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Showing posts with label Love. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Love. Show all posts

Tuesday, March 1, 2022

Creation: Day 2 - Sky


Introduction
The world we live in is breathtaking and complex.  The artistic genius of it points to Something/Someone higher, greater, more wonderful than we can even imagine.  Who is this Creator who set the world in motion?  What does the story of creation in Genesis tell us about the Creator’s character?

Long before science existed, people were already asking questions about how the world began.  We want to know where we came from.  We want to know Who made us.  We want to know why we are here.  Genesis was written to speak to the mysterious longings within our hearts to know the Truth about God.  The creation story reveals the character of God and the life He offers us.  If you want to know God and why we are here, you can find out by studying the story of creation in Genesis.

Genesis 1:6-8
6 Then God said, “Let there be a space between the waters,
to separate the waters of the heavens from the waters of the earth.” 7 And that is what happened. God made this space to separate the waters of the earth from the waters of the heavens. 8 God called the space “sky.”

And evening passed and morning came, marking the second day. On the second day, God created the sky. At the time Genesis was written, people observed the world around them and tried to understand. They looked up into the blue sky and it reminded them of a vast ocean of water. *Yet, they could clearly see that the air above them was invisible. So it seemed there was an empty space between the blue “water” above and the water and land upon which we stand here on earth.

How would you describe the sky if you had never been told a scientific description of it?  Suppose you had no way of going up into the sky or into space to look around and measure what you found.  How would you explain this mysterious existence of earth below and blue sky above?

Children are inquisitive.  They want to understand the world around them—even before their minds are capable of grasping it.  Parents often struggle to answer their questions.  One day a 5-year-old boy asked his father if a stick was alive.  “No.  This stick is not alive.”  “But it comes from a tree.  Is a tree alive?” Asked the son.  “Yes, a tree is alive.”  “Then why isn’t this stick alive?”  How would you answer this child’s question in a way that they could understand?  Even more challenging: how would you explain the same thing to a dog or a cat?

How difficult it must be for an infinitely intelligent Creator God to explain the intricate details of His creation to people whose thinking is so limited.  This was especially true thousands of years ago when Genesis was written.  So God used words that made sense to ancient people.  He describes the sky or atmosphere as a “space” between the waters of the sky and the earth below. 

