The outline of my sermon yesterday from Living Waters United Methodist Church, Belgrade. Scripture: Acts 5.27-32
Most of us want to be liked.
That in and of itself isn’t anything new- it’s a fairly universal trait.
Most of us also want to stay out of trouble.
Again, simply human.
But when being liked and staying out of trouble aren’t an option when standing up for the truth… Well, that can be a real problem can’t it?
Let’s listen again to the scripture for today.
When the temple police had brought Peter and the apostles, they had them stand before the council. The high priest questioned them, saying, “We gave you strict orders not to teach in this Name, yet here you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and you are determined to bring this Man’s blood on us.” But Peter and the apostles answered, ‘We must obey God rather than any human authority.”
That’s what we heard today. What we didn’t hear is the passage that came after that.
When they heard this, they were enraged and wanted to kill them.
A Pharisee in the council named Gamaliel spoke on their behalf, reminding the council of others who had come and gone before them, all claiming to have been sent by God-all of whom had failed.
And then Gamaliel gave the council this advice:
“So in the present case, I tell you, keep away from these men and let them alone; because if this plan or this undertaking is of human origin, it will fail butt if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them—in that case you may even be found fighting against God!’
They were convinced by him. Then when they had called in the apostles, they had them flogged. Then they ordered them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go.
They left the council, they rejoiced that they were considered worthy to suffer dishonor for the sake of the Name. And every day in the temple and at home they did not cease to teach and proclaim Jesus as the Messiah.
Talk about getting into trouble.
Talk about not being liked.
But what did these disciples do?
They did something all heroes do- they trusted their hearts. They followed their conscience. These men and women preached the Gospel of a God who is in love with us.
And most of them died for it.
Often very cruel deaths.
Just to do the right thing. To proclaim love.
Today I want to ask a very simple question:
“When should we choose love?”
Seems simple doesn’t it?
And yet, we make decisions every day that are not loving.
We can exclude people, we can hoard things, we can lock our doors and load our guns in fear, we can drink too much, we can eat too much, we can lie to ourselves, we can lie to others- sometimes simply to stay out of trouble or to be liked by the right people.
Well, the Jesus who died on the cross, rose from the dead and sent his disciples into the world to proclaim a crazy, loving God doesn’t want us to let the world get in the way of love.
That’s what these disciples knew. That’s why they stood in fear of their lives in front of the courts, why they suffered scourging- just like Jesus- why they refused to deny love.
Because they saw love, risen from the dead.
And so have we.
You know it, in your hearts, you see it every day. Love risen from the dead. You can even create it if you like.
You’ve seen a child’s face- crushed by disappointment- restored to life by a word of encouragement and love.
All you have to do is restore someone’s hope.
All you have to do is not deny anyone their dignity.
All you have to do is trust that we are more than our fears.
All you have to do is open your heart- and your mouth and eyes and ears and hands and feet will follow.
Just open your heart.
Let us ask our God to give us eyes to see the opportunities to build the Kingdom of God- right here, right now.
And when you feel that feeling rising up in you, the one that says, “I want to be liked, I want to stay out of trouble”, the one that wants to close your heart down, will you know what to do?
I think we do.
We stop and recognize the choice in front of us: To be open or closed; to be loving or cruel.
So, when do we choose love?
Every time we can.