In his book The 48 Laws of Power, Robert Greene tells of a speech Abraham Lincoln delivered at the height of the Civil War. In it, Lincoln referred to Southerners as fellow human beings who were in error. An elderly lady chastised him for not calling them irreconcilable enemies who must be destroyed.
“Why, madam,” Lincoln replied, “do I not destroy my enemies when I make them my friends?”
The unexpected and innovative design of Christian life is to overcome evil with good, instead of fighting evil with evil. If our enemies are hungry, we feed them. If they are thirsty, we give them something to drink. In the end, we destroy our enemies by turning them into friends.
The apostle Paul challenges us to do the opposite of what people expect of us, blessing instead of cursing. He invites us to live according to the values of the kingdom of God, instead of the values of the world. And he encourages us to conquer our enemies with kindness.
Yes, there is evil in the world, and Paul knows it. “But God’s people are to meet it in the way that even God met it, with love and generous goodness,” says N.T. Wright. God knows that “the way to overthrow evil, rather than perpetuating it, is to take its force and give back goodness instead.” That’s what Jesus did on the cross, and what we are challenged to do in daily acts of love and sacrifice.peace and joyPastor Wendy
This coming week we will read from Romans, where Paul applies the teachings of Jesus in his teachings in the newly formed (or not yet formed) early churches in Rome.
Love should be shown without pretending.
Hate evil, and hold on to what is good.
Love each other like the members of your family.
Be the best at showing honor to each other.
Don’t hesitate to be enthusiastic—be on fire in the Spirit as you serve the Lord!
Be happy in your hope, stand your ground when you’re in trouble, and devote yourselves to prayer.
Contribute to the needs of God’s people, and welcome strangers into your home.
Bless people who harass you—bless and don’t curse them.
Be happy with those who are happy, and cry with those who are crying.
Consider everyone as equal, and don’t think that you’re better than anyone else. Instead, associate with people who have no status.
Don’t think that you’re so smart.
Don’t pay back anyone for their evil actions with evil actions, but show respect for what everyone else believes is good.
These are just a few verses in chapter 12 - but they take a life-time to digest. So do not hurry through them.
These verses are pretty contradictory to the way our society is acting towards one another today, making these verses some of the most difficult to follow through with.
Yesterday I was playing a board game with my grandsons, and as they were explaining the directions to me, I was quite taken aback when they explained how, if one person "dies" everyone dies and the game is over. Most games have a winner and loser, and your goal is to win. In this game there was hope for everyone to win together. I liked that game!
How can we live life with the hope of everyone winning together?peace and joyPastor Wendy
One of the analogies that’s kind of been helpful to me is the difference between a motorboat, a raft, and a sailboat.
In a motorboat I’m in charge. I determine how fast we’re going to go, and in what direction. Some people approach spiritual life that way. If I’m just aggressive enough, if I have enough quiet times, I can make transformation happen on my own. Usually that results in people becoming legalistic, then pride starts to creep in, and things get all messed up.
Some people have been burned by that kind of approach. So they go to the opposite extreme and will say, “I’m into grace.” It’s like they’re floating on a raft. If you ask them to do anything to further their growth, they’ll say, “Hey, no. I’m not into works. I’m into grace. You’re getting legalistic with me.” So they drift. There are way too many commands in Scripture for anybody to think that we’re called to be passive.
On a sailboat, however, I don’t move if it’s not for the wind. My only hope of movement is the wind. I can’t control the wind. I don’t manufacture the wind. Jesus talks about the Spirit blowing like the wind. But there is a role for me to play, and part of it has to do with what I need to discern.
A good sailor will discern, Where’s the wind at work? How should I set the sails? Spiritual formation is like sailing.
—John Ortberg, “Holy Tension: Creating and seizing opportunities for spiritual transformation.” The Leadership Interview with John Ortberg. Leadership Journal, Winter 2004.
An ethical dilemma:
You’re driving along in your car on a wild, stormy night. You pass by a bus stop, and you see three people waiting for the bus:
1. An old lady who looks as if she is about to die.
2. Your best friend who once saved your life.
3. The perfect woman/man you have been dreaming about all your life.
There can only be one passenger in your car, and you can’t return to the bus stop once you have left it. Which one would you choose to offer a ride?
