Beyond Sunday Morning

Sunday’s Scripture Matthew 5:43-48 NRSV . Here is the Lay Leader’s response to the sermon.

Jesus was disruptive. He was counter-culture, counter-tradition, counter-intuitive—in His ways and teachings.
Jesus told those who followed Him, “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.”

When Pastor Steve began his sermon on Sunday, I let out a deep breath and sighed, knowing I could coast a little. I knew this sermon topic wasn’t what I needed. I mean, I don’t hate anyone. I don’t try to hurt anyone. I’m not out to get anyone. I’m not violent or abusive.

Then he got my attention. “Hate,” he said, “can be subtle.” The real definition of hate doesn’t involve violence or war or abuse. In it’s simplest context, to hate is to love less. Wait, what? So if I get offended and begin to hold back, that is hate? If someone hurts me and I withdraw (even slightly) from the relationship, that is hate?

I’m going to have to re-think my thinking! So what do I do? Maybe I do need this sermon! How do I turn my loveless attitudes around? Well, praise Jesus! When He prods the souls of His children, He always gives a solution. Jesus’ antidote? Prayer. The first step is to pray for those who offend, hurt and persecute.

Praying for others is a powerful means of cultivating love. I’ve learned it’s best to begin immediately—not to wait until I feel like it. Prayer ushers in the feels. Not the other way around. If I wait, first, for the good feelings, my soul will continue to bathe itself in loveless thoughts and attitudes until it grows into a furnace of bitterness and anger.

Let’s take a moment, take a deep breath, close our eyes, and ask God who we need to love more…Then pray for that person.

“Father God, I pray for ___ and ask that they would be filled with the knowledge of Your will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that they will walk in a manner worthy of You, Lord, pleasing You in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of You. Strengthen them with all power, according to Your glorious might, so they will attain steadfastness and patience and joyously give thanks to You, Father. Qualify ___ to share in the inheritance of the saints in Light. Rescue us from the domain of darkness, and transfer us to the kingdom of Your beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. Amen.” [Prayer adapted from Colossians 1:9-14]

Extra credit: pray this prayer every time this person comes to mind. Bonus round: pray this prayer for yourself too.

Stand back and prepare to be amazed.

Written by Tammy Cox

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