God’s special people

Who does God care most about? Does God love us all equally? Or is there a special place in God’s heart for particular kinds of people? Martyrs maybe? Missionaries? Priests and ministers?
You may be surprised to learn that the Bible teaches us that God does care about certain groups of people more than everybody else. But you will be even more surprised when you find out who those people who are special in God’s eyes actually are.
Mark 10 13 People were bringing little children to Jesus to have him touch them, but the disciples rebuked them. 14 When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. 15 I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” 16 And he took the children in his arms, put his hands on them and blessed them.
We are not shocked by this account of Jesus welcoming little children, but try to imagine how the disciples and all the Jews were feeling while this was happening. If God was handing out blessings (which Jesus was doing) and there was a queue (which there was) then the Jews and even Jesus’s disciples knew very well that the right place for children in that society was right at the back of the queue, behind all the women, who of course would be behind all the men. The disciples turning little children away were only doing what everybody expected them to be doing. Perhaps you can begin to imagine how shocked and scandalised the crowds would be when Jesus turned things around. In welcoming the little children in his arms and blessing them, Jesus was making very clear
On another occasion Jesus said this.
Matthew 1810 “See that you do not look down on one of these little ones. For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven.
There is a very special place in the Father heart of God for little children, even infants and babies. Because the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to such as these, Jesus says. We must make sure that in our church we show that kind of concern for little children. It is too easy to demand that they fit into our “adult” ways of doing things, to sit down and shut up. Jesus also said
Mark 9 42 “And if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a large millstone tied around his neck.
It is very important that we love the children in church. Not criticize them but love the children as God loves them, because they are very special to God. But I believe that when Jesus speaks about “little ones” He is not only talking about little children. In the same way
1 Corinthians 3 and Hebrews 5 both talk about new Christians as infants In many ways new Christians can be like babes or little children: depending; open to learn; enthusiastic; easily led; easily hurt; easily discouraged; easily lost. We must take great care of people who are new to the Christian faith. A.W.Tozer once said, “It is always a joy to see new Christians, until they have heard too many sermons and met too many older Christians.” We must make sure not to expect new Christians just to fit in with our old ways, to keep quiet and not ask any awkward questions. We must make sure they aren’t bored or confused, even if that was what it was like for us when we first became Christians.
We must make sure that we welcome new folk to the church, and that is getting harder the more new friends are arriving. We may have friends at church we have known for ten or twenty years, but we must make sure to welcome new folk into those circles of friends. Our welcome must be genuine, not superficial or short-lived.
Mark 9 42 “And if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a large millstone tied around his neck.
We must make sure that new Christians are not neglected, or caused to stumble by rejection.
Babies and Children and New Christians – but there are other groups of people who are also special to God.
It is very hard to sum up half the Old Testament Law in just a few minutes, but I’ll try.
Psalm 68 4 Sing to God, sing praise to his name, extol him who rides on the clouds— his name is the LORD— and rejoice before him.
5A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling.
6 God sets the lonely in families,
In Bible times God’s love extended especially to widows and orphans. He was Father of the Fatherless to them. So God also expects his church to show special care for single parents and children in broken homes. And alongside widows and orphans there is a third kind of person which often appears in a triad in the Old Testament Law.
If you have ever travelled abroad to a strange country where you don’t know anybody and they speak a strange language and maybe even write with different letters, you will have had a taste of what it is like to be an alien, a stranger, a refugee, a foreigner.
Deuteronomy 10 17 For the LORD your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality and accepts no bribes. 18 He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the alien, giving him food and clothing. 19 And you are to love those who are aliens, for you yourselves were aliens in Egypt.
Because they had once been aliens and refugees and wanderers, the people of Israel were commanded to show special care for such people. God cares very much for the alien and the stranger and he expects his church to care in the same way. In the Old Testament Law that caring was commanded in very practical ways and provision for the alien, the fatherless and the widow was written into the pattern of giving tithes. Every third year the produce given to God was used for needy people among the strangers, the widows and the orphans.
Deuteronomy 26 12 When you have finished setting aside a tenth of all your produce in the third year, the year of the tithe, you shall give it to the Levite, the alien, the fatherless and the widow, so that they may eat in your towns and be satisfied. 13 Then say to the LORD your God: “I have removed from my house the sacred portion and have given it to the Levite, the alien, the fatherless and the widow, according to all you commanded. I have not turned aside from your commands nor have I forgotten any of them.
We can express our care through giving to CHESS, Churches Homeless Emergency Support Scheme, or giving to the new FOOD BANK in Chelmsford, or next month in our Harvest Thanksgiving to Harvest for the Hungry giving to help widows and orphans in Bulgaria. And like any church we have a fund which can be used to help folk we are aware of who might find themselves in need of assistance from time to time.
God cares about the disadvantaged and this includes
Jesus came to proclaim Good News to the poor. Remember the words of Jesus:
Luke 6 20 Looking at his disciples, he said: “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.
21 Blessed are you who hunger now, for you will be satisfied. Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh.
24 “But woe to you who are rich, for you have already received your comfort.
25 Woe to you who are well fed now, for you will go hungry. Woe to you who laugh now, for you will mourn and weep.

Those who are economically disadvantaged in this life have a special place in God’s heart. So often poverty in this country is a result of factors beyond the individual’s control, unemployment or redundancy, or debt. For pensioners it can come from a fixed income with rising prices. Whatever the causes, God calls his church to care for the poor. And alongside the poor, another group,
Psalm 72 12 For he will deliver the needy who cry out, the afflicted who have no one to help. 13 He will take pity on the weak and the needy and save the needy from death. 14 He will rescue them from oppression and violence, for precious is their blood in his sight.
God cares for the weak and the needy. Those oppressed because of the colour of their skin or their caste. Exploited underpaid workers. In some cultures it is all women who are oppressed. In Britain it can be people who are elderly, or homeless, or unemployed, or who suffer from psychiatric illnesses.
It is the church’s responsibility to stand up for the rights of all these!
Psalm 82 3 Defend the cause of the weak and fatherless; maintain the rights of the poor and oppressed. 4 Rescue the weak and needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.
God expects His church to care for the weak and needy just as He does.
And there is one more group who have a special place in God’s heart who we should remember at this time especially.
The 2012 Paralympic Games finishing today remind us that people with all kinds of disability can still achieve marvellous things. We should never forget that the disability does not define the person. And whatever disability a person may have, they can still have a relationship with God. We should be a church who welcome people with all kinds of disabilities and do everything we can to help everybody to play a full part in the life of the church.
Children, new Christians, the disadvantaged, the widows and the fatherless and the strangers in our gates, the poor, the weak, the needy and people with disabilities. All these have a very special place in the heart of God.
There’s a song by Garth Hewitt with these lines.
“He’s a friend of the poor and He brings good news.
A friend of the oppressed, He walks in their shoes.
He marches for justice for those born to lose.
He’s the healer of the broken, confused and abused.
And those of us that follow Him must walk in His shoes.
Remember these words of Jesus
31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.
34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
40 “The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’

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