Like many others my heart aches with the news of yet another mass shooting in our country and with so many others we cry out ‘when will the madness stop’. Sadly, it probably won’t…at least it won’t until somehow we as a people learn that violence is never the answer to our problems, disagreements or conflicts.
Our former Nebraska Synod Bishop David deFreese often said ‘conflict is inevitable, war is optional’ and ‘we can disagree without being disagreeable’ yet too often in the face of things we disagree with or people that we are in conflict with, many (including Christians) see nothing wrong with being downright nasty in their disagree-ableness and seek to destroy those with whom they are in conflict. If you doubt me, take some time to read the comments under almost any story posted on the internet—or better yet, don’t, because honestly it’s too easy to get sucked in.
Such nastiness may be the way of the world, but as Christians, WE ARE CALLED TO BE DIFFERENT! Simply put--no matter how much you may disagree with someone, no matter how angry you may be at someone, no matter how much you may think someone else is in the wrong, no matter how much better you may think that you are to someone else—seeking to destroy another person whether physically, mentally or emotionally is counter to the very heart of our faith in Jesus Christ!
Jesus says quite plainly in Luke 6:27-31 “But I say to you that listen, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from anyone who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt…do to others as you would have them do to you.”
In other words, there is no place for any type of behaviors or words that seek to destroy someone else. NONE!!!! We are called to love, even those with whom we are in conflict. Now love as Jesus speaks of it here, does not mean some sort of feeling of great fondness for another, but rather refers to how we act to one another or as Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 13 “Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.” Notice that none of these ways of love requires one to have a great depth of fondness for the other person—it’s all about how we treat one another.
So, my friends in Christ, let us dare to be different from the world. Let us seek to live out God’s love in our world, one relationship at a time. It will not be easy, and we will need to create space in our hearts and minds for God’s Holy Spirit to fill us with his love so that it might overflow from us to those around us—but if we desire for a different type of world than the one we saw displayed in the news last night, then it needs to begin with us.
O God, in the face of yet another mass shooting, we open ourselves to your Spirit that we might be filled and transformed with your love, so that we might show the world a better way. Lord, in your mercy…hear our prayer.
“A crowd was sitting around him; and they said to him, ‘Your mother and your brothers and sisters are outside, asking for you.’ And he replied, ‘Who are my mother and brothers?’ And looking at those who sat around him, he said, ‘Here are my mother and my brother. Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.’” Mark 3:35
With these words, Jesus redefines what it means to be family. For Jesus, family is not so much about blood lines or having the same last name, as it is about doing the will of God—not just knowing God’s will, but doing God’s will. And since we know that one way we do God’s will is to follow Jesus’ example of love and service; in my sermon on Sunday, I issued a challenge to the congregation—that is, to serve someone other than a relative—it didn’t have to be anything big—a simple note to someone who could use a word of encouragement, pulling weeds in a neighbor’s yard, forgiving that person who had hurt you, instead of responding in kind.
Tim Muldoon on his blog ‘Dot Magis’ writes, “How many are the moments in which we can be Christ for others!...Perhaps next to you, perhaps now reading your e-mail, perhaps sleeping next to you, perhaps in the cubicle next to yours, perhaps on the other end of the classroom, perhaps on the playing field, is someone whom Christ must touch right now. And perhaps yours are the only hands, the only voice, the only smile, the only embrace, the only look that he can use to touch his beloved. Be alert!...Trust yourself to God, and he will act.”
So, will you accept the challenge and be open to the Spirit’s prompting? Will you be Christ’s hands and feet?
Gracious Spirit, give me eyes to see those around me and their need this day and then give me the courage to be your hands and feet—to share your love for them by loving and serving them. Amen.