Summary: A sermon about learning to love like God.
“The Kind of God We Are Dealing With”
Somebody hurt you and you can’t forget about it.
Maybe it was yesterday; maybe it was last month.
Maybe it was years ago and the memory of that injury still lurks in unguarded corners of your mind.
It’s a monster, that irrepressible hate—an absolutely horrible monster and monkey on your back.
You aren’t alone.
Everyone else has felt it too.
Every human being knows what it’s like to feel injured, maybe even by someone we once loved or respected.
And the resentment builds into an overwhelming flood, until one day it bursts open in the form of rage…
…or becomes anxiety, eroding our souls.
Jesus has some hardcore Words on the subject of resentment and how to deal with it: “If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also.
If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them.”
And the real kicker is: “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.”
These are hard, hard words.
One pastor writes, “Congregations respond to this text in the same way my children respond to seeing cooked spinach on their plate at dinner.
No matter how much I explain the nutritional value, no one around the table really wants to dig in.”
And perhaps Jesus would have had an easier time of it if He would have left this one off the menu.
I mean, who wants to love an enemy?
Congregations fill stadiums to hear sermons on “Three easy steps to Love,” and “Five Paths to a Better Life.”
If Jesus had preached either one of those sermons it’s been said, “Constantine would have been born into a Christian home and baptized as a child.”
But, like the difference between eating our spinach and only eating Big Macs…
…there is a vast difference between what we want and what we need.
At this point in the Gospel, Jesus is teaching His closest followers.
It’s possible that if anyone else had heard these words, they would have laughed out loud and with good reason.
I mean, talk about a call to swim upstream!
The Kingdom that Jesus preached and lived was all about a glorious, uproarious, absurd generosity.
It’s like, “Think of the best thing you can do for the worst person, and go ahead and do it.”
“Think of what you’d really like for someone to do for you and do it for them.”
“Think of the people to whom you are tempted to be nasty, and lavish unconditional love on them instead.”
These words have a fresh, spring-like quality to them.
They are all about new life bursting out energetically, like flowers growing through concrete and shocking everyone with their color and strength.
But are they possible?
Do they make sense?
Are we really supposed to take these Words of Jesus seriously?
C.S. Lewis Wrote: “There is someone I love, even though I don’t approve of what he does.
There is someone I accept, though some of his thoughts and actions revolt me.
There is someone I forgive, though he hurts the people I love the most.
That person is me.
There are plenty of things I do that I don’t like, but if I can love myself without approving of all I do, I can also love others without approving of all they do.
As that truth has been absorbed into my life, it has changed the way I view others.”
What would could happen if we were to view others with the same grace we give to ourselves?
We would be living more like Jesus would we not?
We are not to judge because that’s what God is like.
God is astonishingly merciful.
Anyone who knows their own heart truly and honestly, and still goes on experiencing God’s grace, mercy and love will agree with this.
Scientists agree that holding grudges can cause us serious stress, which has a toxic effect on our bodies.
Thinking about the injustice we have suffered through a lens of vengeance, hostility, bitterness, resentment, anger, sadness, or all of the above can raise our blood pressure and our risk of having a stroke or heart attack.
It can also impair the functioning of our immune system.
So, in seeking to “get back at” others we are really hurting ourselves.
But how can we do anything different?
And if we don’t “seek revenge” aren’t we just “enabling evil”?
The Gospel of Jesus Christ seems to tell us that the only way to overcome evil is to let it burn out…
…or to come to a standstill because it doesn’t find the resistance it’s looking for.
Fighting evil just creates more evil and adds fuel to the fire.