Sermon Illustrations

Dallas Willard in his wonderful new book The Great Omission, surprised me by making a candid confession. He says, “Some time ago I came to realize that I did not love the people next door. They were, by any standards, dangerous and unpleasant people — ex-bikers who made their living selling drugs. They had never tried to harm my family, but the constant traffic of people buying drugs, a number of whom sat in the yard while shooting up, began to wear down my patience. As I brooded over them one day, indulging my irritation, the Lord helped me see that I really had no love for them at all, that after ‘suffering’ from them for several years I would secretly be happy if they died so that we could just be rid of them.” Many people have neighbors who provide much less irritation, but have similar responses. Or it could be someone else, that for whatever reason, you secretly wish were dead. You want justice and judgment from God while pleading for mercy for yourself. Willard never really explains if anything changed in his relationship with his neighbor. It would be wonderful if he witnessed to them, they became followers of Jesus, gave up their drug dealing and joined his church. But more likely he has had to endure them, and more than endure, he has had to pray for them, wish the best for them and ask God for opportunities to serve them. He had to look for ways to be like God and extend mercy instead of judgment. Our lives should mirror the life of God where mercy triumphs over judgment.