Sunday Night Live Sermons
AN ATTITUDE THAT OVERCOMES
My Favourite Scripture Passages
If the evil men who thought that blowing up Londoners was a way of cowing a nation and changing its values, then those evil men picked the wrong city. Those evil men presumed they had the right to take life, with all its promise, from people last Thursday morning. This was more than an attack on London, it was an assault on the billions of people around the world who share Londoners’ values, and who today sympathise with their suffering. These attacks are the work of men who have no faith in humanity, no hope for the future and who hate mankind. They are people who have no faith, no hope and no love. Killing commuters on their way to work makes no sense. As with the destruction of New York’s Twin Towers, it only serves to unite decent people in sympathy for the victims and their families. We will not be diverted by such terrorist tactics.
For nearly four hundred years, London has been a global city, an engine-room for democratic and Christian values. Terrorists can set off as many bombs as they wish: they cannot win against a tradition that is inherently superior to theirs because it respects human life and the desire for freedom. So they will try to destroy what they cannot defeat in democratic debate. London has been through all this before: through the blitz bombing of Hitler’s air force and two decades of Irish terrorist bombing of the London Underground. Londoners coped with those assaults with steely resolve, a refusal to seek revenge, and compassion not only for those wounded but for justice for those who perpetrated the crime. We all could follow the example of the Londoners in their attitude that overcomes. Because this is the Christian attitude to such horror.
Steely resolve, a refusal to seek revenge, and com-passion for all concerned is the Christian attitude that overcomes. Jesus described it as love of God, love of others, and love of self. Love is one of the most powerful urges within us. Love of God, other people and self can drive people to incredible acts of heroism and self-sacrifice. Lack of love can twist and ruin a life. Love is the medicine for a sin-sick world. Love is the soy sauce on the chop suey of life. Love makes the world go round.
The French National Centre for Scientific Research in its first volume of its monumental super dictionary, cites the verb “to love” ‘aimer’. It take up 60 pages and 200 citations of different aspects of love. “Time” magazine devoted one cover story to a scientific analysis of love under the title “What is love?” It examined research into the psychological experiences that trigger romantic reactions, and the chemical reactions that take place in the brain and the body producing feelings of euphoria, elation, satisfaction and attachment. Jesus, two thousand years before these scientists, nominated love as the highest response of a truly human, decent person, and the methodology of those who follow Him. Jesus sums up the issue: Matthew 22:35–40 “One of the Pharisees, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “’Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
1. LOVING GOD IS OUR PRIMARY RESPONSE.
The Pharisees and lawyers expected Jesus to say obedience to God is primary. But Jesus said: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” Loving God is our primary duty. No half-hearted love but a full blown love that involved our heart and soul and mind. Christianity starts with our love for God. How strange. All other religions are based upon the fear of God, upon the fear of His wrath if we disobey. But Jesus, with a sunny optimism declares our primary duty is to love God. That love ends the fear of God. Instead, Jesus presents God as One whom we can love as a caring Father. No-one had ever spoken of God like that before. Jesus showed us how to love God.
If we see God as a loving Father, the universe and the whole of life takes on new meaning. Behind our world is a loving carer, and our life matters to him. For too many young Australians and Britons, the bombs exploded this week killing and maiming. I heard one young girl, her face covered in blood and black shoot, feeling her cheeks and repeating, “Is my face all right? Is my face OK?” For many of the maimed, life seems meaningless. For so many their lives ended violently and bloodily. That is why the message of Jesus is more relevant than at any time in history. He knows what it is to suffer and die the most painful of deaths. Yet Jesus says: Love God. He is your Father who made you and loves you. God cares for you. Your life has significance and meaning. Then you will discover warmth in your heart, answers for your questions, and satisfaction for your soul. Otherwise, without God, the terrorist wins. Loving God is our primary response.
2. LOVING OTHERS IS OUR PRIMARY DUTY.
“And the second is like it: “ Love your neighbour as yourself.”” That answer shook them, and to people who really think about human relationships it still does. Our slogans say it all: “Charity begins at home.” “The one who has the most toys when he dies wins.” “Might makes right.” “You earn what you get; you get what you pay for.” “If you don’t look out for number one, no one will.” “God helps those who help themselves.”
