This week has been one that I would sooner forget. It’s times like this that I wonder why I am devoting my life to the ministry. And it’s times like this that I remember that I am not devoting my life to the ministry but rather to the service of God and the kingdom. It’s days like today that I remember that I serve as Jesus instructed and not as I choose. And I realize that this is exactly what I was called to do. “But I say to you that listen, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from anyone who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt. Give to everyone who begs from you; and if anyone takes away your goods, do not ask for them again. Do to others as you would have them do to you. Do to others as you would have them do to you. That’s as simple as it gets. Do to others as you would have them do to you. Does that mean if someone pokes you in the eye, you shoot them, No. Do we love our children one day and not the next? Never. Do we call for the death penalty if our neighbors dog gets into the trash? Maybe…No, of course not. God calls to us to be mindful of those who are unjust and lacking in mercy. Just because they are hateful and miserable to us is not a reason to turn away from them. It is not a reason to seek retribution for the Lord is the only one who can punish the guilty. Repay no one evil for evil but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. Romans chapter 12 verse 17 it warns us that we are not to do what is most desirable to us when we are hurt. It is in our very nature to lash out at those who have wronged us an make them feel the same pain that we do.

It is in the nature of our original sin when we were cast from the garden because we would not listen, because we were stubborn and only mindful of our own importance. We cursed ourselves when the Lord only had blessings for us. We were not content to have almost everything, instead we had to have everything, and in so doing we lost it all. Still the Lord had mercy on us, He could have scrapped us then and there and started over. Instead he gave us the world to rule as we saw fit. Now we always call this the original sin from which all others were born, our disobedience and pride, but let me offer an alternative. I see the original sin as deception followed by betrayal and then disobedience to the Word. The serpent deceived Eve and betrayed her trust, Eve deceived Adam and betrayed His trust and this led to rebellion against Gods word. Look at what their first born did. Cain deceived Abel into following him to the field where he betrayed his trust by murdering him. Time and time again you can see this pattern that Satan started in garden come to fruition elsewhere. Did the Lord kill Cain for murdering Abel? No, why? Because he was still a child of God. Instead he showed him mercy, repay no one evil for evil. No doubt you have heard by now about Mike. Maybe you are feeling deceived and betrayed right about now. I am sure we are all still a little bit in shock. I am. Maybe your angry and hurt because this happened and your confused because on one had you want to condemn him and on the other you remember he was a good friend and how he helped you. We want to discard him as an evil man and at the same time we want things to be like they were before, because we want to continue the old friendship. But what we really want to know is why? Why did it happen? Why did he feel the need to do this? Why didn’t God stop him? Why didn’t I know? Why couldn’t I see the evil within? Why? Why? Why? How do you stop loving someone, how do you just turn your emotions off? The short answer is you cannot. Because, “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. If you lend to those from whom you hope to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to receive as much again. But love your enemies, do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return. Your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High; for he is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. For even sinners do the same, it puts me in mind of Matthew chapter 5 verse 45, for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous.

The just and the unjust receive an equal measure and we all have the same shot at salvation, just as we all have the same chance at temptation. There is nothing difficult or magical about this. Jesus tells us to be faithful to Him, to be merciful as He is merciful. We have all heard “but for the grace of God there goes I” but did you know there is a poem that goes with it. Many as a matter of fact. If you will permit me… But For The Grace Of God Go I – Poem by David Whalen…There, but for the grace of God go I…Is a thought I oft used to think As I cast a hasty, judgmental eye Roundabout the coffee shop And o’er the brim of my morning drink…I used to judge those so-called ‘sorry souls And ascribe to them sad histories In blissful ignorance that Some were likely looking back And doing the same to me…Yet with a superior sense of satisfaction Would I sip my McDonald’s morning brew Until some hapless soul would draw my attraction Ah yes…this sorry soul will do…I would focus in and build upon My narrative about this sorry soul Whose life seemed sad and almost gone Down into life’s rabbit hole…Oh the trials and ordeals That this man must daily feel The sting of outrageous misfortune That Fate of late has shared with him More than his fair portion…Alas my coffee is quaffed My imaginative narrative done I’ll likely see this man (my star) no more And I wonder who the morrow’s Protagonist will be As I walk out through the door…Tomorrow will dawn a brand new day I’ll sip my Senior brew and sigh Select a new star for my newest play (I think I shall title this one like all the others) …”There but for the grace of God go I…” We say it all the time, but do we really understand it. If we have received grace, then why is this other person denied that grace. And who are we to judge another’s life as graceless? Are we then the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end? Do we reserve judgement on others? Is it our place to look at another and say vengeance is mine? Are we committing the same sin that Adam and Eve were guilty of in the beginning? Are we trying to set ourselves up as God? Do we even give it a second thought? Probably not. I know I never did until today. I really thought I was saying this in humility as I imagine most people do, but then I saw the other side of the coin so to speak and I did not like what I saw. The way it was belittling and demeaning, presumptuous of me to think that I could understand another’s pain and loss, that I could say such a thing and think it was humility and not my own pride, I will never know. Ephesians chapter 2 verse 8 says, for by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, we can never know what drives another person to do the things that they do, what demons are clawing at there souls. I pray that I will never really understand the why?

I think maybe it would be too much for me and I give thanks that the Lord has not given me to understand what drives people to such heinous acts against others, but I am thankful that it is not I that goes there. “Do not judge, and you will not be judged; do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap; for the measure you give will be the measure you get back.” We are not the judge of the quick and the dead. It is the Lord thy God who’s prerogative it is. I know it’s tempting to say by the grace of God there goes I and we aren’t really being judgmental right we are merely discerning. I know. But our job is not to judge, we are to love one another. We are to love God, and we are supposed to forgive others as we are forgiven and to show the light of Christ to others that we may bring them to the kingdom. We are to make disciples. Period. God has the rest of it. As we go forth today, I want to leave you with two scriptures that say it all. Proverbs 3:5-6 says, trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. And finally, Jesus’ words to us in John 15:4 Jesus says to us, Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. Amen!

ABBA! Father! Forgive us our pride, forgive us our judgment. Many are the times that we have come to you seeking answers Father. We have so many questions that want answers. But today Father, we come to you instead looking for a wordless understanding. Today we give thanks that you have not revealed your purpose to us rather we put our faith and trust in you Lord knowing that you will turn even this to good. We are content to be ignorant in the ways of evil and give thanks that you abide in us Lord and protect us with your love and mercy. In the name of your Holy Son Jesus, we pray. Amen.

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