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Do It Anyway!
May 14, 1995

JOHN 13:31-35

Yesterday, several of us heard a teen-ager tell his story. His life was godless and hopeless. One evening, the black hole of despair so overwhelmed him that he took a razor blade and slashed his wrist and arm 15 times! Psychiatric treatment helped him out of his hopeless depression, but he still suffered the black hole of despair. Then he attended the Boys' Chrysalis, the first one in northern California, a weekend retreat which was held here in our church. With tears streaming down his face, he knelt here in our sanctuary, and gave the Lord his despair. God heard his prayer, lifted his heavy burden, and filled him with the love of Christ. God is good. How Jesus loves us. In our lesson this morning, Jesus said, Just as I have loved you, love one another.

When it is night in Bogota, Colombia, gangs dressed in black, with faces covered, drive cars or motorcycles through the inner city, shooting and killing petty criminals, prostitutes, transvestites, homosexuals, drug users, and street children. Many believe the gangs are government security forces, or if not official government forces, are encouraged by the Colombian government to assassinate people they consider disposable.

There are many voices in our country advocating the same solution--neo-Nazis, white citizen groups, Ku Klux Klan, and other hate groups, such as the perpetrators of the Oklahoma City bombing! In stark contrast, Jesus taught, Just as I have loved you, love one another.

My wife, Ellie, led the devotional at the United Methodist Women's meeting Thursday. Her theme was: children are an endangered species. Too many children are neglected, physically abused, sexually abused, abandoned on the one hand; and on the other hand, are undisciplined, pampered, overindulged, and taught irresponsibility. Ann Landers learned in a poll she took of her readers that 70 % of the 30,000 replies indicated that if parents had to do it over again, they would not have had children!

Jesus told the disciples to love one another as Jesus loved them.

Jesus' love is an unmerited love. You don't earn Jesus' love. Jesus does not love one child or adult more than another because one behaves and one doesn't. Jesus loves everyone equally, regardless of how worthy he/she is.

Jesus' love is a happy love. We know Jesus was a happy, fun-loving person because children swarmed around him, and the poor invited him to parties. Parents and grandparents, have fun with your children. Our boys still talk about the time they sat down to dinner, and read the invitations inviting them to a party in the Family Room. We all had such fun.

Jesus' love is a responsible love. Jesus encouraged his followers to take responsibility for their lives. Especially is this important for parents to learn. The goal of your love is to raise children who are independent and responsible, not self-centered, self-serving whiners who feel the world owes them anything they want. We let each boy stay up all night one night a year, on two conditions: he went to bed freely and willingly on time the other 364 nights of the year, and, secondly, he gave us 24-hour notice which night he wanted to stay up. They so enjoyed the tremendous responsibility of choosing, that they often lost track of time and a year would go by without staying up. I do recall, however, Tim, about age eight, sitting in the big chair, TV on, a snack at his side, a root beer in his hand, hugging us good night as we parents went to bed. Big time! Of course, he was asleep by 11:30, and I carried him to bed.

Jesus' love is a sacrificial love. Love cost Jesus his life. Jesus' love was so great he went to the cross, suffered torture and death. Successful families sacrifice for one another. They give up time, plans, sleep for one another.

Jesus' love is an active love. Love is not necessarily a feeling. Sometimes, Jesus was moved with compassion to help someone. But, sometimes he was irritated, and he loved anyway. Love is an action. A good definition of love is: do it anyway, even if you don't feel like it. Jesus acted. Jesus healed the sick, fed the hungry, comforted the confused, taught the ignorant, and hugged the children.

Parents don't always feel like cooking, but love does it anyway. Parents may not feel they have the energy or stamina to say "no"; it's often easier to give up in the face of a child's demands, but do it anyway. Say and mean, "no." Parents may be too tired to read a good-night book and pray with each child, but do it anyway. A child's behavior may make him/her quite unlovable at times, but hug the child anyway.

We're expanding our vision today by pledging support for the building of new churches, new campground facilities, and refurbishing our own facility. In the midst of a world of hate, we are raising a flag of hope. We are shining the light of Jesus' love. Some of you may be saying, "Merced County's economy is in a slump. Interest rates are down. And, you want us to give even more. Are you crazy?" Of course, I'm crazy. I've staked my life on Jesus. Would you want a pastor who is not crazy? Would you like one that is satisfied with things the way they are? Would you rather be part of a dying church or a crazy church? You don't feel like giving to build new churches? Do it anyway; that's love.

Marian Wright Edelman wrote about her mother who lived her faith and family values. After her husband died, she raised the children by giving and serving. She opened her home for 12 foster children. Then she opened a Home for the Aged, and operated it until she died. She cooked three meals a day for the senior citizens, some of whom were younger than she was. This remarkable woman also kept up her community and church work. She told her children many times, "I did not promise the Lord that I was going part of the way. I promised the Lord I was going all the way." Even when she didn't feel like it, she did it anyway.

© 1995 Douglas I. Norris