Tuesday, January 2, 2018


Wow! I haven't posted since August! When I think back about the 5 months, SO much has happened,so much has changed, and God has been so faithful. 

5 days after my last post, the eye of Hurricane Harvey hit my hometown of Rockport. The storm instantly became a marker. We have life "pre storm" and life "post storm." I absolutely hated being away from all of my friends and family in Rockport. Anyone in or from Rockport could probably write a book about everything that has changed since the storm. Let me tell you, Rockport and the people in Rockport, are as beautiful as ever. But let me also tell you that Rockport still needs help. It seems we've been forgotten about but I can assure that people in Rockport are still hurting and still need assistance of various kinds. 

I also started the Social Work side of my graduate program. I knew being in the School of Social Work would be very different than Truett but I was not prepared for how different it would be. However, this semester showed me that I am exactly where I need to be and Social Work is absolutely the career that I want. I felt very much in my element in my classes and internship and it was refreshing. My program also brought me some wonderful new friends who have been my life lines this semester. 

Through my program, I'm also an MSW intern with Waco ISD Homeless Outreach. I am officed in a high school and serve as a case manager for the homeless and unaccompanied students. I have absolutely loved my internship and it's an honor to work with some of the most resilient students I've ever met. 

The last major thing that happened this semester was that I decided to leave my job as Children's Advocate at The Family Abuse Center. When I took the job two years ago, I never could have guessed how much I would love it and how much I would learn. My clients have taught me more about humankind and loving other people than I ever thought possible. I'm so honored to have worked with some of the strongest, funniest, and most resilient people. 
 When I started the Social Work part of my program, I went from doing "only" grad school classes to doing class and my internship which is 16 hours a week. Long story short, I ended up being in class/work/internship about 50 hours a week. I really enjoy school and I really enjoy my job, so this was fine for a while. However, the longer the semester went on, the harder it got. At the same time, being in social work classes really makes you examine yourself and forces you to become pretty self aware. After doing some self examination (and with the loving accountability of my friends) I realized that not only was I exhausted from 50 hour weeks, but I was also experiencing Secondary Trauma. Secondary Trauma is defined as:

 "indirect exposure to trauma through a firsthand account or narrative of a traumatic event. The vivid recounting of trauma by the survivor and the clinician's subsequent cognitive or emotional representation of that event may result in a set of symptoms and reactions that parallel PTSD." 

After putting a name to my symptoms, I realized that I had probably been experiencing them for awhile. However, I tend to put very high expectations on myself and continually tell myself to just push through things and suck it up. I quickly learned that this is not healthy! The more I ignored them, the worse they seemed to get. I was becoming very cynical, withdrawn, avoided clients at work, was less empathetic, felt guilty, was disconnecting at work and with friends, and felt pretty hopeless overall. I've never been a crier and I found myself crying and overwhelmed quite often. I was overwhelmed with personal and professional relationships and I was incredibly overwhelmed with what I was seeing in the country and the world. It was like I could only see the bad in everything. I had lost my joy and it was not fun. I probably wasn't the funnest person to be around and I hate that.* I could feel myself not being happy with who I was becoming and I knew I had to change something.
As much as I tried to work in small self care activities, nothing seemed to work. After a lot of prayer, guidance, and and discussion, I decided to resign from my position at FAC.  Now, there were a lot of other significant factors in this decision, but my secondary trauma was incredibly significant. I didn't want to finish my program and be so burned out that I couldn't work in social work anymore. As soon as I let my job know that I was leaving at the end of the year, I felt immediate peace. This was weird considering I didn't even have a job lined up but I knew that God would work everything out. And when he did, I would be able to tell of God's faithful and provision.
 Not even a week after putting in my notice, I had a GA position lined up at the School of Social Work. The job is with congregational social work so I will be working in the perfect position to utilize both my Truett education and my social work education. That wasn't quite enough to make ends meet every month but I ended up finding a cleaning job to make some extra money, as well. I will absolutely miss my job, my coworkers, and my clients, but I'm learning that before I can help other people (whether that is clients, friends, etc.) I have to make sure that I'm at a healthy place, as well. 

