Homily

when Halloween arrived this year, all the discussion about how it fits into Christianity got me thinking about what a weird holiday it is. It’s the only day of the year when total strangers arrive on your doorstep, dressed like they’re from a foreign world, knock on your door and you not only will give them some goodies, but, as you loaded up on groceries the week before you left room in your cart for them.

And speaking of weird, how about those masks? The faces they put on to achieve a certain effect. I wonder what makes someone choose a particular mask? And how about the faces we put on to greet the world in our everyday lives. Do you think Christianity can be worn like a mask? Would it fool anyone? Would God be fooled? Or would He still hear the silent whispering in our skull of the hidden sin that haunts us?

Now sin is a small word with big intentions! The word sin, as you know, means to miss the mark. You aim at a target, let the arrow go and see how close you come to the bulls eye. And of course failure to hit the target is never the fault of the target. How many of us hit the mark every time? I don’t! I must confess that too often my actions do not follow the path of my intentions. I miss the mark! I sin! And like this little three letter word, which carries great big meanings – all words convey meanings.

Words can be used like masks to cover or label others. Some words stick to the bones and are hard to remove. Sometimes we lay one on another like a blanket to cover the face of one who has sinned in our judgment, big time!

Have you ever noticed how the news is always full of words we use to cover big sinners. Many of these words are vile and seem to suit certain people. Here are a few I noticed recently: racists, transvestite, dead beat dad, rapist, abortionist, gang banger, wife beater, child abuser, hypocrite.

How do you react to these names? Are you repulsed, repelled? I am! But, what repels us? A word? A deed? The sin, or are you repulsed by the whole person? In other words – when I read that list, did you picture a person or just feel disgust – an abstract idea? If love and compassion for the person were among the emotions you felt toward that sinner, that’s good, you are getting His message. If love or compassion never occurred to you, then maybe you need to ask: what kind of Christian am I?

Do you wear Christianity like a mask? Hiding a hypocritical heart? Do you express love and compassion for some and hate for others, even though Christ has clearly called us to love everyone, including our enemies? Why does Christ have so much love and compassion for everyone and we do not, even though he commands us to?

From my reading of the Bible it seems there are two stumbling blocks that keep us from expressing the love of Christ to everyone. Number one: we don’t (like Christ does) separate the sin from the sinner and, number two: we don’t look at love the way Christ does.

What I want to do here is 1) highlight some of the places in the Bible that illustrate Christ’s compassion, 2) point out what it takes to separate the sin from the sinner, and 3) show how and why our love differs from His love. Now, I’m not doing this as an intellectual exercise, I have in mind what I believe is a very useful purpose.

To that end, let me ask you a question: if there were a way you could always under all circumstances express the love of Christ to everyone, would you be interested in knowing how? Are you committed to Christ enough to express his love to a wife beater, a gang banger, or would you be just as happy being a hypocrite who hides his hate and disdain for some under a mask of Christianity? What I’m really asking is: what kind of Christians are we?

Now I’m not making any accusations, I’m simply posing a question everyone dedicated to following Christ should consider, and consider often. What kind of Christian am I? Now to express love in all cases does not mean that you have to run up to Walter, give him a hug and say: Gee I really love what you do for that yellow dress. And I am not saying that you should just look the other way, bury your head in the sand and be tolerate of all manner of iniquities. I’ll be the first to admit that if you stand for nothing you will fall for anything! What I’m talking about is what Christ clearly commands us to do in Matthew 5:43-48.

It reads: “You have heard that it was said, you shall love your neighbor, and hate your enemy. But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you. That you may be the children of your father which is in heaven, for he makes his sun rise on the evil and the good, and sends his rain on the just and the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you salute your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Be therefore perfect even as your father which is in heaven is perfect.” NRSV.

If the abortionist, the racist, the child abuser, etc is not the enemy Christ commands us to love, then who is? Remember now, I am not saying Christ wants you to love or endorse what they do. What I am saying is, when you do what you do, do it with love or you become, well, a hypocrite. The things we do always reveal something about us and love reveals what a true Christian is. Chances are a troubled soul has never personally witnessed a true Christian. I think it was George Bernard Shaw who said: “The problem with Christianity is that no one has ever tried it”.

