Sunday, February 18, 2018

Sunday Praise & Worship Message - Charity for All

In his Second Inaugural Address, Abraham Lincoln did not sing the praises of the Union’s victory of the Civil War. Instead, he was humble and wanted to instill into the wounded and divided nation that there was the work ahead of binding the wounds and that healing would need to occur. In, what I consider to be his best words, Lincoln sums up the new mission of the nation in one simple sentence, “With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.”

Lincoln called upon the nation and more specifically the people to finish that great work of binding the wounds of a nation that saw brother against brother and families divided. Each time I read his words, I am proud to say that I am an American and that we had a great president who led the nation through the bloodiest war in its history. I am sure that there are those who would debate my words and call into question my judgement regarding the greatness of Lincoln. However, I am not here to debate or defend the feelings that are inspired by his words and the clear vision of a divided nation to unite once again.

Although not said exactly the same, Paul in Romans tells us the same things. We are to live in harmony with one another and do what we can to preserve that peace. Let us look at Romans 12:18. Paul is quite clear about our actions when he says, “Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone.” There are a few things to note when we examine this verse closely. The first is doing what you can to live in peace. The operative word is you.

We, as Christians, can only do so much when it comes to peace in the world. We are to live in harmony with those around us and demonstrate that daily to those around us. When we gossip, lie or cheat another, we are not living lives dedicated to peace and harmony. All we have done is provide the world with another reason to call Christians hypocrites. If we do not live our lives in accordance to the word and will of God, then what is the point of being a Christian?

Once again looking to Paul and his wisdom, we find in 2 Corinthians 6:17 why we are supposed to be different and what happens we are. “Therefore, come out from among unbelievers, and separate yourselves from them, says the LORD. Don't touch their filthy things, and I will welcome you.” God will receive us, because we made the decision to separate ourselves from unbelievers and the sins of our old lives. Once we do this, we are transformed into the sons and daughters of God. We are truly different and we must act differently.

Our actions should be done out of love rather than malice or arrogance. We should love all and not seek vengeance. Vengeance belongs to the Almighty and it is His to dispense as He wills. Our responsibility is to show the world that we are different and that we can make a difference by being a Christ-like example to all those around us.

Last year I gave a sermon series on what it meant to be Christ-like, chief among the traits is humility. As Christians, we should not be conceited or act as if we are better than those around us. Our lives should be dedicated to serving and loving one another and never repaying evil with evil.

As we demonstrate this to the world, we show that being a Christian is more than just going to church on the Sabbath. It means that we live our lives in service to God and to each other and that we are to show no malice to others, but, rather, give charity for all. Lincoln’s beautiful words once again sum up the same things that Paul tells us to do in our lives. Once we do what we are to do and seek out righteousness in our actions, it is truly the moment when we have taken up the yoke of the master.

If you really think about what we are to do as Christians which is very easy when we follow what Jesus has outlined in his response to the Pharisees when asked about the most important of all laws, we are to love God totally and completely and to love our neighbors. As Jesus put it so eloquently, the rest of the laws hang on these two laws.

When we sow, we shall reap. When we feed others, we shall be fed. Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount in one of the Beatitudes, “God blesses those who work for peace, for they will be called the children of God.” When we seek peace and harmony for ourselves and others, we can truly stand firm in His grace.

God bless and keep each of you always. May His grace shine down upon you.

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