Love Who!? – The Sermon on the Mount

Presented on 9/20/20 at 10:45 AM at Curwensville Alliance

In the kingdom, Jesus says, we are to love our enemies.

That may sound far-fetched — until you give some thought to what love is and how God loves.

In this message, Pastor Steve presents the eighth sermon from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount.

As you watch, see if you can understand how to love — even your enemies.

Open Fists :: Sermon on the Mount

Presented on 9/13/20 at Curwensville Alliance by Pastor Steve Shields

We live in a world of closed fists. Even clenched fists. Few of us really like it, but we learn to survive in it.

We learn, even, to emulate it.

In this sermon, we explore what Jesus says about our fists…. Well, he’s actually talking about our hearts.

Guard Your Heart Against Hatred

I shared this Sunday morning in both services. I write it here for those who may have come in late or missed it. I share it because I love people — I love you. And as your pastor, I want to ask you to guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life (Proverbs 4:23). Guard it against hatred.

It’s always interesting to me to see how things coincide.

For example, in recent days some in the media (both commercial and social) have reported on Christians who were angry with Starbucks for using Christmas colors on their cups, but not mentioning Christmas. From some of the reports, one would think that Christians were taking to the streets by the thousands, outraged over this atrocity. This was not the case. I am sure there were a few Christians who felt angry about this, but as a friend of mine posted:

i have 1484 Facebook friends, more than 1300 of them are Christians and 0 of them have posted about how offended they are about red cups. #NotOurFight

As a Christian, I find myself troubled, not by the fact that Starbucks doesn’t proclaim Messiah’s birth. What I find troubling is being stereotyped as having the same views as a minority group of Christians.

My Baptist friends felt this intensely when that whack-o, Fred Phelps and his family took the name Baptist into the headlines with his hate-speech concerning homosexuality. Every Christian I know was outraged by Phelps abuse of Christianity. Baptists were, rightly so, all the more outraged that he used their name.

Most of us resist being mischaracterized.

Every group, from the media, to religious types, to irreligious atheists, to fishermen, to Americans, to Asians, to athletes, to redheads, to blondes, to teens, to senior citizens has members who do not represent the whole of the group. This is a problem that comes with being in a society. Perhaps a greater problem is when society chooses to judge every member of any group by the behavior of the few.

I heard a statistic recently regarding the number of people in the United States claiming to be Muslim compared to the number of mosques in the United States. The point was that the vast majority of Muslims in the States could not go to the mosque even if they wanted to, simply because there is not enough room for them. The vast majority are, evidently like “Christians” here and there — nominal. If you don’t care enough to go to your own house of worship, you’re probably not radical regarding your faith.

Yet, just as some in the media (commercial and social) mischaracterizes Christians concerning the color of Starbucks cups, based on the action of a few, they mischaracterize all Muslims as being evil, based on the despicable actions of a minority.

That’s not right.

Being labeled as a nut-job because some in your tribe are mad at Starbucks is pretty trivial. Being labeled as a terrorist because some in your tribe are so — that would be alarming.

Bearers of the Good News of Christ have spent vast resources on helping all people find forgiveness and honor in the work of Jesus on the cross. Gracious people have given money. Others have given time. Some have given a lifetime of service. Some are giving right now, on the field. Some have given their lives. They have done this because they understand that the phrase, “the world” in John 3:16 means “the world”. And, according to some sources, their investment is paying off. Lives are being changed and people who it seemed would never open their hearts to Jesus are doing so at a level not seen in our lifetime. But I have heard these workers say that their work is made more difficult when believers speak words of hatred toward their audience. Hatred builds walls. Walls close off opportunities to share the way of eternal life.

Closing our hearts and closing our doors and closing our minds is counter-productive to both the Great Commandment (Matthew 22:37-39) and the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20).

Christians need to stop treating others the way some in the media (commercial and social) treat us.

You don’t have to agree. Sharper people than you and me have opinions that differ, one from the other.

But as your pastor who loves you I say this: You have to guard your heart. Hatred isn’t healthy for you.

About that One Who Pushes You

Take a moment and think of someone who was part of your life who was also hard on you, personally. Maybe it was a parent — always riding you about your laziness. Or maybe it was a teacher — always nagging you concerning your academic performance. Or maybe it was a good friend who was always on your case about something in your life where you weren’t doing as well as you could have done.

Do you have that person in your mind? Good. Let’s call him Chauncey.

Now consider this question: Why was Chauncey so hard on you? Did Chauncey hate you? Probably not. Was it because Chauncey wanted to ridicule you? I doubt it. Was Chauncey generally obnoxious? Not really.

Here’s what I have noticed about myself: I am generally the most frustrated with the people in whom I see the greatest potential. If I see little potential in someone, I have small expectations of them. If I see great potential in someone, and I see time passing by without them pursuing their potential, I become disturbed — for their sake. And the degree of anger I feel concerning this shortcoming in their life will correspond with the depth of my love for them.

In chapter five of his excellent book, The Reason for God, Tim Keller considers the question, How can a loving God be an angry God? As he addresses this, Keller points out that when you have love, you are bound to have anger against anything that injures what you love. Keller quotes Becky Pippert, who writes, Anger isn’t the opposite of love. Hate is, and the final form of hate is indifference. I get that, because it is generally those that I love the most and wish the best for with whom I become the most frustrated.

This helps explain why some say, “I feel more acceptance from my drinking buddies than I feel from the people I go to church with.” Sometimes this is a matter of projection — the speaker is projecting a disposition onto his church family that most of them do not own. Other times it’s a matter of “Christians” being overly-critical. That happens.

But there’s a third explanation: Maybe his drinking buddies don’t really want the best for him or the best of him. Maybe they want nothing more from him than for him to be a good old boy. In contrast, maybe his brothers and sisters in Christ want the best for him and the best of him. And when he fails to pursue that very thing, the friends who love him most let him know.

Could this be the explanation for the behavior of Chauncey — the person that pressures you toward better things?

And whether it is the explanation or not, how would your life be different if you were to see those who press for the best for you and in you as an ally?