In light of the recent police-related shootings, Pastor Miles talked today about the conditions of our hearts and our opinions. Regardless of our points of view, we all want justice and we serve a God of justice, so we should pursue that. We want peace and Jesus is the Prince of Peace, so we should pursue that. But above all, we should want to be more and more like Christ, so in these complicated matters, we are called individually to ask these questions to God: How do You want me to respond? What can I learn? How is this situation supposed to help me be more like You?
How is this situation supposed to help me be more like You?
We don’t come to church just to sing and to listen to a message. We should desire to be challenged, asking God to reveal the things in our hearts and minds that need to be changed and wanting to hear what we need to hear from Him, not only what we want to hear.
The stage was set with five chairs to represent some of the voices that express their viewpoints after the recent incidents. The chairs represented:
Police officers: most officers go to work with the desire to protect the community and come home safely each day, but of course, officers are human and some will be rogue and have different intentions.
People who feel that what happened was justified based on the circumstances.
People who feel that what happened was unjustified and that if you encounter the police, you should be very careful, do exactly what they say, because anything can happen.
The devil, whose goal is to create as much division and hatred as possible between races, the police and the public, and any other groups of differing opinions. He would have you believe that there are only two possible viewpoints on the matter and that we must choose one side or the other because we are going to fight.
Jesus, who offers a third option of love. (This does not mean that other viewpoints are wrong or that they don’t have love.)
Pastor Miles’ challenge was to examine the condition of your heart toward people who believe different things than you do. Are you allowing God to minister to your heart and affect your actions with love?
In Matthew 15, the Pharisees criticize Jesus’ disciples for not washing their hands before they eat bread.
So Jesus said, “Are you also still without understanding? Do you not yet understand that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and is eliminated? But those things which proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and they defile a man. For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies. These are the things which defile a man, but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile a man.” Matthew 15:16-20
Jesus teaches that what is in our hearts is of utmost importance. What is in your heart concerning people whose opinions differ from yours?
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so? Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.” Matthew 5:43-48
Jesus challenges us to do what we cannot do. The gospel is not just about coming to church on Sunday, but about living a life that is beyond our ability to live on our own. It’s very easy for us to criticize, hate, point fingers, or talk about other people and how they may be wrong, but it’s much more challenging to lay out hearts down before the Lord and ask Him for purification, humility, and change.
When we differ from others or have differing opinions, the devil says we should hate them, talk about them, and malign them, but Jesus says to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. Whatever “side” you are on concerning current events, God always wants us to do as He does. When we were sinful, when we cursed His name, and before we even knew Him, He died for us, not only so that we could be forgiven, but so that we could do the same for others.
Although someone may speak badly about you or have a negative opinion about you, you are called to pray for him or her. You don’t have to agree with the person, but there are people all over our community with different experiences and outlooks that are very real. Because we are all in the family of God, know that you yourself are imperfect, recognize that you may not know everything, and pray that the other person draws closer to God.
God understands persecution and yet calls us to righteousness. After all, Jesus was killed in innocence - yet He still prayed for His enemies.
We live in a sinful world where terrible things happen and this will by no means be the last terrible thing, yet we are called move forward, learn, grow, and change. The first response that God asks from us is to pray for justice, for peace, and for our hearts to be changed. The challenge today is to allow God to change your heart to be more like His. When you find yourself impassioned by events around you, pray for everyone involved - all sides, as they are all affected in different ways - that God would draw them near and impact them for His glory.