Sunday February 24

Scriptures: Genesis 45:3-15

Joseph said to his brothers, “I am Joseph. Is my father still alive?” But his brothers could not answer him, so dismayed were they at his presence.

Then Joseph said to his brothers, “Come closer to me.” And they came closer. He said, “I am your brother, Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt. And now do not be distressed, or angry with yourselves, because you sold me here; for God sent me before you to preserve life. For the famine has been in the land these two years; and there are five more years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvest. God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to keep alive for you many survivors. So it was not you who sent me here, but God; he has made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house and ruler over all the land of Egypt. Hurry and go up to my father and say to him, ‘Thus says your son Joseph, God has made me lord of all Egypt; come down to me, do not delay. 10 You shall settle in the land of Goshen, and you shall be near me, you and your children and your children’s children, as well as your flocks, your herds, and all that you have. 11 I will provide for you there—since there are five more years of famine to come—so that you and your household, and all that you have, will not come to poverty.’ 12 And now your eyes and the eyes of my brother Benjamin see that it is my own mouth that speaks to you. 13 You must tell my father how greatly I am honored in Egypt, and all that you have seen. Hurry and bring my father down here.” 14 Then he fell upon his brother Benjamin’s neck and wept, while Benjamin wept upon his neck. 15 And he kissed all his brothers and wept upon them; and after that his brothers talked with him.

Luke 6:27-36 Love for Enemies

27 “But I say to you that listen, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. 29 If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from anyone who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt. 30 Give to everyone who begs from you; and if anyone takes away your goods, do not ask for them again. 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? For even sinners love those who love them. 33 If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. 34 If you lend to those from whom you hope to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to receive as much again. 35 But love your enemies, do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return. Your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High; for he is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked. 36 Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.

“Tough Love”

Let’s be honest.  It is hard to love people we don’t like and even harder to love those who just do not like us.  Call them enemies or whatever; they are the people who often get on our nerves because of their attitudes, personalities, or behaviors.  We do not like to be around them, talk about them, or even associate with them in any way.  Many of these people are the ones who go out of their way to hurt us, belittle us, an even bully us.  Whether this abuse is verbal, emotional, or even physical, we all have good reason to not like them and even avoid them at all costs. However, Jesus tells us we must love them.  That’s right; LOVE THEM. 

Perhaps one of the hardest things we need to do as Christians and have to do to really call ourselves Christians is to love those who dislike and even hate us.  It is often not only really hard and may even seem impossible to love those who are our enemies.  It would be so much easier to hate them back.  No, we may not have it in us to do them harm; we simply just want to avoid them and wish them ill fortune.  Unfortunately for our human sensibilities, this is not how we are supposed to live our lives as Christians.  Just the opposite; we are supposed to go out of our way to treat our enemies just as we would our friends.  If they are in trouble, we help them; if they are hungry, we feed them; whatever their needs, we are to treat them with respect and kindness.

In the ancient Mid-eastern culture, and even some parts of that world today, it was customary to Play the good host to all who found themselves at your tent door; even your enemies.  In fact, you were expected to host them for three days without question.  Turning away a friend, stranger, or even an enemy in such a harsh climate could spell death for them, especially if they were already tired, hungry, and thirsty.  This went far beyond rendering basic aid; this meant feeding and sharing space with even those who may have been looking to do you harm.  This is the type of action we see in the parable of the Good Samaritan.  And Jesus was/is telling us that we should do the same for our enemies. This is not to say you have to invite them over for a weekend long sleep-over, but you do have to treat them as you would anyone else in need.

Oh, it’s not easy.  It may not even be safe in some instances.  However, it is what we are expected to do if we are to live a Christian life and follow the example of our LORD and Savior.  Remember, Jesus asked God the Father to forgive the very people who were killing Him.  That would be hard and might even be beyond our concept of loving our enemies.  How can you love someone who is responsible for your death and the death of others?  History is full of the un-lovable; tyrant, killer, monsters. 

Ok, so maybe we can love the guy at work who used office politics to get the job we felt we had earned honestly.  Maybe you can love the lady who cut you off in traffics just so she could turn at the next intersection.  You might even be able to love person who took your favorite parking spot.  But how do you love someone who both you and the entire culture deems monstrous; men like Adolf Hitler and Charles Manson.  Sure their mothers probably loved them, at least at one point, but how are we supposed to put aside our disgust and love someone like that.  You do it by remembering two simple truths.  First, God does not make trash and all people have sacred worth.  Second, you have to remember that God loves them just as God loves you; for better or worse.  No. it is not easy, but it is what we are called to do when we become a child of God and a co-heir to the Kingdom. 

P.S. You also have to pray about it, because it is often something you cannot do alone and always requires a change in yourself that can only be brought about by the in-breaking of the Holy Spirit.   

Pastor Mark

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