Summary: Or are you afraid of them? - A Sermon in a series on RELATIONSHIPS.
Some time ago Jill (my wife) and I attended a workshop given by the Sacred Dance Group at Longmead in Dorset, England. At one session we were asked, "What things do you find enjoyable?" ( Later we were going to praise God for them in movement as well as words).
One girl said, "The colour of the sky just before a thunderstorm.
A man said, "Wood you can run your finger over".
I said, "Italian Baroque music - and the trees at Whatcombe House".
Our leader said, "Jig Saw Puzzles" (now how do you put THAT into movement?).
There was one poor, miserable girl in our group. We practically had to drag out of her what she enjoyed - "A cup of tea on a cold morning"!.
Then a little plump girl said, "Oh, I just enjoy PEOPLE, especially when they`re all higgledy piggledy.
I wonder if you could say "I just enjoy people"?
I had a friend once who found it hard to enjoy people, especially men. When we first met Paul and I got on like a house on fire. But as the months went by, and we grew closer to each other, I found that he started hitting out at me verbally.
After a while I decided to talk with his wife - "What`s going on?", I asked.. "Oh, it always happens" she said. "He longs to have a good relationship with a man, but he expects to be rejected".........
I understood. I understood that, when people have been rejected in their past, especially by their parents, they expect rejection, so they push people away before they can get too close, so producing the very rejection they are afraid of.. They can never say "I enjoy people" - I wonder why?
What is it that stops us from enjoying each other?
Fear, of course. If we are afraid of people, then we can put a barbed wire fence around ourselves - it stops people getting close enough to hurt us, but it also keeps out those who want to love us.
But Jesus kept saying, "Don`t be afraid. Don`t be afraid. Don`t be afraid" - and He said it because He had the power to stop us being afraid. If He can be let into a situation then the fear can begin to be dealt with.
There is a tremendous paradox in the Gospels. If you look at St. John chapter 2. verses 23 to 25 , it says: "While Jesus was in Jerusalem.... many believed in Him as they saw the miracles He performed. But Jesus did not trust Himself to them, because He knew them all. There was no need need for anyone to tell Him about them, because He Himself knew what was in their hearts"!
Yet, the Gospels are filled with stories of the way that Jesus DID trust Himself to SOME, often the most unlikely people. Jesus trusted Himself to Zacchaeus the cheat, Mary the Prostitute, Matthew the tax-collector. We`re told that He ENJOYED their company, and earned the title of "a drunkard and a glutton afriend of Publicans and Sinners"..
Jesus enjoyed LIFE. He enjoyed FOOD AND DRINK. He enjoyed PEOPLE. There was no way you could say that He was a misery - He loved people and enjoyed their company. How can you love people and not enjoy them?
So how is it that He enjoyed people like these, and yet was so cautious of others?
Because these were OPEN - they didn`t live behind a pious mask.
Because they were HONEST ABOUT THEMSELVES - not pretending to be something they weren`t.
Because they knew that they needed forgiveness...... and because He was a Man FULL of forgiveness they could enjoy being in His presence - they knew He accepted them as they were.
People FLOCKED to Jesus because they saw something attractive in Him. He accepted them just as they were, and when this was married with an honest acceptance by themselves of what they were, it led to JOY and ENJOYMENT.
If Jesus had been condemnatory, no-one would have wanted to know Him.
If Jesus had been condemnatory He wouldn`t have been able to get close to people and enjoy them.
We see this in His dealings with Mary Magdalen. The first time He met her He accepted her as she was.
This led her to love being close to Him. Now that she was loved for herself rather than her body, she stopped trying to attract men with her body.
When that happened the Disciples found it easy to live in her company, because they had been set free from condemnatory attitudes.
FORGIVENESS SETS FREE.
FORGIVENESS SETS US FREE FROM FEAR
Forgiveness is a two way thing - forgive and it shall be forgiven you.
Forgive ourselves and we become free to forgive others - forgive others and we are forgiven by God.