"Life Through The Lens Of Love"
Psalms 25:4-5; Matthew 16:21-27; 1 Corinthians 13:11-13
Pastor Tom Millner
August 15, 2010
How we see things can make a world of difference in how we approach life. Dr. Norman Vincent Peale, author of The Power of Positive Thinking, spent a lifetime spreading the idea that how we see conceptualize the world around us indicates the actions we will take.
A man approached a little league baseball game one afternoon and asked a young boy what the score was. "It's 18 to nothing – we're behind." The man said, "I'll bet you're discouraged, aren't you?" "Why should I be discouraged?" the little boy said "We haven't even gotten up to bat yet!"
In our scripture today from the Gospel of Matthew we see the evidence of one of Jesus' closest followers not seeing through the eyes of love. Peter, the ROCK, the "foundation" for the building of His Church wasn't seeing what was happening before him with clear vision. Jesus told His disciples clearly what must happen ahead so that salvation would be brought to all, but Peter didn't see God's perspective. Peter was fixated on his own way; not THE WAY. When Jesus said to Peter "Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men," He wasn't calling Peter Satan, but rather He was speaking to the tempter working through Peter. The human part of Jesus did not want to endure what was ahead, but His divine part knew He must endure. Peter was seeing things through a different lens. He saw a new King who was to build a kingdom greater than any before –on earth! After all, old Pete was to be the Kings right hand man! There wasn't room for another story to unfold. Of course, we wouldn't fall for Peter's reasoning - right? Old Pete was expecting things to be as he had always heard them predicted to be. There are three ways in which we today do the same thing.
- We believe things must be a certain way! Peter had always been taught as a good Jew that the messiah was coming in a way that would restore them to their previous glory; make things right again. That's what Jesus ultimately did, but not the way old Pete was expecting it. We also expect that things have to happen or be a certain way in order to be true or good. For instance; I use to believe that for my life to be good and acceptable in God's eyes that I MUST be heterosexual. Ignoring the fact that I was unintentionally homosexual, involuntarily homosexual and by all evidence created homosexual, I sought to have it my way and be heterosexual. My obsession became my belief that I needed to be different, resulting in idolatrously pursuing that which I am not. How many times have we told ourselves that in order to be a Christian we need to be A, B, or C? John 3:16 is explicit; "Whosoever believes!" It doesn't say anything more or less, yet our belief that there has to be more to it leads us down the path of WORKS! The work we do the walk we take is because of the belief we express. It is not the works we do or the walk we engage that justify us into belief! Peter believed Jesus' life had to be lived out a certain way. So did Jesus – but it wasn't His way either, it was God's way – to His glory and our benefit!
We project! Because Peter believed things needed to be a certain way, he "projected" that others believed the same. "Now, now, Jesus, I know that you know that things aren't supposed to go that way, so I'm going to be your protector." We also are guilty of projection. It's easy for us to believe that if we see things a certain way, then others do or at least "ought to" see things that way also. Take the works argument again: If I work hard and measure up to a particular standard that I think is acceptable, then you will see me as acceptable also. We do that to God and we do that to one another. Likewise, we're constantly reading other's actions as if they relate to us (when most of the time we aren't entering the equation of the other). Other's actions are rarely about us, even if they're directed at us! And this leads us to the third.
- We act in our own interests! You've seen the t-shirt "It's all about me"? Of course it isn't; it's all about me! Peter wasn't taking the time to discover what Jesus' statement was all about; he acted out as it related to his own story. Have you ever been with someone who equates everything to his or her self? Jacko ran into Clarence whom he had not seen in several months. Clarence asks Jacko how he's doing. He responds; "my mother just passed away." Clarence says "I'm sorry to hear that Jacko; I remember when my mother died. She was 93 you know…bless her heart! She went peacefully in her sleep – never moment of pain or sickness, as far as we could tell. In fact I don't remember any prolonged period of illness the old lady suffered…… You get the point? We think such illustrations are amusing, but we do the same thing every day. We hear something from someone else and then take off on our own runway with our flight plan for the journey to Me-ville…e.t.a…instantaneously! We miss the richness of seeing the landscape from another viewpoint…from the eyes of the other. We do this with conversations and we do this with scripture reading. We read a couple of verses and determine how they are all about ME! The Bible is not the story of we; it is the story of He who made us, loves us, and draws us into Himself. There's a remedy to these pitiful action that we take.
- Seek God first! From our scripture reading today in Matthew 25 ""If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me." The directive here is toward the denying of self; the cross is an illustrative way to death. Have you ever heard someone say "this is just my cross to bear"? I heard a woman say once with regard to her gay son that he was just her cross to bear. I thought to myself; "honey, you just expressed the opposite of what that scripture means!" You just made your son's orientation all about you as though it were a medal to which you have attached yourself, when in fact Christ is telling us to forget about our agenda, our self, and die to that, focusing instead on following the lead of love as He demonstrated through His acts of grace and mercy. That leads us to the second remedy:
- View each situation through the eyes of grace and mercy. We are told to love God with all our heart, mind, and soul and to then with the heart, mind and soul that loves God, to love each other as we would have ourselves be loved. Loving God means accepting that His grace and mercy are sufficient for all our needs, wants, and desires. His grace says we get a crown of glory that we haven't worked for, can't earn and don't even deserve. And it means accepting from God that we have been spared what we really do deserve for our continued self-absorption. When I view you as recipient of God's grace and mercy just as I am, how can I then judge you less or more worthy of God's love than I? I don't understand all the intricacies of how that happens, but I am called nail my poor vision of that to a cross and let it die there! I can do that because I know that …Our vision is not yet complete! Paul used the illustration of a mirror as he experienced it in the first century Roman Empire. It is a good one! Mirrors, as they were manufactured in Corinth and other parts of the ancient world, were crafted out of crudely polished metal. They reflected poorly the image of the one standing before them. Paul is saying that even though we can't clearly see the fine details of God's love for us and the resulting love for one another we are called to act out, that ultimately we will see clearly what God is calling us to in love, even as we clearly see how perfectly He loves us now. 1 Corinthians 13:11-13 "When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me. Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love." He is saying to us that it is time to grow up in Christ's love, stop acting like needy children and live as the whole and accepted adults that we are through God's grace and mercy. It's OK if we don't understand every nuance; that will be revealed in His time. We are called to act in unity and love, even if it interferes with our own agenda! Take heart; no one is doing it perfectly! But we are not left to our own devices. We have each other from whom we can learn and most importantly, we have the Comforter, the Counselor, almighty God – His Holy Spirit.
Psalms 25:4-5 "Show me your ways, O LORD, teach me your paths; guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long."