Sunday, June 16, 2013

Who’s Your Daddy?

You've heard that it was said,
‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’
But I say to you:
Love your enemies & pray for those who persecute you,
So that
you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven;
…He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.

If you love those who love you, what reward do you have?
  Don’t even the tax collectors do the same?
If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others?
  Don’t even the gentiles do the same?
Matthew 5.43-47

Before you read on, stop for a moment and meditate, think and pray about Jesus’ words above.  Think specifically about your enemies and what it would be like to love them and pray for them. 

Ok, if you’ve really pictured this in your mind, you’ve taken an important first step in obeying this command.  This is one most Christians feel perfectly comfortable accepting and teaching, but completely ignoring in practice.  Here’s a simple challenge: think back over your life … how many times have you heard a person pray for his enemies?  I don’t think I’ve heard it even once.  Will you obey this teaching this week?  Will you love and pray for your enemies, and encourage your fellow disciples to do the same? 

I put the challenge at the beginning of this article because if you won’t accept the challenge, there’s no point in reading on. 

This is the sixth of six teachings where Jesus has been teaching like a Rabbi.  Here are the earlier teachings, just to remind you:
  1. Don’t be angry with your brother
  2. Don’t look at women as sex objects
  3. Don’t divorce for selfish reasons
  4. Don’t make promises; always tell the truth
  5. Don’t resist an evil person
  6. Don’t hate – but love and pray for your enemy

If you pay attention, you’ll see that what these all have in common is that they’re about inter-personal relationships.  Jesus is teaching his disciples in that crowd of Jewish people how to be different than the ordinary religious person.  Like them, we who want to be disciples of Jesus, will be different than the typical “Christian,” and these teachings about relationships are the most important. 

Most modern “Christians” and their churches and religions concern themselves with doctrine, church activities and ministries.  They’re concerned about your attendance, participation, and volunteering.  There are bible studies and tons of ministries for each possible segment. 

True disciples of Jesus are different.  We are focused on how you treat other people while you’re doing whatever it is you do.  Jesus said, “While you’re going along the way … make disciples” (Matthew 28.19).  While you’re at work or at home or interacting with others … how do you treat them?  You see, it’s not mostly about your religious beliefs, but about how you treat people.  Remember the second most important command? 
“Love your neighbor as yourself”
This is our Lord’s command, and these six parts of this lesson have been these teachings on relationships. 

But with this last one there’s something different.  This last one has a different kind of motive than we’ve seen before.  In the beatitudes Jesus taught about things that make one “blessed,” and he said why.  In this last section if anything is said at all … it’s usually warning about hell.  But now there’s a shift in the motive.  This time it’s about our identity.  We do this because we want to be like someone and different from others.  Specifically, we behave this one so we’ll be like God and different than non-disciples.  Read it again and see … Jesus is telling us to love our enemies because that’s what God does, and it’s the opposite of what the world does. 

In the world, everything is about justice, fairness, or payback.  
But God is (thankfully) very different! 
“For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through him. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by his life. And not only this, but we also exult in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation.” -  Romans 5:6-11
Do you see what Paul is saying?  That while we were still sinners (and therefore God’s enemies), that He sent His son to die so that His enemies (us) could be forgiven and reconciled back into relationship with God!  You may not think of yourself this way, but the fact is that before your sins were washed away in baptism, you were an enemy of God. 

Son of a …

In the bible, the term “son of” doesn’t mean the same thing as it does to us.  It’s their way of saying that you’re like someone or something, because kids tend to be like their parents.  In the bible this is used to describe personality traits.  The man in Acts we know as “Barnabas” is really named Joe, but they gave him the nickname Barnabas (son of encouragement) because he was an encourager.  (Acts 4.36)  And Satan is called “the father of lies,” and religious people of his day are called his children.  (John 8.44)

So whereas most people expect to hate their enemies, we are called to love them because that’s the nature of God.  And if it weren’t for God being like this, we would have no hope at all!

Now go back and review your thinking about your enemies, and realize that to be like God toward them, you need to be willing to turn the other cheek, go the extra mile, and even love them and pray for them so that: you can be reconciled.  And it’s that reconciliation that often bothers people the most. 

Consider that someone has wronged you.  You (to be like God) must find a way to want that person to be back in your fellowship – to pray for him, to love him, and to be reconciled.  And why?  Because we want to be like God and offer hope.  Satan and people of the world offer revenge or (at best) justice.  Sometimes they just overlook wrongs because they don’t care enough about others to help the person get better.  But God’s people, like God Himself, offer a rebuke for sins to help the person, then forgiveness, mercy and reconciliation.  All of these things add up to hope. 

Discipleship is about becoming like Jesus, and this is a hard thing to do.  It’s hard, but not impossible.  If you want to be like the people in the world or ordinary “church” people … then go ahead and love only those people who love you.  Be nice only to people who are nice to you.  You will be just like the older brother in the prodigal son story – good and judgmental and unmerciful.  No one will ever take advantage of you, boy!

But remember that being like God means offering hope – even to the ugly, sinful, fat, drunken, hateful, slutty dishonest people of the world.  No matter the cost or the evil: To be like God, you must love the unlovable  

So who’s your Daddy? 
It’s pretty easy to call yourself a Christian or a child of God – but it’s a whole other thing to act like it. 

No comments:

Post a Comment