CERRO GORDO CHURCH OF THE BRETHREN
November 21, 2021
LOVE WITHOUT CONDITIONS
This morning what we have read speaks of God views of how we should view one another. Beginning with the 13th verse of the 5th chapter of Matthew, Jesus is saying what we as God’s people should be about. The different things Jesus was pointing out lead us to the motivation Jesus shared in what we read today. Whether it be that we are to be salt and light; or fulfilling the law; or a closer look at the commandment on murder, adultery or divorce, as well as the oaths or promises we make to God and men; or how we deal with the saying of old about an eye for an eye and tooth for a tooth. Jesus ties all of these different things most of us will face in one way or another with the encouragement to show love. Not just love to those who are easy to love, but also those who are not so lovable. Jesus once again starts off by saying, “You have heard it said.” He is referencing what was written back in the book of Leviticus, chapter 19, verses 15-18. What was told to the people then is similar to what we have read here in Matthew 5. Starting with verse 15, this says, “Do not pervert justice, do not show partiality to the poor or favoritism to the great, but judge your neighbor fairly. Do not go about spreading slander among the people, do not do anything that endangers your neighbor’s life. I am the Lord. Do not hate your brother in your heart. Rebuke your neighbor frankly so you will not share in his guilt. Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against one of your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord.” When you compare that to not only what we read today but all we read in the chapter 5, we see some similarities. However, we also see Jesus more clearly defining the Old Testament verses. While the 18th verse in Leviticus 19 gets around to saying you should love your neighbor as yourself, Matthew 5:43 and 44 say, “You have heard ‘love your neighbor and hate your enemy’ but I tell you; love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” Jesus is saying if we do that, we will be sons and daughters of our Father in heaven. Jesus then goes on to point out God causes it to rain on the righteous as well as unrighteous; the sun shines equally on both as well.
Why is Jesus telling everyone this? Jesus is pointing out that if you truly want to be God’s sons and daughters, you need to love everyone as best you can while you are on this earth. Jesus goes on to say that if you love only those who love you, what’s the big deal? Jesus is saying even the most self-centered, godless people do that. Is that what you think God wants from his people? Jesus is saying, “No you are better than that!” Jesus is saying that God loves you without conditions, try as best you can to do the same for one another. Jesus was acknowledging it is not that hard to love those who love you, those you get along with. However, if you want to show the world what it is really like to love unconditionally just as God loves you, we must find a way to show love and compassion to those who not only do not seem to like us but even seem to hate us. That is what God’s perfect love is all about. As long as we live on this earth, we are to love everyone. God does not close the opportunity for eternal life on anyone until they have breathed their last breath, and neither should we. Jesus closes out the 5th chapter by saying something that may very well be impossible for us to achieve. Jesus said, “Be perfect, therefore, as your Father in Heaven is perfect.” Is that realistic, is it possible? In all honesty, no it is not. However, Jesus is saying to us, “Keep aiming high.” It is easy to accomplish a lot of things if your goals are never very high. If in math we never move beyond 1 + 1, we will never learn anything else. By the same token, if we only love those who always seem to agree with us or go along with us, it is going to be pretty easy to convince ourselves, “Boy, we are doing good!” But when we try to love those who clearly do not like us, that is when the opportunity to grow comes into play. Also, that is when people can see how big our God is. Will it be easy to love without conditions? Of course not, but the reward for us, as well as those we see and interact with will be priceless and eternal. That is when we will begin to see God changing our lives, our families, our communities, our world. Love without conditions—that’s how God loves us. May the Holy Spirit help us to more and more share that kind of love with everyone that God brings our way.
America is about to celebrate Thanksgiving. I hope and pray we will all allow at least a little time to reflect on the blessings God has brought our way. For some this may be a difficult Thanksgiving for personal reasons. When we look at the verses Jesus gave to us in Matthew 5:43-48 we see God wants us to bring love, compassion and healing to one another. This nation faces some very difficult challenges. We are seeing divisions in too many places. We may not be quite as divided as we were in 1863, but in some ways, we may not miss it by much. We as God’s people must take the lead. May we embrace the challenge Jesus offered to God’s people when he said, “Be perfect, therefore as your Heavenly Father is perfect.” Christians in America should unite to make sure Jesus’ example of unconditional love and mercy is alive and well.
In closing, I would like to share the Thanksgiving Proclamation that Abraham Lincoln shared with a divided and broken nation in 1863, which was printed in Friday’s Herald & Review. See if it applies to what is going on in America today. We need God’s helping hand. May we be examples of our God’s unconditional love.
Bible Study 9:30 Tuesday
November 21—Council meeting TODAY after worship
November 28—Walt Wiltschek, our new DE, will preach. District Moderator Harold Rose plans to be here too. Afterwards, we’ll have a soup luncheon, and then we will decorate the sanctuary for Christmas.
Candy flyer on the bulletin board. Call Nancy Fansler or Chelle Shively to order by Nov 30.
December newsletter submissions are due Dec. 1 to Carol.
December 8 12:00 Women’s Fellowship Potluck luncheon
Offering plates are in the back of the sanctuary. Thank you!
Donation Box: The Lord’s Storehouse
First Sundays: food donations for food banks
Pastor Larry Traxler- (217) 454-2362
To keep up on Church of the Brethren news:
Denomination: www.brethren.org/news Sign up for Newsline by clicking link on left side of page.
District: iwdcob.org (click on newsletter link) and on facebook
Our pages: cerrogordocob.com (printed sermon, announcements, & calendar) and on facebook
Keep in Your Prayers
Family of Tera Runyen; Shirley Krall; Baby Gemma; Baby Tate; family of Deb Bell Sherwood; Andy Flenner and family; Mindy Sawyer; Marlene Schultz; Randy West; Jen Durst; Sarah Rudelick; Sydney (Nancy Gorrell’s niece); Carl and Wilma Cable; Marge Starr; Mike Gentry; Larry Albro; Mike McCleery; Mike and Carol Seidenstricker; Sonna Hall; Brittany Wright; Owen Wright; Anna Gentry Thompson; Clyde and Nancy Fansler; Adiline Young; Kim Lehmann; Doug Fansler; Liza Yore; Candy Dobson; Anna Rose Larrick; Shawn Cain; Robert Cripe; Mayo & Darlene Hanaver; Zola Copeland; Patty Cripe; Lauren Gross; Stacie Warren; Nancy Gorrell; many unspoken requests; Coronavirus crisis; healthcare workers and first responders; the families of the 747,000+ people who have died from COVID-19; those who are ill from the virus; the unemployed; school teachers, staff, and students; victims of disasters; victims of shootings; nursing home residents; the Nigerian church; Haitian Brethren
Military and Other Services and their families
Brethren Volunteer Service workers; Disaster project workers
Church of the Brethren vision statement:
Together, as the Church of the Brethren, we will passionately live and share the radical transformation and holistic peace of Jesus Christ through relationship-based neighborhood engagement. To move us forward, we will develop a culture of calling and equipping disciples who are innovative, adaptable, and fearless.
Our Mission Statement:
Love God, grow with others, serve faithfully, reach the lost, find peace.