So far during Spiritual Emphasis Week at Smithville Christian High School, students have considered whether they merely believe in God, or if he is LORD God of their lives. They have also been asked if they are travelling on the narrow road that leads to life or the wide road that leads to destruction. On Wednesday, chapel speaker Mike Gordon told students that if they want to be on the road that leads to life, the Bible has lots of good advice on what following Jesus looks like.
For example, in Matthew 5: 43-48, Jesus says “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbour and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 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. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
Gordon told students about a job he had as a summer day-camp counsellor when he was a teenager, and the little girl named Haley whom he loved and a little boy named Daniel who annoyed him. People who work with children “don’t usually say this out loud, but we all have a favourite,” Gordon said. “Teachers, on the count of three, say the name of your favourite student out loud.”
Gordon said it’s easy to follow Jesus’ advice to love those people whom we like, who are our favourites. But what about the people we don’t like?
“Here’s the thing. Jesus is not making a suggestion. He’s giving us a command,” Gordon said.
It could be your former friend who betrayed you. It could be an ex-boyfriend or ex-girlfriend. It could be the teacher who marks too hard. It could be the person who has different theology, the person who picks on you, the coach who cut you from the team.
“Jesus’ response is, I want you to love them.”
Travellers on the wide road might be tempted to “get revenge, get even, ignore them, cut them out of your life,” Gordon said. But that approach only robs you of peace.
Gordon said there are two steps to take in order to love your enemy: remember they are human, and forgive them. He said the problem with forgiveness is that it seems like you are condoning the bad things other people have done, that you are saying it’s okay.
“But if you forgive someone, you are not letting them off the hook, you are letting yourself off the hook. If Jesus says everyone can be forgiven, who are you to say they can’t?”
Gordon said when he was studying this passage as a student in Bible college, he made a list of all his enemies, the people who had hurt him, and slowly worked his way through the list – reaching out to each of them. Finally there were only two people left. His mother, whose infidelity had destroyed their family, and his father, whose anger and alcoholism had made him unwilling to care for his teenage son and who was furious that Gordon had quit business school to go to Bible college.
Gordon didn’t want to love them – his pain was too great. But finally he wrote a letter to each one.
From his mother, he got a long missive in reply, saying it was Gordon’s own fault that she had kicked him out of the house.
But from his father, he got a two-line response: “Thank you. I’ve been holding on to this too long myself.”
The experience made Gordon realize “that how they respond does not matter. You have no control over that. Is there a name that God has put on your heart? Put it into action. Stop letting the sun go down on your anger.”
Loving your enemies is not a suggestion, it’s Jesus’ command. And the best part is that both of you will get to ”see the grace of God in action.”
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Student praise team Kingdom Worship led singing with “Holy (Wedding Day),” “Through It All,” and “This Is Amazing Grace.”
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During Spiritual Emphasis Week chapel is every morning at 9 a.m. All are welcome.
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Here is today’s message in Mandarin, with many thanks to Yanyan Wu.
马太福音 5:43-48 「你们听见有话说：『当爱你的邻舍，恨你的仇敌。』 只是我告诉你们，要爱你们的仇敌，为那逼迫你们的祷告。 这样 就可以作你们天父的儿子；因为他叫日头照好人，也照歹人；降雨给义人，也给不义的人。 你们若 单 爱那爱你们的人，有什么赏赐呢？就是税吏不也是这样行吗？ 你们若单请你弟兄的安，比人有什么长处呢？就是外邦人不也是这样行吗？ 所以，你们要完全，像你们的天父完全一样。
圣经这里教导我们要爱我们的仇敌，神在这里不是一个建议乃是一个命令。也就是说既然是命令，我们就要有行动。当然不容易做到，正像昨天我们学的进窄门是小路，要付代价，但领我们到的是光明之处，对我们是有益处的。因此我们要学习如何爰仇敌: 1) 我们要知道每个人都不完美，都有说错话，做错事时候。 2) 原谅是对我们自己心灵的一个释放。 当我们想到以上两点时，爱仇敌就容易一些，我们也要多祷告，更加明白这是一个命令，不管要付多大的代价我们都要尽力去做，神会领我们到光明之处。