Greetings, friends! I hope everyone in Greenfield had a wonderful day of worship this past Sunday. I have to say that I enjoyed my day off, but it was strange not being in Greenfield.
Don’t forget to join us next Sunday for Homecoming and Back to School Sunday. Worship is at 11 a.m. with a picnic and potluck dinner following. Pat McKinley is coordinating the potluck, so if you have any questions, she’s the one to contact! I’ll be bringing some games for the kiddos to play after we eat. The picnic will be over by 2:45, but you can join us as we lead worship at the Dade County Nursing home at 3 p.m. I always enjoy our worship services with the folks there!
FINDING PEACE WITH PEOPLE
In this fourth installment of my series from Romans 12, we learn about finding peace with people who, most of the time, tend to take our peace away.
My mother had a saying: “Kill ‘em with kindness.” Whenever we would complain about someone who talked about us or picked on us, Mom would tell us to kill them with kindness. “They’ll get so frustrated that you’re not upset that they won’t know what to do,” she would say. I don’t think she ever imagined that her advice might actually be kind of biblical!
Revenge. Payback. Settle the score. An eye for an eye. How many more phrases can you think of? Humans have always had the need to get even, and the Old Testament even provided for such compensation when you were harmed, but Jesus changed all of that. He told his followers, “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matthew 5:11,12).
We might be tempted, then to insist that we only have to forgive those who make fun of our faith. But Jesus went further, saying, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you” (Matthew 5:38-42).
“An impossible task!” you might shout. How can I turn the cheek and give more than is asked? And you would be right. Such an attitude would be impossible if it were not for God’s mercy and grace in our hearts. In fact, I believe that trying to live according to the Sermon on the Mount without Christ’s indwelling Spirit would cause more internal frustration and anger than peace. There again, we come to the center of the issue: Attitude. How we approach our lives with one another depends on WHOM we are living for. “But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,” Jesus continued, “that you may be sons 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 brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (verses 44-48).
Paul understood Jesus’ teaching and advised the Romans to do the same. “Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,”says the Lord. On the contrary: ‘If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.’ 21Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:17-21).
When you are offended by someone, or talked about, or criticized, etc., ask yourself this question: “Who is most important in my life?” If the answer is “me,” I’m afraid you need to rethink the question. If the answer is “my family,” again, time to rethink. If you identify yourself as a Christian, a follower of Christ, then the primary focus of your life should be Christ within you—God first. When we put God’s will first, everything else in our lives will fall into place.
Mom had a good idea when she told us to “kill ‘em with kindness,” but her attitude hasn’t necessarily what Jesus or Paul intended. We treat others with undeserved kindness quite often just to show them up, to make them feel bad for how they treated us. Paul’s emphasis does the same thing, but for another reason. By loving our enemies and giving away the grace and mercy we have received from God, we give God the ability to reach out to that person. “You will heap burning coals on his head.” By truly being an example of God’s grace, with the help of the Spirit, you will open the door for God’s conviction and call on your “enemy’s” life.
Too many people die each day, physically and emotionally, because of revenge and trying to settle the score. It is time for us to be God’s example to those around us, to follow Jesus’ example when he prayed, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they do.” Like the movie, when a young boy decided to “pay it forward,” to give to others what he had received, lives will be changed.
We need to pay forward the grace and mercy of God, not because we are so good and forgiving, but because God is good and forgiving. Don’t feel like you can do it? Don’t feel bad. It isn’t an easy concept, much less an easy task. But if each day you will take one more step toward putting God first in your life, you will find it easier to let the Spirit of Christ shine through you. So go out and kill ‘em with God’s kindness!
Pastor Mary Kay Glunt