Think before you continue reading. This is a moral/ethical dilemma that was once used on an employment questionnaire.
You could pick up the old lady, because she is going to die, and thus you should save her first; or you could take your best friend because he once saved your life, and this would be the perfect chance to pay him back. However, you may never be able to find your perfect dream lover again.
The candidate who was hired (out of 200 applicants) had no trouble coming up with his answer. What did he say?
He said, “I would give the car keys to my old friend and let him take the old lady to the hospital. I would stay behind and wait for the bus with the woman of my dreams.
How often do we think to ask for help from friends?
Toughen up and do it alone – or join together with friends.
How we move through life has serious consequences.peace and joyPastor Wendy
Our Gospel passage for this coming week is Mark 2:1-5
I will share some stories and thoughts with you throughout this week to help us think deeply about this text.
Don't Wait for the Brick
The touching story of how a busy exec learned what real life is all about teaches us to slow down our life before our life slows us down.
We’re moving too fast and making too much noise to perceive the gentle voice of God. With windows rolled up, stereos cranked and engines roaring, we have little chance of hearing anything ... but the sickening sound of a mortar-crusted missile.
A young and successful executive was traveling down a neighborhood street, going a bit too fast in his new Jaguar S-Type Sedan. Who could blame him, with his Jag boasting a 3-liter, 6-cylinder, 240-horsepower engine, with 5-speed automatic transmission? He was watching for kids darting out from between parked cars, however, and slowed down when he thought he saw something.
As his car passed, no children appeared. Instead, a brick smashed into the Jag’s side door! He slammed on the brakes and spun the Jag back to the spot from where the brick had been thrown.
He jumped out of the car, grabbed a kid with a buzz cut and wearing tattered cargo pants and pushed him up against a parked car, shouting, “What was that all about and who are you? Just what the heck are you doing?”
Building up a head of steam, he went on. “That’s a new car and that brick you threw is going to cost a lot of money. Why did you do it?”
“Please, take it easy. I’m sorry, I didn’t know what else to do,” pleaded the youngster. “I threw the brick because no one else would stop.” Tears were dripping down the boy’s chin as he pointed around the parked car. “It’s my brother,” he said. “He rolled off the curb and fell out of his wheelchair, and I can’t lift him up.” Sobbing, the boy asked the executive, “Would you please help me get him back into his wheelchair? He’s hurt and he’s too heavy for me.”
Deeply moved, the driver tried to swallow the rapidly swelling lump in his throat. He lifted the young man back into the wheelchair and took out his handkerchief and wiped the scrapes and cuts, checking to see that everything was going to be okay. “Thank you,” the grateful child said to him.
The man then watched the little boy push his brother down the sidewalk toward their home. It was a long walk back to his Jaguar ... a long, slow walk. He never did repair the side door. He kept the dent to remind him not to go through life so fast that someone has to throw a brick at you to get your attention.
God whispers in your soul and speaks to your heart. Sometimes when you don’t have time to listen, he has to throw a brick at you.
It’s your choice, each and every day: Listen to the whisper - or wait for the brick. The four friends in today’s gospel account heard the whisper, which is why they took the drastic action they did. They learned that a healer named Jesus was in the town of Capernaum, so they put a paralyzed friend on a mat and carried him to Jesus’ house. When they arrived, however, they found that the house was packed, and the crowd was spilling out into the street. There was simply no way that they could elbow their way inside, especially with the human load they were carrying. So they grabbed some bricks of their own to get the attention of the others. Climbing to the roof of the house, they punched a hole through the roof and lowered the paralyzed man down on his mat. When Jesus saw their faith, he proclaimed to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” Then he said to the man, “Stand up, take your mat and go to your home.” And he stood up, picked up his mat and walked out through the front door, amazing everyone in the house.
God whispered in the souls of those four friends and spoke to their hearts. He inspired them to seek out Jesus, using whatever means necessary, and to trust him to heal their paralyzed friend. When the foursome dug through the roof, Jesus looked up at their dusty faces and saw their faith shining through.
Would he see the same in us?