“The Prophetic Impact of Love”
Jeremiah 1: 4-10; 1 Corinthians 13: 1-13; Luke 4: 21-30
Pearl: The prophetic aspect of the gospel of Jesus Christ provokes us and changes us if we cooperate with it.
Function: To promote the way in which the presence of the Son and the Spirit in us constantly works with our spirits to turn our anger/prejudice to agape (brother and sisterly) love.
Last week I mentioned that the friendly hometown crowd in Nazareth quickly turned into a murderous foment of anger and prejudice at Jesus.
- How did things go bad so quickly when they had started so well? What did Jesus say?
- When they were so favorable at his saying that the gospel was being fulfilled in him that day, he then told them that “No prophet is accepted in the prophet’s hometown.”
- With that comment he touched a nerve. They heard about some of his exploits in other areas before he arrived in his hometown. They were expecting even more of the same toward his own people. When Jesus referred to their saying “Doctor, cure yourself” it was in no way a criticism. It was a proverb something akin to “Look after yourself and your own kin before you attempt to help others.” In fact, that was the opinion of the larger Jewish nation. They expected their Messiah to save them and their nation and make it rise up over everyone else. The Messiah was expected to make Israel great finally once and for all!
- But instead he reminded them that in their own spiritual history God went to a foreign widow during a time of famine when there were many widows among the Israelites. He sent the prophet Elijah to the widow of Zarephath to save her family, bypassing the Israelite widows.
- Then he told them that another time God sent the prophet Elisha to Naaman the Syrian leper when there were many lepers among the Israelites.
- Jesus touched a nationalistic nerve. His point that day was to say that the gospel work of the Messiah would have a larger trajectory than to only benefit his own people.
- The gospel touches nerves! It is what the gospel does. If we learn anything from Jesus it is this; the gospel is meant to expand our perspective so that we get out of ourselves and learn to love and serve others, considering them as brothers and sisters.
Has our Lord Jesus Christ and his gospel touched any of your nerves lately? A fellow in my former congregation would occasionally tell me after a sermon that I was “meddling.” I think he meant it in the best sense of the word. He expected the gospel message to provoke him and to make him uncomfortable at times.
- The gospel is designed by our Lord to confront some of our ingrained attitudes and perspectives.
- The gospel is designed by our Lord to push our buttons all of the time.
- The gospel is designed by our Lord to provoke us out of the status quo into new vistas of life and thought.
- The gospel is designed by our Lord to lift us out of ourselves by taking us into relationships with others, especially those not like ourselves.
- The gospel of Jesus the Christ is meant to turn our anger and our prejudice into love, to turn our lack of humanity into compassion.
Anger simmers under the surface in our culture. A cultural war goes on. Sides are taken.
- People fly off the handle easily over any number of issues.
- Due to all of the mass shootings over the last 10 years throughout the land, the whole discussion on gun violence continues to be at center stage.
- One time I broached the subject on Facebook and immediately had relatives and friends quickly reacting with a lot of heat. This and many other issues require cool-headed reasoning together.
- Sadly, in my Facebook discussion there was rudeness and sarcasm going back and forth among those who are friends and family. It is not surprising that outside of such relationships it can be a real war zone.
What is needed is cool-headed reasoning together on every issue especially first and foremost within and among people of faith.
- “Cooler heads prevail.” It’s a call for civility. The gospel of Jesus Christ makes us civil. We are so transformed by the greatness of God’s grace that we excel in magnanimity…charity.
- Jesus and the people in his hometown synagogue that day were “faith family.” Charity causes people within the same faith and within the entire human family to see each other as much more than labels or categories such as conservative or liberal, “in” or “out.”
- The charity of the gospel helps us to see each other as much more than this position or that position. Seeing each other as pro-gun or anti-gun, pro-choice or pro-life, pro-gay or anti-gay, pro-Israel or pro-Palestine, pro-America or anti-America, Democrat or Republican, Pro-Rams or Pro-Patriots. I am rooting for the Rams tonight but at the same time you have to admire the GOAT (Tom Brady) and what that team/franchise has done over the years. The categories we use for each other are all too simplistic and actually dehumanizing. It is not helpful for us to view each other like this within the human family, let alone within the family of faith.
- The Apostle Paul wrote about the power of the Gospel of Jesus in Galatians 3: 28, “There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female, for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.”
The gospel changes our prejudice and our anger through love. I am not saying that it changes anger and prejudice immediately into love. That isn’t very realistic. But the gospel of love, the gospel of Christ, has awesome power to transform over time.
- In the movie “Gran Torino” Clint Eastwood plays the part of a crusty, bigoted, recently widowed man living in a once homogenous white neighborhood which is now a neighborhood of diverse cultural and racial make-up.
- He is a Roman Catholic who hasn’t been active in his faith in many, many years. Prior to her death his wife asked the priest to look after her husband. So, this young priest who conducted her funeral dutifully followed through and repeatedly tried to commence a relationship with this crotchety, outwardly racist specimen of a man.
- He continually sought to open spiritual conversations with him.
- The movie shows the gradual transformation of this man as he gets to know and love his Hmong neighbors.
- That says everything right there. As you get to know other people you begin to see that they are just like you. Those who you see as the “other” are so worth getting to know personally.
- Due to gang-related hostilities a young Hmong girl in the family that he is getting to know and love is raped and badly beaten.
- In the climax of the movie Eastwood’s character devises a way to achieve justice without taking anyone’s life. He goes to the house where the gang hangs out and stands out in the street facing it. As some of the gang members see him standing there, they prepare for him to open fire on them. Knowing this is what they will think he reaches into his jacket slowly as if to pull a gun and as he draws his hand out of his jacket holding only his lighter, they unload their weapons on him killing him there in the street. He sacrifices his own life out of love for this Hmong family and brings justice to the gang responsible for the rape and beating.
- They are all arrested and put in jail for murdering him in cold blood, exactly according to his plan.
- He did what was totally unexpected by all who knew him previously including his own family.
- He became the hero of that Hmong family and of his own family and neighborhood due to the power of his sacrificial love.
- The gospel transforms and changes anger and prejudice into love.
Life is a lot more complicated than we tend to see it. People are a lot more than our stereotypes and labels allow.
God created us to embrace each and every one through love. Love is what makes us new. Love is the trajectory of our lives. Love is what makes us more human. Love is what makes us godly. Why?
- This is why love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things.
The Table of the Lord reminds us constantly through the sacrifice of Jesus what love is capable of. Come to the Table of the Lord today and receive the very greatest gift. Receive the love which will change you and keep on changing you, making you more and more…human…the way God made you and me to be!