How Hard Is It?
This is the first of two fictional sermons given by fictional Pastor Jason Schumer in the forthcoming book Steve’s Grace. If I could actually preach like this, I would become a minister! I hope you enjoy it.
Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloke also. And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain. Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away. Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same? And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so? –Matthew 5:38-47
“When I was a kid, my mother said to me, ‘Stay away from those Catholic kids. They don’t go to the right church.’ Then my father said to me, ‘Stay away from those Jewish kids, because they don’t go to any church at all!’ Both of them thought that if I only hung out with kids who went to the same church as I did, I would grow up with better standards.
“You know, peer pressure is very strong, and I think that’s what my parents were counting on. If my peer pressure came from good kids, they figured I would learn good behaviors. So I hung out with kids who went to my church, and I did what they did.
“My parents were just a little shocked when I got caught in the back seat of my buddy’s car with a bag of marijuana, a twelve-pack of beer, and the sixteen-year-old girl who lived next door.”
The audience chuckles. Then Jason delivers the punch line:
“And both my buddy and the neighbor girl went to the right church!” he shouts.
Everyone laughs. He has our attention as he delivers a sermon about how we are all sinners, and we are all God’s children, and he loves every single one of us.
“God doesn’t love Catholics more than Baptists, or Baptists more than Catholics,” Jason pronounces. “I’ve got news for you. He doesn’t even love Christians more than non-Christians.
“So if God doesn’t love us more for being Christians, why are we in church this morning?” he asks. “Is it because we can’t find anything better to do?” He raises his hand as he asks, “Would anyone here rather be surfing?”
Everyone laughs, and I gather Jason must be an avid and vocal surfer.
“We’re not here to make sure God loves us,” he says. “At least, I hope that’s not why we’re here. No, my friends, we are here to be reminded that as Christians, as people of God and followers of Jesus, that we are commanded to love everyone else!
“I was on the freeway back from El Segundo one morning this week and this guy cut me off. He just cut right in front of me, like I wasn’t there. I’m human,” he says. “I wanted to give him the one-finger salute. But that’s not what Jesus says I should do. He says I should love that person.”
He pauses, and rolls his eyes..
“If it was up to me, I’d have loved that guy right off the side of the road! But that’s not what Jesus says to do.
“Who can think of a reason the guy might have cut me off on the freeway?”
“He didn’t see you,” someone suggests.
“He didn’t see me!” Jason repeats. “It had nothing to do with me at all!”
“He was having a bad morning,” says someone else.
“Yeah, he was having a bad morning,” Jason repeats. “And I’m about to make it worse! How Christian is that?”
“He doesn’t like surfers,” someone shouts.
Everyone laughs, including Jason.
“You get the point, right?” he says. “I don’t get to hate anyone, no matter what they do to me. Jesus says if someone sues me for my coat, give him my cloak, too. If they want me to walk a mile with them, walk two.
“How hard is it to look at someone who just cut you off in traffic and say, ‘I’m sorry you’re having a hard day, and I hope it gets better’?” he asks, loudly.
“Hard,” shout several people at once.
“How hard is it to see someone doing something you don’t approve of and forgive them for it and love them anyway?” he shouts.
“Hard!” comes the reply.
“How hard is it to forgive someone who hates your guts and love them anyway?” he calls.
“Hard!” everyone shouts.
He pauses again, and his voice softens.
“How hard is it to be a Christian?” he asks.
They seem to know this one is rhetorical, because no one answers.
We sing another hymn, and there are announcements. Then Jason stands again.
“Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven,” he says. “Thank you all for coming.”