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Priory of the Poor Knights of Christ
Showing God’s love for all in practical ways
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Love All, Speak Gently
How simple is a faith in God who is Love (1.John 4:8) and in the divine mission of His Son, Lord Jesus Christ, and that this is all that is required.
To put it another way, salvation is by faith alone! But that faith is meaningless, unless it is shown in word and deed.
You cannot confess Jesus as Lord and then ignore him! For to do this is to be guilty of the worst hypocrisy and to call upon ourselves God’s judgment; to state it simply if we love Christ we should love His and our Father in Heaven, and we should love one another; just as Christ Himself taught (Mark 12:29-31). Not just those who are most like us, but as importantly those who are different from us.
There is no room for prejudice in Christianity. How sad then to see on television torch-light marches on an American University Campus. How sad then to hear far-right marchers chant in 2017: ‘You will not replace us. Jews will not replace us.’ Against such wickedness (for it is such), the last war was fought. Against such wickedness Christians should stand.
But of course, we can find the same, closer to home. And whatever our differences of belief in religion or politics, Christians are called always to act with love, compassion and forbearance. Remember what Jesus said in Matthew 25:45 when telling of the final separation of the ‘sheep’ and the ‘goats’; that as we help – or withhold help – from others:
“I tell you the truth when you refused to help these the least of My brothers and sisters, you were refusing to help me.”
As we treat others, we are treating Christ. This we should never forget. Whatever someone’s religion or nationality.
Christianity must challenge prejudice. This goes for sexual orientation too! Our faith should never provide religious cover for hatred. For the God, who is Love calls His wonderfully, diverse creation into harmony. Each part into creative relationship: one with the other. And should we doubt this..
Lets us take a reading from Psalm 133:
‘How wonderful and pleasant it is when brothers dwell together in harmony! For harmony is a precious as the anointing oil that was poured over Aaron’s head, that ran down his beard and onto the border of his robe. Harmony is as refreshing as the dew from Mount Hermon that falls on the mountains of Zion. And there the LORD has pronounced his blessing even life everlasting.’
Working together! Talking with each other! This is what’s required. I believe in two Sacraments. Catholic friends will affirm seven. We can share our differences, talk gently with each other, and together seek divine harmony.
I believe Jesus is the Son of God. Muslim friends will affirm that he was but a great prophet. We can share our differences, talk gently with each other, and together seek divine harmony. I believe that the Great Commandments (Mark 12:28-31) are sufficient. That love of God and love of neighbour is enough. Jewish friends will stress adherence to the Torah in all its fullness. We can share our differences, talk gently with each other and together seek divine harmony.
We can witness to our faith without prejudice. It is possible, indeed essential, that as Christians – to use Rev Bridget Spain’s phrase, our minister in Dublin – to ‘disagree without being disagreeable.’ The words we use can promote understanding, bring us together, or they can worsen division, cause hurt, even violence. Remember what James 3:5-6 says. Think of rabble-rousers past and present:
‘In the same way the tongue is a small thing that makes grand speeches. But a tiny spark can set a great forest on fire, And the tongue is a flame of fire. It is whole world of wickedness, corrupting your entire body. It can set your whole life on fire, for it is set on fire by hell itself.’
Here are Jesus’s words in Matthew 15:10-20:
‘Then Jesus called to the crowd to come and hear: “Listen”, he said. “and try to understand. It is not what goes into your mouth that defiles you; you are defiled by the words that come out of your mouth.” Then the disciples came to Him and asked, “Do you realise that you offended the Pharisees by what You just said?” ‘
Now the Pharisees were offended! For them, their law and their way - non-negotiable! Their way was the only way. Ears firmly shut to the idea that God might be speaking through others, might even be met in Christ. Their prejudice revealed their lack of spirituality. No wonder Matthew continues:
‘Jesus replied, “Every plant not planted by My heavenly Father will be uprooted, so ignore them. They are blind guides leading the blind, and if one blind person guides another, they will both fall into a ditch.” ‘
Theirs was a religious extremism. And just like its political counter-part it leads to destruction. However many torches you carry, however loud you chant, the destination is the ditch, with others following you to destruction.
‘Then Peter said to Jesus, “Explain to us the parable that says people aren’t defiled by what they eat.” “Don’t you understand yet?” Jesus asked. Anything you eat, passes through the stomach and then goes into the sewer. But the words you speak come from the heart – that’s what defiles you. For from the heart comes evil thoughts, murder, adultery, all sexual immorality, theft, lying, slander. These are what defile you. Eating with unwashed hands will never defile you.”
Divine truth speaks here! Wickedness in the world finds form through language. The words of hate precede deeds of hate, and these originate in human hearts. Conversion comes from conversation, and never from coercion. And the best evangelism is softly spoken, not shouted.
So the words we say matter. But we need as Christians to listen as well as speak. For God speaks through other faiths as well as our own. And through other experiences as well; so humility on our part is also needed; remember that Jesus also said to His disciples in John 16:12:
“There is so much more that I want to tell you, but you can’t bear it now”
Friends, my message today is simple. Love all, speak gently. Challenge voices of hate, and division. Practise the way of Christ in your life. Witness to our faith by gentle words and good deeds; and let us each play our part in the divine harmony to which the LORD God has called us all.
The Reverend Chris Wilson is a Non-subscribing Presbyterian Minister serving in
Moneyreagh Northern Ireland and a Chaplain for the Priory of the Poor Knights of Christ
Rev Chris Wilson