This semester was hard, yall. It was really hard. But I survived! I learned a lot about myself, other people, the Kingdom of God, and what my role is at the intersection of all of those things. The new year has just started and classes, as well as my new job, start on Monday. My resolution for this year is to be more intentional about my social justice advocacy for people different than myself. I want to learn from people different than me and be in true community with them. 

*shout out to my friends that are still actually friends with me after this crazy semester. Yall are the real MVP's. 

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Do more.

If you haven't heard about the Ennegram, you should look it up. It's like a magic guide to understanding your personality and inner workings. I'm a 1 on the Ennegram. It's titled "The Perfectionist" and this is what it says about 1's:

"Ones are conscientious and ethical, with a strong sense of right and wrong. They are teachers, crusaders, and advocates for change: always striving to improve things, but afraid of making a mistake. Well-organized, orderly, and fastidious, they try to maintain high standards, but can slip into being critical and perfectionist. They typically have problems with resentment and impatience." 

It kind of stresses me out to even tell yall that I'm a 1 because that tells you A LOT about my inner workings which then puts me in a vulnerable position. And I hate being appearing vulnerable. But I'm telling yall that I'm a 1 for a reason. 

Everything that has been happening in America recently deeply disturbs me. It deeply disturbs me that so many people could be filled with so much hate towards people just because they're different. 1's are also in the anger triad. I wouldn't call myself an angry person and I absolutely do not tolerate tempers, but I also find myself making a conscience effort to not be angry with the way things are right now. 

It makes me angry that there are people that are racist, sexist, and homophobic.
It makes me angry that people are rioting for "white rights" when they're really just rioting for hate.
It makes me angry that a woman died at the hands of these riots. 
It makes me angry that some of them are doing it in the name of Jesus.
It makes me angry that we have a president that has created a culture where hate is okay. 

Finally, it makes me angry that I am so angry. 

Friends, I have to make a conscience effort to not let that anger consume me and change me from within. The only reason that that doesn't happen is because of my faith in Jesus. However, that anger does move me to action. Because even though my livelihood is not being directly influenced, I will always fight on the side of love and against hate. 

In the midst of all of the Charlottesville riots, a church here in town was vandalized. Willow Grove Baptist Church is right outside Waco and is pastored by a fellow Truett student. One night, someone broke into the historic church and poured bleach on the carpets, wrote "Satan" "Trump" and swastikas on the floor, and just vandalized other parts of the building. It was the definition of a hate crime. That also made me angry.

That Sunday, I went to church with a longing desire to spend time with the Lord. I desperately wanted His comfort. I was heartbroken and sad. I spent Saturday going between trying to ignore all my emotions and randomly tearing up. Sunday morning, I saw that there was a community prayer gathering at Willow Grove at noon. I decided to go and I am SO gad that I did. It was one of the most powerful experiences of my life. The small church was packed full of people from every background, denomination, race, gender, sexual orientation, and culture. And it was SO joyful. We sang together, prayed together, and reminded each other that God is sovereign and that there is always victory in the Lord. It took my heart (which tends to be pretty cynical) and made it joyful through a powerful presence of the Holy Spirit. I'm convinced that I got a small glimpse of Heaven during that service.

Does that erase the fact that someone was hateful? Of course not. But it led to prayers of forgiveness, welcoming, and repentance. 

Will I ever understand why people are so filled with hate? Of course not. 
Will I ever understand why people see our current president fit to run the country? Nope. 
Will I ever stop being angry about the way people treat people that are different than themselves? I sure hope not. 

This is why we have to listen to one another, friends. If you disagree with one another, that is okay! But give the other person respect and listen to their opinion instead of attacking their humanity. Surround yourself with people that are different than you. Find someone of a different gender, race, social economic status, or sexual orientation and listen to their story and their struggles. I guarantee that it will change you to your core. 