The Hebrew word is translated “firmament” in KJV.  This gives the impression that the sky is firm to hold up the blue expanse that we see above us.  God named the sky Shamaym, “heaven.”  The word means lofty—the home of God. God beckons us to reach for higher ideals. God created within each of us a desire to reach for something higher.  We could not even imagine God if it were not so.  One cannot help but look up at the sky and wonder about it.  We lay in the grass on a pretty summer day and stare up at the mysterious clouds above.  What are they made of?  What do they feel like?  They look like giant cotton balls floating in the sky.  It was not until the 1903 that man successfully built an airplane and soared through the sky.  However, people have watched birds soaring among the clouds since the very beginning, and we have longed to be up there with them.  It took thousands of years of longing, stretching, reaching before humanity was able to achieve our dream of flight.  If we never had the ambition to fly through the magnificent sky, we would never have achieved flight. We don’t just long for a higher altitude. God created us to yearn for higher ideals.  If we were just another one of the animals, we might only care about the basics that all animals need to survive—food, water, shelter, reproduction.  Yet the human spirit longs for higher ideals.  We value faith, hope, and love.  Our greatest joys in life come when we realize these; our greatest sorrows are when they are missing. Faith and Hope are two higher ideals God gives us. Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see.” (Hebrews 11:1)  Having faith gives you a distinct advantage.  If Orville and Wilbur Wright never had faith that flight was possible, they never would have risked the dangers of flight or the ridicule of those who did not believe it was possible.  The greater rewards in life are rarely within plain sight.  Faith enables you to push yourself beyond the limits of what is immediately visible.  Faith also empowers you to trust others.  Trust is the bond that enables people to work together—as husband and wife, as parents and children, as co-workers, as soldiers in an army, or as a church full of people who can count on each other.  Without trust, we must do everything on our own power—which is very limited.  But when we can trust others, we can work together as a group and accomplish so much more. Ultimately, faith allows us to trust the Creator.  Just because a person believes God created the world does not ensure they trust God.  Many people do NOT trust God.  We see the same mistrust played out in many religions—including biblical Judaism—where sacrifices were made to appease the gods.  Such religious practices reveal a deep mistrust of divine power.  Yet God turns this whole religious practice of sacrifice upside down through Jesus Christ.  Instead of people making a sacrifice for God, God—in Christ—sacrifices Himself for us.  God has done everything possible to show He is trustworthy.  Now it is our choice whether we will take hold of the higher ideals of faith and hope.  Do you have faith in God? Do you have hope? Love is the highest ideal for which God beckons us to reach. 1 Corinthians 13:13 says, “Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love.”  We were created for love. There are 21 definitions for the word love on Dictionary.com.  However, the Greek word 1 Corinthians uses is “Agape,” which is “self-giving love, expressed freely without calculation of cost or gain to the giver or merit on the part of the receiver.”  The clearest demonstration of love is found in the life of Jesus Christ.  By all accounts, Jesus was an extraordinary man.  A man who can heal the blind and walk on water could have gained anything he wanted—power, wealth, prestige.  However, Jesus refused to seek anything for himself.  Instead, he gave up even the basic things most people desire—a way to make a living, a wife, children—and he dedicated his life to helping others.  We have seen a few exceptional people, like Mother Theresa, who lived a life of sacrificial love, but Jesus went even further.  Jesus showed us the greatest love of all when he laid down his life for the world. Jesus didn’t just die for his friends.  He sacrificed his life for people he’d never met—people like you and me.  He died for people most might overlook—the outcast, the forgotten, the neglected.  He died for people most might find despicable—those who have cheated, abused, murdered.  Jesus even died for those who drove the nails through his feet and hands into the cross.  He said, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34) When Jesus died on the cross, he demonstrated the highest form of love.  We admire his self-sacrificing love.  Somehow, it speaks to our hearts.  We know it is good.  We know it is right.  It awakens a longing within us to reach for this kind of higher love—even when it seems out of reach.  However, just as early people must have thought flight was out of reach, we hope that—with God’s help—we might one day love like Jesus.  The Truth is, we can love like Jesus.  With man it is impossible, but all things are possible with God.  And God beckons us to reach, to stretch, to grow toward love. Closing Whenever you look up at the fluffy white clouds that float high above us in God’s beautiful sky, remember to reach for the higher virtues in life: faith, hope, and love. Pray and ask God to help you. And then, keep reaching for the highest ideals in life.

Monday, February 7, 2022

The Beautiful Mind

Introduction
Mother Teresa once taught, “Christ has no body now on earth, but yours; no hands, but yours; no feet, but yours. It is your eyes through which Christ’s compassion looks out to the world; your feet with which he must walk about doing good; your hands with which he blessed humanity; your voice with which his forgiveness is spoken; your heart with which he now loves.” 

Mother Teresa’s words are a poignant reminder to all who follow Christ as Lord that we the Church Christ established to serve as His physical presence on the earth.  When we are faithful, Christ’s love spreads and the world becomes a better place.  

If we are to represent Christ well, we must be faithful to His teachings and way of life.  For great harm is done whenever people misunderstand Christ’s teachings or intentionally misuse Christianity to further their own selfish agendas.  Therefore, it is imperative that we study and do our best to be faithful.

We enjoy so many blessings today because of the work of Christ’s Beautiful Church over the last 2,000 years.  Consider these blessing we enjoy and even take for granted today that came into being through the work of Christ’s Church: 

  • Sacrificial Love as the highest virtue
  • Charitable giving
  • Humility as a virtue
  • Peaceful protest
  • Nonviolent resistance
  • Abolishment of slavery
  • Equal rights for women
  • Civil rights
  • Public Hospitals
  • Care for orphans
  • Child abandonment laws
  • Court Appointed Attorneys
  • Religious Freedom 

Today, I want to address one final blessing we have received from the Beautiful Church--the blessing of intellectual learning. 

