOK. LOVE.
Peter & John could have walked on that day. They could have continued into the temple to pray. I seem to remember a story Jesus once told about religious people unwilling to stop to help a man in need because they had some place to be!
But the way of Jesus is different! They stopped. And because they stopped, 1 man learned to walk that day. God was worshiped by all who witnessed this healing! And all those at the temple at 3 o’clock that day heard the gospel of Jesus Christ.
And if you keep reading, you’ll find that day, thousands more were added to the church. The number of Jesus followers grew from 3000 to 5000! Why? Because Peter & John stopped, looked & loved.
Who do you need to stop, look at & love this week?
There are people all around us in our everyday lives that need us to notice them. They need us to stop, to see them & share the love of God through Jesus with them.
Some of the people who mean the most to us need us to look at them. To stop what we’re doing & look them in the eye.
There are people around us everyday who need us to see them & to love them.
Stop. Look. Love the person God has put in front of you.
To hear this message click to watch or to listen.
I serve as the Preaching Minister at Riverside Church of Christ in Coppell, TX. I enjoy sports, running, fishing & life with the family. I’ve been in ministry since 1999. My wife Alisha & I have three amazing children, Will, Ella Grace & Emma Love. Thanks for stopping by my blog.