Sunday, February 16, 2020

Sunday Praise & Worship Message - A Hard Thing to Do

In each of our lives we often are faced with doing the most difficult things. Those actions may cause us to pause for a moment and really think about what we are about to do. We will question our actions repeatedly and even wonder if what we are considering doing is something that is contrary to what we should or are expected to do. For some, it is standing up for people who are unable to stand up for themselves. For others, it is standing up for something that is right. Still, in other cases, it is standing up against the majority and speaking out.

No matter what the case may be, the action that is taken often results in ridicule and possible physical harm. But, in the end, it is the right thing to do. It would be so easy for us to simply respond to their attacks with insults, accusations and even violence. As Christians, those responses are not part of our Christ-like attitude. 

Over the past couple of months, I have been studying Paul’s epistle to those in Rome by reading and studying commentaries and each word in its original language. I have made it a point to even look at the history in which this letter was written. In short, I have combed through not only his letter but also Paul’s life at the very moment that thought and word met paper.

Chapter twelve caught my attention and sparked me to share those things that the Lord has laid upon my heart. It has taken quite some time to put what the Lord has given me into words and sentences. As I share with you what He has given me, I pray that His truth and love come through my humble, inadequate words.

Starting with verse fourteen, Paul writes, “Bless those who persecute you. Don’t curse them; pray that God will bless them. Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with each other. Don’t be too proud to enjoy the company of ordinary people. And don’t think you know it all!

As Christians, what Paul has written should occur automatically and with no thought. We should pray for those who hate and despise us and ask God to bless them. We should live in harmony with all and never let social status or position impede our desire to be with anyone. Paul also reminds us that we should never think that we know everything.

Yes. All those things should happen without thought or consideration for anything except for glorifying God the Father. But, we often find ourselves questioning those actions and wonder how others would see us. There are those who would say that the giving and receiving of mercy is for the weak and that only fools would bless their enemies or those who wish them harm.

I ask you to think about this. On the night that Jesus was betrayed and arrested, one of his men pulled out a sword to defend Jesus and sliced off the ear of the high priest’s slave.

Jesus, in chapter 26 of Matthew’s Gospel, told those with him, “Put away your sword. Those who use the sword will die by the sword. Don’t you realize that I could ask my Father for thousands of angels to protect us, and he would send them instantly?

Even as Jesus suffered on the cross, he could have asked the Father to send those very same legions of angels to rescue him from the cross. But, in both cases, Jesus chose not to do that.  

In chapter twenty-three of Luke’s account of Jesus’ crucifixion, he writes, “Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.’”

Instead of cursing them, Jesus loved those that spat upon him and beat him. He loved all those who screamed at him. With no regard for his own life, he walked, while carrying his own cross, to his death. He suffered and died with only one thing in his mind and heart, love for those who hated and persecuted him.

If we were in that same place, could we do the same as Jesus? As for me, I would find it very, very hard to pray for, rather than curse, those who put me to death. But, that is what we are called upon to do when we face those who hate and despise us.

As Christians, we are to live in harmony with all those around us. By doing so, we are able to share our testimonies and show the world that we have been transformed and are not part of this world. Living in harmony means we share in all things. Whether good or bad, we share. We weep with those who weep and celebrate with those who are happy. We do not celebrate or take joy in the misery of anyone. Our lives are devoted to loving one another and forgiving those who persecute us.

In my own life, I have been ridiculed for not only my faith but for other things. Growing up, I was bullied daily as a small child. My own mother wept and wished that she had not given birth to me. She did not want to see me go through all of the teasing and tears that I grew up with. But, I learned that I could either hate those around me or learn to follow the teachings of Jesus and love those who bullied, teased and tormented me. As a follower of Christ and child of Almighty God, I chose the latter. 

It is hard to do the things that we are called upon to do. I am not going to say that it gets easier either. It requires work on our part to live as God intended for us to live. We cannot, in one moment, profess to love Jesus while hating those around us and wishing them ill.

John, in chapter four of his first letter, writes, “Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God. Anyone who loves is a child of God and knows God. But anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love. God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him. This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins. Dear friends, since God loved us that much, we surely ought to love each other. No one has ever seen God. But if we love each other, God lives in us, and his love is brought to full expression in us.

By praying for those who persecute us and asking God to bless them and living in harmony with those around us, we show the entire world that God lives in us and His love is truly and fully expressed in every thought and action we have for those around us. When we do these things, there will be those who will continue to tease and torment, but there will be one or two who will stop and ask why we didn’t respond in anger. When that moment comes, we can share the love of God and the salvation that He has freely given through His son with those who asked. As we share, rest assured that we can stand firm in His grace.

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.

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