We teach by our very actions. A rambunctious child accidentally runs into you in pursuit of a runaway ball. You look down at the mud transferred to your shoes. You can scold or smile. Each response teaches the child something different. So it’s never a question of whether or not you will teach, but what you will teach.

When you express the love of Christ, you teach something more valuable then the fact you condemn what someone does. As you teach peace, you come to learn your lessons well, for to teach is to learn. If you teach peace, you will learn peace and if you learn peace, you will have peace. You reap what you sow! What do you want to reap?

Those behaving in such a way as to receive negative reporting in the news, of course, are responsible for what they do. Nevertheless, it’s our responsibility to choose what we are going to do with what they do. We are responsible for how we respond to people and respondibility is just as important as responsibility. So, you can’t use someone’s misbehavior as a license to mistreat them, and still call yourself a Christian. The Bible tells us in Hebrews 12:14 to pursue peace with all men and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord.

Do you want one day to be with our Lord? How much? Enough to love your enemies? You see, we have something those in the news do not have, and I don’t mean that in a condescending way, I mean it in a concerned way. And if you have the peace and joy Christ brings with him, you should help others to open their hearts to Christ so they too can experience this peace. How are they to notice you have peace if you are constantly attacking them?

One thing many of those I took from the news have in common is they have not heard the news. But you have heard the news and I’m sure you have also heard many times that you need to not only hear His words in your head, but, to feel His words in your heart, but, I say there is a third and crucial step. Once you make the head to heart connection you need to put His words in your mouth and spread the good news to those who make the news and to any one who is lost.

When you look at the lost, the wife beater, the thief, do you see them as Christ does or are you blinded by their behavior? I ask you this: can a blind Christian lead the blind to Christ? In Matthew 15:14 Christ said: “…if the blind lead the blind both shall fall into the ditch”.

The Bible is full of verses that show Christ wants us to choose love and not hate. Certainly more verses then we can cover here. But, let me mention one of my favorites: John 11:35. It’s one of the shortest verse in the entire bible, only two words. But these two words tell us so much about love and compassion. John 11:35: “Jesus wept.”

Jesus wept because he had compassion for those who grieved over the loss of Lazarus. Moreover, Martha admonished Christ for not arriving in time to save her brother. Nevertheless, Christ always chose love. In Mark 10:21 Jesus beheld the rich young man and loved him. Christ told him, out of love, to give away all his possessions. In the second chapter of John, Christ was peeved at the money changers, yet, I believe it was out of love that he drove them from the temple.

And I am not saying it was just out of love for the Father. Hear me now: as I see it, Christ had a caring love for the moneychangers. He of course did not love their behavior. But if He didn’t care about them He might have done the same thing He did when Pilot sent Him to testify before hopeless Herod – nothing.

Christ, in his righteous indignation, drove them out of the temple not because there is something inherently wrong with currency exchange. It certainly has its place. But its place was not the temple.

What kind of exchanges go on in the heart of your temple? Do we take the love of Christ for ourselves and give hate to sinners that make the news? In Mark 6:34 Jesus saw the multitudes and was moved with compassion, because they were as sheep not having a shepherd and He began to teach them many things.

I want you to close your eyes for a moment, and with your eyes closed imagine yourself standing before the multitudes right next to Christ. As you look into the faces in the crowd you recognize many. You see family and friends. See also the faces of those who irritate or upset you most. The faces of those who have made the news for their vile acts.

Include your own face, your many faces and one stripped clean of all your false faces. Open your eyes now and look into the crowd, can you see the tax collector who extracts exorbitant sums from hard working families? You scoff at him, yet Jesus wept. Yes I think he wept for the tax collector. What about those the tax collector cheated, you ask. Think for a moment: those the tax collector cheated lost a little money, that’s all. While the tax collector was in danger of losing his soul. Jesus never wept over money!

Any crowd includes sinners. Christ stands before them today with the same love and compassion He had over two thousand years ago. And that is what he has called us to feel – compassion for the lost who stumble through the night unable to find the morning light. This is one tall order. Compassion is a great big hot word. How can we always feel compassion? First we need to, like Christ separate the sin from the sinner and then we need to understand the difference between the love of the world and the love of Christ. Because you rightfully hate what the rapist does you might wrongfully hate the rapist. You are not separating the sin from the sinner, and this is normal in this world, but it is out of place in His kingdom. Where do you want to make your home, this world or His kingdom?

