Over the past number of weeks we have been working through a sermon series talking about the connecting place between God, each of us as individuals, and us as a community. At the heart of it all - God's heart for us - is his desire that we would love God fully and love our neighbours as ourselves. That was Jesus' summary of God's desire for us. It was summarized in the Old Testament by the prophet Micah's words:
He has shown all you people what is good. And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.
I've been encouraged and challenged in a lot of good ways as we've gone through this series. But this morning I've been reminded of just how hard this can be to do in practice.
Late last night I saw the reports about a bombing in the lobby of the Manchester Arena as a crowd emerged from a concert. So far the death toll is at 22 with another 59 injured. Many among those who were killed and injured are children and young people. Reports so far indicate that this was an attack perpetrated by people claiming to be muslims and embodying an extremism that has, for millenia, caused harm to humanity - regardless of what religion it was connected with. In the face of such tragedy how are we, as followers of the way of Jesus, supposed to love?
Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you,
bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.
This is a difficult calling. I have family living and working as ambassadors of Jesus among the muslim community in the UK. I can't help but to have an element of fear for their safety well up within me. But I . . . we . . . are called to love. I don't have all the answers for what that kind of love looks like in our lives, but Jesus gives us some clues based on how he loved. Here's a brief starting place:
I can't live this on my own. I need the spirit of God working in me in order to foster this kind of love. I need a community of faith around me encouraging me in this direction when the voices of the world call me towards fear, revenge, and hate. It is a hard way to live, but today I'm reminded just how important this kind of selfless, sacrificial love is needed in this world and, by God's grace, I want to show it.
God almighty. God of love and peace and grace. We live today in midst of the valley of the shadow of death. Help us in this place to embody the love we so eagerly accept from you. May we truly grow in our love for you and our love for others so that the love of Jesus flows out of us. Let it be on display for a world that so quickly gets captured by fear and the cry for vengeance. May we live the love displayed most fully on the cross. May we, as your people, demonstrate a better and more beautiful way to a world that so desperately needs hope. We ask for your strength, and for the help of others, as we grieve injustice and pursue love - hating what is evil and clinging, with the little strength we have remaining, to what is good. (Rom. 12:9) In the name of Jesus, we ask these things. Amen.