31 Maple Street
Bristol, Connecticut USA
February 10, 2019
Matthew 7:1-14, 24-29
Rev. Kristen J. Kleiman
With Valentine’s Day coming up, there is lots of talk of love in the air. In the Bible passage we heard this morning, Jesus is also talking about love.
I know on the surface when you hear “you hypocrite”, “you who are evil”, and “do not throw your pearls before swine” that it doesn’t exactly sound like dialogue from a Hallmark movie.
This Bible passage sounds as much about love as a heart shaped candy sampler with worm, jalapeño, and pickle flavored chocolates, but trust me, this whole passage is about love, not just the well-known words, “do to others as you would have them to do to you” (Matthew 7:12)
Throughout Jesus’ sermon on the mount, Jesus is sharing with his disciples what community looks like, what life when ‘God’s kingdom come, God’s will be done’ looks like – and that is love, to be grounded in love, to act and speak with love, to embody love.
So it follows that one way to be loving is to not judge others. It makes sense that Jesus would say don’t criticize others or pick on their flaws, and that is how many translate this passage. But Jesus’ call goes beyond holding our tongues and having kind thoughts. A better translation would be ‘do not condemn’.
Jesus is calling us to a deeper love than simply keeping our opinions to ourselves. Jesus is telling us, ‘Do not write anyone off as beyond hope, beyond redemption, beyond God’s love’. Jesus is calling us to treat others with dignity and worth even when we don’t want to, even when they give us no reason to.
That is a deep, deep love – to care for people, to want the best for people, to work for the best for people regardless of whether they are “worthy”, simply because they, too, are a child of God.
Jesus calls us to love even when our help, our feedback, our “correction” is not well received, maybe is even rejected. Jesus calls us to love others enough to let them make their own choices, and Jesus calls us to love ourselves enough to not waste our precious breath and energy, our pearls, on those who will trample them under foot. We can and should try to help others, and we can and should love ourselves enough to step back when our help is not wanted.
Taking care of ourselves is as important as caring for others because we are precious to God. We are God’s child asking for bread. We are God’s child asking for a fish. God wants to give us good things. We need to remember that we are worthy to ask; we are worthy to seek; we are worthy to knock. God wants us to pray for ourselves, to name what we need, to seek for that which gives us life. It’s okay to ask God for what we need; and it’s okay to ask others for what we need.
The golden rule tells us to love others as we want to be loved; however according to Gary Chapman, who wrote The Five Love Languages, not everyone wants/ needs to be loved in the same way.
Some of us will be excited when our valentine brings us flowers and a big box of candy. Others will know they are loved when their valentine says, “You are the best thing that has ever happened to me.” For others, it will be a cuddle on the couch, and still others, just the evening spent together. And then for some of us odd people, nothing says, “I love you” like an empty dishwasher and a clean kitchen.
Love is challenging. Over and over again though, Jesus calls us, Jesus invites us to a life of love.
To love when it feels wonderful; to love when it feels like the last thing we want to do; To love our fun, kind neighbor; To love the strange stranger; To love in a way that gives dignity to everyone who feels marginalized and forgotten; To love even when it pushes us to grow, change, and consider other’s different feelings, needs, and points of view.
Love is hard; love is the narrow gate that many will not choose because well, love is hard. And love is also the rock, the foundation that will comfort and sustain us through the storms of life.
Jesus calls us, Jesus invites us to a life of love: love of God; love of neighbor; love of creation; love of ourselves because it is through love that we will truly experience life.