Do Church People Truly Love Their Neighbors As Themselves?

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Do Church People Truly Love Their Neighbors As Themselves?

A Sermon Delivered at
The Compassion Internet Church

23 January 2011

Frank L. Hoffman, Pastor

Scripture References:

Leviticus 19:18
Matthew 6:10
1 Corinthians 8:13
2 Corinthians 12:7-10
        13:4
Revelation 21:1-8

Preparation Verse (1 Corinthians 8:13):

13 Therefore, if food causes my brother to stumble, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause my brother to stumble.

Nearly every day we hear from someone who has left the church or has been made to feel uncomfortable because of their love for animals and for being vegan or vegetarian.

Most of these people are very sad and upset, for they went to church for comfort and to get a spiritual uplifting, but instead they were reduced to tears of sadness, and some have said that they felt bullied, even by the pastor.

When people deliberately make others feel uncomfortable and sad and picked on about their sensitivities, they are really cowardly, for they believe that they can get away with it because they are in the majority.

Our preparation verse for today is the last verse in 1 Corinthians 8, where Paul addresses the dispute within the church that had been going on between the Jewish Christians, who wouldn’t eat any flesh foods either out of compassion or because of the Mosaic Law, and the Gentile Christians who freely ate meat, even from animals sacrificed to idols.

Paul is telling the people of Corinth and us today that if the killing and eating of animals, and our conversation about it, is causing sensitive members of the church to feel uncomfortable, even to the point of leaving, then the entire membership should cease from eating animal foods or from making self-indulgent remarks about it in the church or anywhere else where they are with these sensitive people.

If a church doesn’t do this, then it is not obeying the second greatest commandment in the Bible (Leviticus 19:18).

18 ‘You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the sons of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself; I am the LORD.

When someone chides or scapegoats someone else because they are sensitive and think or feel differently, they are being cruel and unloving and violating the very essence of this commandment and what Paul is telling us.

When people don’t concern themselves about the suffering of animals that they eat or the feelings of people who do care about animals, it doesn’t mean that they are strong; to the contrary, it means that they have a hardened heart.

When a person is sensitive to the suffering of the whole of creation, it is a sign of their softness of heart; it is not a weakness.

Note what Paul says about this kind of weakness in 2 Corinthians 12:7-10.

7 Because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me—to keep me from exalting myself!

8 Concerning this I implored the Lord three times that it might leave me.

9 And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.

10 Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.

We strongly believe that people who don’t care about the suffering of the animals they eat and wear likewise have a thorn in the flesh from Satan, but unlike Paul, they seem to enjoy it; thus they are actually the spiritually weak ones.

On the other hand, those who are sensitive to the suffering of these animals are perfected in their weakness and become spiritually strong, for they have not succumbed to the unction of the devil.

Note also what Paul writes about Jesus’ weakness in 2 Corinthians 13:4.

4 For indeed He was crucified because of weakness, yet He lives because of the power of God. For we also are weak in Him, yet we will live with Him because of the power of God directed toward you.

We have discussed this problem before, and most of the people who have heard or read this message have been on the receiving end of the ungodly behavior; but hopefully more and more other people will hear the message in their hearts and souls and make the church a truly loving and comforting place for everyone.

Before we end today’s message, let’s take a look at the heavenly view that John saw and heard in Revelation 21:1-8, for it tells us what happens to the two groups of people we’ve been talking about.

1 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea.

2 And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband.

3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them,

4 and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.”

What this Biblical revelation is telling us is that all the people who have been made sad by the hardness of heart in the church will have their tears wiped away.

They will no longer mourn or cry over the suffering and death that is inflicted upon millions of our fellow human beings and billions of animals every year, for these humans and animals will no longer suffer and die, and the earth will once again be vegan and at peace.

Let’s go on and see what else John saw and heard.

5 And He who sits on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” And He said, “Write, for these words are faithful and true.”

6 Then He said to me, “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give to the one who thirsts from the spring of the water of life without cost.

Those who unconditionally love the Lord their God with every part of their being, and the whole of His creation, and who hunger and thirst to see the corruption, injustice, indifference, and suffering end upon the earth, will now be comforted.

7 “He who overcomes will inherit these things, and I will be his God and he will be My son.

8 “But for the cowardly and unbelieving and abominable and murderers and immoral persons and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars, their part will be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.”

We don’t want to see anyone go to hell; we want them to soften their hearts and repent, seeking to become the loving, compassionate, and peacemaking children of God we are called to be for the benefit of the whole of creation.

We want to see everyone praying and working to bring God’s heavenly will to earth as it is in heaven, as we are taught in the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:10).

Amen?

Amen!