When we meet someone for the first time it isn’t long before we ask: “what line of work are you in”? We tend to equate the person with what the person does, and this is wrong. Now I know what you do can say something about who you are, but people are a whole lot more than what they do.

A person is a being, not a doing. A being created by God. If it was about doing as opposed to being then God would love some more than others because it is obvious some do more than others. But, God loves all beings equally and maybe if we separate the sin from the sinner we might be more like Christ, less judgmental.

In John 12:47 Christ said: “And if any man hear my voice and believe not, I judge him not, for I came not to judge the world, but to save the world.” Christ does not condemn the person, only the sin. If you do condemn, whose evaluation of the person do you think is more likely to be correct?

Sometimes condemnation is born out of fear and frustration. We feel threatened by what they do or what they represent. And fear follows quickly on the heels of a threat. When fear intensifies within us it leads us to attack. We justify this attack to the world and ourselves by pleading self defense. Whenever you feel threatened or fearful you might ask: has God changed his mind about me? Has He left me comfortless? Otherwise a perceived threat will lead to fear and fear leads to attack, and attack blocks communication.

Communication, now there is a word with broad implications! “In the beginning was the word and the word was with God, and the word was God and the word was made flesh and dwelt among us”. (John 1:1 & 14). Christ is the word incarnate. And what are words for if they are not for communication? What does Christ want us to communicate? In the words of that great philosopher Bonnie Raitt, “How about love?” Romans 13:8 “…he that loves another has fulfilled the law”.

We fail to fulfill the commandment to love because we focus on the sin. Oh I know, our intentions are good, we want to follow Christ, to show the compassion He showed. But it’s so much safer to avoid contact with “these people”. And whenever they make the news it seems right to condemn them with Christian friends and family members.

Isn’t it amazing how good we feel after a little righteously indignant ranting and raving about these people! Oh sure, when we are alone in our minds we admit that tiny twinge of guilt we felt when we were running our mouth probably was the holy spirit tugging at us to find a way to help the lost instead of heckling them. But, the holy spirit had better learn to speak a little louder if He wants our attention! After all He surely knows that if we were ready to be used of God to help, then we would. But, we are not ready and certainly a “know it all”, ought to know that. Helping a wife beater will just have to wait.

You know the problem with waiting until everything is perfect before you try to bring the light of Christ to a racist, is you might wind up like this poem I heard from that great motivational speaker Zig Zigler:

“bride white of hair was stooped over her cane, her footsteps uncertain needed guiding. While down the opposite church isle, with a broad toothless smile, the bridegroom in a wheelchair comes gliding. Who is this elderly couple thus wed? Well, you will find when you more closely explore it that here is that rare most conservative pair who waited until everything was perfect!

The problem is this: if you wait until every light is green before you head for home you will never leave for home. If we wait until we are perfect before we try to help those who do things we hate, what kind of Christians are we? O K you say “I get it. I see the sinner is not the sin. But, you can’t really expect me to love a child molester, can you?”

What is blocking you from expressing the love of Christ to everyone is your definition of love. To love those who do things you hate you need to understand the difference between the love of the world and the love of Christ. What Christ teaches about love is contrary to what the world teaches and we are confused. The world teaches that you give love to get love and Christ teaches that you do not give love to get love but when you just give love you are love. Now, if you have trouble giving love could it be that you do not have love in your heart. If love is not in your heart, how can you say Christ abides in you?

A fair criticism of some Christians is they convert the message of love that Christ taught into love only those who are members of this private club called the church. The only ones that deserve love are the card-carrying members of the club. Everyone else is the enemy and the enemy must be attacked and destroyed. The problem with attack is it can never lead to joy, on any kind of permanent basis. You may be exuberant over a battle you have won, but the war is still raging. Fear of loosing the next battle will soon rob you of your joy.

Only the continuous expression of the love of Christ under all circumstances can bring lasting peace and only lasting peace is permanently joyous. There is no joy in war, ask anyone who has seen action. We learned our first lessons about war and peace and love as children when we fought over the teddy bear with our sibling(s). There was only one teddy. Two could not hold teddy at the same time. If I wanted teddy I had to take him. The offended party would scream to Mom and Mom not only made us give teddy back, some of us (if Mom was doing her job right) got our hide tanned to boot.

