By Dr. Al Dueck
30 Oct 2011 Sunday
Worship song: We Will Walk with God 我们与神同行
|Verse||We will walk with God, my brothers,
Qin ai de di xiong, wo men yu shen tong xing
we will walk with God.
yu shen tong xing
We will walk with God, my sisters,
Qin ai de zi mei, wo men yu shen tong xing
we will walk with God.
yu shen tong xing
|Chorus||We will go rejoicing till the Kingdom has come.(Repeat)
我 们 欢 喜 前 行 直 到 天 国 降 临。
Wo men huan xi qian xing Zhi dao tian guo jiang lin
Scripture Reading: Matthew 5:39-48
39 But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. 40 And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. 41 If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. 42 Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.
43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that?
47 And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
I have known the Haidian Church since the year of 2003. Now you are a very large congregation, then you were much smaller. God has been faithful to you. I am delighted that together we love the same God. We follow the same Jesus, and we listen to the same Holy Spirit.
For some twenty years, I have taught pastoral care and counseling, and I have been a Christian psychologist. I have listened to the pain of people, to their brokenness. There is brokenness on both sides of the ocean. Whether in the United States or in China, there are conflicts between parents and children, conflicts between nations, conflicts between husbands and wives, conflicts between governments and citizens, between business partners, and the list goes on and on.
How do Christians view conflicts? How can Christians be peacemakers in this world of violence? What do we do with people who do not like us, perhaps even people who hate us? We must start from the beginning, though. Jesus came preaching that the kingdom of God was at hand. We just sang about it. But what is this kingdom? What is this new culture? What is this new society of which Jesus is speaking?
Well, it is a movement which begins from the old Testament, where God brings out the Hebrews. They wandered for forty years in the desert. As they begin to create an identity, they are to be God’s people. Yahweh said to them, I will be your God, you will be my people. When Jesus chose his disciples, he did not choose five, or seven, or fifteen. He chooses twelve, to symbolize twelve tribes of Israel. The new community will emerge from Israel, Its character will be Godly. The church will be a sign of a new society, with different values, with different ways with people.
And what is this new society? Well, the charter of this new society, its constitution can be found in Matthew 5, 6, and 7. This is the character of this new people. There it is described, and in Jesus’ own life, the character of this new society is exemplified. The sermon on the mount as it is called, Matthew 5, 6 and 7, is a description of the kingdom of God, the society of God, if you will.
The verse we just read, Matthew 5:38, “you have heard that it was said, ‘”An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth”.’. What Jesus was doing was contrasting two different societies, the old world and the new world. In the old world, when people are hurt, they hit back. It is an eye for an eye, it is a raw form of justice, to kill or be killed. But Jesus said in the kingdom of God it is different, it is not the same.
In this new kingdom, if a Roman soldier came to you and hit you, you will not hit back. If the Roman soldier asks you for your cloak, you will give him your jacket also. If the Roman soldier demands you to carry his heavy knapsack for one mile, you will offer to carry it for two. What a different culture! What a different society! In the kingdom, those who follow Jesus, return goodness for unkindness.
In fact, Jesus actually thinks we should love our enemies. With all the wars in the world, you think that word has never been spoken. Because you see, those who love their enemies are the children of God. Their character is similar to the God they worship. If we worship the God of war, we would be violent people. If we are violent people, we would be worshiping a violent God.
Our God is a God of peace. In the world, we like people who are like us. May be the same skin color, maybe we speak the same language. Maybe we have children the same age, or we drive the same car. Or we have the same fate. Oh, but if they are different from us, what do we do with that. Jesus said, in the text we have read, “in the world, what is it, if you love people who love you, that is not unique. That is not special, anyone can do that. But, ah, can you love those who are unlike you. You see,, we tend to think, those who are like us, we are the blessed one.
Jesus said, “God allows the rain to fall on whom? Just on the Christians?” Wrong! The rain falls on the just and the unjust. The text said, “God loves the world.”, did it say, “God so love the world, especially Christians, no. The text says, God loves the world. May be we have something more to learn. Can we love those who are not like us? As in my title, Jesus as the healer and reconciler.
