“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” Now that is a contradiction! Please do any and all children a favor and let them know that sticks and stones, as well as sarcasm, shouts, and silence, hurt. We live in a world dominated by hate crimes, hate speech, hate mail. We live in a world of hurt, yet God calls Christians to remain vulnerable and kind.
This played out in real time when recently I was hurt by some of the aforementioned hate. As the Lord ministered to me, I realized that I had two choices: withdraw, retreating from the possibility of getting hurt again, or be me…anyway. The words of Kent M. Keith’s “Paradoxical Commandments” came to me: “People are illogical, unreasonable, and self-centered. Love them anyway.” Then I realized that two thousand years ago Jesus gave a list of paradoxical commandments, too. As a tribute to Mr. Keith and my Savior, I offer my rendition of the Sermon on the Mount.
People will twist your words and intentions in order to justify their crookedness. Speak and do good anyway (Matt 5.10-11).
Christians will herald tactics and to-do’s and ridicule your refusal to submit to their man-made righteousness. Follow God authentically anyway (v5.20, 6.1).
People will hurl insults at you, piercing your soul and picking at scabs yet scarred. Forgive and reconcile anyway (v5.9, 21-24; 6.14-15, 22-23).
Bodies on screens, signs, and streets will seduce with or without intention. Guard your eyes anyway (v5.27-30).
Spouses will affront and enrage. Fight for your marriage anyway (v5.31-32).
You will be tempted to qualify and quantify your words to match the feats of tweets, posts, and sound bytes. Speak simply and truthfully anyway (v5.37).
Sometimes intimacy with God is challenging and the temptation to prove your significance by performance and perfectionism seems reasonable. Come away, just pray, anyway (v 6.5-8).
People will advise your investment in plans, pundits, and properties that promise quick dividends. Invest in eternity anyway (v6.9-21, 24).
People will advise your purchase of things you don’t need to live a life you don’t lead to impress people you won't meet. Trust the providence of God anyway (v6.25-34).
As you mature in Christ the temptation toward spiritual pride may persist. Remain humble and helpful anyway (v7.1-5).
Proclaiming the Gospel requires discernment; the wicked often return wounding for wisdom, persecution for patience, and curses for kindness. Proclaim the Gospel anyway (v7.6).
The prosperity gospel fuels greed and tries to manipulate God to act according to human wisdom. Grant God his freedom to decline your request and then persist in prayer anyway (v7.7-11, 15-23). Love God anyway.
Stock markets fall, diagnoses come, husbands leave. Imbibe the Word, engage this life, interact with others, invest in the Kingdom anyway (v7.24-27). Love life anyway.
People are irrational, oblivious, and immoral. Love them as and where they are anyway (v5.12). Love people anyway.
The paradoxes of Christianity: Love God, though at times he seems distant and you feel repugnant. Love life, though at times it seems overwhelming and you feel weary. Love people, though at times they seem impossible and you feel rejected. Love God, love life, and love people. Anyway.