Monday, July 11, 2011

Sermon Lessons: Care

 7"You're blessed when you care. At the moment of being 'care-full,' you find yourselves cared for."
(Matthew 5:7 - The Message Bible)

17-18Real wisdom, God's wisdom, begins with a holy life and is characterized by getting along with others. It is gentle and reasonable, overflowing with mercy and blessings, not hot one day and cold the next, not two-faced. You can develop a healthy, robust community that lives right with God and enjoy its results only if you do the hard work of getting along with each other, treating each other with dignity and honor.
(James 3:17-18)

Some translations will state this verse as "Blessed are the merciful, for they shall be shown mercy."  I like how the Message interprets this - at the moment you are "care-full" - you find yourselves cared for.  There is a saying that we reap what we sow.  This is so true.  Sow seeds of "care" and you will always reap a reward of being cared for.

When we are "care-full" (full of care), we are looking out for the other guy.  There is an extension of our lives that looks beyond what is in it for us and sees that there are others around us that need to be "cared for" in the midst of the day's challenges.  James is so "right on" when he says that true "community" is built upon living right with God - but he is also forthright to let us know that this is HARD WORK.  

Extending mercy - being able to care for another's thoughts, opinions, or desires - in the midst of not understanding why it is that they are acting a particular way is sometimes quite challenging.  We don't "naturally" want to respond with "care" or "mercy"!  In fact, if we were totally honest here, we'd probably like to tell them off!  James presents some "community-traits" that we have an opportunity to focus on today that will help us to always be "care-full" in our dealings with each other.

First, we are gentle with each other.  Two words describe this trait - compassionate and considerate.  We avoid severe, rough, condescending responses - even when the other guy may be struggling with these responses themselves.  It is the idea of turning the other cheek.  Rising above the emotion of the moment and extending a kindness where it may be least deserved.

Second, we are reasonable in our dealings.  Simply put, this means that we exercise sound judgment.  We don't respond "out of proportion" to the circumstances at hand.  In other words, we don't get caught up in the emotion and allow those emotions to stir us into responses that are disproportionate to the facts!  Emotion often outruns reason!  We respond out of emotion, without all the facts, and then wonder why we have no sense of "community"!

Last, but not least, we are consistent.  James puts it as not being hot one day and cold the next.  Whenever we ride the roller-coaster of being okay one day and then out of sync the next, we always struggle to keep "community" together.  Learning to bring balance, order, and proportionate response to circumstances goes a long way to keeping us on even ground.

Dignity and honor - the hallmarks of a strong community relationship - are the outcome of learning to live "care-full" lives.  Is your "care-cup" filled to overflowing today?