It’s kind of a mess out there, isn’t it?
Tensions are running high. Democrat vs. Republican. Black Lives Matter vs. Blue Lives Matter. Young vs. Old. Rich vs. Poor. Us vs. Them. Policies vs. People.
So much is broken.
When I get up to preach these days I feel a lot of weight on my shoulders. A single sermon can’t fix the world. I know that. It can’t bring the kingdom to earth or even transform a single life. That work is the Lord’s. But the pastoral office is a weighty one, and even more so in these divisive times.
The worst moments for me are when I see people on every side of the issues justifying atrocious behavior because they believe the ends justify the means.
It must never be so.
Mother Theresa is said to have posted Kent Keith’s “Paradoxical Commandments” in her children’s home in Calcutta. Among them are some real gems, like:
If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish ulterior motives.
Do good anyway.
The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow.
Do good anyway.
Jesus was the king of paradox. In the Beatitudes in Matthew 5 he teaches that meekness, not strength, will inherit the earth. That we are blessed when we are mistreated. That the poor will find the kingdom of God.
From the Message translation:
3 “You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule.
4 “You’re blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you.
5 “You’re blessed when you’re content with just who you are—no more, no less. That’s the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can’t be bought.
6 “You’re blessed when you’ve worked up a good appetite for God. He’s food and drink in the best meal you’ll ever eat.
7 “You’re blessed when you care. At the moment of being ‘care-full,’ you find yourselves cared for.
8 “You’re blessed when you get your inside world—your mind and heart—put right. Then you can see God in the outside world.
9 “You’re blessed when you can show people how to cooperate instead of compete or fight. That’s when you discover who you really are, and your place in God’s family.
10 “You’re blessed when your commitment to God provokes persecution. The persecution drives you even deeper into God’s kingdom.
11-12 “Not only that—count yourselves blessed every time people put you down or throw you out or speak lies about you to discredit me. What it means is that the truth is too close for comfort and they are uncomfortable. You can be glad when that happens—give a cheer, even!—for though they don’t like it, I do! And all heaven applauds. And know that you are in good company. My prophets and witnesses have always gotten into this kind of trouble.
In a season marked by division, anxiety, and fear, let us be a people who stand up for what is good and noble and true. Not by vilifying the opposition, no matter how much we may disagree with them, but by loving them fiercely.
You’re blessed when you can show people how to cooperate instead of compete or fight.
It’s an uphill journey, but Jesus goes behind us and before us and on every side.
Do good anyway.