SER # 8W
FIRST UMC – NEBRASKA CITY
SUNDAY FEBRRUARY 23RD 2020
TEXTS: MATTHEW 5: 38 – 48
THEME: CHRISTIAN LIVING VIRTUES.
This the Sunday we call the Sunday of Transfiguration, which simply means that Jesus body transformed. “He was transformed in front of them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes become as white as light” (Matthew 17: 2).
We are called to live a life that is a gospel to the world. A lion in the wilderness will live a lion life but if it is put in the Zoo that is a different story. Any animal in the natural environment will live a life that it was meant to live. When we turn our lives and become Christians the expectation is to live that Christian life as Jesus taught us through his words in the bible. Jesus was basing this passage from a Jewish law that existed in regards to forgiveness. The practice might seem off in our today understanding of the same. Take for example where Jesus said, if someone hits on your right cheek give him the left cheek. Given that most people are right-handed the only way a person can hit your right cheek is by using the back of his right hand. Now according to the Rabbinic Tradition if someone hit you with the back of their hand was a double insult. Therefore, giving that people the other side (your left) would be less insulting. It also meant that the one you use the back of your hand was a weaker one not an equal. (A joke is told of a Muslim and a Christian where a Christian was slapped by a Muslim on the right cheek and the Christian slapped him back. The Muslim said according to the bible the Christian brother should have given another cheek, but the Christian brother said the Muslim used the wrong hand to slap his right cheek and that is why he slap him back). We have to be reminded here that Jesus was interpreting the old law in a way that it should have been in the first place. Just law is supposed to protect the people and is supposed to be implemented by the court and judges. Therefore, Jesus was telling the listeners that the law we live by everyday is different from what we see practiced in the law court. Jesus wanted people to practice mercy when they are wronged rather than wanting to get even. Jesus wants us Christians, to aspire to be Christ-like:
- In character: Work toward acting and living a life that is Christ like.
- In Holiness: Devoted to God’s desires and not ours and carry God’s love and mercy to the world.
- In maturity: As a child grows from a baby- child, teenager- adult our faith journey is the same. We start as babies in faith and feed on God’s word. Then we grow spiritually each day. Our action should show our growth in Jesus.
- In love: Seek to love others as Christ loves them. We strive each day to grow towards perfection (1 John 3:2, 3).
Christian living therefore is not easy and requires some conscious decisions every day. I believe there are four areas that we can examine as we aspire to live a Christian life. Therefore, the virtues of Christian living are guided by:
- Spirit of Forgiving: This means that we called not to avenge for what is done to us. Vengeance belongs to God. Romans 12:19 “Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay, says the Lord”. The spirit of forgiving calls us to submission and invites us not to be selfish. When we chose to forgive is not because the people who have wronged us have asked for forgiveness but rather because it is the right thing to do. In forgiving we are setting ourselves free from the bondage of anger within our hearts. Always not desire to keep a score but rather to love and forgive. Keeping score is one of the human weakness that makes us stay held in our past and to never heal from the hurt that we experienced. All this is possible by help of God gives us strength.
- Spirit of Sharing: Giving to those who are in need as well as those who may not ask but you can tell that they are in need. Sharing requires to believe that God will always be our provider. It also reminds us what we have belongs to God and we are invited to share. The basic rule for us as believers is to remember that we are blessed so that we can be a blessing to others. We are blessed so that we can be a blessing to others. God gives us different talent so that we can use them to bless others. We can bless others in many ways like: speaking kind words, listening, volunteering in our community, giving to charity sharing tangible items like clothes, food.
- Spirit of Loving: The love that Jesus is proposing here is the hard one. Loving our enemies. But we need to define who are our enemies? I believe each one us can come with their own definition what enemy means to them. This year of election you will get to hear a lot about enemies of the people. But to me an enemy is any person who actively seek to do bad things to us. Someone who is happy when we are in trouble. Love invites us to build relationships not only to our friends but those who are not. It is in doing this that we will be working towards being Christ like. Jesus was accused of eating with sinners and healing those who were meant not to be healed. We are called to carry God’s love and mercy to the whole world. We have to remember that we are not asked to turn enemies to friends. We keep loving them even when they still stay enemies. To love our enemies does not mean that we suddenly become friends. Unless you have enemies, you have no one to love. Jesus knew that his audience knew the rule of love as it pertains to loving their neighbors as required in the book of Leviticus. “Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against your people, but love your neighbor as yourself I am the LORD” (Leviticus 19:18). We love our enemies because Jesus said so, and the second reason to love our enemies is because Jesus loved us first. We were not perfect.
- Spirit of Prayer: We are called to pray for those who persecute us. When Jesus said these words someone might have said, ‘Jesus you must be kidding.’ How do we pray for those who persecute us? But as hard as it might sound this is our Christian journey. When Jesus was crucified the first prayer offered to the people was that of forgiveness. We have to separate ourselves from the worldly sinful values. Our tendency to sin should not deter us from striving to be Christlike. Christ is calling us to grow up and do what is right. As a believer we will be persecuted in different ways and we have to know that our call is to be above those who persecute us or those who do not so good things to us. Prayer is the best weapon that able to defeat our enemy without spilling any blood. When we offer prayers, we are inviting Jesus to use his ow ways to reach to the people that are hurting us. God, through Jesus Christ demonstrated the power of prayer and what that prayer can do to dismantle the works of the evil one.