1 Corinthians 2:13-16
13 
When we tell you these things, we do not use words that come from human wisdom. Instead, we speak words given to us by the Spirit, using the Spirit’s words to explain spiritual truths. 14 But people who aren’t spiritual can’t receive these truths from God’s Spirit. It all sounds foolish to them and they can’t understand it, for only those who are spiritual can understand what the Spirit means. 15 Those who are spiritual can evaluate all things, but they themselves cannot be evaluated by others. 16 For,

“Who can know the Lord’s thoughts?  Who knows enough to teach him?”  But we understand these things, for we have the mind of Christ.

Christianity and Education
When the Church is faithful to Christ, we take on the mind of Christ and we help enlighten the world with God’s wisdom and knowledge.  The Church caused the advancement of medicine, science, better government, wisdom, and education. 

In our day and age, there is a misconception that science and learning stand against Christian religion.  That is an unfortunate misunderstanding that has been perpetuated by ignorant people.  Jesus himself stated in Matthew 22:37 that the greatest commandment of all was to “…love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.” 

Jesus, as a 1st century Jew, came from a religious background that valued education and learning.  Jewish children were taught to read the Torah from an early age.  Many could recite the first 5 books of the Bible from memory and make logical arguments about their teachings.  

Jesus’ first followers were Jews that valued education. They spread their love of learning to the Christian Church--even as it spread out beyond the Jewish community to more and more gentiles.  The Christian faith always included a love for learning, because Christ’s followers believed their faith was logical and knowing God required Christians to study and learn. 

Even though the earliest Christians were mostly from the lower classes of society that tended to be uneducated, these believers were required to learn.  In order to join the early church, new converts were often required to attend 3 years of classes in the Christian faith before they were fully initiated into the Christian Church.  

One of the great attractions of the Church to common people was the opportunity to receive an education.  Education was not commonly available to the average person in ancient times.  The Christian Church valued education as a road to deeper understand of and devotion to God.  Therefore, the Church believed all people should be able to receive an education and worked diligently to provide educational opportunities for everyone—rich and poor alike. 

The earliest Christians began as a small minority in a sea of other religions that were often hostile to Christianity.  However, the early Christians refused to use violence to defend themselves or advance their cause.  Instead, Christians said, “Let’s debate the issues and let group with the most compelling arguments stand.  And over the course of 2 centuries, more and more people in the ancient Roman world—from all walks of life—found the Christian’s ideas most compelling.  And so, in the face of violent persecution, and a myriad of competing religious ideas, Christianity rose to prominence as more and more people were won over to the Christian Church by the reasoning of Christian arguments about faith in Christ.

The early Christians knew what they believed and why they believed it and they lived out their beliefs even in the face of persecution, torture, and death.  For they believed because they knew what Scripture said:

Romans 8:37 – “No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.”

1 John 4:4 – “You have already won a victory over those people, because the Spirit who lives in you is greater than the spirit who lives in the world.”

The early Christians could willingly embrace the loss of property, freedom, and even their life because they really did believe something greater was already won for them--the Kingdom of Heaven and eternal live.  This world had nothing for them.  Their hope was in the coming Kingdom of God.

 

Christians and Scripture
Christians as a people of the Book, highly valued reading and writing.  They set about recording the life and teachings of Christ, which was no small task in the ancient world.  Today, we take for granted our access to the Holy Bible.  Most Americans have multiple copies as well as access to the Bible through the internet and a computer or smartphone.  We forget the tremendous cost expended to preserve the Bible for us. 

