Sunday, February 24, 2019
Jesus said: “But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.”
If I were to ask you what your philosophy for your life is, could you tell me? Most of us don’t think about our life philosophy, or in other words the set of beliefs that drives us. Our philosophy of life determines the attitude we wake up with in the morning, how we treat other people, how we approach a new situation, the things we spend our time, energy and money on.
It’s worth taking a moment to examine our life philosophy because, in many ways, it creates our legacy. It’s like a GPS for our life. Most of you have had some experience with a GPS system in your car or, your smart phone and know how it works. You program your destination into your GPS, and it gives you the directions you need to get where you need to go. These technological wonders are a great gift to many of us, especially those, like me, who are “directionally challenged.”
Of course, it’s possible for a GPS to malfunction. I had one such experience. Georgann and I were leaving a gathering on Lakeshore Blvd in Eastlake and needed to be at a funeral home in Willoughby. And before you say anything, of course I knew the route, but I had just gotten this new GPS and wanted to play, or should I say get to know it better. So, I programmed it to take us to the funeral home.
I hit the GO button and off we went, it took us to Lost Nation and then to Pelton and then to my surprise it directed us to turn right so we could go over the bridge and then left onto Erie. What the GPS didn’t know is that the bridge had been removed and since I didn’t have a flying car, called the GPS a few names, laughed and took the scenic route around to Mentor Ave. We arrived in enough time, and we did have a good laugh. So, be careful out there. Even GPS systems, as wonderful as they are, can mislead you.
One tip I read about is not to set your “Home” address on your GPS to your actual address. This is in case someone steals your car. They’ll know you’re not home and can then proceed to ransack your property. Instead, you should set the “Home” address as that of your local police station. That’ll teach the would-be burglars a little lesson.
I read somewhere and sometimes I think it may apply to me more often, since I am directionally challenged “Somebody stole my GPS. My life now lacks direction.” Many people have lives that lack direction. That’s why we need a dependable philosophy, a GPS for our life, if you will. With a reliable philosophy of life, we can program our life with a set of beliefs, values and priorities that will guide us to our destination. The best source of that philosophy, of course, is Jesus. Scripture says, He is the Word of God come down from heaven. He is God’s revelation of the way our lives should be lived.
Jesus’ entire philosophy of life was based on love. This is the important truth you simply cannot miss. We can think of Jesus’ teachings like this: “When you base your life on love, 99% of your decisions are already made.”
Do you see what Jesus is trying to do in today’s lesson? He’s giving His listeners and us, a new picture of what our lives should look like. When Jesus said, “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you . . .” He was introducing them to a whole new way of looking at life. Jesus’ entire philosophy of life was rooted in love.
I am constantly amazed by how many Christians miss that truth. There’s a reason for that, of course. Maybe we should listen to the teachings of Jesus. Notice how Jesus begins this teaching: “But to you who are listening love your enemies . . .” That’s interesting. “To you who are listening . . .” Not everybody is listening, are they?
The Pharisees, the Jewish religious leaders, were watching Jesus, looking for some reason to accuse Him. They weren’t really listening to Him. Lots of people in the crowd were reaching out to touch Jesus because they’d seen healing power flow from Him, and they wanted to take some of that for themselves. Some of them weren’t really listening either. They just wanted Him to fix their situation.
They’re not so different from many of us, are they? Some of us come here on Sunday morning and sit in the pew and turn off our minds. We’re tired, or distracted, or angry, or we’re not even sure why we’re here. Whatever the reason, we’re not ready to listen to the Gospel. Because listening means we’re open to learning something new. Listening means we’re open to change. Listening to God means being obedient to God. There’s a word we don’t like. Obedience. So, Jesus knew that only a few people may really listen to His message. He knew most people aren’t ready to have their life philosophy turned upside-down. But to those who are listening, He offers a philosophy of life that provides not only hope, but salvation as well.
What’s a four-letter word for a strong emotional reaction to difficulty? Some of you will say, “Fear.” Others may say, “Love.”
If you think about it for a moment, those are the two words that generally define how we respond to life situations. We respond either with fear or love. Jesus’ philosophy is based on love.
Now I know what many of you are thinking. That’s impossible! We can’t live like that. It demands too much of us. Who can love their enemies, do good to those who hate them, pray for those who mistreat them? I mean, besides Jesus. He certainly did each of those things. But can we? Can we love like Jesus loved? I believe we can. Maybe not perfectly, after all, we’re not Jesus. But we can do better than we’re doing.
We live in a fear-based world of anger and hate and vengeance. This is not something new, but it has grown significantly in the last few years. We don’t have to be like that. We don’t have to be like the rest of the world and hate everything that we disagree with. So, how do we find our way out of that kind of world? I know it sounds simplistic, but it’s also true. Our only hope is the love of Jesus Christ. 1 John 3:14 reads, “We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love each other. Anyone who does not love remains in death.”
Fear and hate and unforgiveness lead to retaliation, revenge, isolation, even war. They are all one-way streets that lead to spiritual and sometimes to actual death. Choosing to love over hate frees us from our ego and our fear and our pride. It frees us to be a force for life instead of death. You know the situation in the world today. Do you really see any other hope for the world than that the love of Jesus Christ will be revealed to all people? “Love isn’t how you feel. It’s what you do.” Loving our enemies, doing good to those who hate us, praying for those who speak evil of us, forgiving those who mistreat us frees us from the downward spiral of hate.
Ephesians 4:31-32 reads, “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”
“Get rid of all . . .” Not just some. Get rid of it all! Don’t hold on to a tiny crumb of bitterness or malice. It will grow into rage, anger, even separation and death. There’s a better way. Show your friends, neighbors, co-workers, everyone you meet the love of Jesus and let that love change the world.
That’s it. That’s the hope of the world. Jesus knew not everyone was going to listen to His teaching. The kind of love, generosity and mercy that He expected from His followers, it doesn’t make sense. It’s risky. It’s asking us to give up our rights and our pride and our comfort. And yet it’s the most powerful way possible for us to show the world that we belong to Christ. To love them until they ask us why.
So, I hope you will leave this room today with your GPS programmed. Not the GPS in your car or your phone, but the GPS in your head and heart. I pray that you have programmed it with the love of Jesus Christ. That way you will reliably represent Christ and make a difference in the world.