19 FEB 2017Image Not Found.
February 19, 2017
“We Are Loving”
“I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:34-35 NRSV
This Sunday, we continue the theme, “Sharing the Light of Jesus Christ” as we focus on what it means to say, “We are Loving.” Most churches pride themselves on how loving and caring they are for one another. Most churches believe that they are welcoming to everyone who comes into their midst. I am sure that each of you have heard people proclaim, “we are a friendly church!” But usually our frame of reference for holding such a belief is from how much we feel loved, cared for and welcomed when we come into our church. Rarely do Christians try to look through the eyes of others in determining how loving, caring and welcoming they really are. I invite you to read Matthew 5:38-48 prior to worship on Sunday and listen to how Jesus defines what is loving, caring and welcoming.
It is getting more and more painful for me to read the newspaper or to listen to news broadcasts. There is so much hatred and division being highlighted and so many hateful words and divisive actions being shared. Perhaps our nation was never as “United” as I assumed. Perhaps our church was never as “United” as I thought. But it just seems to me that our nation and our United Methodist Church is losing its focus, abandoning its purpose and becoming involved in ever more dividing and damaging behavior which is threatening our very existence. Does Jesus have anything to share with us in such a time as this?
In Matthew 5:38-42, Jesus addresses an old law whose purpose was to stop vengeance and to seek justice. “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth” was to help God’s people be tempered and appropriate in their responses to other’s words and actions. Justice was the desired result. Vengeance was to be guarded against. However, over time, even this response to hurtful words and actions was found lacking in the attempt to change the trajectory of public discourse and behavior. It was no longer justice if the outcome was just to temper vengeance. Justice must not only lessen further injustices, justice must address the very source out of which those hurtful words and actions come. To just temper words or actions, while one’s heart and thoughts go unchanged would not bring about God’s Kingdom on earth but would only continue the attitudes from which future injustices would come. So, Jesus invites the offended to “not resist an evildoer.” Jesus invites the offended to not take the role of one who is not an equal but to “turn the other cheek.” Jesus invites the offended to “go also the second mile” thus illustrating to the one who was perpetuating the injustice an opportunity to see his actions for what they really were. Jesus invites the offended who feels that he or she is being taken advantage of to respond with generosity in the face of the one “who begs” or desires “to borrow.” Jesus’ instructions to his followers were radical in an age of injustice, division and hatred. It was because Jesus’ followers departed from the “normal” of religious life and society to follow in the Jesus way that transformation began to be experienced as their society became confronted with people who truly could say, “We Are Loving.”
But lest we think more highly of ourselves than we ought, Jesus reminded his followers in Matthew 5:48, “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” I invite you to read Matthew 5:43-48 to see more clearly what Jesus meant by this command. Our statement that “We Are Loving” can so easily divide us from the world to which Jesus sent us to share the Good News if our acts of loving the world are not coupled with the heart and attitude that was in Jesus Christ.
This Sunday, we will look deeper into what Jesus is really saying in these verses so that Jesus’ commands to his followers might be more visible and active in our life. The purpose of these commands is not so that we might be more holy, the purpose is so that our holiness might make a difference in our world. Instead of waiting for others to change or for someone else to step up and take the lead, perhaps we might choose to let God’s Spirit start making the difference through us.
As you come to worship, please pray that God will be present with you and that God’s Spirit will be present for others so that someone will find the abundant life that God through Jesus Christ wishes for all. Remember, your invitation to worship can change lives and change futures. Who will you invite to worship this Sunday? Please pray that God will be present as we worship and for open ears and hearts to hear what God wants to share with us.