These statements reveal what people think and practise. Most of it is self-serving. There is a world of difference between the Jesus way and the world’s way. When it comes to our relationships with others, the way of the world says: “Look after No. 1” but the way of Jesus says: “Love your neighbour as yourself!” Christian living is an alternate life-style, a radical way of living. Paul wanted his readers to positively live according to more than what the law required. So he wrote: “The commandments, “Do not commit adultery,” “Do not murder,” “Do not steal,” “Do not covet,” and whatever other commandment there may be, are summed up in this one rule: “Love your neighbour as yourself.” Paul enlarged the circle of responsibility to include all other people. “Love one another” is the basic duty of the Christian life. Christianity is based on our primary response to God and our primary duty to others. Jesus said: “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” John 13:34 When we practice love, there is no need for any other laws, because love covers it all!
Love is the circulatory system of the spiritual body, that enables all the parts to function in a healthy, harmonious way. This must be an honest love, humble, not proud Romans 11:10 “Preferring one another” means treating others as more important than ourselves. Philippians 2:1–4 We must enter into the feelings of others, sharing the burdens and blessings of others so that we all grow together and glorify the Lord. Loving others is nonsense to the world but it is the only hope for the future. Loving others fulfils all the laws of God and mankind. Loving others is the very response our troubled and sick world needs. Terrorists are incapable of such loving. And if we only want revenge against them, we have inherited their characteristics.
Some young children brought to Wesley Mission are wild and vicious. Small children brought to us from homes that have seen turmoil, violence, abuse and aggression, respond to our staff with the same kind of behaviour. I remember four young boys and girls under twelve years of age brought to us by the government as children whose families cannot control them. Within four weeks, those four children in two separate homes threw knives and cans at staff, kicked and punched, threw plates of food on the floor, constantly abused the carers with the foulest language, smashed windows, kicked in doors, over-turned tables of food, stolen two of our vehicles in the middle of the night crashing them at speed, and holding a female staff worker with a knife to her throat. These are ten and twelve year olds! But then came signs of change in their behaviour.
A senior staff person says when I asked him what won through: “The change has been due to a consistent approach by staff who demonstrate loving care but who will not tolerate bad behaviour.” Consistent, loving care and firm guidelines. That produced the changes. The prayers of our people and the staff themselves strengthen them and guide them in changing such challenging behaviour. It is the same with adults. We have to treat captured terrorists and criminals with firm justice and tough love. In one intense study of how Christian agencies like Wesley Mission and the Salvation Army have won through with some of the toughest criminals, addicts, and antisocial people living on the streets, the author of “Salvation In the Slums” Norrie Magnuson, concludes “the tough heart is broken by the glorious principle of love. Rescue workers feel their “love” was effective. One might even say that “love” was interchangeable with “ divine power” in their frequent assertion that nothing else could transform men or their troubled world. For they felt that love was the essence both of God and of the life He wanted in men, and that it was impossible to attain apart from a radical conversion in which God filled one’s life. Repeatedly these workers asserted that this love alone would reach the hardened but empty life. Thus while they centred their faith in an ethical principle, “love,” rather than a doctrinal creed, their constant practical emphasis helped them keep that principle from evaporating into sentimentality: “The right kind of religion is love with its coat off, doing its best to help somebody.” They broke through to a level of acceptance and affirmation that proved to be a powerful force for social rehabilitation — a quality perhaps too lacking in some contemporary forms of social work.”
Locking up terrorists and throwing away the key, recking revenge and hatred upon those who have so blindly hurt and maimed others, is no way of benefiting society or changing those violators of our decent way of life. There must be rehabilitation and change. That requires from us a powerful and consistent surge of Christian care for them. That may sound soft, but it is the only antidote to repeated evil.
Does it work, this way of Jesus? I know that all other ways do not work. The Government Inquiry that I chair into our prison system and the continued failure to change some of our most violent criminals, rapists and murderers in society will soon bring down its report into the failure of our prison and punishment systems. Without pre-empting that report, one of the most chilling statements came from Rod Blackmore, Chief Magistrate of this State for so many years, when he said, “I know of not one single case of rehabilitation that has occurred from the most secure incarceration.” Perhaps we have to get serious with the way of Jesus. When you follow the way of Jesus, this involves you in loving God, others and yourself. Loving God enables you to love other people, and loving other people enables you to have a new sense of self-esteem and proper self-love. Love God, and everything else has new purpose and meaning. That is what we must get through to the worst that our society produces. It was no option, that last command of Jesus. He said, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another as I have loved you. By this will all men know that you are my disciples, if you have love, one for the other.” Have you the attitude that overcomes? You can only have His attitude by accepting Him as Lord of your life.
- “Salvation in the Slums”Norrie Magnuson. pp. viii, 40, 41. Baker 1977