Julie Knight
12th February 2017
Love and Compassion

Dear Lord and Father of mankind,
Forgive our foolish ways
ReCloth us in our rightful mind,
In purer lives our service find
In deeper reverence, praise!

The scripture passages for today made for tough reading. I felt that before we looked at them I wanted to start with the Good news. That as we look at these passages we do so already in the knowledge that God is with us, ready to forgive our foolish ways, re-cloth and transform us in rightful minds as we draw near to him in praise. The unconditional love of Christ challenges the false judgements we might make and that others make about us. So, let us study these passages together with hope in our heart. United in the body of the church and secure in the knowledge that God is the foundation on which we build, always present, always near…

I have to admit that my first thought, rightly or wrongly, when I read the passage in Matthew was ‘oh no, so when earlier today the dentist told me I needed a filling not only did I have to smile and nod in obeisance but I should have been thinking nice thoughts about him as well!

I mean human to human here, how many times have you stood there listening to someone give you a tirade of insults, outwardly showing grace and understanding, apologising for your misjudgement, whilst in a little thought bubble inside your head thinking something like ‘your hair is long enough that I could plait it and then pull!’ – No – is it just me… I think it’s a tough ask for us mortal souls.

And that is just the start for in this passage Jesus addresses all those things that have the power to divide and destroy Murder, Anger, resentment, unfaithfulness, separation, swearing oaths, not keeping promises. Jesus is not pulling any punches here, he is setting the boundaries. He looked at the way the people were using the laws to judge and condemn, and saw that this just sets up a cycle of negative feelings and in the end, we all end up condemned.

Attending theological college means you learn lots of lovely big words to describe different language used in different texts. One such word which theologians would use to explain this text is hyperbolic, that means that Jesus exaggerated the language he used to make his point. He needed us to see that a cycle of judgement and condemnation was not going to work he needed to emphasis the point that to follow his way is to show compassion, mercy be ready to forgive and ask for forgiveness in return.

I think the hard thing for us to admit about this passage is that actually you don’t have to look to far into the state of the world before his point stop feeling that exaggerated and the need for these stringent rules, whether we like them or not become more understandable. You only have to go home and read a paper or watch the news, in fact I probably only need to say the words terrorism, revenge killings, cyber bullying, divided nations, to you, and this passage is brought scarily into focus.

But on the other hand, this passage is actually not all doom and gloom for in verse 23 He does offer us a lifeline, he offers us to take the things that are wrong and to bring them to his justice… he urges us to be reconciled with our brothers and sisters…

So, that got me to thinking what is it in our personality that God have given us to be able to keep going, how do we find it in ourselves to show compassion, forgiveness, non-judgement and unconditional love in a world can appears to promote the complete opposite, and where is that strength to admit when we are wrong. For it does take strength to admit our wrong doings. It’s funny how words in the English language go in trends sometimes, and one such word at the moment is resilience, I think resilience is a lovely word, it is often defined as having the capacity to bounce back especially in the face of challenge or adversity, it encompasses the spiritual fruits of perseverance, patience and self-control. It is something that we all have innate in us I can guarantee that every single one of you here at some point will have had to show resilience whether it be keeping going after a tragedy, having the strength to admit when your wrong, say sorry to that person you upset the day before or even just to get up every morning and face another journey on southern rail that all takes resilience and God has given us all that gift.

Paul in the reading in Corinthians stresses how division can cause us to fall. Wanting to encourage unity in the early church he talks about the breaking force of division. He encourages us to see that with Christ as our cornerstone we need to build together as separate parts we will fail. We do not need to tackle the challenges of this world separately we can do it united with each other in the body of Christ.

For you know I don’t think anywhere in these passages Jesus is telling us not to challenge when we see wrong doing he is setting boundaries for how we meet those challenges, and he is urging us to look at our own moral compass and get it right with him in order that we can meet these challenges. He is asking us to be Christ like – to challenge without judgement, with compassion, forgiveness and unconditional love. In these years ahead of change it is going to be important that as Christians we are willing to collectively stand up and challenge moral issues.

Let us face the challenges and judgement calls we have to make in the week, months, years ahead with resilience, in unity with the body of the church and with the secure knowledge of Christs unconditional and unwavering love of us. And if you do get in a tough spot… or down with the state of the world… remember the good news, with compassion and love we can lift every situation to God in prayer!

Matthew 5 21-27. 1 Corinthians 3: – 19