Summary: Three observations from Jesus’ teachings
Time for Change
Part Two: A Change of Mind
Woodlawn Baptist Church
July 23, 2006
As I concluded last week’s sermon we took a brief look at Jesus’ teachings. If you remember, I told you that following Jesus demands that we adopt a new worldview: the poor, the hungry, the mourners are those who will be blessed. Those who are marginalized in this life will be exalted in the next. Even a cursory reading of today’s text will suggest to you that our view of Christian living and God’s view are vastly different.
· Verse 27 – love your enemies – do good to those who hate you
· Verse 28 – bless those who curse you
· Verse 35 – give money to those who cannot repay you with money or favors
· Verse 37 – don’t judge others
Certainly there’s more, but you get the point. As I’ve been reviewing these teachings, God has been doing some wonderful things to help me understand the message. As a result of that there are three observations I want to make today about Jesus’ teachings from our text.
Jesus’ Teachings Are Not Ordinary; They Are Extraordinary
Ordinary people don’t like their enemies. They avoid those who hate them, talk bad about them or even try to pay them back. Ordinary people strike back, or at the very least won’t allow themselves to get hurt a second time. Ordinary people do favors for their friends, remembering the old adage, “I’ll scratch your back and you can scratch mine.”
If you walked into Applebee’s and saw a fellow church member drinking a beer, you might think less of him. That’s ordinary. We’ve been trained to place everyone into two camps: those who are in and those who are out, and with a critical eye we view them both. That, my brothers and sisters is ordinary.
But Jesus doesn’t call us to be ordinary. He calls us to be extraordinary! He calls us…are you ready for this?…to be comfortable and gracious and generous in the presence of sinners! Think about those things one at a time.
We are to be comfortable in the presence of sinners. Relax! We act like they’re going to tarnish our image if we hang out with people who are steeped in sin; but Jesus showed us just the opposite. Jesus’ presence in the company of sinners didn’t tarnish His image, it magnified it! When Jesus was in the presence of sinners His righteousness and sinlessness were demonstrated and magnified in glorious ways!
Sure you can be holy in our little sterilized monastery – but who notices or even cares? Jesus went to dinner with prostitutes, but never gave in to sexual temptation. He associated with swindlers, but was honest beyond measure. He spent time with liars and thieves and people with bad attitudes and His righteousness stood out for all to see. But here’s what’s more important for you and I to remember: the people were not left with a sense of His righteousness so much as they were impressed with and in awe of His intense love for God and His acceptance of them! Why? Because He was comfortable in their presence. That’s extraordinary!
People of grace are extraordinary. You see, it is normal for us to say, “You do not deserve this, so I will not give it to you.” Whatever it is. Suppose it is acceptance. Jesus said that we look at others and judge them as undeserving of our acceptance or love or grace because they’ve done something or said something or they’re users or if you are gracious to them they’ll just take advantage of you. He said in verse 41, “How in the world can you do that? How can you condemn them for the toothpick in their eye when you’ve got a 2x4 sticking out of your own eye?
Extra-ordinary people are also generous: generous with their money, with their feelings and reputations and possessions and time and talents and more. So what if he can’t repay you or help scratch your back? Give it to him anyway! He needs your coat? Give him your shirt too! She needs your love – give it. That kid needs your time – give it.
Watch what Jesus said in verse 31. You expect God, or at the very least hope that God will be generous to you. Be generous to others then. We are the most affluent people in the most affluent nation at the most affluent time on earth. I think God’s going to have something to say to us about Christianity’s general lack of generosity.
Let’s move on. Not only are Jesus’ teachings not ordinary but extraordinary…
Jesus’ Teaching Does Not Seek Reform; It Demands Radical Change
Jesus isn’t asking you to try harder or to do better. We’ve got our imaginary lists of self-improvement issues going on in our lives. I’m having trouble loving Kathy so I need to try harder. I’ve been struggling with negativity, I’ve got to do better tomorrow. Listen, Jesus isn’t suggesting that we try harder at anything. He’s telling you that only something radically different from a steady diet of Christianity-lite is going to have an impact on the world. Perhaps in our selfish, self-centered society we’ve forgotten that it’s not about us. We get stuck on the “blessed…” part. “If I do this or that…if I try harder here or do better there then God’s going to bless me.”