The Inconvenience of Loving Our Enemies
September 6, 2020
Theme: We are all called to love our enemies.
Scripture: Matthew 5:43-48
This just may be the most difficult and inconvenient of all of Jesus’ teaching. Being difficult and inconvenient, though, is not an excuse not to try. To be honest I don’t want to love my enemies, although I try, I don’t always succeed. Verse 43 says, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you love your enemies.” The first part of what they had heard was scripture. The Hebrew scriptures called for Israel to love their neighbor. However, the second part,“hate your enemies” was more conventional wisdom. Jesus was challenging them and is challenging us at an instinctive level. Our basic instinctive is not to love our enemies.
Loving our enemies requires actions on our part, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. This command of Jesus is difficult enough on its on, but we make it more difficult because of our understanding of love. When we think of love we often think of a warm fuzzy emotional response to another person that causes us to want to be with them and have them as apart of our lives. There is that kind of love, but when it comes to Jesus’ comments it is a slightly different kind of love. It’s not the kind of love where they become your best friend, you have dinner, goon vacation together. It is a love that requires actions though, you do good, bless, pray for them. It requires making a conscience choice to love, but that is true with any kind of love. I tell couples that come to me to get married, that won’t believe me but there will be days they don’t feel like loving, but on that day you choose to love. If we wait for a warm emotional feeling before we love our enemies it will never happen. We choose to love our enemies.
The Inconvenience of Contact
September 13, 2020
Theme: Jesus calls us to be in ministry to the marginalized, the rejected, the oppressed.
Scripture: Matthew 8:1-4
Lepers were truly outsiders/outcast in every way. They were unclean socially, physically, and ritually. They were unclean physically because they had a contagious disease. So their contagious disease made them socially unclean and they had to live outside their villages and away from everyone else. Their disease made them ritually unclean according to the Jewish law and thus unable to participate in the religious life of Israel. The leper was truly an outcast marginalized in every way by society and by the religious establishment.
However, Jesus didn’t do that, rather allowed the man to approach him and not only did he allow the man to approach him; Jesus touched him. What often gets over looked in this story is Jesus willingness to become unclean. By touching the leper Jesus made himself ritually unclean and potentially physically and socially unclean. But Jesus’ compassion caused him to risk becoming an outcast himself in order to heal this man and not only heal the man to teach a powerful lesson about compassion and acceptance.
The Inconvenience of Priorities
September 20, 2020
Theme: Following Jesus is our first priority even before ourselves.
Scripture: Matthew 16:24-26
The scripture reading is a part of a much larger conversation between Jesus and his disciples. This conversation comes after a series of miracles and teaching. The people have seen Jesus perform these miracles and heard his teaching, so he asked the disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” Their response, “Some say you are John the Baptist, other say Elijah or Jeremiah or one of the other prophets.” Then Jesus asked the disciples, “who do you say that I am?” Peter answered him, “You are the Messiah, the son of the living God.” Jesus has a little more conversation with Peter then he sternly ordered them not to tell anyone that he was the messiah.
There is an interesting transition phrase in verse 21. “From that time on…” That time being the time Jesus confirms he is the messiah. “From that time on, Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and undergo great suffering at the hands of the elders and chief priests and scribes and be killed, and on the third day be raised.” Peter takes Jesus aside and rebukes him, “God forbid it, Lord! This must never happen to you.” This idea of a suffering dying messiah was not part of Peter’s understanding of who the messiah would be.
Then we have the verses I read, “Then Jesus told his disciples, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.” Things just got real for the disciples. This was a game changer. Before this time Jesus had been traveling, primarily, around Galilee teaching, healing people, feeding the multitudes. So far this has been a great feel good ministry. People were drawn to Jesus, his popularity was high, he was helping people and as of yet hadn’t said much to upset anyone.
However, with this conversation Jesus changes the narrative. It goes from a nice feel good ministry to talking of suffering and death. The cost of true discipleship is high. Jesus gave the disciples ample warning of the cost of following him. He laid out for the disciples what was ahead for him and what would be expected of them. He gave them the opportunity to estimate the cost and whether they were willing to pay the price of discipleship.
The Inconvenience of Forgiving
September 27, 2020
Theme: We are called to forgive those who have hurt us in any way.
Scripture: Matthew 18:21-22
The scripture reading follows Jesus’ instructions on what to do if someone in the church sins against you. Upon hearing these instructions Peter is prompted to ask how many times he should forgive someone, and his suggestion is seven times. There are a couple of schools of thought on why Peter suggested seven times. One it is believed that was popular teachings of the rabbis in that time, was that you should forgive seven times. Another opinion is that Peter was expressing the epitome of grace and to forgive seven times was more than twice what some rabbis were advocating. Either way Peter felt he was on solid ground suggesting the limit of forgiveness to be seven times.
Imagine his surprise with Jesus response, “not seven times, but seventy-seven times” or some translations say seventy times seven. The Jewish understanding of the number seven and Jesus use of that number would have conveyed to Peter and others listening the idea of infinity. The point Jesus is making is that we are to forgive an infinite number of times. There is no cap, no limit. That my friends is difficult and inconvenient.
Jesus follows this statement with a parable. A king began settling accounts with people who owed him money. We must find ourselves in this parable.
Forgiveness is not about the other person it is about you. Many times they could care less whether you forgive them or not. Forgiveness if not about forgetting, it’s not about letting them off the hook. It is about freeing you from the bondage of anger and resentment so you can live your life with joy and a future.