Dealing with Difference?
27 ‘But to you who are listening I say: love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who ill-treat you. 29 If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them. 30 Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. 31 Do to others as you would have them do to you.
32 ‘If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. 33 And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. 34 And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full. 35 But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. 36 Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.
37 ‘Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. 38 Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.’
I have been listening to the commentary around the Religious Discrimination Bill. I think I ended up just giving up! So many opinions, so many issues, so many warring words!
Listening in made me ask that question again: Can any government change the human capacity to judge, condemn and discriminate based on just about everything: race, gender, the colour of your pants!? I know it can’t.
I did note however there was something we generally agree on: that a person should not be discriminated against on the basis of their faith or no faith.
So, a family of no particular faith in Jesus should be able to gather with us here or choose private education for the children in a faith-based school. No one, Christian or otherwise, should have to take verbal or other abuse from fellow employees in a workplace. Just because you are a person of faith does not give you the right to be abusive to someone who is of a different faith or no faith, and vice-versa.
That all seems fair and reasonable to most people. It is close to ‘The Golden Rule’ we hear Jesus speak here: “Do to others what you yourself would prefer to be done to you”.
Discrimination? But there seems little agreement on the extent to which a community or person of faith can speak and live from their faith in their work or leadership or business among people of different or no faith.
Can a Lutheran school say to a Muslim family, you can’t come here? Can they say that if the Muslim family agree to all the policies and agree to allow full participation of their children in the Christian aspects of the school’s program?
Can a Christian community like ours exclude from our care or even speak against people of no faith, of Buddhist faith, Islamic faith or any other faith? I guess it depends how you speak against and why?
Can a Christian person speak of different belief on keenly contentious issues like marriage, same sex marriage, gender fluidity, disability, pornography, environmental issues, immigration, and etc, etc?
What if you ‘hurt’ someone – intentionally or not? What if we disagree? How do we disagree with dignity? How to we talk these very difficult and complex things through for the good of all. How does a country do that? Should we Christians even bother?
This is all so difficult – especially when many would say that the only real standard we adhere to in Western culture is ‘the self’; ‘me’, not the community good, or biblical truth or historical learning; only the self, and in particular, ‘what I feel’?
I suspect most of us just don’t say much. Seems easier to just let the politicians get crucified. At least it is them, not me.
And then along comes Jesus of Nazareth today and calls us to love people. Oh boy! We are to speak and live – but not for winning or scoring points or damaging – only for love.
27 ‘But to you who are listening I say: love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who ill-treat you
31 Do to others as you would have them do to you.
37 ‘Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.
So, love is how we speak and live in the discrimination and difference. But how?
One thing we know. When Jesus says love’, he is not saying ‘feel’. Self-giving, ‘Jesus’ kind of love is not only what you feel, it is what you do whether you ‘feel the love’ or not.
Like a parent changing a nappy or a bloke stopping to help a Muslim woman in a burka with three screaming kids in the car on the side of the road who needs help, you do no matter what you feel.
So Jesus’ call here to “love your enemies” becomes entirely possible because this love is not necessarily having any feeling of nice liking. Loving your enemies is doing what Jesus says here no matter what feelings accompany it.
Love then, is doing good to the different, blessing those who discriminate against you, especially on the basis of their faith or no faith. Love is allowing more discrimination against yourself, if it comes – without bighting back.
Love is not getting even when someone steals something from you – be it a handbag, car or an expectation. Love is being so unphased by this injustice that you are even prepared to offer more of whatever they took if it is what they need to survive.
Love is not making money or name off need – not expecting something in return for a gift given in tough times or any times.
Love is the golden rule we know so well.
31 Do to others as you would have them do to you.
We know this. But O, don’t we struggle with it from parliament to our place!
I can hear your internal words now:
“I can’t do this! I cannot keep this golden rule. This is not a golden rule that sparkles and inspires me, it is a dull rule that bludgeons me. It is a deadly rule because I have not been able to do good enough, bless those I disagree with, don’t like from whom I want to take flight. I have not given enough and I secretly do want it back with more. I have not just soaked up the difference or the spiteful words, or the harsh criticism or just plain wrong attack. I have run away or fired up and I know I have hurt and been hurt”.
Friend. Take a breath and listen.
We have seen love and we know perfect love. It is a man. His name is Jesus. He is love and that makes love possible.
And we are not the only people who struggle to love. This call to love was given to people just like us on that plain that day. They lived in a country with its own ills: corruption everywhere; occupying Romans; extortion, brutal discrimination unashamedly done based on race and religion by everyone, especially God’s people!
The Jewish people practiced open discrimination and publicly encouraged exclusion of everyone not Jewish. The Romans enacted brutality on anyone not Roman or anyone not doing what they wanted – Roman or not. They particularly dealt in deathly blows to anyone who would not worship their gods, their way, particularly Caesar …
We have our own ways of discriminating, excluding and damaging. We know that.
For them and us now, here is the hope.
36 Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.
And even better;
…. he [the Father] is kind to the ungrateful and wicked.
We have a Father who is full of mercy in his heart and shows it by his kindness to all the undeserving, loveless people – us!
We know this because we know this Jesus. The Father loved in giving up his dearly loved Son and raising him from death to begin a whole new community of love that has a mission to let love come to life in the Father’s great project of renewing his whole creation. We are that community.
So, you can love because he loves when you are full of faith or out of faith, when you behave badly, take and greed for more, when you use words to dismiss, despise and damage.
When you are ungrateful and even right off the rails joining in the attack and abuse and judgement, his kindness and mercy remain true, and for you.
Remember, he blessed them when they cursed him; when we cursed him on that cursed tree. “Forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing”, he said.
He is the Great High Priest who prays for you, intercedes for you before the Father’s throne of mercy, whatever the day is like.
When they slapped him in the face, he offered the rest of himself.
He clothed us with the baptismal white robe of peace and joy and belonging and has not withheld a thing from us since.
He has given his very best to you when you have asked. He demands no slavish tit-for-tat pay back, but only freedom, hope and joy in the gifts he gives and asks you to give away every day.
He has done for us what we would want anyone to do for us – love at high cost to himself, but no cost for us – pure gift of mercy. He has kept his own “Golden Rule” completely and powers us to live in it, imperfect though we be.
Friends, love beyond feelings comes from God and it goes to people who don’t love and can’t love enough.
In other words, you can love no matter the feeling because our Father in heaven loves you, no matter his feelings.
So, in his love,
Don’t ask for anything back
Even take abuse and injustice
Surely a community of Aussies with this heart is the only thing that would truly transform this community, this town, this country, even all the way to a parliament?
I don’t know what all the politics leads to. I struggle to make sense of what they all say and what it all means, and where it all leads. But I am hearing what Jesus says and I know it starts with me.
“Every good gift comes from above – from the Father of lights”