So much of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount was about creating a whole community of God, the kingdom of God. In The Beatitudes, Jesus blesses the poor in spirit, those who mourn, the meek(or unimportant), those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, the merciful, the peacemakers and even those who are persecuted.[Matthew 5:3-10] He goes on to say that we are to be “the light of the world,” to let our light shine everywhere.[v.14-16] And this about anger: “Who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment.” [v. 22] And our attitude to an evil person is to be this: do “not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps on the right cheek, turn them the other cheek also.” [v. 38-39] If someone wants your shirt, “hand over your coat as well.” [v. 40] And do more, go farther than one is asked, say two miles, “if anyone forces you to go one mile.” [v.41] And more: “give to one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.” [v.42]
Jesus is going far beyond our usual condensation of these teachings to be nice and kind to people. At the end of Matthew 5 He expands on the “love your neighbor-and-hate-your enemy rule to declare this: “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than the others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” [v. 43-48]
So many of us don’t realize the call of Christ in our lives. Hear how author Katie Davis [later Majors] puts it: “Slowly, but surely I began to realize the truth: I had loved and admired and worshipped Jesus without doing what He said. This recognition didn’t happen overnight; in fact I believe it was happening in my heart long before I even knew it. It was happening as I explored the possibility of overseas volunteer work, it was happening as I took my first three-week trip to Uganda, it was happening as I fell in love with a beautiful country full of gracious, joyful people and immense poverty and squalor that begged me to do more. It was happening in so many ways, and I couldn’t deny it. I wanted to actually do what Jesus said to do. So I quit my life.”[“Kisses from Katie,” p. xviii]
I know, I know. There’s the fear—that I will be called to go to Africa or Asia, that I will have to quit my life. But, we aren’t to assume anything, only to listen to Christ and what He calls us to. What if it is only to get to know and to serve every person He puts in our path? What if it is to use the talents we do have to help others right where we are? What if He has His own plan for your life, designed especially for you as He knows you best?
It’s clear from the Sermon on the Mount and from the way Jesus lived His life that we are to take care of the people He puts in our path or calls us to serve. We are not just to feed and clothe and slake their thirst, visit them if they are sick or in prison. [Matthew 25:31-46] We are to see each one as He sees them, a worthy human being. Then we are to work on all levels to heal, to love, to understand, to embrace exactly who that person is. For it is love, God’s love poured out through us, which heals, not us. It is God’s forgiveness given by us which transforms. It is God in us who deserves the credit. We are to be the vehicle for the nature of our Ever-giving God. And then we can see the difference in someone else’s life.
Every one of us human beings was made in the image of God. [Genesis 1:27] Each of us has the capacity to turn back to God. In each of us resides the Indwelling Spirit of God who only wants us to make room for Him to rule our lives. If we set aside all our world-based judgments about who is worthy and who is not, who is evil and who is good, who is like us and who is not, then we see the person before us [placed there by God] as the one we need to help, to heal, to love right now. We see Jesus reflected in each person. That is all we need to know. God will do the rest.
If we could be like Jesus, and engage with each person who approaches us whether he or she is like us or not, whether he or she has the same education, advantages, blessings that we have had, whether he or she is an enemy of ours or not. If we truly followed Jesus, we would welcome the stranger, the Roman, the Samaritan, and everyone else. For us that might mean the Arab, the Jew, the Russian, the North Korean, the Haitian, the poor, the needy, the downtrodden, the Asian, the Black man or woman, the rich and the poor , the homosexual and everyone else. Whoever God has placed before us or asked us to help, he or she is the one we are to pour God’s love upon.
God designed an interdependent system. It means that every plant and animal, every human being is a part of this system that provides nourishment and sustenance for each one’s lifetime. With people, for all our differences, we still need each other, knowing that we all belong here, that we are all created in God’s image. Now the only question is will we get along? Will we help each other? Will we be a part of the mind of Christ? Will we be connected to all other human beings, to all other life?
How else are all seven billion people to do more than survive on this planet? Our own good health is dependent on everyone else. Our own ability to love and serve depends on the nature of our relationship with Christ. Withholding who we are from the entire system only corrupts the system. It sets a model of scarcity and want, which is contrary to God’s provision for this planet–He showers the rich and the poor both with His bounty, the sun and the rain. When we ignore Hs provision we elevate one human being or one country above all the else, when the truth is that we are all equal, all in this together, all beholden to the one God who has given everything to us. That is the nature of the kingdom of God. Will we get with His program or not?
Questions to ponder over the week: Have I quit my life and now live the life God lead me to? Am I able to be with all kinds of people and to love, honor, forgive them, to value their journey, to be patient, good, kind and gentle with them? To be a faithful disciple of Jesus embracing all who are outcasts and marginalized by our society? Can I notice the differences in people without denigrating them or judging/condemning them? Can I truly love?
Blessing for the week: May we be the people of God who are true disciples of Christ. May we pour God’s love and mercy and forgiveness on all we meet. May we love God with all of who we are and all of His human beings.