Saturday, October 1, 2016

1 October 2016
Luke 6:27-38
Good morning, welcome to October. In today’s passage is about love for our enemies. Vs.27-31 tell us the what; 32-35 tell us the why.
“But I say to you that listen, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you” Luke 6:27-28 (NRSV)
Many people, then and now, will hear (and read) these words; the instruction is for those willing to listen and be transformed. This is what life in the Kingdom looks like and is simply not possible through human effort alone; it requires transformation of the heart. Anything less is putting new wine in old skins. We can maintain a calm, self-controlled exterior for a time but sooner or later, despite our best efforts, the unguarded moment will come and who we really are will be revealed; the old skins will burst.
As God’s people we are called to be peacemakers in a world inundated with confrontation and intolerance; it is a message desperately needed today. Anybody with a Facebook account and access to cable news would think there is nothing out there but fear, anger and hatred-fear and loathing, as the late Dr. Hunter Thompson used to say. It is our job as followers of the Way to present an alternative; no, to demonstrate an alternative, to be the alternative. It is our responsibility (and anyone who reads my Facebook posts will know I struggle here), I believe, not to engage in the confrontational, accusatory tactics which dominate all sides of today’s issues. I am not saying it is our job to be silent. I am saying it is our job to be examples in our daily lives first; only then will our words have any credibility. Which leads directly to the why of loving our enemies.
If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them… But love your enemies, do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return. Your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High; for he is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.” Luke 6:32-36 (NRSV)
Here it is, in a nutshell-God is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked. How is He kind? As I write this, in Northwest Florida we are experiencing a perfect morning, a true gift from God. Temperatures in the 60’s-comfortable enough to finally open up our windows-clear blue sky; a morning made for sitting outside watching the dog make a fool of herself. Am I the only one enjoying this gift? Of course not. It is available to everyone. Are there some people here who stand opposed to God? I’m pretty sure there are. Is this morning a gift to them also? Seems that way.
In order to fully appreciate this we have to believe God is an active participant in the world He created; an active, knowable presence second by second, minute by minute. The key ideas here are active, knowable, and His creation. Once this sinks in, we realize a few things. God alone is sovereign. God alone is the source of life-all life, including ours. Therefore, to elevate ourselves above anyone else, especially at another’s expense, is simply unthinkable. For Christians to do it is a violation of the very Spirit God has given us. Jesus did not do it, God does not do it and His Spirit does not instruct nor empower us to do it. Which sort of leads to the idea of judgement.
“Do not judge, and you will not be judged; do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap; for the measure you give will be the measure you get back.” Luke 6:37-38 (NRSV).
 I have had some very spirited discussions over the years with a wide variety of people about this idea of judging others. My position is pretty much that these verses mean exactly what they say. Many people will qualify them by saying things like judge the behavior but not the person behaving, or judge the sin but not the sinner. I’m not sure these things can be separated that way. We behave according to who we are and to judge the one is to judge the other also. That way of thinking, in my opinion, is another case of putting new wine in old skins and misses the point. Giving and forgiving define the Kingdom. I understand this can be a frightening prospect-forgiveness involves release, surrender. Judgement means maintaining control.  
Paul puts it this way: “You may think you can condemn such people, but you are just as bad, and you have no excuse! When you say they are wicked and should be punished, you are condemning yourself, for you who judge others do these very same things. And we know that God, in his justice, will punish anyone who does such things. Since you judge others for doing these things, why do you think you can avoid God’s judgment when you do the same things? Don’t you see how wonderfully kind, tolerant, and patient God is with you? Does this mean nothing to you? Can’t you see that his kindness is intended to turn you from your sin?” Romans 2:1-4 (NLT).
That last sentence is the point. The human heart was designed by God to respond to love. God’s kindness turns us from sin; we must follow His lead and show His kindness to others. Judgement will come later and it will come from God. We will not be the judges, we will be the judged. Jesus is telling us to break the cycle of hostility-and showing us how to do it, one person at a time. Be the solution. Be the cure.
Don’t forget to worship with your brothers and sisters tomorrow. Think of it as a family celebration. I’m pretty sure God does.
May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. JRG

No comments:

Post a Comment