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, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that?
Matthew 5:43-46 NIV
Have you prayed for your enemy? These are words I was convicted with this week. Life in ministry can be hard and sometimes it feels like enemies are all around. In days of stress and struggle it is easy to just be angry or irritated by many different things. These can be things you would normally brush off your back but now get bottled up and you eventually explode. It can be people you never met, people in the news, people your work with, people you are related to. We can have enemies in all corners of our lives. So are you praying for your enemies?
I have had people in my life that I have been frustrated with. I have people in my life that our relationship is broken and I have probably spent too much time being frustrated by their lack of change instead of reaching out to the one who can bring that change. Am i praying for them? You see one of the hardest things that we can do as Christians is pray for those who have hurt us. Pray for those who are hurting us. Pray for those who are hurt. Pray for those in power over us.
I was convicted to pray for my enemies. So here is what I am doing for the next week. I am going to pray for my enemies by name. I am going to pray for a softening heart. I am praying for wisdom for them and myself. I am praying for peace in our lives. I am praying for forgiveness. I am praying for repentance. I am praying for Gods mighty hand in all this. So join me as we pray for our enemies.
I can’t take it anymore. I know I am not alone in this, but the one thing I hate about Facebook/Social media is the amount of time friends, family, and others try to make a major social issue of our day into a simple meme. Life just isn’t that simple. It never has been, and it is hurtful when others try to post something to make it seem like it is. Life is messy, complicated, and tough. The answers are messy, complicated and tough as well.
Christians today are falling into the trap of trying to make our faith response to those around us simple as well. We can post things that seem like a gotcha moment. It almost never is. Most of the time we either get angry at you, ignore you, block your posts, or say something to you. Obviously this is complicated in any Christian’s life.
Over this past week, I know I have struggled to not respond to former students, family and friends who either post a meme thinking they got someone else, or that they are somehow a better Christian by using the right words with the right hashtag. Let’s be honest. Jesus spoke in words that were much more complicated than a simple meme.
I will be honest. This summer I am going to miss one of the things that allows me to see the world in a longer form story. You see, this summer, I don’t get to do a Group Mission trip. I don’t get to take students into communities for the deep dive into a week in the lives of people different from them. In communities where a simple meme doesn’t mean that much. People who have lost everything because of illness, or life. Where the Church serves people outside of political posturing, or right words. We just sit, listen, and serve. I am going to miss it. No short term mission trips don’t let us know all the problems but they are much better than a meme.
So here’s hoping that, like you, I can stop posting memes to make a point. Here’s hoping that more of us will actually have a conversation and talk about the depth of the problems and solutions. Here is praying for solutions that will actually work, not just pie in the sky dreams. Life with people is complicated and messy. Jesus did it with people. He always said a lot and didn’t over simplify it. We can disagree about what Jesus would do in these situations as we try to be a follower of Jesus.
Lastly, if you want to post something, maybe do what my friend Tim does and post funny stuff. Seriously, the guy has deep opinions, but if you need a break to process and just laugh, Tim’s Facebook page has all the funny memes all the time. He will talk about real stuff but facebook is for the funnies!
When they had appointed a day for him, they came to him at his lodging in greater numbers. From morning till evening he expounded to them, testifying to the kingdom of God and trying to convince them about Jesus both from the Law of Moses and from the Prophets. 24 And some were convinced by what he said, but others disbelieved. 25 And disagreeing among themselves, they departed after Paul had made one statement: “The Holy Spirit was right in saying to your fathers through Isaiah the prophet:
26 “‘Go to this people, and say, “You will indeed hear but never understand, and you will indeed see but never perceive.” 27 For this people’s heart has grown dull, and with their ears they can barely hear, and their eyes they have closed; lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their heart and turn, and I would heal them.’
28 Therefore let it be known to you that this salvation of God has been sent to the Gentiles; they will listen.”[f]
30 He lived there two whole years at his own expense,[g] and welcomed all who came to him, 31 proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness and without hindrance.
I know I am not the only one to make this observation; People are not real on Facebook! We only put the best out for others to see. We will take a picture 5 times if we don’t think it looks good. This can be difficult for Christians and others who are going through tough stuff. We all post the best picture, video or quote. We want others to believe everything about us is awesome. I know I do it. I post when we are doing family game night, reading our bible together or having a family hug moment. I don’t know that I have ever posted a picture when one of the kids is having a tantrum, or in the middle of a fight. I know none of you have seen a video of me screaming at my children over something trivial. I never show you my unkempt house, my piles of dirty laundry or the time I left the seat up. I don’t want people to see those moments. I want them to see the good. Heck, I only want to see the good.
So it got me thinking, what if for a week we took pictures everyday, every 15 minutes or so? What if I took pictures of the mundane, the broken, and the bad? What if everything posted to Facebook wasn’t the good stuff, but was me at my worst? What if I posted pictures from angles not so flattering to myself or only posted pictures that are too blurry to see? I suppose some of you would be offended, many would be annoyed, others would look down on me. Many would know for certain what they have always suspected, Steve is a broken sinner. Steve is selfish, Steve is a slob, Steve doesn’t do much right at all! To be truthful you would all be right.
For those of you who know me, don’t worry I am not going to post pictures every 15 minutes. You won’t have too unfriend or block my posts…hopefully. I write this because I want us all to be reminded we are broken. I to fail more than I succeed. I to am in need of Christ’s forgiveness. We all need His grace, forgiveness, and mercy. We need it each day.
If this week you experience in real life the ugly and the broken, and you are ashamed of it. I would try to remind you, Facebook isn’t real life. It isn’t real Christianity. In real life the picture is actually blurry and often broken. You are not alone. Jesus is there with you. He had gone through it as well. We have all been forgiven in Christ.
Therefore (Jesus) had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted. Hebrew 2:17-19 ESV
I like shocking statements. I enjoy throwing things out there to students to get them to think. Sometime I think we need to be shocked in order to hear the message. So here goes. Life is not better with Jesus in fact it ruins your life.
I know most of you who are reading this are screaming at the screen… By the way you shouldn’t ever scream at your screen it is weird… But I said it being a Christian and follower of Christ mean your life will be different. When you know Jesus your will be scorned by the world around you. When you stand up for what is right in the world you will be mocked. When you speak with family and friends you will be ignored and people will walk away from you. You will look with empathy on those around you who do not know Jesus and his work for you. The way you lived your life and it being all about you will change to a life of looking out for others…Well maybe all of this will happen. You will still have days when you will be about you. Your sinful nature will make sure of that. However Jesus will continue to work on you. And that work will be hard.
So I guess what I would like to share with you today is that God is faithful. God in his work reminds us that when we are experiencing this persecution that Christ is faithful. He will continue to come after you. He will continue to chase after your soul through His Word and sacraments. He is coming after you. Just remember this doesn’t mean your life will be better but it will be one with Christ.