This taught us that if we want something someone else has we could not just take it. We have to give them something in exchange; we have to bargain with them. This give and take principle is a very important one for us to learn because it is the basis of the world we all must live in, for now. People who fail to learn this principle wind up serving eight to ten in prison for grand theft.

By the time we reach the age when we think we need someone to love us we have applied this basic law of give and take – to love. We go a step further into insanity when we believe there is a shortage of love and if we give it to a racist there will not be enough left over for the righteous.

We are treating love as a commodity, like something that is governed by physical laws. Love defies all physical laws, every law of time and space, mass and magnitude. If I offerred a $20 bill to anyone in a group who raised a hand, no strings attached, I would have to decide who gets the the money. Since I only have one, I cannot give it to everyone. That is a basic physical law. But, I can give the love of Christ to everyone and I still have it for myself. In fact, love increases as we give it.

If you give love to get love then you are bargaining and in bargaining eventually someone must loose for another to gain. This is not how the love of Christ works. You can’t bargain with God – His love is non-negotiable and this goes counter to what the world has taught you – that everything has a price.

The love of Christ does have a price but He paid it in full. To obey the commandment to love always, we must understand the difference between giving love to get something and giving love because doing so is everything. In relation to the way the world loves, this is revolutionary. But that should not surprise us, Christ is the greatest revolutionary that ever walked the earth.

Revolutions bring about changes. What is needed here is a change of mind about what love is. Does Christ love others for what He can get from them? Christ understands love is about what you can do for others not what others can do for you. Doing for others because they do for us is bargaining to fill a perceived need – it’s not love. Stop and think for a moment – what do you really need other than salvation? If you are truly born again then you no longer need be concerned about need.

But the lost have a real need, they need salvation, and they’re looking in all the wrong places. Many, who are lost, are lost out of ignorance. They do not believe what they are doing is wrong, or they have rationalized their misconduct and blinded themselves to the harm they do to themselves and others.

Those who hurt others are lost in the wilderness! They know not who made them or why. They wonder: why am I here, what am I expected to do, where am I going, what does it all mean, is there any meaning to it at all? This is the universal human problem.

John Lennon, the Beatle who created a furor when he said the Beatles were bigger then Christ, said something else that we might have less trouble agreeing with: he said: “there are no problems only solutions”. What the lost have are faulty solutions to the universal problem. When I think of faulty solutions to problems I’m reminded of a time as a boy we were visiting friends at the ocean. They had a small leaky boat and my friend’s Father must have noticed me eyeing the boat because he warned me not to go out alone. He said the undertow would pull me out to sea and the boat would fill up and drown me. I chuckled to myself and said, I can solve that problem. I’ll take a bucket along so I can bail the boat out and I’ve got two oars to make sure I stay close to the shore.

Does this sound like a good solution? When everyone else was lounging inside the cottage one afternoon I grabbed a bucket, hopped in the boat and started out on a grand adventure that almost put me in an early grave. Every time I stopped rowing to bail the cold water from overflowing the top of my shoes, the undertow would take me another ten or fifteen feet out to sea. By the time they caught up with me they had to pull me up by the hair on my head before I went down for the third time.

Now when a problem is self-inflicted, as most problems are, the last person to know about the problem is the person with the problem. And the first rule of problem solving is to recognize the problem. Until someone accepts that he has a problem, it actually does little good for us to keep focusing on the problem. Their eyes are closed. The best thing we can do is pray they will come to see they have a problem and then accept, as we do, that Christ is the genuine solution to all problems.

When you apply Christ as the answer to everything, you come to know God loves you and this has a calming effect on you. You experience peace and the absence of fear. In 1 John 4:18 the Bible says “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear.” If you are full of fear, it does not mean that God has taken his peace from you and replaced it with fear. You have simply lost your awareness that God’s love is not only perfect, but always present.

Ok you say you’ve got it. You understand what you are supposed to do – separate the sin from the sinner and love all people. But, you say, I don’t know how to do that. I know what I’m suppose to do, but, I don’t know how to do it? How do I always show the love of Christ to everyone no matter what they do? Indeed how can you love a wife beater enough to be used of God to help him out of his sin?

