Be Different; Be a Christian
User’s Guide to Sunday, Feb. 20
Are you a Christian? Before you answer, consider these questions: Do you love your enemy? Do you do good to those who hate you? The honest answers to these questions are at the very heart of Christianity and represent what distinguishes a Christian from others. Let’s follow Jesus’ teachings in several stages.
The Attitude of a Christian
Note four attitudes that the Lord distinguishes:
Merciful: “Love your enemies; do good to those who hate you; bless those who curse you; pray for those who mistreat you.” We ought to remember how merciful God has been to us.
Allow God to make you aware of his abundant mercy so that you are deeply grateful and thus equipped to love your enemy and mercifully withhold your wrath and vengeance toward him or her.
Meek: “To the person who strikes you on one cheek, offer the other one as well, and from the person who takes your cloak, do not withhold even your tunic.” Meekness is the virtue that governs anger. It is the proper middle ground between too much anger and not enough.
Even when anger is an appropriate response, meekness moderates it, steering it away from destructive ends to helpful ones.
Magnanimous: “Give to everyone who asks of you, and from the one who takes what is yours do not demand it back.” We are too easily angered when people seek our time, talent or treasure. Those who are magnanimous are open to being asked, at peace with saying No when necessary, and generous in sharing their gifts.
Meet: “Do to others as you would have them do to you.” “Meet” means suitable, proper, fitting, correct or just. Christians are aware that if we want the world to be more just, it has to begin with us. We sow justice, mercy and patience in order to reap them in others.
In effect, Jesus is telling us to put an end to the cycle of injustice and violence, by his grace. The Christian is to stand in the gap and say, “It ends with me.” This is Jesus’ battle strategy: Defeat Satan’s cycle and thwart his plan to get two birds with one stone. Satan’s usual tactic is to inspire hatred or vengeance in someone, who then attacks us; in response, we lash back and become just like our enemy.
The Altitude of a Christian
“For if you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them ...” Christians are supposed to stand out. By God’s grace, we are to rise above mere human norms. We are to exceed.
The Assets of a Christian
Jesus teaches that if we live in these ways we store up a treasure both here and in heaven:
“Stop condemning and you will not be condemned. Forgive and you will be forgiven. Give, and gifts will be given to you; a good measure, packed together, shaken down, and overflowing, will be poured into your lap. For the measure with which you measure will in return be measured out to you.”
In effect, your yardstick will become a boomerang. Let it come back to bless you. If you have been merciful, you will find mercy. If you have forgiven, you will find forgiveness. If you have given, it shall be returned to you many times over.
So, are you a Christian? Do your attitudes and actions distinguish you from unbelievers? The Lord gives today some parameters for determining the depths of our faith. How do you measure up?
- msgr. charles pope
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