Most of us like an instantaneous cure. when we are sick. A shot in the arm, and the pain goes away. We love to see healings, just like Jesus’ miracles. And I would too. But I have been a therapist for twenty years. Healing comes very slowly. It takes much honesty and much work. But I have discovered, often we are healed by learning to live like Jesus. And we prevent a lot of illnesses. If you live your life with hate and filled with revenge, what will it do to your body? .The acid in your stomach eats away the lining of your stomach. The anger makes you cynical, because of the hate. And Jesus suggests, love those who hurt you. Do you know what will happen? You will not have a stomach churning with acid, because you move pass it. We can prevent the inner turmoil by living like Christ. Jesus is indeed the healer. But we must learn to love our enemies.
I want to tell you a story. It is a story about a friend of mine, whose name is Muriel. She came home one day. As she drove up the driveway, there was a truck.at the back of the house. There was a man moving things from the house into the truck, a TV, appliances. She walked up and said to him, “excuse me, what are you doing?”He said, “I run a repair shop, I am picking up these for repair. The owner had requested service. Without raising her voice, she said, “this is my house. I live here. We have made no request for service. “ It was a state of confusion. She can see it on his face. Very gently she said, she asked, “What are you doing really?” Her gentleness disarmed him. Her directness demanded a response. After a long pause, he replied, “I have been without work for months, I have a family to feed. I picked your house at random. I have never done this before. I do not know what to say for myself.”
Muriel said, “if you carry the things back into the house, I will wait right here. And then I will fill two bags of groceries from my pantry, I will send them with you to feed your family. And while you are returning these things into my house, I will move my car, so that you can go.” The man complied. She moved her car, and waited for him to return. When he came out, she said, “just wait right here, I will be back with groceries. Do not be afraid, I will not call the police. Minutes later, she was back with arm full of groceries.for the man’s family. The man thanked her, backed his truck out of the driveway. and left. But, a few minutes later, he was back. Knocking on the door, and he said, “I am returning the money I took from your dresser drawer.. I am deeply sorry I broke into your house.”
Some months later, a man appeared at the door, well dressed. It was the same man. He asked for Muriel. She came, and he handed her an envelope. And in the envelope was a crisp new $100 bill and the following note, “you treated me with kindness that I did not deserve. It was my first attempt at the robbery. It was also my last. I am enclosing a gift for the groceries. I almost messed my life that night. But your response turned me around to a different direction. I took the food back to my family. And then I went to the desert for a spiritual retreat, to find my soul once more. I have since found a job and a new sense of direction for my life. Thank you.”(applause)
I will tell Muriel that you applauded her story. She does not recommend that you should do this. When she was telling the story, she was shaking with anxiety and fear at what she did. However, it illustrates beautifully, how it is different inside the reign of God, in this new society that God has created, we don’t lord over others. We are servants to others. We love people who are our enemies. And we lose our fears of the enemy. That was a sign of the kingdom. But, as we say, we are still waiting for the fullness of the kingdom. Because you and I have still much to learn of loving our enemies.
Now when Muriel saw the truck in her yard, she could have turned around and use her cell-phone to call 911 and the police would have been there in about 5 minutes. And the man would have been apprehended and she could have pressed charges. But she chose not to. She stayed present. She could have filled with fear that this man might come back again. Now she sleeps well. She was reconciled with her enemy. She might have had ulcers, acid eating away in her stomach, for fear that this man may do the same to others. No, he won’t. She did not leave, she stayed present. Her courage, gentleness, and kindness. That is what the reign of God about.
Secondly, this text tells us, that in the reign of God, how we relate to people who are strangers is different. It is not just like people who are like us, who have interest like our own, or who came from the same city we came from, or people who don’t embarrass us. We are afraid of people who are strange, especially people who are physically ill. or perhaps dying, or mentally ill.
