Sunday, February 27, 2011

Loving God and Loving Others

After the initial warm-up remarks, the announcements included the following:
1. There will be an Ash Wednesday service on March 9 here at the church, with no Adventure Club or youth group that evening.
2. VBS is a ways off, but summer will be here before we know it and Brooke is gathering volunteers to help now.
3. Covenant Park is a great resource our church has available and it's not too early to begin planning your summer. Cheryl Borndal has registration forms.
4. A building project meeting is scheduled for Monday at 6:00 p.m. Bring an appetite because there will be pizza.

The Quartet+Levi began the worship time with "Teach Me, Lord" and then led us in a set of choruses from the silver song book. They also sang during the offering that followed, always nice.

Jeff Larson read Matthew 6:24-34 and then Brad led us in a time of prayer, which was followed by the message.

Loving God and Loving Others

Brad began by noting that relationships are hard. All of us have relationship issues. It may be a co-worker, a family member, spouses, neighbors or even friends.

Not only are relationships challenging, but today's passage of Scripture is also challenging, as it talks about adultery, lust, gouging out eyes, turning the other cheek when being struck, and more. "So with the time we have remaining, I'd like to read the text and then we'll close in prayer," he said.

It was a light-hearted entrance into the theme, but by the end of the message it was apparent to all that this was a section of the Sermon on the Mount that has some serious things to say.

Ultimately, the easiest way to sum up the whole of the law of God is to recognize that it is a law of love. Love God and love one another. But life has ways of tripping us up.

The passage is Matthew 5:21-48 which covers a lot of familiar territory: murder, adultery, divorce and more.

Pastor Brad noted that there is a sequence in sin. Sin doesn't just happen. And Jesus zeroes in on it through these well known commandments. How does it happen? It's like a string of dominoes and when the first one tips, the rest are set in motion. Verses 27 & 28 show that murder begins in the heart. It begins with an attitude.

Adultery, too, doesn't just happen. We live in a culture that bombards us with sexual imagery. By allowing our minds to fixate on sexual fantasy, we have set in motion the actions that will trip us up. Brad pointed out that this is an equal opportunity issue that affects young and old, male and female.

Jesus then makes a hard prescription. "If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell." Is the Bible telling us to gouge out our eyes? To cut off our hands? No, the Lord is making a point. This is a serious issue and if one is to find freedom from sin, one needs to take drastic action.

The truth is, you can still cut off your hand and pluck out your eye and still have lust in your heart. What is that drastic step for you?

Another tough section follows, the matter of divorce. Divorce was never God's intent. But what Brad pointed out that is significant is that there is a relationship between all these sections of the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus' discussion of divorce should not be divorced from the preceding paragraph on adultery, or the one before that addressing murder. These are dominoes, beginning with an attitude in the heart that leads to hatred, loss of intimacy, lust and ultimately the violation of one's (wedding) vows. It's not by chance that Jesus deals with adultery in the next breath after addressing murder.

When Jesus says, "Do not break your oaths. Let your yes be yes and your no be no," He again goes deeper than that. People say they will swear on a stack of Bibles that what they said is true or whatever, but why? They are trying to manipulate others to buy in to their interpretation of the facts. Jesus says that kingdom people are not concerned with spinning or stretching the truth, or manipulating others. They have integrity, and their word is good.

At this point Brad shared a number of lame excuses he has heard people give over the years when they want out of their marriages. You can see how all of these sections are intertwined not isolated points in the sermon. Jesus says, "Keep your oaths."

Brad then turned to verse 38, leading into a most misunderstood passage. "“You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you."

Is Jesus saying that if you live with an abuser and they strike you in the cheek you're supposed to just turn the other and let them whack you again? Or if you're being sued for your car you should throw in the house as well? Or if your drug addict nephew is asking for money you should give it to him?

Brad said that Jesus is not setting down laws here. He is using illustrations of what kingdom people might do in certain situations because they go against the culture. The culture says, "When you're hit, hit back." Jesus says there are alternatives.

The real issue is this: Am I becoming the kind of person Jesus wants me to be?

The kicker verse in this whole section is verses 43-44: “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."

The law of love is the basic kingdom rule. It begins with having your attitude right. The general law of the kingdom is learning how to apply it in every and any situation we're in in like. What do our actions look like when we apply the law of love. To be like Jesus is to be a loving servant. That's why you find Him spending time with children in the midst of a busy day. Or washing the feet of His disciples, and giving His life on a cross.

Jesus still goes further. "Be perfect as your heavenly father is perfect." Jesus doesn't call us to do what He did on the cross. But He does call us to be saturated with His kind of love.

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