Do more listening. Do more forgiving. Do more.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Dilapidated Houses

I've always been the type of person to crave routine, stability, and consistency. This came in handy when I started grad school here in Waco because I didn't have to change houses, towns, or communities. I've been in Waco for 6 years now and my love for this town grows stronger as time goes on. But lately, things have been slightly different.

I've been very antsy lately. Wanting a change. Wanting something new. 

There's an area of Waco that I drive through pretty frequently. This area is a tad rough and it's one that would probably make my parents nervous if I lived in it but I absolutely LOVE it. Every time I drive through the area, I want to buy one of dilapidated houses and fix it up. *Can I say how much I hate the fact that I tried to find a different phrase rather than "fix it up" to avoid saying it about a house in Waco and people think I'm referring to Fixer Upper??* I almost get overwhelmed by how badly I want to buy one of these houses. It's one of my dreams to do this and I want to do it soon. I want to do it now.

I also keep seeing jobs posted that I absolutely love. Jobs that would utilize my two Master degrees. Then I quickly remember that I'm not done with school and I won't be done with school for another TWO YEARS. But I want these jobs now.

*Insert complainy Erin that is having a mid-life crisis* 
I'm over this stage of life and want to be in the next stage of life. I'm tired of being in school. I'm tired of only working part time while spending the rest of my time doing homework. I want to move onto the next stage of life where I have a full time job, I can read all year long for fun, I'm married, and we buy a house in my favorite area to fix up and become part of the neighborhood. I've been in this stage of life for too long and I want more. I feel like the Lord could be using me more in other settings.

Before I write a blog, I usually let it sit in my head for a little bit. As of yesterday, that last paragraph was going to be the end of the post. I was going to post it without a happy ending. I think too often, we tell the story after it's finished and we skip the process. Usually a process that isn't fun and isn't quick, but a process that involves God doing a lot of work within us. So I was going to let yall see the process and then a few months later, would give yall the happy ending. (Remember how I like plans?)
Then I went to church this morning. I had a feeling that church this morning was going to do some work on me. Saturday night, I was hoping and praying that the sermon was somehow going to be related to this and that God would use our pastor to speak. Sure enough, that's exactly what happened. We talked about living a life that exemplifies the Gospel even in the mundane everyday life that we live. Our pastor said, "Whatever state of life you're in, it's telling the story of Jesus Christ." 


Then he said, "The feeling of not being enough is something that Christ never called us to feel."

So as you can tell, church was pretty convicting but also pretty encouraging.

Now, don't be fooled. It wasn't like I went to church, heard the sermon, and everything was magically better. Am I still over this stage of life? Yes. Do I want to be done with school and start the next stage of life? Yes. But anytime I think about not being content with my life right now, I think about what God is doing in my life right now. The people that He has surrounded me with, the wonderful community in Waco, the privilege to work with and learn from my clients at my job, and the way He is shaping and molding my heart right now. I know this is shocking to you, but I can be stubborn and very set in my ways. So whenever God is working on something in my life (aka all the time), it usually takes a while for it to really click with me and change within my heart.
So while there was a slightly happy intersection, it wasn't an ending. Just a jump start to the whole process. Bear with me and we'll see where it goes

Friday, March 3, 2017


The Lenten season is kind of a new thing for me. It’s funny for me to type that because I grew up in a Christian home and we always focused on the true meaning of Easter. But when I think of Lent during my childhood, I think of the Catholic religion. Only Catholics got ashes on their heads on Ash Wednesday and gave something up for 40 days. My Catholic family couldn’t eat meat on Fridays. Good Friday came and led to Resurrection Sunday and then we celebrated. 

Unfortunately, I wasn’t too affected by the Lenten season. 

It was only when I came to Truett and started exploring my faith a lot more that I really came to value and appreciate the Lenten season for what it is. I’ve spent time in prayer and reflection to figure out what I need to remove from my life or add to it in order to become more like Christ.  By observing the Lenten season for what it is, it makes the Gospel more meaningful to me. It’s a time of reflection and spiritual formation that draws me closer to Christ. It’s a holy and sacred time.

