Each sermon is published in large print for use in preaching, and for easy reading by several people gathered around the computer monitor.
IS THERE ANY LIMIT TO LOVINGKINDNESS?
A SERMON ORIGINALLY DELIVERED AT
THE HIGH HILL UNITED METHODIST CHURCH
THE FEDERATED CHURCH OF ATHENS
4 NOVEMBER 1990
By Frank L. Hoffman, Pastor
Preparation Verse: (Proverbs 31:26)
She opens her mouth in wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.
Is there any limit to lovingkindness?
From the standpoint of the giver, there doesn't seem to be any limit.
Lovingkindness should always be extended by a Christian to the whole of God's creation, just as God bestows His lovingkindness upon us.
If there is any limit at all, it is from the standpoint of the receiver.
God offers lovingkindness to that person, and so can we; but if they reject
it, then it dies with the offer.
It is somewhat like our celebration of The Lord's Supper this morning.
It is set up here in front of the church.
It is freely offered to everyone that enters.
If someone doesn't wish to participate, we cannot force-feed them.
If someone just participates because they don't wish to feel left out, they probably will receive very little.
In order to receive the grace of God offered in this celebration of remembrance, we must remember that Jesus Christ died for us, personally, and then we must repent of our sins.
Listen to how Jesus explains our receiving and sharing of His lovingkindness in Luke 6:27-38, and specifically the first two verses:
27. "But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you,
28. bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.
As we discussed last week, didn’t both Jesus and Stephen pray for those who mistreated them?
Weren't we also enemies of the Lord before we believed in Jesus and repented of our sins?
God's lovingkindness was never withdrawn. In fact, it is still here, but we didn't know about it until we received it.
Thus, Jesus wants us to show this same lovingkindness to others as He has extended it to us, without limits, even to our enemies.
So that, hopefully, they would see the truth and return to God.
Then Jesus instructs us to go even further with our offer. Listen to what He says in verses 29-31:
29. "Whoever hits you on the cheek [physically or as an insult], offer him the other also; and whoever takes away your coat, do not withhold your shirt from him either.
30. "Give to everyone who asks of you, and whoever takes away what is yours, do not demand it back.
31. "And just as you want people to treat you, treat them in the same way.
Maybe we can usually accept what we are told in verse 31, and treat others as we want to be treated.
But let them hit us on the cheek, or publicly insult us, and we might consider returning to them our fist.
Let them take something that is ours, and we may wish to destroy them.
That is not lovingkindness?
But you may say, "What they are doing is not lovingkindness either."
And you are correct. It isn't lovingkindness; but neither are they Christians, for unless one is of one mind with Christ, they cannot understand lovingkindness; but they can sure see it when it is being genuinely offered.
Most of you know that we have a construction management business that supports us, as well as this and other ministries; but what most of you probably don't know is that in our business and personally, we have had much taken.
We have averaged a loss of about $1,000.00 a week for the past 10 years from our clients simply refusing to pay us, and we have collected very little of it.
And there are times when there is only enough money to pay the salaries of those who work for us, and we cannot receive anything for all our efforts.
This isn't something that happens rarely, it happens about 40% of the time.
But from God, I have learned that I must still have peace and continue to extend lovingkindness; and as a result, we are blessed.
I pray that some of you have shared in that blessing with us.
If my mind was full of anger and revenge, I could not get up here behind the pulpit, nor lead our Bible study in a way that would have any meaning.
God wants us all to live His word.
And all I have ever asked of any of you is that you at least do as I do, but I know that you are all capable of doing even more.
As we said, lovingkindness has no limits from the standpoint of the giver. Hear what Jesus says in verses 32-34:
32. "And if you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them.
33. "And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same.
34. "And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, in order to receive back the same amount.
An excellent example of this is when our lovingkindness, food, and protection is extended to animals, whose only way of repayment is to love us in return.
We, as Christians, are also being called upon to extend ourselves to every other human being, even where there is no hope of receiving anything back at all; but if they accept Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior, we and others will receive their lovingkindness.
Is there anyone who we would not want to do something for? Then that is the exact person we should reach out to first, because the Holy Spirit put the name of that person on our heart.
We are not to seek only the people we know will be appreciative of what we do; we are to reach out as Jesus tells us:
35. "But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men.
36. "Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.
37. "And do not judge and you will not be judged; and do not condemn, and you will not be condemned; pardon, and you will be pardoned.
Now, this doesn't say that we are to bless the evil done by someone or ignore it, either. We are to recognize it for what it is.
We are to judge the act, but also we are to recognize the source of all evil as being from Satan, and thus we are to pray for the conviction of that person so that they also would truly see what they are doing and pray for their strength to turn away from their sin.
We are not to condemn the person, but only the sin.
And we are to pardon all that they repent of, just as our Father pardons us.
If we do these things, we will receive the true blessing, just as the Lord tells us:
38. "Give, and it will be given to you; good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, they will pour into your lap. For by your standard of measure it will be measured to you in return."
Just think of how we are when we have anger or hatred in our hearts. We're miserable.
But if we have love in our hearts, we are at peace and have joy.
God made us in a way that we automatically reap much of what we sow, either for good or for evil.
This is exactly what we saw in the Book of Ruth last week. Let's return there briefly and take a further look at what happened, beginning with 2:14, as Boaz is speaking to Ruth:
14. And at mealtime Boaz said to her, "Come here, that you may eat of the bread and dip your piece of bread in the vinegar." So she sat beside the reapers; and he served her roasted grain, and she ate and was satisfied and had some left.
15. When she rose to glean, Boaz commanded his servants, saying, "Let her glean even among the sheaves, and do not insult her.
16. "And also you shall purposely pull out for her some grain from the bundles and leave it that she may glean, and do not rebuke her."
17. So she gleaned in the field until evening. Then she beat out what she had gleaned, and it was about an ephah of barley.
18. And she took it up and went into the city, and her mother-in-law saw what she had gleaned. She also took it out and gave Naomi what she had left after she was satisfied.
Not only did Ruth give to Naomi the grain she had gleaned, but she gave her what was left over from her lunch.
Ruth's and Naomi's lovingkindness for each other is shown in that they share equally as they can in all that they have.
And notice Boaz. He did not outwardly offer charity, but allowed Ruth to
retain her dignity, in that she still had to work for what she gleaned.
We do not show lovingkindness when we refuse to help ourselves and expect others to provide for us, and Boaz was sensitive to that gift in Ruth.
Let's listen in on the conversation between Ruth and Naomi that follows, and see how this applies:
19. Her mother-in-law then said to her, "Where did you glean today and where did you work? May he who took notice of you be blessed." So she told her mother-in-law with whom she had worked and said, "The name of the man with whom I worked today is Boaz."
20. And Naomi said to her daughter-in-law, "May he be blessed of the Lord who has not withdrawn his kindness to the living and to the dead." Again Naomi said to her, "The man is our relative, he is one of our closest relatives."
When Naomi saw all the grain that Ruth had brought home, and that she had been fed a meal, she knew that there was something special about the landowner upon whose field she had gleaned; thus she offered a blessing for him.
And then when she found out that it was a relative of her late husband who was showing lovingkindness toward both of them, she asks God for further blessings upon him.
If we don't practice such lovingkindness, it will begin to disappear; and our world has already lost too much of it.
Let us, however, resolve in our hearts to bring back whatever lovingkindness we can.
And don't worry about whether or not it is received by everyone. Offer it anyway.
For this is being a Christian.