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SERMON ON WEEK: Eliminating our ugly thoughts about others

Because opportunities to attend services may be limited for several weeks, the newspaper has invited local clergy to submit sermons for publication here.

Pastor, Emmanuel Baptist Church

I’m tired boss. Mostly I’m tired of people being ugly to each other. I’m tired of all the pain I feel and hear in the world … every day. There’s too much of it. It’s like pieces of glass in my head all the time. Can you understand?”

I think we can. Those were the words of John Coffey, one of the characters in the 1999 movie, “The Green Mile.” But they feel as if they’re referring to the real world in 2020 – people being ugly to each other. Frustration, anger, self-centeredness, hate! None of it seems to be in short supply. News outlets broadcast and publish it, while social media posts rage.

Perhaps if we pause we can recognize it on our own lips and in our own hearts. Thoughts like: I love you if you’re on my side, but I hate you if you’re not; I love the one who agrees with me, but I hate the one who doesn’t; I love you if you treat me well, but I hate you if you don’t; I love you if you do just what I want, but I hate you if you won’t.

In stark contrast, Jesus, the Son of God, said: “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.” (Matthew 5:43-48; Luke 6:27-36)

That means instead of letting our hearts burn with anger and bitterness toward those with whom we disagree or those who do or say something wrong to us, those who love God are to respond with mercy and patience and grace. We are to be kind to them, never rude. We are to be servant-hearted, not arrogant. We are to be humble, not irritable or resentful. (1Corinthians 13:4-7)

That means instead of returning bad for bad or seeking to put them in their place, those who love God are to respond by doing good to them. However we would want others to treat us, this is the way that we should treat our enemies. (Matthew 7:12)

Jesus’ words mean that instead of cursing others by tearing them down, running their name through the mud, or wishing ill upon them, those who love God desire good for them — desire them to experience the goodness and grace of God even though they may not deserve it.

It means praying for ourselves and for our enemies. I’ve heard it said, “You cannot pray for someone and still hate them in your heart.”

But this is not how most people in the world think about their enemies! Why should those who love God act any differently towards our enemies than they act toward us? Because this is what God does. This is who our Heavenly Father is! God’s word says “Christ died for the ungodly.” God’s word says that “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” God’s word says that “while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son.” (Romans 5:6-11)

We were each perpetrators of injustice against God! He had every right to send us immediately to Hell. But God showed His love, grace, kindness, mercy, patience, and goodness by sending His Son Jesus for us while we were His enemies. Jesus died on the cross as our substitute, bearing the punishment that was due for our sin — our pride, our hate, our selfishness, our disobedience, and our rebellion against a good and righteous God. We went our own way, but He loved us and came for us still.

People of God, this is why we should strive to love our enemies: Because God first did it with us!

Last modified July 15, 2020

 

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