We have a God-given longing for the harvest but at the same time, we don’t always love our neighbor as we ought. We’re not always working for their good.
But God’s grace can and does change us: The love of Christ compels us to love our neighbors.
Why? Because Christ calls us to love our neighbor.
Picture yourself on Fifth Avenue in New York City. It is the height of rush hour and the swarm of bodies pushes past you like a solid mass of humanity wearing a thousand different faces. Some are expressionless. Most seem to project feelings of frustration, fatigue and above all, anxiety. It’s almost impossible for you to stand still amidst the motion of the masses. You feel they could easily sweep you away but you hold your ground. If you could rise above the crowd and look in any direction you’d see what appears to be an endless river of people.
What are you feeling right now? Overwhelmed? Perhaps threatened? Anxious to get away from the crowd? If you’re not accustomed to the big city, the throngs of people can be downright intimidating. Nevertheless, ask yourself the question:
How would Jesus feel?
As Jesus is going about the cities and villages of Galilee, his heart is moved as he sees the crowds, harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Along with Jesus are his disciples. Like the farmer who knows the time is right. he says to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the Harvest to send our laborers into the harvest.” (Matthew 9:37-38).
What does Jesus see?
We know exactly what Jesus sees from the earlier chapters of Matthew. A leper, a man with a fatal and incurable skin disease that alienated him from meaningful participation in society (Matthew 8:1-4), a foreign soldier with a beloved, but paralyzed servant (8:5-13), one of his disciples mother in law, sick with fever (8:14-15), those who were demon oppressed (8:16), the sick (8:16), the blind (9:27-31), the mute (9:32-34). He sees Matthew the tax-man, and calls him to be his follower. He sees the fear of his own disciples in the middle of a storm, crossing the sea of Galilee.
The Scriptures tell us, “But when He saw the crowds, He was moved with compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd” (Matthew 9:36). Jesus Christ, the one who made the world, is moved with compassion for his broken creation. What does he see? He sees the crowds, harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.
How does Christ call us?
The crowds are the people God has placed around you. We don’t have to go anywhere special to find them. As Gene Veith says, “God does not tell us to love humanity in the abstract, but to love our neighbor: the actual tangible human being He calls into our lives.”
They are people in our families, our children, our parents, our siblings. In our places of employment they are our coworkers, associates, employees, and supervisors. They are our customers and those we contract with. In our schools they are classmates, our educators, and school officials. We are citizens of a city, a state, and a nation–they are our public officials and our fellow countrymen/women and fellow city residents. They’re all around us. They are the people on our street or in our apartment complexes. They’re in your church, your brother and sister in Christ, your pastor, and any who would darken the doors of your sanctuary.
They are the crowds, harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.
And so Christ calls us into the harvest, not just by giving us the demand, but by demonstrating the need. He enlists us in his mission by engaging our hearts. Look around. “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” His heart is moved as he sees the need. He calls us to share in his mission of meeting it.
We don’t always love our neighbor as we ought, but the love of Christ compels us to love our neighbor. The love of Christ calls us to love our neighbor.