Living Sermons: Thoughts from Tonight’s Kairos Roots

Something Aaron Bryant said really hit home with me today in a way few things have lately.

He said that we as believers could be the only sermons some people will ever hear.

Many people who will never step foot inside a chuch building are watching you and me. They are listening as we talk about our faith and how much we love the worship services and sermons we participate in each week.

But what speaks loudest of all is how we live. How we respond to bad days and failure and criticism. How we react when people yell at us or berate us or make fun of us and our beliefs.

When they see us not chasing after the next new big fad or product, they notice. They might think something like, “This is a person just like me who’s not captive to making the same bad choices I always seem to make. There’s something different about her (or him).”

When you exhibit contentment in Christ, it’s hard to miss. When you can be at peace in the middle of the chaos of a hectic day, it’s hard to miss. When you forgive after being hurt, they see Jesus in the flesh, your flesh, as He really is, full of love and grace and mercy.

You are preaching something every single day. How you live either glorifies you or God. How you treat others around you will influence how they see the God you profess to serve.

It’s not about being perfect and always acting out of love and never slipping up and giving in to anger. It’s about being able to ‘fess up when you mess up. It’s about being able to say the words, “I’m sorry. I was wrong. What I said (or did) didn’t reflect what I believe. Will you forgive me?”

So preach love. Not the touchy-feely sentimental much that passes for love these days, but the “get your hands and feet dirty” kind of love. The unconditional agape love that only can come from God, not from us.

Preach grace. Preach forgiveness. Preach not rules and regulations, but a better way to live.

St. Francis said it best (or at least this quote is always attributed to him, so that’s close enough for me): “Preach the Gospel at all times and, if necessary, use words.”

If you live Jesus on a daily basis, when the time comes, you will have an open door to share Jesus to a willing audience.

Blessed are the merciful

“Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy” (Matthew 5:7)

In the Bible, grace and mercy are many times used together. I’ve heard it put this way that grace is getting what you don’t deserve, and mercy is not getting what you do deserve. Mercy is withholding the right to revenge and giving grace instead. One of God’s characteristics is that He is merciful. If anyone had the right to exact judgment on what we’ve done wrong and how we’ve screwed up and when we’ve outright rebelled against Him, it’s God. But He in HIs grace gives us what we don’t deserve– forgiveness– and in His mercy withholds from us what we do deserve– everlasting punishment in hell.

To be merciful is to be like God. To forgive, even when forgiveness is not sought, is to be like God. Mercy is loving the unloveable. It’s easy to love someone who loves you back, but God calls us to love those who are so caught up in and trapped by fear and addictions that they are unable to love us back.

I like the Message version. It says, “You’re blessed when you care. At the moment of being ‘care-full,’ you find yourselves cared for.”

If you show mercy, you get mercy. I also like to think that one of the characteristics of those who have experienced God’s grace and mercy is that they live out that grace and mercy toward others. You forgive much because you have been forgiven much. You don’t worry about the $100 worth of wrong someone did to you when God just forgave the $1 million worth of wrong you did against Him.

Brennan Manning says it best: “Our encounter with Mercy profoundly affects our interaction with others . . . . We look beyond appearances, beneath surfaces, to recognize others as companions in woundedness. Human flesh is heir to the assaults, within and without, of negative, judgmental thoughts, but we will not consent to them because God is merciful to us. We will not allow these attacks to lead us into the sins of self-preoccupation and self-defense. Swimming in the merciful love of Christ, we are free to laugh at the tendency to assume spiritual superiority– in ourselves. We are free to extend to others the mercy we have received.”

As always, I believe. Help my unbelief.