The printing press, which automated the book printing process, was not invented until 1436.  So for 1,400 years, all books had to be copied by hand—word by word, letter by letter.  The cost of materials  and labor to manufacture a book in the first few centuries after Christ’s birth was incredible.  The cost to reproduce just one Bible—from Genesis to Revelation—was the equivalent of 30 years of wages for the common person.  How much money have you earned in the last 30 years?  That's how much one Bible would cost to produce in the first few centuries of the Church.  Consider that for just one moment...

The early Christians valued Scriptures so much they set their hands to copying them so that future generations would have these sacred words to guide our minds and our faith in what we need to know to be faithful to God through Jesus Christ.  They sacrificed the time, resources, and energy to preserve God's Word because they knew this Word holds the key to wisdom and life and eternal life. 

Early Christians were even willing to die in order to protect their sacred texts.  Two female deacons of the early church, Catalina and Micoclius, were arrested and interrogated by Roman authorities who demanded they give up their sacred texts to be burned.  Catalina and Micoclius refused to tell where the books were hidden and were therefore put to death (Bullies and Saints by John Dickson). 

One might think it a waste of human life that these two women would sacrifice their lives for the sake of a book.  However, you must understand these early Christian really believed with all their hearts what their book said—that Christ has already won the victory.  The main purpose of this life is to further the purpose of Christ coming Kingdom.  We who follow Christ have already died to our selfish ambitions, and to die a physical death for Jesus is only to begin our eternal life in Christ heavenly Kingdom.  These are not just words.  They are Truth.  Early believers were willing to sacrifice their life for the cause of Christ's Kingdom with the sure and certain knowledge that what was to come was far better than this life.

When you hold your Bible, I want you to remember the hundreds of thousands of Christians who dedicated their lives and livelihoods to preserving the words of these texts so you can read them today.  It was a tremendous sacrifice they willingly made. 

The early Christians efforts were not limited only to Christian texts.  They also believed other important documents of classic learning should be preserved as well.  The reason we know so much about philosophers like Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle, (as well as other important ancient texts) is because the early Christians preserved their ideas by copying their texts and teaching their philosophies through the centuries.

Christians love for learning flourished even more after the Roman Empire officially converted to Christianity.  With the support of the Empire, Christians were able to establish great institutes of learning that helped advance government, science, medicine, writing, wisdom, philosophy, and mathematics.  Ironically, the so called “dark ages”, which modern enlightenment thinkers like to blame on the Christian Church, was not caused by the Church.  Rather, it was caused by the collapse of civilization with the fall of the Roman Empire and its Christian institutions of learning. 

Christian Scientists
Christian education and love for learning inspired scientific discovery throughout the ages.  In fact, the most influential scientist during the enlightenment period were Christians.  Their love of God and desire to know Him and His creation inspired them to delve deeply into scientific investigation to discover the mysteries of God’s universe.  A list of Christian scientists included such lauded scientific pioneers as:

Galileo Galilei, who discovered the earth revolves around the sun.

Robert Boyle, who defined elements, compounds, and mixtures and the first gas law.  Boyle said that a deeper understanding of science was a higher glorification of God.

Isaac Newton was a passionate Christian who spent more time on Bible study than math and physics. Newton profoundly changed our understanding of nature with his law of universal gravitation and his laws of motion; invented calculus; built the first ever reflecting telescope; showed sunlight is made of all the colors of the rainbow.

Michael Faraday was a devout member and elder of the Sandemanian Church. Faraday discovered electromagnetic induction; discovered the first experimental link between light and magnetism; carried out the first room-temperature liquefaction of a gas.

Werner Heisenberg was a Lutheran with deep Christian convictions and the primary creators of quantum mechanics who formulated the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle.

Louis Pasteur was a Christian, a biologist, microbiologist and chemist renowned for his discoveries of the principles of vaccination, microbial fermentation and pasteurization. 

These scientists and countless others believed deeply in Jesus Christ and were faithful members of His Church.  Their love of learning and the drive to search the mysteries of God’s creation were not deterred, but rather enhanced, by their faith in God.   