I read recently a report from Dr. Arthur Kleiman of Harvard Medical School, who said, “every where in the world I traveled, the mentally ill are stigmatized. They are labeled, they are distanced, they are hidden, they are humiliated, and they are laughed at, who are they? It may be the schizophrenic man, homeless in Los Angeles or Beijing. Who is unkempt, who is babbling to himself, we want to move away. We might be hurt. This man might be dangerous. Or may be a depressed woman, who is unable to speak, who weeps, who cannot sleep, and cannot eat, How do you relate to people who are so strange? Or the autistic child, who may have good relationship with objects, but cannot relate to people, Or mentally delayed child, or physically deformed child, the child with Down’ syndrome, Then there are people who have had a divorce, who are rejected in a coupled world. Single person may be distanced. And then there are the elderly, whose brain has begun to deteriorate.
You may visit your mother now with dementia who may not recognize you, she cannot remember the experiences you have together. And that is painful for us. And when we are painful, we want to leave. It is not new, because you see in the Old Testament; the children mocked Elisha for being bald. I am bald. But I have not been mocked, smiled at may be, but not mocked. In the New Testament, the disciples tried to protect Jesus from the woman who was unclean, because she had a problem with bleeding. Or the disciples did not want the children to bother Jesus. But he drew them close to him. Or the demon possessed. Who are very unpredictable? Jesus did not shy away, he moved toward them.
There are people or parents of a child with mentally delayed or Down syndrome or whatever the case may be, they think it is a form of punishment. There are people who think that a schizophrenic is demon-possessed and it is a result of something they did wrong. Something we do not want to associate with should be locked in the bedroom, somewhere in the back of the house, never to be seen again, or in some institution, But let me read to you from the book of John, Chapter 9, here we are told of a story, how Jesus was walking along, saw a man who was blind from birth, The disciples asked, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind? Or this family have a schizophrenia son, or this family has a autistic child, What does Jesus say?
Neither did this man sin, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him. He was born blind, so that God’s work can be revealed in him, That must be wrong. The text cannot say that., But the text said, through this person, we might learn who God is. Perhaps God comes to us in weakness.
To those who are ill. Are those who we want to shy away from, strangers, the mentally ill. Are they made in the image of God? Or are they only us who are normal? No, they too are created in the image of God. Are they God’s children? Are they God’s children?Yes! Does God love them? Yes. Then, how can we welcome them? How can we draw them closer and push them away? How can we learn from them? I want to suggest to you, that the church can be a sign of God’s kingdom, when it welcomes the ill, physically, mentally, or otherwise. If society rejects them, hopefully the church will not. If the church accepts them, it will be a sign that the kingdom of Go has just appeared.
Jesus was not afraid of the mentally ill. He talked with them, and he was compassionate. My wife, Anne, has worked with people for 25 years, who are old, and whose mind is no longer clear, and they do not make sense. Often they have a disease that we call Alzheimer's. If I would show you a slice of the brain of a healthy brain and an Alzheimer’s brain, they would look different. The healthy brain would fill out the whole skull. The picture or the image of the brain of a person with Alzheimer’s would look like cheese, Swiss cheese, because the brain has now begun to deteriorate. So they cannot remember things, they cannot learn new things. And when you ask them to do something, they may say “No”. They are not being stubborn; they are just not capable of understanding what it is that you are saying. And so, I have asked my wife to come forward, and tell you a story.
This is a true story. When I was director of a program where the seniors that had mental or memory loss would come to our center, and this would also provide fresh beds for the care-givers. I would call the man David. He was at our center and he was very involved with the program. But every once in a while, he would see things that were not there. This time, he was seeing a big animal, or he thought it a big animal, under his bed. And the staff would say to him,
“No, there cannot be an animal underneath the bed.”
He was very anxious, and as they kept saying “No”, he would become very very upset, and he would walk down the hall and say,
“Yes, there is an animal underneath the bed.”
So they would call me and ask me,
“Can you help me with this man?”
I listened to his story, and he said,
“Yes, there is an animal underneath my bed!”
And I said to him,
“This must be very scary for you.”
And he said,
“Do you really believe me?”
And I said,
“Let’s go and take a look. Would you be willing to come with me?”
So I took his hand, walked to the room. I walked in first, and I said,
“Would you like to come with me and see what is under the bed?”
He said, “OK.” Together, we both walked to the bed, we knelt down, and we both looked under the bed. And I said to him,
“What do you see?”
“Oh, I see a pair of slippers. I have not seen them for a while. They are missing.”
