Series: Followers of Jesus
Message: In the Church
Preacher: Japhet De Oliveira
Reflection: Mark Witas
Live Wonder: Jessyka Albert
Live Adventure: Jessyka Albert
Live Purpose: Kyle Smith
Editor: Becky De Oliveira
Refresh: Begin with prayer. Ask for the Holy Spirit to open your heart to new understanding and for God’s character to be revealed.
Read: Romans 12:1-21 in the English Standard Version (ESV). Note 1–3 insights or questions.
Reflect: Paul writes, “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited” (Romans 12: 14-16).
It was my first church and I was as green as a blade of grass. I had a lot of ideas, a lot of zeal, but not much experience. And probably not that many brains. All of this didn’t keep George (names have changed to protect the innocent) from making my life miserable.
George was a long-time church member who didn’t like me at all. If I presented an idea at church board, he hated it. If I preached, my sermon was, according to him, “lacking in anything that made any theological sense.” If I taught an adult Sabbath School lesson, George took the time to visit it to be openly critical of what I was teaching.
George became the bane of my existence.
One night, I was at home complaining about George when my wife decided she’d had enough. She said, “Why is it that you preachers never practice what you preach?”
“Huh?” I muttered cluelessly.
“You are always talking about loving your enemies and praying for those who persecute you, but instead of loving and praying, I just hear a lot of whining.”
She was right. I was busted. So we started to pray for George. Then, at the suggestion of my wife, I asked George out to dinner. For a date. Just me and George. I was terrified.
He agreed, and we met at the local Olive Garden. As we sat there I asked him, “George, why do you hate me?”
“Well, pastor, it’s because you don’t preach the straight testimony.”
I handed George the Bible that was in my briefcase. “Show me where it is and I’ll preach it next Sabbath.”
He thumbed through the Bible for a moment and then admitted, “Well, I don’t know where to find it, but I know you aren’t preaching it!”
George and I met every week for a long time after that. And we became friends. Seriously, I fell in love with George. And his wife. And their Schnauzer. My enemy, somehow, became my friend.
My wife convinced me to bless instead of curse. And it paid off. We should all try this.
Recalibrate: Is there someone or something in your life that you whine about? Why not try bathing it in prayer and acting toward it with love?
Respond: Pray for God to turn your whining into praise!
Research: Here’s a great article on loving our enemies.
Remember: “Love must be real. Hate what is evil; stick fast to what is good” (Romans 12:9, KNT).
Mark Witas is the lead pastor at Pacific Union College Church in Angwin, CA. Originally from the Pacific Northwest, Mark has served as a youth pastor, Bible teacher, college and academy chaplain, and lead pastor in the United States and Canada for the last 33 years. He has also authored four books: Born Chosen, Live Out Loud, Portals, and Just Jesus.
The Bible tells us to bless those who persecute us—to be kind to them and not to curse them and wish bad things on them. When someone is unkind to you, how do your kids see you react? Ask them what they think you should do when someone does something mean to you. How should you react? Talk about how Jesus was kind to people even when they were mean to Him. He asks us to do the same thing. It’s hard to be nice to mean people all on our own, so we need to ask Jesus to give us His love to give to others—even the really mean ones.
Is there someone who you have a hard time getting along with? Why is it hard to get along with them? The Bible doesn’t tell us we have to be best friends with every single person, but it does tell us that we should be kind to people—even if those people aren’t very kind to us. What was Jesus like to the people who were hard to get along with? Paul tells us, in Romans, that we should pray for the people who hurt us. Take some time today to pray for the people who might have been mean to you this week. Ask Jesus to give you extra kindness to show to them even if they are still being mean.
The other day I was in traffic and something incredible happened. I was coming up on a lane that was closing and I needed to get into the lane to my left. I looked in my mirror and the coast was clear. As I engaged my turn signal and began to merge, this lady who was about four car spaces behind me in the other lane suddenly sped up, honked her horn, and used a fascinating hand gesture to tell me she was not happy. I couldn’t understand why she was angry! I didn’t cut her off; I used my blinker. I didn’t hop in front of her and slow her down any. In the heat of that moment, I wanted to forget I was a Jesus follower and exchange a nasty hand gesture back, but instead I resisted. Instead I put up two fingers and gave her the peace sign. I wanted her to know that regardless of the hate she was inflicting upon me, I was going to remain peaceful and I wanted her to have peace as well. Something I have learned is that it is easy to hate those who persecute you, but it is hard to love them. Today I encourage you to love more. When someone hates you, persecutes you, is rude to you, or mistreats you, love them. You may be the only person who shows them any love today.