Conclusion
The Christian faith challenges us to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, and mind.  God gave us our intellect as a tool to help us know Him better and to bring His heavenly Kingdom upon the earth.

Therefore, let us not shy away from learning.  But let us join with Christians from throughout the centuries who have helped make our world a better place by promoting education and intellectual pursuits for the glory of God.  Let us rebuke the slanderous idea that the Church is only for the ignorant and unlearned.  Let us show the atheist that true knowledge comes from God through Christ. Furthermore, let us be eternally grateful to God and His Church for the incredible contributions over the centuries that have made our world a better place. 

Communion and Welch’s Grape Juice
I want to end my message with a true story about a man named Thomas Bramwell Welch.  Welch (1825-1903) was a British–American Methodist minister and dentist. He pioneered the use of pasteurization as a means of preventing the fermentation of grape juice.  This grape juice, which millions enjoy today, was not practically available before Welch use pioneered a way to pasteurize it (using an adapted method created by Louis Pasteur).  Prior to Welch and the advent of refrigeration, grape juice would turn to wine within a few days due to natural yeast found in the air.  

During the 1800s and early 1900s, churches were fighting against an epidemic of alcoholism and encouraging Christians to abstain from drinking alcohol.  However, at Sunday morning communion services, the Church had no option but to use alcoholic wine for their sacrament.  Welch wanted to provide the Church with a non-alcoholic option for the sacrament of Holy Communion.  Welch's grape juice, pasteurized to prevent fermentation, was the solution.  When sales to churches were low, the graoe juice was made available for general use to the public for secular consumption.  Sales skyrocketed and Welch's grape juice is one of the most common brands available in grocery stores today.  However, the grape juice we love so much, was originally intended for sacred use.  

In my church, we use grape juice for Holy Communion.  Whether it uses real wine or Welch’s grape juice, the red color of the beverage is a reminder of the sacrifice Jesus made for us, shedding His precious blood to atone for our sins.  The sacrament also reminds us that Jesus is here with us in spirit even now.  His presence nourishes us and strengthens us to be His Church, joining with the countless saints who have gone before us.  When we are faithful to Jesus--the Way, the Truth, and the Life--we are the Church, Jesus physical presence on earth.  

So, let's be His feet going. 
Let us be His hands serving. 
Let us speak His words of truth.
Let us offer His grace, love,  and forgiveness.

 

Monday, January 17, 2022

The Beautiful Tune

Introduction
Last week, we started a message series about the Beautiful Church, Christ's physical presence on earth. I told you Jesus shared the most beautiful truths of God's love the world has ever known. Unfortunately, His followers have not always lived up to His ideals. 


We shared a little illustration last Sunday to demonstrate how we shouldn't judge Christ's message by the poor performance of some of His followers.  Did you see it?


In our day, we take for granted how comprehensively Jesus Christian message has influenced our world.  We take so much for granted.  Just consider one aspect–how Jesus teachings are found everywhere in our conversations. We get the following expressions directly from Jesus.  How often have you used one of these saying or heard them used by someone else?

Salt of the earth

City on a hill

Love thy neighbor

Do unto others as you would have them do unto you

Good Samaritan

Prodigal son

Blind leading the blind

A cross to bear

Pearls before swine

Do not let the left hand know what the right is doing

Judge not lest you be judged

A wolf in sheep's clothing

Cast the first stone

Eat, drink, and be merry

Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s

Sign of the times

Go the extra mile

Shout it from the rooftops

Log in the eye

And many, many others

Whether or not a person is a Christian, these sayings are used so often people forget they came directly from Jesus.  And understand, these are not just used by English speakers, but also in French, Greek, Italian, German, Dutch, Romanian, Spanish, Swedish, Hungarian, and Russian.

Without Jesus, we wouldn’t have these expressions or the ideas they automatically conjure up in our thinking.


However, as colorful as these expressions of wisdom are, they are only minor notes in the main theme of Jesus’ beautiful tune.  What then is the core of Jesus’ tune?  It is love.


