Sermon, January 16, 2022
2nd Thessalonians 3: 6-12
All of us at some time in our history have made promises we did not keep. Some of us may have thought little of that violation of our character; others may have suffered for that supposed failure. In spite of breaking promises, and doing things we should not do, we know they are wrong or harmful because of the basic teachings in the Bible that have been translated into civic laws.
When God created humankind he told his people they were to labor in the fields and take care of themselves and each other. You might remember the story of Cain and Abel. While they were in the field working together Cain rose up and killed his brother Abel. The Lord asked Cain, “Where is your brother Abel?” Cain answered, “I do not know; am I my brother’s keeper?” Of course the answer to that question for all of us is “yes.” We are our the keepers of our Christian brothers and sisters ...meaning we pray for one another, we encourage one another to do what is right in the eyes of God, and when a neighbor is in need we respond with love, grace, and sharing what we have. But those honorable actions come after we realize we are responsible for our own lives, our choices, our words and actions. We are not allowed to play the blame game...ever. If someone treats you badly, you have the choice of how to respond, or to answer that challenge. The people who follow Jesus will not respond in kind, will not repay wrong with wrong. Rather, they answer bad behavior in a healthy way without being wrong themselves. That seems to be contrary to how we see the world and relationships today. Revenge is everywhere and it makes every problem, and encounter worse. We are to speak and act as lovingly as possible to any person or situation, whether we feel like it or not.
How well do we do we as individuals and as a church react when we are mistreated?
We have a scriptural answer. In the book of Romans, we are taught, “Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written: ‘Vengeance is mine: I will repay, says the Lord.’ The teaching continues, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty give him something to drink. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”
Where does that leave us in regard to our personal responsibility to live up to God’s law? Each one of us has a personal relationship with God through the living Christ Spirit. It’s all about love, grace, joy, peace, and compassion. Yet, if we are not constantly on guard we allow someone who is acting badly toward us to steal from us our own kindness and goodness, and take away our Christian responsibility. In effect, if we act vengefully, we are just as wrong as the person who hurt us. Being personally responsible for who we are, meaning how we behave, what we think, say, and do, makes our lives whole, livable, more peaceful, harmonious, and much more loving. All too often when asked, “why did you do that?” The answer is usually so and so made me do it, or I treated him just like he treated me. No wonder we are warring people, no wonder psychosis is rampant, no wonder the mental health institutions can not take care of all the people who need their help. When we choose to act in any way that is different from the way we are taught by Christ, then we are on the wrong track and will make things worse for ourselves.
The largest resource we should use in dealing with one another is kindness. Being personally responsible for who we are and how we act determines our mental, emotional and spiritual health.
Now, having said all that I am assuming some of you are thinking...well that’s all pie in the sky spiritual stuff and it’s not realistic. It’s just sacred, holy stuff that has nothing to do with my day to day life. If you think that, perhaps you might need to re-think. If you meet with a skilled psychologist you will hear the same advice, perhaps spoken in a different way, but basically the same. Being holy actually means being wholly human...living into the highest form of humanity which is based on love, kindness, goodness, genuine authority, and personal responsibility!
When we feel that we are our own authority, we have to ask where does that authority come from? In the western world, which up until now has basically been Christian, our authority is God illustrated through the human Jesus, the main representation of God that we have.
To summarize, each of us must learn to respect our responsibility, be humbly proud of our loving choices and responses. All of us need to learn to appreciate the fact that we have the ability to choose loving options. We must develop a habit to practice, practice, practice choosing the right option in all our interactions, behavior and self determination. Our Christian responsibility must be protected, nurtured, and well-fed throughout our lifetimes.
Today let’s take action to be personally responsible for all our own actions and see to it that they for the most part are the ones of which Jesus approves.
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