A young badger was out on his first solo hunting expedition. He was of the belief that there were only two kinds of animals. Those with forward-facing eyes were predators and would fight as rivals. Those with sideways-facing eyes were prey, and were for eating. Prey animals would fight in self defense. The badger happened upon a rhino. This was the biggest prey animal he'd ever seen, and would make many plentiful meals. The badger leapt upon the rhinosceros as he stood eating peaches from a peach tree. The badger bit and clawed, but was unable to penatrate the rhino's tough hide. The rhino did nothing. He merely stood there eating his peaches. Hours later, the badger gave up. He sat down beneath the peach tree and wondered at the fact that the rhino never even fought. "I see now that you are much more powerful than me." he said. "You could have stomped on me at any time." said the badger. "Why didn't you?" The rhino just shrugged and offered him a peach. "Didn't want to." he said. The badger ate a peach and discovered that it was much better for eating than a rhino. Today, the badger and the rhino are friends.
A couple of weeks ago, you heard me preach some very aggressive sermons. I spoke about the necessity of standing against evil, and about the nature of our sworn enemies. Now, we are going to go in a slightly different direction.
Jesus spoke a number of times on living at peace and living meekly. Let's look at a few of his sayings, beginning with the Beatitudes in Matthew 5.
5 Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
9 Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.
11 "Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.
And later in the same sermon
43 "You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.'
44 But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,
Jesus wants us to live in peace with our neighbors. In this message, we will discuss why, when and how.
Why should we live at peace with our neighbors? Well, for one thing, being good to others makes them nicer to you. In a story which I recently read, there was an elf by the name of "Kreacher". His master trated him poorly because he openly disrespected people of mixed descent and anyone who befriended them, mirroring the attitudes of his former owner. Then along came a person of mixed descent who showed him kindness, and his attitude changed. Quite often, when someone has bad ideals, we want to punish them in order to make them change. But when it's you, who are you more likely to listen to? Someone who treats you badly, or someone who shows you kindness? Being kind to someone whose behavior you do not approve of just might get them thinking about their actions and perhaps even change. Another reason to be kind to your neighbors and strive for peace with them is as an example. We are supposed to draw people to Christ. That is not going to happen when we act like dirtbags. If you treat someone badly in an effort to change them, they are likely to reject everything you stand for because they don't want to be like you. Thirdly, simply for good's sake. It is good to act unselfishly and do good to others with no expectation of gain or reward. That was what God does for us, and I think we are all very glad He does.
When should we live at peace? We should do so whenever strife is not necessary. Now there are times when it IS necessary. The brave dragon rescuing the princess from the evil knight is quite justified in toasting him until he's extra crispy. Some of the greatest heroes of the faith were fighters. Samson, Ehud, Gideon, David, Johnathan, Asa, just to name a few. Even on a small scale, it is often necessary to punish someone, whether it be a criminal or a wayward child. Most of the time, however, unless you're living in the gaza strip, hostility is not a necessity. If your only disagreement with your next-door neighbor is that he's a budhist, treating him spitefully is not going to serve any purpose. Jesus did not treat sinners spitefully. He reached out to them, showing them love and kindness and teaching them gently. The only time he ever got violent was when the moneygrubbers in the temple court were filling up the place designated for gentiles to worship. To him, keeping anyone away from God was inexcusable. Jesus also met needs wherever he encountered them, whether that was for healing, bare essentials, or love. He did not care who was asking. Roman centurions and blind hebrews were the same as anyone else to him. Even a member of the mob who came to arrest Jesus was not beyond his help. When Peter cut off the man's ear, Jesus chided Peter and restored the man's ear, knowing full well that that man had come to deliver him to the first trial which would ultimately result in His execution. One should show kindness even to one's enemies whenever their is a need, or even a chance for someone to benefit. If the person is a Christian, he's your brother and deserves to benefit from your actions. If he is not a Christian, but a good man, perhaps your example will lead him to Christ. If he's an evil person, your kindness may win him over. If he is a recalcitrant heathen who will never repent, then your kindness is still warranted, because once his life is over, he will never know happiness again.
Lastly, how do we do this? There are two rules which act as excellent guidelines. The first is the silver rule. "Don't to unto others as you would not have them do unto you." This is a very basic rule of many religions, budhism especially. It urges us to live at peace with everyone around us. So, for example, if I don't want Akktri making fun of me in his comics, I don't do it to him, even if he actually does it. (Which he hasn't, of course.) However, the silver rule is incomplete by itself. The golden rule says "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." That's more than just avoiding hurting someone. It's actively doing good. If I want RH to give me a positive acknowledgement in his comics, then that's what I do for him, WITHOUT the expectation of reciprocation. If he decides to do the same for me, terrific. If not, I have lost nothing. But this is not just for those I expect to do me good. Even if I really loathe someone, I ought to do them good for all the reasons previously stated. Jesus did. Extrabiblical records tell us that after His ressurection, Jesus appeared to the governor and the high priest- the two men who sentenced Him to death, and witnessed to them. So that answers the question of "in what manner", but of course, there's the other meaning of "how", which is "By what means". The answer is simple- by whatever means are at hand. If you happen to be financially well off, donating money is one way you can show kindness. If your gift is hospitality, then entertain someone in your home. If it is evangelism, then get out there and share the gospel. If it is teaching, then teach someone. If it is being snuggly, then snug someone. God has given each of us a gift. Some many, some few, some dramatic, some ordinary. All of them are exactly what we need to do the work which He has called us to do, which invariably involves demonstrating love to those around us. After all, Jesus gave us three big commandments.
Matthew 22:37 Jesus replied: "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.'
Mark 12:31 The second is this: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no commandment greater than these."
John 13:34 "A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.
So yes, while it is important to stand against evil, it is also important to live meekly. That doesn't mean you have to be a doormat or a pacifist, but it does mean you have to treat others with love, even when they hate you in return. In doing this, you will be mirroring God, and sharing in His awesome glory. God's love is a love that created the world, changed the world, and will ultimately end the world to make way for one even better. When you demonstrate God's love to your neighbors and enemies, you too are changing the world, just a little bit at a time. My challenge to you this week is to go out and live meekly. Show love to everyone and strive for peace. And to those who haven't done so, make sure the first one you show love to is the one who gave His life for you. Love is an awesome power, and it flows from God. Apart from God, love will shrivel and die. So open your heart to Jesus. If you haven't done it yet, let Him in to be your savior, master, guide and friend.
Today's Reading: Luke 10:25-37
25 On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. "Teacher," he asked, "what must I do to inherit eternal life?"
26 "What is written in the Law?" he replied. "How do you read it?"
27 He answered: "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind' ; and, 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'"
28 "You have answered correctly," Jesus replied. "Do this and you will live."
29 But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, "And who is my neighbor?"
30 In reply Jesus said: "A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he fell into the hands of robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead.
31 A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side.
32 So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side.
33 But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him.
34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, took him to an inn and took care of him.
35 The next day he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper. 'Look after him,' he said, 'and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.'
36 "Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?"
37 The expert in the law replied, "The one who had mercy on him." Jesus told him, "Go and do likewise."