Uth urges messengers to 'see those around you'
NEW ORLEANS (BP) -- David Uth called Southern Baptists to a fresh understanding of the depth of the love of Jesus Christ, urging them to "love loud and love much because of all that He has forgiven."
The pastor of First Baptist Church in Orlando delivered the convention sermon during the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention in New Orleans June 19-20.
As Uth cited Luke 7:36 and following, an ensemble of actors dramatized the Scripture. In the portrayal, a woman poured an alabaster jar of perfume and wept over the feet of Jesus at the home of Simon the Pharisee.
The story offers an "incredible lesson," Uth said, about a woman with a past who was overwhelmed by the forgiveness of her sin. "Jesus had changed her life, and she had to thank Him" by her actions.
Uth emphasized the reaction of the Pharisee who asked, "Do you see this woman?"
"Simon was so wrapped up in legalism that the law was more important than people," Uth said.
Then he asked those in attendance, "Do you see those in your life, those around you?"
He told of an earlier SBC meeting in New Orleans when he took a cab to the convention site. When the cab driver picked up a "friend" to ride along, Uth realized the woman was a prostitute and was embarrassed that other pastors might see him with her when he arrived at his destination.
"I panicked" and quickly climbed out the cab, Uth recalled. But God has since broken his heart over the incident and his refusal to share Christ's love with her.
"I did not give a rip about her," he said. "I was only concerned about my reputation, not her eternal destination or lifestyle."
Explaining that the costly oil poured on Jesus' feet and letting down of the woman's hair expressed the depth of her gratitude for His forgiveness, Uth asked, "Why are we not more extravagant in our love and more passionate for others?"
He shared two examples of how First Baptist Orlando has sought to demonstrate a passion and see others in their community.
Each year, the church holds a "Queen Celebration" when the congregation seeks to minister to the city's prostitutes, strippers and dancers by bringing them to the church, serving a meal and showering them with clothes, makeup and other gifts. The first Queen Celebration was attended by 300 women and resulted in 20 of them giving "their heart to God," including one who continues to bring her friends to church.
The church also began "Love Orlando" to share Christ's love throughout the Central Florida city and in one instance pledged $5 million -- of which $4 million has been collected -- to make a difference among the homeless population.
Uth reminded the group that all believers are recipients of God's overwhelming forgiveness and grace, saying, "You don't really see others until you see yourself."
Telling of his journey to Haiti in the aftermath of the 2010 earthquake where he saw children and adults lacking clothing, Uth said he had to wonder why God chose him to live in a land of abundance.
"Everything we have that is good comes by grace from the Father above," he said.
Despite the woman's actions in the passage, Uth told messengers, she was not the biggest sinner in the room. That instead was the Pharisee.
Concluding his sermon, Uth told of his father who served as the pastor of an Arkansas church when blacks in the community began attending. Refusing to acquiesce to members' demands that they be asked to leave, members of the Ku Klux Klan visited him with threats. In the end, his stand cost him the pastorate.
Recalling his father's apology for losing his church, Uth said he assured the older man, "You may have lost a church, but you have won a son."
His father loved much, Uth said, because he had been forgiven from an earlier life addicted to gambling and alcohol. Jesus forgave him and changed his life.
"It is time to love, love loud and love much because He has forgiven much," Uth told messengers.
Barbara Denman is director of communications for the Florida Baptist Convention. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/Baptist Press) and in your email (baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).