I promised to show you a way, that no matter what happens, you will always be able to respond to everyone in all situations with the love of Christ. O. K. now it is time to deliver on my promise.

There is a way you can always apply the love of Christ to all situations and Christ gave it to us in Matthew 5:38/39: “You have heard that it was said, an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth, but I say to you, do not resist an evildoer, but if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also”.

If this is not an act of love, I do not know what would be. But how do I turn the other cheek? How do I always show the love of Christ no matter what happens? No matter what anyone does? No matter how much it might tempt me to get mad, agitated or irritated enough to attack or strike back? In other words, how do I go from being a believer to a follower of Christ?

There is a definite difference and it is a difference that will make all the difference in your life. It’s the crucial third step, that, when used, gives us the “how to do what we know we are supposed to do” as a Christian. What characterizes all three steps is they involve a change of mind. First we saw that we are to change our mind about the sinner being the sin – we are to separate the two in our minds. The second step involved a change of mind about what love really is, it is about giving not getting. The third step requires us to change our minds about the under lying meaning of a person’s actions.

Instead of looking at what someone does and deciding it is an attack, or choosing to let it irritate or upset us, the third and crucial step involves looking at all actions as falling into one of two categories. Aactions are either an expression of the love of Christ or it is a call for the love of Christ.

Stay with me now on this, because this is the crucial step that makes the difference. What I’m saying is, no matter what anyone does if you assign their actions to one of these two categories: either as an expression of the love of Christ or a call for the love of Christ, you will be able always to turn the other cheek, to express the love of Christ to everyone.

Now that is a whole lot easier to say then it is to do. It goes against our nature. When someone attacks us, it seems natural for us to attack back, lest we be called a wimp. So we attack.

Then they attack us again, we attack again, they attack again and it goes around and around in a vicious circle and we both walk away mad, blaming the other for the problem. Absolutely nothing for Christ has been accomplished. What may help you avoid that vicious cycle is something I call 4 I’s. 4 I’s stands for: Irritation is an Indication I have made an Interpretation that is Incorrect – 4 I’s! Think about it – when you are irritated you are outside of God’s peace and peace is what God has in mind for you, not irritation or anxiety. John 14:27. “My peace I leave you…

My incorrect interpretation is the belief my own peace is threatened by the actions of someone else. Only God could take from me the peace He has given me. That has nothing to do with this person I am blaming for feeling irritated.

Now, I can choose to surrender my peace and I will likely do so if I interpret someone’s behavior as a threat. But, unless what they do poses an immediate, personal, physical threat to my safety, I’m incorrect about the cause of my loss of peace. Whenever I think someone has done something to upset me or threaten my peace, I feel a sense of anxiety or irritation. If I pause and think of 4 I’s, it helps me to see their behavior as a call for the love of Christ, which I equate with a call for help.

Douglas was my neighborhood friend and as a grade school kid, he wore thick glasses. Many of the other kids teased him and called him four eyes. Just as his four eyes helped him see better, these four I’s can help you to see the being behind the doing and to love the person as Christ does.

Suppose I do something that is clearly an expression of the love of Christ, what do you think would be the appropriate response to that expression of love? To express the love of Christ back to me – right? But, what would be the appropriate response to someone who you feel is attacking you, irritating you or whose behavior is an affront to your sensibilities?

Well, if you are a Christian then wouldn’t it be important to follow the rules of being a Christian? Christianity, at its core, has only two rules to remember: rule number one: with all of your heart, soul and mind love God and all of his creation. Rule number two: when in doubt about anything, refer to rule number one. Matthew 22:37 BJV. (Brother Johnny’s Version).

I believe it will help you immensely to always choose love if you will look at all bad behavior as a call for the love of Christ. A call for help – if you will. The reason I say their behavior is really a call for help is very simple. Someone who beats his wife or abuses his kids is not experiencing God’s peace. He does not understand the love of Christ. Someone at peace with God could not do horrible things to others – you can clearly see this is the case.

What does a person need who does not have God’s peace, who is not centered in God’s love? God’s peace, of course! God’s peace comes to those who have truly received the love of Christ. If you have the love of Christ in you, use the 4 I’s tool to help you give the love of Christ to everyone. The Bible tells us how to do that. Hebrews 5:2 says:“You are able to exercise gentleness and forbearance toward the ignorant and erring, since you yourself are liable to moral weakness ….”