“Great! So what else do you see?”
“A pair of socks.”
“Is there anything else?”
“Yes, I see a piece of paper.”
“So, there is no animal under the bed?”
He said, “No.” I said, “Then we can go.”
He stood up, I stood up, and I helped him up. And I put my arms around him. He gave me a big hug. He said,
“Thank you! Thank you! Thank you for believing in me!”
Ann’s response is a response of validation. She did not argue with him. She knew probably there was not an animal under the bed, but she took him seriously. She respected him. She let him figure out whether or not there was an animal. She did not simply say, “No, there is not.” That is an act of understanding and compassion. She did not move away, she moved towards him. That is a sign of the kingdom.
In the kingdom, we are not afraid of that which seems strange to us. In the kingdom, we can be compassionate. She welcomed him. This is the kingdom of God.
A third point in this text, in the world, there is suffering because there is evil. Part of the kingdom means that there might be suffering for people. Christians in China have suffered. Bishop Ting, who for many years led the churches of China, has talked about how the Sermon on the Mount was a very significant text for the Church of China. And it gave them strength in the midst of decades of suffering. They took comfort in such word as,
“Blessed are you when men revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for men so persecuted the prophets who were before you (Matthew 5:11-16, RSV).”
That was comforting. That gave out hope. It was out of that suffering, Bishop Ting said,
“The profound change occurred in the church. There was a steadfast and a deep sense of hope.”
It is not the experience of the American church. That was the experience of the Chinese church. We have much to learn from you.
I grew up with a book, a big fat book called “The Martyrs Mirror”. And in that book were recorded the deaths of Christians from 30 AD, beginning with Jesus, all the way through to the middle 17th century, 1650. It tells the stories of people who died for their faith. One particular story I want to tell you about is the story of Dirk Willems. He was a young man in the Netherlands, lived in the Town of Asperen. As a teenager, he met a new group of Christians. They were called the Anabaptists. These were the people who said, “We choose not to baptize infants, we baptize people as adults when they can make a decision about what it means to follow Christ.” However, the state at that time had said, “No, we baptize infants.” This was the beginning of religious freedom. It was their vision that gripped, and he was baptized as an adult in the neighbouring city of Rotterdam in the Netherlands. In the spring of 1569, he was discovered. They said that he had violated the law of allowing a group to be in the house to be with him as believers and not baptizing children. He was arrested, he was imprisoned.
But he escaped. He climbed out of a window, and climbed down a rope made of knotted clothes. He ran for his safety. It was in the early spring, he crossed a still frozen pond. He was pursued by a prison guard. But Dirk had been living on a prison diet. He was much lighter than his pursuer. He made across the ice with the ice cracking. He was running. The guard broke through and cried out for help., “save me”. Without hesitation, Dirk turned around, laid on the flat ice, and helped the very man who was pursuing him. His pursuer was so grateful. He wanted to pardon him. But at that time, his boss came and said no, no, no. He is a villain. He has violated the law, He must be re-arrested and put in prison. And he was. He was packed off to prison, interrogated, tortured, so he would repent and he would say no to his faith. He refused. He was faithful. He was found guilty. after he confessed that he had been re-baptized. And he had allowed baptism to take place there. They were to burn him at the stake.
The court record reported that he obstinately and persistently confessed his faith, and he was sentenced to execution. A pile of sticks were put together with a pole in the center, He was tied to the pole, the sticks were lit. Many Christians in the 16th century lost their lives like that. Persecution for their faith. Dirk Willems’ story was seared in my memory. I have a picture on our wall of Dirk Willems rescuing his pursuer. Out of the suffering of the church, new things can happen. Dirk Willems was a sign of a different society. One he acted spontaneously, out of his faith, If Jesus can love his enemies, I can also. I pray for the Haidian Church, it can be a witness and a sign for the new society. And in this new society, we will welcome strangers, we would welcome those who are different, we will not be afraid, and love our enemies, rather than became evil as they are evil. We will not exact a tooth for a tooth, an eye for an eye. You will be a people of peace.
Written, edited by Franz and Ms. Liu Shimu, Proofread by Liu Laoshi, and the guiding of the Lord.
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