Love Your Neighbor
Each week we will be sharing a post from a staff member in response to the most recent sermon in our “Reset” series. Click to watch, listen, or read the sermon shared by Pastor Roger Patterson on November 1, 2020.
“You have heard it said, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR, and hate your enemy.’ “But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you in order that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax gatherers do the same? And if you greet your brothers only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”- Matthew 5:43-48
Our current sermon series is called “Reset.” Each week, I have contemplated what Jesus is calling me to RESET through His words in the Sermon on the Mount. Previously, I have viewed the Sermon on the Mount as kind of an overview of Christian living—in particular, how to live this life on earth well; instructions straight from the Son of God. Straight from the Son of God—so it certainly deems my focused attention. The word “reset” indicates that we (ok, I) are/am missing the mark in how we (I!) approach living this life. Jesus notes the way we naturally think, and then challenges us to reset our thinking and approach things differently.
Here in Matthew 5, I jump to the last verse—verse 48…because this is the point that explains why I should even bother to change. So that I can be perfect, as my heavenly Father is perfect. Do what? How can I be perfect like my heavenly Father is perfect? Well, I go to Strong’s Concordance to see what is meant by the word, “perfect.”
5046. Teleios: (a) complete in all its parts, (b) full grown, of full age, (c) specially of the completeness of Christian character (https://biblehub.com/greek/5046.htm ).
Ahh…Christ wants to grow my character to completeness. I understand that I won’t get there this side of heaven, but He is shaping me and growing me for my ultimate life with Him in eternity. I had to route my way through Strong’s Concordance, to get back to the point that Roger made so well—I should be about my heavenly rewards, as opposed to the rewards of today. Sorry it took me an extra bit of time and energy to get up to speed with you, RP! (He might tell you that’s nothing new )
Ok, so now that I see where I am going, what am I supposed to do to get there again?
“Love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you.” (Matthew 5:44)
Seems pretty straight forward…but it’s not. The truth is, I have this human nature to be like that 2nd grader that Robby Dobbs referred to in his sermon at West U Baptist this week. The one who was told, “She hates you,” who naturally retorted, “Well, I hate her, too.” While at age 55 I might not actually verbalize it that way, but my natural tendency is to get defensive; hold back kindness to that person; not be willing to help that person; judge that person harshly. But when I let the Holy Spirit do His work in my heart, through my relationship with Christ, it’s remarkable how the Spirit empowers me to love! And my personal experience is that if I start by praying for the one who persecutes me, the Spirit shapes my heart to love that person.
Wanna try it? Sure is a great week to start!
Remember that our Good Good Father loves EVERYONE. And He calls us to do the same—even when they are hateful to us; even when they are divisive against us; even when they post ugly responses to us. It is His desire to demonstrate His goodness, mercy, grace, and glory to EVERYONE. You (I!) could be the vehicle through which He does that.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go pray for some folks.
Liana Fairbanks is the Business Administrator for the CityRise Network, serving as a member of the Executive Leadership Team, and providing leadership for our staff and lay leaders overseeing finances. Liana has been an active member of our West U Baptist Church campus for many years, serving faithfully each Sunday in the choir at our 8:30 am service. Liana lives in Houston with her husband, Hardy.