Sunday, June 15, 2008

"Living in the Community of Love"

The title of my post is taken from the message that I heard today at the church that I have been visiting.

The pastor there has been teaching on the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7, and today the text from the Sermon was Matthew 7:1-12. To be completely honest, I don't remember if I've ever before heard a message - much less a whole series of messages - completely focused on the Sermon on the Mount. My thoughts on why that is....well, that's a whole 'nother blog post. I'll get back to my main point.

Just as I was incredibly encouraged the last time I was able to visit this church two weeks ago, the message today really spoke to my heart and encouraged me and pointed me toward the Lord. I've noticed at this church that there is a very real and tangible focus on showing people - no matter who they are or what they believe - the love of God.

This focus was very much translated in the message today, which revolved around Matthew 7:12 "Do to others as you would have them do to you." One point really hit me while the pastor was giving the introduction to this passage. Jesus here, unlike so many philosophers before and after Him, isn't saying NOT to do things we don't want people to do to us. He takes it a step further than that - He is calling us to actively go out and LOVE people. I'd never understood vs. 12 of Matthew 7 that way before.

For a long time God has been teaching me about this very thing, about the importance of simply loving people, so it is always amazing and wonderful for me when I realize over and over again "oh wait, there's ANOTHER verse that is teaching that!" I feel like I'm reading the Word with new eyes, with blinders removed, as God has finally "gotten through" to me, and I KNOW that He loves me and desires a relationship with me. I have so much further to go in my walk with Him, He is unfathomable! It's incredible to think that there can never cease being more to learn about Him. It's a little daunting at times, but I know there is absolutely nothing I can do that will ever make me "unreachable" by Him.

That reminds me of another point that the pastor made in his message today. When we judge other people, we are making a personal conclusion regarding where they are at before God. If we ever "give up" on someone, we are essentially saying "God, this person is never going to change. You could never get through to them, you're not strong enough."

First of all, how could we know whether or not a person is "unchangeable"? Secondly, God is obviously strong enough - and LOVING enough - to get through to anyone, no matter who they are, what they believe, or how hard their heart is.

The contrast between the sawdust and the plank was also touched on in the message, and the difference between going after someone's eye with a chainsaw, or with "correction in the spirit of eye surgery."

What would it be like if people didn't feel like they had to protect themselves from Christians? What would the world be like if Christians just loved people?"

Ultimately, the entirety of the message was wrapped in the end by pointing back to God, how living this way - living the spirit of His Kingdom - can never be done in our strength. I can't at this moment figure out a better way to put the following, so here's what I wrote in my notes this morning at the end of the message:

We don't have the strength to do any of this on our own. The desire to love the Kingdom of God keeps us on our knees. The best way we can demonstrate "eye surgery" is through prayer.

So - both generally speaking and in this "Community of Love" - how do I want to be treated?

I don't want to be put in a box; I desire grace and mercy; I know that in my own weakness I need prayer. I am a child of God, that is my identity in Christ, He loves me unconditionally and I want to be treated that way. With this as the case, through my Father's power, I need to treat others the same way. Praying for others, giving my requests to Him, petitioning for His strength and mercy and love. Trusting Him to give me the strength and power to love people as the humanity that He loves and the individuals that He desperately desires relationship with.

How do you desire to be treated? How does this influence your understanding of what God desires in how you relate to and treat others?

Another thing I realized today - Jesus completely understands how selfish we all are. We already think about ourselves already, that's why He put it in the terms that He did. The focus always ultimately revolves around Him though, despite our selfishness. The only way we can live the way outlined in the entire Sermon on the Mount, not just in this passage, is through losing ourselves in Him, which will begin to happen practically without us realizing it when we are looking to and focused on Him; on what He did for us; on the Father's amazing and unconditional love for us. As I said before, He is unfathomable! How can our self, our flesh, NOT be swallowed up in who He is, in what He desires for us?

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