Matthew 5: 43-48
"You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father 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 will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect."
1) Walking in Love
Our Lord's exhortation to us in behavior toward everyone. Beware of living according to your natural affections in your spiritual life. Everyone has natural affections - some people we like and others we don't like. Yet we must never let those likes and dislikes rule our Christian life.
I have seen some deliberately become an obstacle to a fellow Christian's sincere service to God for no apparent reason. In reality they do not like that person. God does not accept that kind of behavior and He "Humbles the proud," often in a very public way. We must each examine our motives when it comes to how we treat others, especially our fellow Christians.
Conversely, I have seen Christian's faun over a leader of the church or a certain "clique." They seek to ignore or exclude anyone else from their circle of friends. Are we excluding someone in our circle of friends in the church? This is a lack of love. People need to be included and feel love, otherwise they go somewhere else, then we wonder what happened to them!
Agape love is what Christ teaches us by His example. The example our Lord gave us here is not that of a good person, or even of a good Christian, but of God Himself.
". . . be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect."
In other words, simply show to the other person what God has shown to you. And God will give you plenty of real life opportunities to prove whether or not you are "perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect."
2) Walking in Light
"If we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another" (1 John 1: 7)
No matter what, we need to get along with one another. Breaking fellowship is a serious matter!
If you are angry with, resentful of, a fellow Christian, then you are hurting yourself and your relationship with God. Right or wrong, good reason or not, you need to repent and reconcile with your brother or sister. Be willing to consider them as better than yourself. If you are humble you will not be humiliated! Doing so is the mark of a mature Christian.
Being a disciple means deliberately identifying yourself with God's interests in other people. Jesus says,
"A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another" (John 13: 34-35)
The true expression of Christian character is not in good-doing, but in God-likeness. If the Spirit of God has transformed you within, you will exhibit divine characteristics in your life, not just good human characteristics. Therefore, seek out the Holy Spirit and when He speaks to your heart, listen. God will make you like Him, you cannot do so!
God's life in us expresses itself as God's life, not as human life trying to be godly. The secret of a Christian's life is that the supernatural becomes natural in him as a result of the grace of God, and the experience of this becomes evident in the practical, everyday details of life, not in times of intimate fellowship with God. And when "trying times" come to us, we find to our own amazement that we have the power to stay wonderfully poised even in the center of the storm.
You may say, "I have tried to love that person but she is unlovable". You're exasperated and frustrated beyond all measure. Sometimes it's as simple as asking God to give you the desire to forgive that person.
3) Walking in the Love and Light of God
The Story of Corrie ten Boom
"It was in a church in Munich that I saw him, a balding heavy-set man in a gray overcoat, a brown felt hat clutched between his hands. People were filing out of the basement room where I had just spoken. It was 1947 and I had come from Holland to defeated Germany with the message that God forgives.
And that's when I saw him, working his way forward against the others. One moment I saw the overcoat and the brown hat; the next, a blue uniform and a visored cap with its skull and crossbones. It came back with a rush: the huge room with its harsh overhead lights, the pathetic pile of dresses and shoes in the center of the floor, the shame of walking naked past this man. I could see my sister's frail form ahead of me, ribs sharp beneath the parchment skin. "Betsie, how thin you were!"
Betsie and I had been arrested for concealing Jews in our home during the Nazi occupation of Holland; this man had been a guard at Ravensbruck concentration camp, where we were sent.
"You mentioned Ravensbruck in your talk," he was saying. "I was a guard in there." No, he did not remember me. "I had to do it - I knew that. The message that God forgives has a prior condition: that we forgive those who have injured us." "But since that time," he went on, "I have become a Christian. I know that God has forgiven me for the cruel things I did there, but I would like to hear it from your lips as well. Fraulein, ..." his hand came out, ... "will you forgive me?" And I stood there - I whose sins had every day to be forgiven - and could not. Betsie had died in that place - could he erase her slow terrible death simply for the asking? It could not have been many seconds that he stood there, hand held out, but to me it seemed hours as I wrestled with the most difficult thing I had ever had to do.For I had to do it - I knew that. The message that God forgives has a prior condition: that we forgive those who have injured us. "If you do not forgive men their trespasses," Jesus says, "neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses." And still I stood there with the coldness clutching my heart. But forgiveness is not an emotion - I knew that too. Forgiveness is an act of the will, and the will can function regardless of the temperature of the heart. "Jesus, help me!" I prayed silently. "I can lift my hand, I can do that much. You supply the feeling." And so woodenly, mechanically, I thrust my hand into the one stretched out to me. And as I did, an incredible thing took place. The current started in my shoulder, raced down my arm, sprang into our joined hands. And then this healing warmth seemed to flood my whole being, bringing tears to my eyes. "I forgive you, brother!" I cried. "With all my heart!" For a long moment we grasped each other's hands, the former guard and the former prisoner. I had never known God's love so intensely as I did then."
In conclusion, we need to talk about another type of forgiveness. That was bought and paid for on the cross of Christ
Are you a "child of God"? If you don't know or if you are not, please talk to a Pastorvery soon!
("From the Pulpit" is a weekly sermon provided by the clergy members of The Weirton Ministerial Association)