Matthew 22:34-40
34 But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees with his reply, they met together to question him again. 35 One of them, an expert in religious law, tried to trap him with this question: 36 “Teacher, which is the most important commandment in the law of Moses?”

37 Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.”

Love is the Greatest of All
Jesus teaching about love was revolutionary.  I can’t overstress this, because after 2,000 years we take for granted that love is the highest virtue.  One is tempted to think the world has always thought of love as Christians do.  This is not so.

Prior to Christ, the great civilization of the world did not venerate love like Jesus. Jesus lifted the commandments to love from the Jewish Torah, but these statements about love were buried among 613 religious laws and Jesus emphasized that we are to love not only our friends, but also our enemies.  Jews of his day were astounded at Jesus’ teachings about love. The main virtues for ancient Egyptians, Assyrians, Persians, Greeks, and Romans did not include love.  They cherished ideals like wisdom, courage, self-discipline, and justice.  But there was no place among their greatest virtues for sacrificial love.

This is not to say that other great civilizations did not love, but their concept of  love was purely transactional.  A ruler might “love” his people, but it was only because doing so was in his best interest.  A ruler who loved his people and did good for them would earn the loyalty and support of his people.  Ultimately, this kind of love was an effort to “buy” support and honor from the people he ruled.  It was a transaction.  Even the love between a husband and wife in these ancient civilizations was primarily transactional.  Marriage was a contract more about what the husband and wife got out of the deal than about mutual, unconditional, sacrificial love for one another.

There was in ancient civilizations a concept of giving charity (in other words, a rich leader might pay to have a well dug for the community or to build an expensive temple), but these were done for the sake of getting honor and fame for the donor.  It was a transaction–a gift given in return for honor and fame.

But Jesus came along and said, “Don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing.” He taught us to give our gifts in secret and don’t make a big deal out of it. Jesus said, “If you love only those who love you, why should you get credit for that? Even sinners love those who love them! 33 And if you do good only to those who do good to you, why should you get credit? Even sinners do that much! 34 And if you lend money only to those who can repay you, why should you get credit? Even sinners will lend to other sinners for a full return.  35 “Love your enemies! Do good to them. Lend to them without expecting to be repaid. Then your reward from heaven will be very great, and you will truly be acting as children of the Most High, for he is kind to those who are unthankful and wicked. 36 You must be compassionate, just as your Father is compassionate.”  (Luke 6:32-36)

Jesus was the first one to espouse universal, unconditional, sacrificial love.  It was revolutionary.  He said we should love this way because it is an imitation of God’s own character and we are made in God’s image and should love the way He loves.

Well, anybody can talk about love.  But these were more than just words for Christ. His mission on earth was to live out this unconditional, sacrificial love for all people. The ultimate expression of Jesus’ love was his death on the cross for the sins of the world. As Romans 5:8 says, “God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.

The love Jesus championed was ludicrous to almost everyone in the first century. Jesus’ own people, the Jews, who knew about God’s love from their own holy Scriptures, would never have thought to love their Roman overlords.  They wanted God to destroy their enemies. People in ancient times might be willing to sacrifice their lives for someone who was worthy—maybe to die for their family or for their country or a great leader–but no one would die for their enemies or for evil-doers.  And yet, Jesus chose to die for sinners.  Ultimately, the Christian message is that every person is a sinner and none of us are worthy of Christ’s sacrificial death, but He died for us anyway.  This was a whole new concept Jesus revealed to our world.  Through the centuries, it has reshaped everything about the way modern people view love and sacrifice and the sacred value of every human life.

This paradigm shift cannot be overstated. Jesus is the reason our world values love today. Whether or not you are a Christian or even believe God exists, Jesus changed humanity forever for the better.  And Jesus did not do it alone.

Jesus birthed the idea of God’s unconditional, universal, sacrificial love and died on a cross to prove it. However, it was the Church Jesus commissioned–people who believed in Him, followed Him, and dedicated their lives to His mission–who convinced the majority of the world, against all odds, that Jesus’ way of love is the best way of all.

