We live in a culture saturated with alphabet acronyms. Blame it on cell phones and social media if that makes you feel better. OMG; BTW; IDK; BFF; (some others that, well, just aren’t suitable for a Follower of Jesus blog); these are just a few. Now add one more WMTM. What does this one mean? Glad you asked. It means What Matters The Most?
Last Monday it seemed that in news feeds and social media there was a lot of ranting against NFL Players disrespecting the American Flag. (I had a few comments about that. You can check it out at my other blog Kingdom Pastor if you haven’t already.) But this morning’s news feed and social media is about something far more serious and even more important. I refer to the shooting deaths and injuries in Las Vegas last evening. News about overpaid athletes isn’t worth reading about this morning. Hopefully the perspective of many more will change, not just today, but for the rest of their lives.
I am appalled at the decision this person reached when he chose to open fire from the thirty-second floor of the Mandalay Hotel, but I am not shocked by his decision. According to MacMillan Dictionary, to be shocked means: “very surprised and upset by something bad that happens unexpectedly“. The key word is “unexpectedly”. This and other acts of violence should not be unexpected. Last Sunday there was a tragic shooting at a church in Antioch, Tennessee. Stories like these happen way too often. And I know somewhere that someone is going to blame this on “gun violence”. To their credit, they are half-right. The part they are correct in is that word “violence”. But the cause is much deeper.
Our country is filled with so much hate and to fuel the hate, instigators rely on fake-news, misinformation, and even history to spread those flames. Many will attempt to “fix” the problem by “fixing” the symptoms but never addressing the real issue and real disease. The real issue is the hearts and minds of people and not some manufactured product or the dark history when human beings were inhumane to fellow human beings. The real disease is evil, and until we address the pandemic of evil, more news like this morning’s news will continue; it should be expected.
Changing the Constitution, tearing down monuments, disrespecting all law enforcement officers because of a very few bad apples–none of that changes the real problem. And Tenured Pew Sitters: complaining about those haters doesn’t change anything. It only spreads the disease of evil–being expressed through your hate. OK, I just heard someone ask: “OK, Rev. All-Wise-And-Know-It-All, what do YOU suggest?” Oh, I am so glad you asked that question (even though I’m not “all-wise”, but thanks to the Holy Spirit I do have some wisdom; and though I do not know-it-all, I am intimately acquainted with the ONE who does know-it-all and then some).
Our Scripture this morning gives us the cure and solution for what ails this land. Look again at that last verse: “Don’t let evil get the best of you; get the best of evil by doing good.” What if we, who allegedly profess to follow Jesus, actually did this every day, all day long? Now, now; I just heard someone thinking, “Just how in the world is that going to instantly change this country and put an end to all this violence?” I didn’t say, nor did Paul infer, that doing good would instantly change the world. But it is the only way to bring both radical and enduring transformation to a culture like ours.
Our culture will change one person at a time. After all, didn’t all this violence begin with one brother hating another brother? Remember Cain and Abel? Complaining and finger-pointing adds fuel to the fire. Taking your enemy out to lunch? Offering your arch-rival a glass of sweet tea? It sounds farcical and daft, I know, but it works–one life at a time. Saul the Pharisee hated Christians and did violence against them, thinking it would preserve his religion. But Jerusalem fell and the Temple, so sacred a place to Pharisees, was destroyed. But Paul, an ambassador for Jesus, saw lives, families and communities transformed by God’s grace. He saw chains fall off, demons sent back to where they came from, and people finding joy, peace, love and purpose through his decision to give His heart to Jesus, which prompted him to do good to his enemies. Oh, and that “evil and violent empire” that put Paul (and so many others) to death? They eventually fell into the dust and became just a footnote in history. And the Kingdom of God continues even today.
WMTM is YOUR choice, YOUR decision to stop the hate and violence by doing good and lavishing grace upon our culture one person at a time. I know it doesn’t make sense, but I do know it works because I’ve seen it work. I remember several years ago an ad by an insurance company that really shows out this works. It was known as “being responsible, and you can see one of those commercials here. I am very proud that the congregation I serve, Sheffield First UMC, is addressing one area where hate abounds and doing so much harm to a group; this group is not afraid to address the issue of human sexuality in terms of both grace and truth. This small group is realizing how our views and words only add hurt and hide the Truth.
When we stop blaming, stop the talking and start doing good to anyone and everyone, it will be as contagious as the measles in a kindergarten class. Followers of Jesus, this is the greatest time perhaps since the days of Paul, to be an ambassador for Jesus. Your portion of this world needs to see you do more than complain and blame–they need, in fact, they secretly long to see you put the love of God expressed through Jesus, to see this kind of love in your actions, attitudes and words. What Matter The Most is YOU putting your love for God into action by fighting evil with good.
When we are convinced and overwhelmed in the power of Love and Grace being lavished on others, one person at a time, then we can say, “Good! Lord it’s Monday! What shall we do together?” Let’s pray…
Dad, more than being sick about all this hate and violence, I am tired of the fact that I am NOT overcoming all this evil with the good You have so freely done for me. Please take away this blindness that is making me the person who complains but does nothing, the person who, when all has been said and done, has been only talking and doing nothing. I know there is evil out there and it is destroying so many lives, and though it may not make any sense right now, I know Your word says it is defeated by ME doing good for others, even my enemies. So open my eyes to the many opportunities to overcome this evil with YOUR good. And Lord, comfort those who are hurting and grieving this morning in Las Vegas. Amen and Amen!