Saturday, February 19, 2011

The Hard Sayings of Jesus, by Pastor Ed Evans

Scripture: Matthew 5:38-48

5:38 "You have heard that it was said, 'An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.'
5:39 But I say to you, Do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also;
5:40 and if anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give your cloak as well;
5:41 and if anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile.
5:42 Give to everyone who begs from you, and do not refuse anyone who wants to borrow from you.
5:43 "You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.'
5:44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,
5:45 so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous.
5:46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?
5:47 And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?
5:48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

Sometimes commitment hurts. But if life were easy, why bother? Why would we be here if there were no challenges to overcome? If commitments didn't cost us something. If love didn't have a price?
Fair warning. I'm going to "step out from behind the pulpit", where it's safe to talk about Christ, and I'm going to talk about Christ and life, Christ and you and me and the future, Christ and politics.
The first two never cause a ripple. That last one -- Christ and politics -- sets some people's hair on fire. In fact, we're told from childhood that if we want to keep our friends, never talk religion and politics. So I'm crossing both barriers in this sermon.
Fortunately for me and my status, I have no 501C3 or charitable rating to endanger with the IRS. So I can speak freely. And I intend to.
We are moving into the fertile arena of another presidential election. Already the electioneering is beginning. For some, honestly, it never stopped. But the principle people, such as President Barack Obama, are stepping up their campaigning even at this early date.
Note how those who are serious about this coming election are seeming to move to the center, where most of the voters will be. There are extremists on the right and on the left who will not be swayed regardless of what candidates say. But those in the center, they may still move left or right, or be convinced that this candidate or that candidate is a centrist, after all.
Which is to say, a supreme selling job is about to be enacted on all of us. How will we react?
How did Christ react when people needed healing?
He healed them. We cannot do that, but we can hold them up to Christ in prayer to be healed. We can do that.
How did Christ react to people in need?
He provided for them; loaves and fishes for the hungry; wine for the wedding.
We might be able to do that, depending on our resources. Otherwise, we hold their needs up to Christ in prayer. We can do that.
How did Christ react to people who dishonored Almighty God?
He took a whip and he drove them from the House of God, the Temple.
Be careful now. Don't jump to any conclusions too quickly.
First of all, our churches are no long houses of God, but where we worship God. Paul pointed out that our bodies are now the temple of God. So if we would drive out that which dishonors God, we might want to begin with ourselves.
But yes, there is a great deal more that dishonors God than just ourselves and what we do, or what we neglect to do. And I'm not recommending we take a cat-o-nine tails to them, although I must confess that when I see and read what some unprincipled politicians do that so adversely affects the integrity and the morality of this nation, the thought crosses my mind.
Supporting and providing resources to murder millions of innocent babies is one of things they do that I cannot stand. The siphoning of off resources to support such blatant evil, and the manner in which those innocent children die, I admit my eyes are awash with tears every time I read of it, every time I think of it.
I wish we would forget the word "abortion" call it what it is, child-killing, baby killing, infanticide. The deaths of so many tiny gifts of God, whose angels are continually before God, each moment, each day, forever, this is a bleeding sore on the face of America, home of the free, because of the brave.
Among our elected representatives, there are those feathering their own nest as they provide luxuries only for those who elected them, while piling debt upon debt on the shoulders of those yet unborn.
Many of our elected, who have sworn to uphold the Constitution of the United States of America, need to read the wording of what they have sworn, before Almighty God, to uphold.
But if they choose not to, as they have repeatedly in the past, if they choose to follow their own personal and political agendas, what can the followers of Jesus Christ do about it? Shall we hold with this political party, or that political party, or start our own political party? Bearing the name and practices of Jesus Christ, what can we do?
When Jesus walked this earth, He was born into a very hard and cruel society. The Jews were under the political thumb of the Romans, a very harsh lifestyle to be endured.
Whose cause did He support? Was it that of the Romans? The Pharisees? The Sadducees?
He supported God's cause. Was that the wise thing to do? After all, He was crucified for His stand, by the Romans, and under the approval of the Pharisees and Sadducees.
Take notice, the Romans are long gone. The Pharisees and the Sadducees have disappeared from this earth.
God is still here. The Christ lives. We have the Holy Spirit as He promised.
What can we, who worship God in spirit and in truth, do except walk in the footsteps of our Lord and Savior?
How could we not uphold the truths and the principles of Almighty God? How could we not insist on integrity, ethics and morals from those we elect to represent us? How could we ever explain to God Almighty why we have put into power those who actively work against the cause of Christ?
But be careful, there are many causes, associations, groups forming even now who are quick to take a stand against the evil that is happening in America, but do it for reasons and with methods that are outside of Christ. This nation was begun on Godly principles, and it cannot be returned to "one nation under God" without adhering to those same Godly principles.
The schools, the hospitals, the colleges, the charitable organizations of early America, all begun by Christians. But over time we have lost Christ's influence in our society, with many wrongs done in His name, and many wrongs perpetrated by those who worship idols and false gods. Christianity is not merely something we do on Sundays to put on a good front, Christianity is lived every moment of every day, or what we are practicing is a false religion.
That great Christian Gilbert K. Chesterton once said, "Christianity has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult, and not tried." How do we dare assert that ours is a Christian nation, and not demand that our elected representatives conduct themselves Christ-like on our behalf?
G.K. Chesterton's wisdom also extended to the observation that "God probably told us to love our neighbors and our enemies because they are the same people."
I bring up his quote here because I want to point out the gap between how we often conduct ourselves in political matters, and today's scripture. Somehow when we begin discussing politics and politicians, the anger and self-righteousness come to the fore, and we forget what Christ told us in Matthew 5:38-48.
What about not resisting evil doers, turning the other cheek, giving them your cloak when they take your coat, and going the extra mile? Can we love those who persecute us and despitefully use us?
What is Christ telling us here? Conduct ourselves as Christians, in His name. Did Christ strike out at those who beat him, spit upon Him, bloodied and misused Him?
No, He did not. We are to conduct ourselves as Christians, not as those who make fun of those we believe to be the enemies of Christ, not name-calling, not humorous but cruel caricatures, not trading insult for insult, not striking back. "Vengeance is mine," says Almighty God in Romans 12:19, and He will repay.
We are to act Christlike, for we bear His name, and we walk in His steps.
But walking in His steps, do we support evil? No. Do we work for that which is good and kind and Christlike? Yes.
Can we equivocate and support those who are 90 percent well-meaning, but 10 percent for condoning evil? No.
Can we support those who believe you must work with evil to find a middle ground? No.
You are either 100 percent for the things of God, for that which is Christlike, or you stand with the enemies of God. There is no middle ground. There is no room for "a little bit of evil" on holy ground. That's a choice you and I must make.
Joshua spoke for many of us when he said very clearly in Joshua 24:15: "But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”
The Israelites had become infested with the idol gods of many other nations, just as America today is filled with the religions of many different lands and peoples, and we have whored after them for this favor and that, this benefit and that, and lost sight of the Living God in favor of idol worship; sports figures, money, fame, fortune, beauty, and things.
In the previous verse, Joshua urged the people to " Throw away the gods of your ancestors..." Get rid of the humanistic worship of self that grows among us and get back to God. He has neither moved nor changed who He is.
If we would say with Joshua today, "...We will serve the Lord...", then we need to get back to worshipping God and supporting only those who represent us in our government who also represent the integrity, the ethics, and the morals of God Almighty. Really, that isn't as hard as it might seem, when we stand in the love of God and refuse to accept any substitutes. If you love Him, stand for God. Amen.

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