I know the Church has played many sour notes throughout history, and people have often misunderstood or purposefully misused  Jesus’ teachings for their own selfish gain.  But contrary to the picture an unbelieving, anti-Christian world paints, the Church has gotten it right more than it has gotten it wrong. And when the Church has been true to Jesus’ Beautiful Tune, we have pushed the world to be a much better place. And many in the Church–just like our Lord–gave up their lives in the effort. History is colored with the blood of martyrs–some named, but most unknown–who gave their lives to advance the cause of Christ and teach people His love.

You can say what you want about the Church, but if you cherish the greatest virtue in the modern world, one of the things you ought to say is: “Thank you.”

Martin Luther King
Tomorrow is Martin Luther King Day, a day to remember and honor this great civil rights leader.  Everyone knows what King did, but don’t forget he was the Rev. Martin Luther King. MLK was a Christian.  He was even named after the great 16th century Church reformer, Martin Luther. King’s conviction to fight for the equal treatment of black people was firmly rooted in his Christian faith that said all people are created equally in the image of God, and we are to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. And we are to love our neighbor as ourself.

In one of King’s famous sermons, “Loving Your Enemies, he preached at Dexter Baptist Church:
“Yes, it is love that will save our world and our civilization, love even for enemies.  Now let me hasten to say that Jesus was very serious when he gave this command; he wasn’t playing. He realized that it’s hard to love your enemies. He realized that it’s difficult to love those persons who seek to defeat you, those persons who say evil things about you. He realized that it was painfully hard, pressingly hard. But he wasn’t playing. And we cannot dismiss this passage as just another example of Oriental hyperbole, just a sort of exaggeration to get over the point. This is a basic philosophy of all that we hear coming from the lips of our Master. Because Jesus wasn’t playing; because he was serious. We have the Christian and moral responsibility to seek to discover the meaning of these words, and to discover how we can live out this command, and why we should live by this command.”

King’s commitment to Christ’s unconditional, universal, sacrificial love was so complete, he suffered beatings, imprisonment, and ultimately lost his life in service to our Lord, Jesus Christ.

If you remove from history Christ and His Church, you do not have a Martin Luther King, Jr. You do not have a motivation for non-violent resistance that leads to dramatic social change. You do not have the civil rights movement. You do not have the abolition of slavery. You do not have equal rights for all people or equality for women. You do not even have America, a land where we believe
“that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

What other essential virtues of our world today would be missing were it not for Christ and His Church boldly proclaiming for the last 2,000 years: “Love the Lord Your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind; and love your neighbor as yourself”?

Conclusion
Now I want to close by saying there is much more work to do. We have not yet realized the fullness of Christ’s Kingdom on Earth. We who are Christians, who follow Jesus as Lord, have much work to do. And our work may include suffering. So let us pray for courage and determination. Let us pray for God’s love to fill us,
because the kind of love we need to do Christ’s work is not in us naturally. And let us pray for more laborers to join us in the vineyard, because the harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few.

And I call out to you–you who are listening to me right now, but are still not part of Christ’s Church. Perhaps you feel, today, Christ calling to you saying: “Come, follow me!” And so I join His invitation.  Will you join with me? Will you join with all the faithful followers of Christ from every place and every generations who have fought the good fight to share Christ’s transforming love with the world. I hope you will.

Closing Prayer from Martin Luther King, Jr. “Oh God, help us in our lives and in all of our attitudes, to work out this controlling force of love, this controlling power that can solve every problem that we confront in all areas. Oh, we talk about politics; we talk about the problems facing our atomic civilization. Grant that all men will come together and discover that as we solve the crisis and solve these problems—the international problems, the problems of atomic energy, the problems of nuclear energy, and yes, even the race problem—let us join together in a great fellowship of love and bow down at the feet of Jesus. Give us this strong determination. In the name and spirit of this Christ, we pray. Amen.”