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written by Constance Morgenstern
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Study for "Dear Lord, I Come Confessing"


It's so easy to get sucked into hatred.

Lately, in the United States and around the world, divisions seem to be flourishing and, by some, intentionally magnified. This study is not meant to discourage honest disagreement or constructive working for change, no--but now I've caught myself wishing ill on someone I've never met. If you're fighting deep anger, too, let's get reminded about Jesus' teachings on hatred and "enemies."

Consider Luke 6:27-36 or Matthew 5:43-48. Read them slowly in your own Bibles or with the links.

In these related passages, Jesus’ instruction is to pray for, and do good to those who hate us. It is a shocking, tough standard to meet! Just that teaching alone would give most of us something to confess to God.

But there are additional teachings to consider. We know we shouldn’t murder people, from the Ten Commandments. However, in Matthew 5:21-22, Jesus says that, even if we’ve never murdered anyone, just being angry with another person counts as sin. Another high standard! And then there's the part about calling other people "fools." What might this imply about the temptation to deliver political, racial, or religious "zingers?"

A later passage, Luke 6:37-38, has sort of a “what you sow, you shall reap” message: Whether we judge, condemn, forgive or give to others, Jesus says, the generosity of our measuring cups matters— The same cups will be used in measuring back to us!

It can be hard to live in such a generous way, although Jesus urged his followers to do it. As we saw in our original passage (Luke 6:27-36), Christ says how anyone can be decent to their own friends. It’s doing good to enemies that gives real credit!

Yes, Jesus set the bar high with his teachings, but he modeled the teachings himself in his earthly life.

In Verse 3 of “Dear Lord, I Come Confessing,” I’ve mentioned some of the ways Jesus demonstrated his love for other people. It amazes me that, even on his way to his own death in Jerusalem, he wept for the city (Luke 19:41-44).

Most Christians know how Jesus, on the cross, gave his life for humanity’s sins—but let’s also consider some of the wonderful, specific stories of him risking his preacher’s reputation by openly associating with people labeled “SINNERS.” We can envision him eating in the rich home of despised tax collector Zacchaeus (Luke 19:1-10). Or, we can see him--I imagine a proper dinner party!--gently accepting the adoration from a “sinful” woman who has moistened his feet with her tears (Luke 7:36-50).

Luke 15 contains Jesus' well-known Parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32). You may remember how, as the prodigal young man returns, the father races to meet his penitent and penniless son, and how he celebrates the homecoming with a full-out feast. In the chapter, Jesus says (twice!) that there is actual rejoicing in heaven when one sinner repents (check Luke 15:7 and 10)!

It is important to note that Jesus’ compassion extended beyond his own Jewish people. Jesus crossed lines to interact with people that the Jews generally despised: He had a heart-to-heart conversation with a woman from Samaria (John 4: 4-42). He also healed the servant of a Roman centurion (Matthew 8:5-13). In fact, in this second interaction, Jesus basically says that the kingdom of God is not just for the Jewish people (see verse 11). Again, at the end of Matthew, when the risen Christ is preparing to leave his disciples, he tells them to make disciples “of all nations” (Matthew 28:18-20). So, how can we draw ungracious lines between peoples, when Jesus himself does not?

I think we partly do it out of fear. There’s no denying that violence kills unsuspecting people, in places we’d never predict. Whether you have any particular reason to feel anxious—or have been encouraged to stress out by political forces or media broadcasts—we have a Father who helps us live above that fear.

Throughout the Bible, angels and prophets speaking for God have told people to not be afraid. (One of my own favorite verses is at the end of Romans 8:35-39.) Some of the most personal wrestlings with fear come in the Psalms, as David sometimes fled armies who wanted to kill him. A quick example is Psalm 25, but there are others. David’s faith in God, and his reflecting on God’s faithfulness, brought him back to comfort and praise.

Even more than David, we have reason for strength, because we have the additional example and teachings of Christ. Jesus told us not to fear the end of bodily life; God is in charge. (But, we do need to properly consider God's future judgment on whether Christ has been openly honored in our lives (Luke 12:4-7).)

Early in his ministry (Matthew 4:1-11), Jesus was tempted by Satan. Satan tempted him to abuse his relationship with God to seek apparently desirable things like food, earthly power, and physical safety. Jesus resisted by quoting the Word of God from the scriptures of His time. For us, living after the earthly life of Christ, we can also rely on Christ’s teachings (start with John 3:16) about life after death. Moreover, we have a risen Christ to prove these things. And we have His promise of the Holy Spirit to be with us always.

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