Thursday, June 10, 2010

Witness to the World as Jesus Witnessed to Us.

"Give to everyone who asks of you. And from him who takes away your goods do not ask them back. And just as you want men to do to you, you also do to them likewise. But if you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. And if you lend to those from whom you hope to receive back, what credit is that to you? For even sinners lend to sinners to receive as much back. But love your enemies, do good, and lend, hoping for nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High. For He is kind to the unthankful and evil. Therefore be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful." (Luke 6:30-36)

Christian love is giving to others those things that you would want them to give you if you were in their situation. It is doing so even if they cannot pay you back. In fact, it is doing so especially if they cannot pay you back! Christian love is respect for others. It is mercy. It is charity.

When the Scripture translators came upon the Greek word agape (God's Love), in addition to using the English word "love" to transliterate it, they often chose the English word "charity." This was meant to reinforce the idea that agape is a selfless, giving love. God's Love is unselfish and unconditional. Now we know what is meant by Christian love. Now we know what to strive for. True Christian charity is a dying to self.

When the good you do is spoken of as evil, when your wishes are crossed, your advice disregarded, your opinion ridiculed, and you refuse to let anger rise in your heart or even defend yourself, but take it all in patient, loving silence; that is true Christian charity, you have died to self.

When you lovingly and patiently bear any disorder, any irregularity, any annoyance; when you can stand face to face with waste, folly, extravagance, spiritual insensibility, and endure it as Jesus did; that is true Christian love, you have died to self.

Therefore, what can the Christian community offer our polarized society? One of the greatest problems facing Christianity today is political anger. What can we, as Christians in our various faith communities, contribute to a society which is bitterly divided on so many issues? Some scholars and community leaders worry that people are so divided that violence may become a more common response to conflict than nonviolent protest, civil disobedience or even traditional forms of negotiations.

However, I think this can be a time of great opportunity for the Christian church to witness, perhaps not in the way in which we might think. Our greatest witness may not be in taking one position or another. Like the world around us, the Christian church is divided on many of the same issues. Just to name a few: abortion, euthanasia, sexual orientation, race, constitutional issues such as school prayer. I do not think there will be easy or immediate answers to these questions for the church or for society.

However, I do believe that in the midst of such difficult times there is a contribution that we can make. As the Apostle Paul says in the letter to the Corinthians, we can show "a more excellent way to live." We can demonstrate how to deal with differences while maintaining a sense of community. We can engage in deeply felt conflicts without destroying one another.

Jesus never said that to be a follower of his, you must agree with one another, he said that you must love one another.
Being a Christian community doesn't mean that we will agree on all issues. It means that we will disagree with charity for one another. We will treat everyone with compassion, respect, forgiveness, and patience. Witness to the world just as Jesus has witnessed to us. Being Christian is not just a religious practice, it is following the way of Jesus in every detail of our lives and witnessing our faith and love for Jesus by our Christian love for one another.

Peace and love,


"Be still and know that I am God"(Psalm 46:10)

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