Have you ever heard the expression: there but for the grace of God go I? If we have a chance to help heal and instead we heap on more hate, what kind of Christians are we?

When I was a kid growing up on a farm every time we planted potatoes we got potatoes – we never planted potatoes and got rhubarb. Like begets like. Love begets love and hate begets hate. Having received God’s grace you should be gracious. God’s mercy should make you merciful. His peace should make you a peacemaker. “Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called the children of God”. (Matthew 5:9). If you have received His love, you should be loving!

Think of it as giving to the Lord. The last time you bought a gift for someone did you try to find out what they wanted before you bought the gift? You do not have to wonder what Christ would have you give. Clearly He wants you to give back to the world the love He gave you. A central theme of Christ’s brief time here on earth was His love for his creation.

In 1 John 4:8 (and elsewhere) we learn that God is love. The Bible refers to Christ as the Word. “In the beggining was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. (John 1:1-2) This passge is also teaching that God and Christ are one. By extrapolation the passage is saying that God and Christ are the Word. Since “God is love, and God is the Word then love is the Word. That is why it is imperative Christians remember rule number one – love is the commandment.

Christ loved the rapist, the abortionist, the child abuser so much that he endured it all knowing beforehand how he had to suffer and die on the cross for our sins. Before He fell on His face to pray in the garden of Gethsemane, before the sweat from His body spilled out on the ground blood red, before He prayed: “Father, if it is possible let this cup pass from me, yet not my will but yours be done.” (Luke 22:42).

Before all this He knew what He was facing, He knew! Before the crown of thorns sent blood washing down His head, before the scourge spikes ripped His back to shreds, before they pounded the nails into His hands and legs, He knew what He was facing, He knew.

Before He cried “…forgive them Father for they know not what they do”. Before the darkness fell upon that hill at noonday and He cried “…my God why have you forsaken me..”, before He breathed His last earthly breath and cried “Father it is finished, into your hands I commend my spirit”, He knew what He was facing. He knew!

Yet He still went threw with it for me and for you and all of those in the news. Oh Jesus you love us so much, you gave us so much love and we won’t even give this love that you gave us to those who need it most, and we call ourselves Christians! Forgive us – please!

Do we really believe we can have the love of Christ and refuse to give it to others? Do we really think we can escape from the effects of our own hate? That is like saying we can bargain with God. You know, we can bargain with the devil, he is always ready to make a deal. But if you think you can bargain with God, maybe you should check out what Christ said in Luke 6:38: “…the measure you give will be the measure you get back.”

What can we give when bargaining with God? At the end of Tolstoy’s War and Peace Napoleon’s army is marching on Moscow. Russia is being ravished. All the wealthy people are loading their material possessions on carts. And leaving their homes behind to escape the imminent collapse of their world.

There is a very wealthy count with at least thirty carts in his great courtyard where all his servants are frantically helping him and his daughter load everything on the carts. Lining the streets of Moscow are dead and wounded soldiers. The wounded also wander in and about the Count’s courtyard. Their faces struck the Count’s daughter. Their eyes held hers and she started to see (as if a foreign world of pain and people so unlike her own had suddenly arrived knocking on her doorstep).

In a burst of emotion, she rushed to her Father and said: “Father, Father we have to put all the wounded on the carts!” The Count looked at the dying, turned to his daughter and said, “The eggs are teaching the chickens.” They all began unloading the carts and helping the wounded get on board.

When you look at such as these – what do you see- what does Christ see? You know He sees the walking wounded. The list of people I took from the news are the wounded, they wander about, lost, broken and in need of a gentle, loving hand to guide them in the name of Christ away from war and toward peace. I ask you to ask yourself, what kind of Christian are you if there is no room on your cart for such as these?

Let us pray: Our heavenly Father forgive us today for letting our focus on their deeds blind us from seeing their great need, for letting our attention to their demands drowned out their desperate call for the love of your beloved son Jesus. Help us today to look past the sin to see the being you created. Help us to lay down the hateful, hurtful self we made and to open our hearts to what you would have us do. Please oh merciful God send the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with the love of Christ. Help us Lord always to express this love to all those you bring to us, that our lives may be used for your glory, we pray in the name of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ – Amen!

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