Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Love Your Enemies

I heard a sermon recently during which the speaker shared how hard it was for them to love people who are unloveable. They had experienced loved ones being targeted and harmed repeatedly.

I was reading today in Matthew when Jesus says, “Love your enemies”.

This is a hard teaching. It is much easier to be angry with those who hurt you. It is easier, in the heat of the dispute, to fight back. And later on, when you are smouldering over the events that have transpired, it is much easier to plan revenge than to forgive.

And what happens when the problem continues. You forgive once, twice, but still the problem recurs. The painful event repeats itself, the hurt re-inflames. There must be a limit, somewhere to draw the line?

Worldly wisdom says things must change, that we must take control of a situation, stand up to our bullies, leave the abusive partner, take legal action, refuse service, move away, resign the job, go to court, stand up for what is right, fight for your share, fight fire with fire, etc.

There is some wisdom in these decisions, and I must admit to counselling people to leave a situation rather than plot to harm or even kill someone who is continually hurting you, even in a marriage. Better to leave than to kill; harm minimization makes some sense to me.

Jesus answered Peter’s direct question, how many times must I forgive my brother in one day if he sins against me? 7 times?
The answer was seventy seven, or seventy times seven, or infinity really.

In other words, people who love Jesus must be always forgiving those who sin against them.

We do not have this innate ability.

Yet we can pray for the Holy Spirit to give us power to do the things God wants us to do. And that prayer will be answered.

God loves the un-love-able.

That’s us, just ask anyone who hates you.

If we believe in a forgiving God, we must also forgive. Not that our unforgiveness nullifies God’s forgiveness, we can’t undo God’s work (though it might feel like it), but we can resist him, and swim against the strong, strong tide of his love. Better to go with it though, and forgive. When we forgive each other we are participating in the great work of the cross, giving witness to the powerful blood of Jesus.

Do you believe that your sins are forgiven?

Lets love our enemies.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Who's got the problem?

I sit in church most Sundays.
I often lead the worship.
I have my good and bad days (with leading worship, as well as everything else).
Right now we are between ministers, so we get to hear quite a few different people speak, some for the first time, which is great, others are old hands, like myself. Recently we had one fellow who, when he spoke, said nothing controversial, and was sounding reasonably biblical, but he was steeped in 50’s-60’s culture, robed etc. He spoke a bit about the past, and I felt a bit nauseated thinking about what I imagine was a very ritualistic, religious (in the negative sense of the word) style of worship that I can only imagine used to occur in the 50’s and 60’s, in your average suburban Methodist church. The message seemed more a remnant of yesterday, than a message for today. His style may well have pleased some of our older congregation.
I guess I had had a bit of trouble with the sound system, and so, had been a bit distracted in thought and not as open as usual.

Right now though,  I am reflecting more on the deeper question; why do I get critical?

I was not present in the 50s and 60s. Cleary, there were times of life and surging within the church then, so who am I to pass judgement over the past?

Have I reached an age of awareness, fearing that likewise, the next generation or two may look back at my time as a time of lifelessness and stifling in the current uniting church?

It is hard at times, not to grow weary of the same process, Sunday after Sunday, with the same people, seemingly unchanged by the truth of who God is and the amazing things he has done for us in Christ, as well as the struggle to get people to enjoy a more modern song, and the struggle to get people to hear God speak, and to stop worrying about the sermon being too long. It can be disheartening.

Yet what is it that I actually long for?

A church full of eager hearts, bursting with joy at the truth of being cleansed from all our sins, willing to overlook the perceived wrongs dealt to us by our fellow worshippers, and ready to love each other, even though we are often unlove-able.
A church full of people reverent of God’s word, earnestly seeking to understand and obey his will.
A church full of praying people, seeking to speak out our burdens, and those of others, in trust, to our God.
A church full of encouragers, who see the hand of God at work amongst us, and in each one, drawing each one on to fulfil the good purposes God has for each one.
The presence of God himself, filling all of us with awe and wonder.

By faith we know God answers our prayers and that God is truly present when we meet together.

He can (and does) speak even when the speaker is off track, when the worship leader is out of tune, when the reader keeps faltering, when the prayer is silent, when the worshippers are few, and even when things get a bit old fashioned.

But am I ready to listen????

Satan is also present, ready to give an alternative interpretation of the word, and our circumstances. Ready to stir up disharmony. Ready to dishonour God, by implying that he is not good, and does not care.

But why do I get critical?

I get impatient with God. I want him to do things quicker and better than what I am seeing around me. I also grow tired of my own struggle with sin. I want to be better than what I am, and want to find some way of achieving this myself, in order to gain favour both with God and man.

Anyone who understands the dynamics of humanity, and our fallen-ness will recognize the futility of what I have just stated. I am physically/psychologically/spiritually unable, by my fallen nature, to do anything good.

Offensive, isn’t it. I can feel some of you rushing to my defence, saying, “no Joe, that’s not true, you do so much good.”

Thank you for caring, but the truth is the truth. Neither you, nor I, have the ability, no matter how much we truly desire, to do good, of ourselves.

This is very offensive, I know.

I say this by faith. With joy. Because as soon as I remember this, I also remember that there is one person who has done everything good, and has given us his “goodness bank account” with a blank chequebook, to use freely.


No-one is good but God alone.

Who can save me from this body of death?

Praise be to our Lord, Jesus Christ.