Matthew 5:43-48The Message (MSG)
43-47 “You’re familiar with the old written law, ‘Love your friend,’ and its unwritten companion, ‘Hate your enemy.’ I’m challenging that. I’m telling you to love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer, for then you are working out of your true selves, your God-created selves. This is what God does. He gives his best—the sun to warm and the rain to nourish—to everyone, regardless: the good and bad, the nice and nasty. If all you do is love the lovable, do you expect a bonus? Anybody can do that. If you simply say hello to those who greet you, do you expect a medal? Any run-of-the-mill sinner does that.
48 “In a word, what I’m saying is, Grow up. You’re kingdom subjects. Now live like it. Live out your God-created identity. Live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward you.”
This is what makes Jesus a radical. He calls us to a radical love. A love that is not easy, but actually can be quite difficult. Just because it is difficult and hard to understand doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do it. If we are looking for excuses to dehumanize people, I think we are finding excuses to live in sin. We are called to love all and embody the grace of Jesus, no matter what may come at us, and maybe especially if persecution comes. The early church grew in massive numbers and power when they were under a greater persecution than anything we can even imagine. Are we so busy crying that things are unfair that we miss the opportunity to love those that don’t look, act, or believe like we do? We need to bring a revolution of love and grace back to the church. And this doesn’t mean we shy away from hard conversations, but that we actually embrace them because it is the loving thing to do, but we always always always start with love and relationship before anything else.
As a leader and pastor I am constantly thinking of the culture I am living in, and the culture I am creating. I think about the culture I live in so that I can communicate a clear message that transcends culture. I want to communicate clearly who Jesus is, and in order to do so I must be able to communicate in a way that is understandable to those around me. If it’s not understood, it can’t be internalized, if it can’t be internalized, then it was last. I must understand my audience, and know who they are.
At the same time organizationally speaking, we have a culture. In our culture people often speak a different language, have different world views, and have different expectations. My role is to help shape that culture. For example, I always want to make sure we have a culture that is serving our community, and being generous toward missionaries to serve around the world. I must set that tone. I do that by teaching, doing, and setting an example of how. For me to neglect these things is to push them out of our culture. It takes deep intentionality to set culture.
Culture is even important on the family level. How do you raise your children? How do you speak to your spouse? How do you want your children to treat others? This flows from the culture of your family. How do you set that culture?
The question becomes first, what culture do you live in? What is the goal of your ministry, organization, or family? This is critical to know what the larger culture is, and then to decide what the culture and tone you desire to set are.
“What God has done for us, we should expect Him to do for others. Like Ananias, we hold the sins of a “Paul” against him. We doubt the call of God on the life of one who has erred. But would God treat Paul differently than Matthew? Why do we expect God to have less grace on others than He has had on us? Let us trust God to choose His vessels. Then let us lay down our lives to bless them, pray for them, and rejoice over them when they exceed us in usefulness to the kingdom.”
The quote above is written by Dick Brogden in his year long devotional called Live | Dead Joy, and is referencing stories in Acts 9 and Matthew 9. This paragraph hit me the other morning as I was reading. As a Christian it is easy for me to get stuck in this idea that people have to have things together before they can serve or belong. It’s easy to be judgmental toward others and their current situation. To be honest, over the past few weeks I’ve had quite a few judgmental thoughts come to mind. Judging people for where they are at, and the decisions they are making. But guess what, I’m wrong.
I’m completely wrong. It’s so wrong of me to judge someone where they are at, especially if I’m not willing to do some hard work and help them out. This is what I love about Jesus. He calls us to follow Him in the midst of a messy life, and yet He doesn’t leave us alone. He comes along side us, grows us, and sets us out on His mission.
I’m reminded of a prayer a friend prayed for me years ago when he said, “God, may Adam never forget what it was like before He knew you.” If we always remember where we came from, we’ll have a better outlook of where others are currently at, and we won’t judge their situation.
Let’s love people better!? Are you with me? Forget being judgmental, and let’s just be a friend to those around us. And yes sometimes being a friend means callings things out when people don’t see it, but that’s not judging, that’s being a good friend.