So, You Want To Be A Christian…

This weekend’s readings give us many clear instructions on what it means to be a holy Christian.

In the first reading (Leviticus 19:1-2, 17-18), we’re clearly told not to “bear hatred for your brother or sister in your heart.”  Not only are we instructed not to hate, the reading goes on to say that we’re not allowed to take revenge or hold grudges against “any of your people.”

“You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

Assuming that we do in fact love ourselves, imagine what our families and communities would be like if we really did love our neighbors as much as we loved ourself.  How’s that for a goal?  Do you think that it’s achievable?

In case we’re not feeling that great about ourself, Paul’s letter to the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 3:16-23) will remind us of just how loved and valuable we are.

“Do you not know that you are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?”  If we are in fact temples of God and if the Spirit of God is living in us, we’ve invited God to live within our mind, heart and within every cell of our being.  We are holy because we belong to God.

In this week’s gospel (Matthew 5:38-48), Jesus instructs with specific examples as to how we’re to move away from hatred and revenge and embrace love. Think of how this lesson compares with the norm in our culture:

When someone strikes you on your right cheek,

turn the other one as well.

If anyone wants to go to law with you over your tunic,

hand over your cloak as well.

Should anyone press you into service for one mile,

go for two miles.

Give to the one who asks of you,

and do not turn your back on one who wants to borrow.

Take a deep breath. Just when you might think that you can adopt that teaching, Jesus immediately gives us more:

You have heard that it was said,

‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’

But I say to you, love your enemies.

and pray for those who persecute you.

It’s easy to love people who are like us and who are lovable.  The challenge is to love those who are different from us and those who challenge us and hurt us. They are the very people Jesus asks us to love.

As Jesus looks upon each of us with the loving eyes of a father or brother, we are to love each person we encounter with that same unconditional love. We’re to pray for those who are deliberately hurting and persecuting us.  Our goal is purity of heart.

Is it easy being a Christian? No.  As we take on the mind of Christ and pray for God’s grace, we become more and more Christ-like each and every day.  Love takes over the space where revenge and hatred used to reside.

You and I are the temple of God. As we embrace the Spirit of God living within us, we understand that nothing is impossible.

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