Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Shepastor: "Remembering Martin, Hearing Jesus"

Love For Enemies
43 "You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor' and 'hate your enemy.' 44 But I say to you, love your enemy and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be like your Father in heaven, since he causes the sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? The tax collectors do that too, don't they? 47 And if you only greet your brothers, what more do you do? The Gentiles do that too, don't they? 48 So then, you be perfect, as your heavenly Father is
Matt 5:38-48 (NET)

In 1963, the late Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., sat in a Birmingham jail and wrote a response to 8 white clergyman who published in a local newspaper, a letter called, "A Call For Unity." In A Call for Unity, the writers urged an end to the Negro demonstrations "directed and led in part by outsiders" that were taking place in the area at the time, recommending that Negros engage in local negotiations and use the courts if rights are being denied.

The term "outsider" was a thinly veiled reference to Martin Luther King, Jr., and King replied with his "Letter from Birmingham Jail," arguing that forceful civil action was indeed necessary. In his response, King declared,

“I am cognizant of the interrelatedness of all communities and states. I cannot sit idly in Atlanta and not be concerned about what happens in Birmingham. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. Never again can we afford to live with the narrow, provincial "outside agitator" idea. Anyone who lives inside the United States can never be considered an outsider anywhere within its bounds.”

Dr. King recognized that the Gospel called for preachers and prophets who would step out of the comfort zone, who would put on the whole armor of God and challenge those ugly realities in society that marginalized, oppressed and denied anyone of their God endowed, “certain unalienable rights.” We are in this thing together. What affects one will ultimately affect another.

Jesus’ teachings on the manner of true love was no less radical. As we delve into this passage of scripture, we find Jesus’ teachings on the true nature of Christian Discipleship. Understanding true Christian discipleship, Dr. King was determined that he would not lead God’s people in hating and retaliating in violence and anger, but through disciplined, non-violent, civil-disobedience, he would compel the nation to look hard and long at its brutal, inhumane treatment of God’s children of a darker complexion.

Hate is not stronger than true love. Hate destroys. Love heals. Hate tears down. Love builds up. Hate corrodes. Love repairs. Hate divides. Love unites. Love certainly is the road less traveled. For the disciples, as well as us, this is a radical new concept of love. This love is rooted in the nature and action of God – the kind of Love that is spoken of by Jesus when he declared in the Gospel of John, For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, that whosoever believeth in him shall have everlasting life. For God sent not his son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through him might have life. (John 3: 16-17).

Therefore, our model and motivation are not the tendencies of others around us or impulses within us, but the Holy Spirit of God flowing to and through us. In these verses, the underlying principle is that love is something to be initiated by us, not simply a response made by us. Jesus’ suggestions are shocking! They are radical. The term radical means extreme. Remember, Jesus is speaking to a crowd of people who had been taught all of their lives, an “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth!”

In our terms, Jesus was talking to a group of folks who’d been taught all of their lives – “get them before they get you – if they hit you, hit back, hit hard, and make them know that if they ever attempt to mess with you again they may as well start
making funeral arrangements!” These teachings were radical! Jesus was teaching his followers that love is not given on the basis of love received or expected, but as those called to share love regardless of receptivity or consequence. These teachings suggest that we should love not to obtain love, but simply out of the privilege and desire to love. This might correspond to Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s concept of “tough love” that is the Christian calling.

You have to be tough in order to give this radical love Jesus was speaking of because it’s not easy to love your enemies. It’s not easy to turn the other cheek. It’s not easy to show unconditional love to those who have hurt and rejected you. It’s tough because this kind of love requires you to look beyond a person’s faults and see their needs. It’s tough because this kind of love causes you to go into deep introspection and earnest prayer. It’s tough because this kind of love causes you to have to sacrifice your right to tell the person off, to get in the next best lick, to fight with all your human power and strength. It’s tough because it says release the person to God and truly ask the Lord to have mercy upon them.

Jesus was despised and rejected because he chose to have radical love.
In his book entitled, Strength to Love, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. declared that the
the universe is on the side of right…the universe is on the side of justice…the moral arc of the universe is long but it bends toward justice. Dr. King asserted further that it is “faith in the future that enables the nonviolent resister to accept the suffering without retaliation.” Radical love accepts the fact that we may not see the results of our decision to love unconditionally. The person you choose to pray for and treat with kindness may never change in your lifetime.

You may never experience reciprocated love. But something greater will happen. Those persons around you will see your steadfast example of a Godly witness and testimony of faith and will be inspired by your love. Dr. Elton Trueblood declared, “A man has made at least a start on discovering the meaning of human life when he plants shade trees under which he knows full well he will never sit.” When we elect to love radically, we are planting shade trees for our children, for the next generation. When we love radically, we break the bondage and the cycle of retaliation and hate. We teach by example that there is a better way, a brighter way –a healing way, a delivering way.

If you and I will make the decision today to have radical love – to continue to treat others with kindness even when they have elected to treat us with meanness – I believe that if we will determine to have radical love, to bless those who curse us – if we will have radical love, to pray for those who abuse and despitefully misuse us – if we will have radical love – to give and expect nothing in return – if we will have radical love – to turn the other cheek – if we will have radical love – agape love, unconditional love, unfailing love – We will be called the sons and the daughters of God – we will win the lost to Jesus Christ – we will gain the advantage over the enemy satan, we will be able to move mountains by our faith.

For love is stronger than hate – love is stronger than death, love is greater than sin, love is God and God is love. Love, radical love will carry us into a new dimension of Christian living that will tear down and devastate the strong holds of the enemy. Love will lift those who are sinking deep in sin.
May we choose to love radically today!

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Until Next Wednesday,
In Faith, Hope and Perseverance,
Pastor Chris

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