2 Corinthians 5:14-21
We are in a cultural climate of polarization. The stories we hear emphasize how different we are and how much more right we are than our opponents. These stories have great power. This kind of thinking lead to the Rwandan genocide in which 800,000 people of all ages were killed. Most of the killing was Christian killing Christian. Sometimes even members of the same congregation inside their own church buildings. It’s hard for us to imagine that kind of violence happening within a congregation.
But in Matt 5:21-22 Jesus says that even calling somebody a fool makes a person guilty of murder. There are different ways we either call somebody a fool or imply that they are a fool. Some ways we do this include talking more about what other people should not believe than what we believe, using totalizing language (making blanket assertions about people using broad categories), and mockery--trying get others to laugh at those we disagree with. One of the cool things about our congregation is the wide variety of beliefs. So when we do these things chances are good we are calling members of own congregation fools. In fact this does happen, and we have the empty pews to prove that we have “killed” members of our own congregation.
Why do we do this. Our needs can be boiled down to three things. We need physical security, to know that we are loved, and to know our life has meaning. Everybody pretty much wants the same things. When we are calling people fools, it generally because we are insecure and somehow putting them down them makes feel better about ourselves. We are driven by stories of fear that we don’t have enough, that we aren’t loved, and that our life has no meaning.
We need a new story to counter the story of fear, a story of love. This can be found in 2 Cor 5:14-21. The new story is centered on God’s love for us as expressed in Jesus. Jesus comes to heal us and set us free. He ultimately demonstrates his love for us by dying for us. We know that god will take care of us, that God loves us, that God has a purpose for our life. When we accept this new story of love, we don’t need to live by the story of fear. But it doesn’t just change how we see ourselves. It changes how we see others. We can now see them as being just like us, needing the same thing that we need, as people Jesus loved enough to die for. Ultimately, God is a God of reconciliation, and of love. And we are reconciled to God, we then can join in the ministry of reconciliation. This means being a right relationship with others and God, and helping them to find love in God as well.
The story of fear is a lie; fear that you are shameful, that you are not worth of love, that your life doesn’t matter. If you dwell on this fear, you are on the path to Rwanda. The story of love is that you are a child of God. That in Jesus God loves us and heals us and ultimate demonstrates love by dying for us. But it’s not a story of death, it’s a story of resurrection, of new life; a new creation and a new story. God is greater than the story of fear. You must choose which story you are going to listen to, the story of love or the story of fear.
1. Share a story of a time when you have been hurt or troubled by constant negativity, totalizing language, or being mocked (especially where the mockery was not meant to be personal).
2. In spite of all the good things that God provides us, it can still be really hard to ignore the story of fear (that we’re not lovable, that our life is insignificant, that we still don’t have enough). Why do you think this is?
3. Clearly the Bible makes space for speaking prophetically. How do we differentiate between speaking prophetically and just being antagonistic towards people who disagree with us?
4. What does it mean that Jesus loves your foes enough to die for them?
5. Do you believe the ministry of reconciliation is for all Christians, or just a few?
6. Are there any other thoughts from the sermon you’d like to talk about?