 In my last post, I talked about sacredness. It seems like this theme just isn’t going away anytime soon! All week, so many conversations have ended up talking about the sacredness of life. The Lord has also been making it really evident to me that this is something I need to be focusing on.

In multiple classes of mine, we started talking about the separation that we place between sacred moments and secular moments. 
*side note* I love when the same conversations happen in different classes with different professors and different students. It’s a nice reminder that the Lord is in control of everything, including conversations.
 Anyway, we, as Christians, are called to bridge the gap between secular and sacred moments. There shouldn't be a distinction. Every moment, interaction, and encounter that we have can be a sacred moment if we choose to recognize it. This is difficult for me in a number of ways but I also have gotten really bad at not living in the moment. My days, weeks, and months are SO planned out. I'm constantly looking at the next assignment, the next meeting, the next social event. I'm constantly looking ahead and end up missing the right now.

During this Lenten season (and even after), I’m trying my best to be intentional about recognizing these moments. Instead of just thinking of it as giving a client a ride somewhere, I can think of it as a holy moment to pour into that client and let them know they are loved. Instead of just having to do homework for class, I can think of it as an opportunity to learn more about the Lord and learn how to be a better minister. When we try to find the sacredness in every moment, it completely changes our mindset and how we view the world as a whole. This concept is so exciting to me. Every moment is sacred if we choose to find the sacred in the moment. I’m excited to see how the Lord will stretch me and help me grow in Him.

I’m interested to know how you’re observing the Lenten season. Everyone approaches this season differently and I genuinely want to hear about the work that the Lord is doing within you during this season and beyond.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Sacred Time

My kids at work get very overwhelmed and overstimulated very easily. When this happens, we help them do different things that we call "grounding exercises." These exercise utilize their senses and help remind their brain that they are in the present time and that they are safe. We get them to see things around them, take deep breaths, talk about what they smell, and just make them feel safe and secure. 

I spent the weekend in Rockport and it was a bit of a grounding exercise for me.

The past 3 months have been challenging, to say the least. If you know me well, you know that I hate dealing with emotions. For me, it's easier to push the emotions aside in order to continue on with life. But you can only do that for so long. 

At the end of December and into January, I experienced betrayal and shock like I never had before. That ended up leading to anger and resentment like I had never experienced and didn't want to experience. This experience also include deep sadness like I had only experienced once in my life before. 

I've also been deeply struggling with the Church and Christianity as a whole. Let me be clear, I'm not struggling with my faith and my relationship with Jesus Christ. I honestly don't know if my relationship with the Lord has ever been stronger than it currently is. I see things that a lot of Christians are doing and there are things that I think the Church is severely failing on. I'm trying my hardest to not be overly political because that is not my point. But I see a lot of Christians saying and doing things that go against the scripture and it's deeply disheartening for me. The past few months, I've felt rejected because of my political and spiritual beliefs and that has been hard for me to handle.

One of my biggest personality flaws is emotional cutoff. I am 100% invested in people and will fight with them and for them with everything I have. However, if someone does something that hurts me, I am 100% out very quickly and very permanently. I will still be nice and considerate, but I emotionally shutoff and end the relationship. Right now, it is a daily struggle for me to not do that with the Church. I'm angry with the Church and I'm having to work that out. 

I also just ended a relationship that I had been in for four months. There are no hard feelings towards him by any means and the relationship as a whole was great. While he was great and I have a lot of respect for him, the feelings just weren't there so I ended it.  Regardless of how things end, ending a relationship is a stressful and emotional ordeal. It's definitely not fun.

Then mix all of that with working and taking 12 hours in grad school. The past 3 months have been highly emotional, exhausting, overwhelming, restless, and disheartening. So I decided I needed a reset. My soul longed to be around my people and the water. I'm 24 years old and I desperately needed a hug from my mom and dad. 

This weekend in Rockport was a grounding exercise for me. When I think about the last 2 days, the word that comes to mind is "sacred." I was able to spend time with my family on both sides, old friends, get rest, and also get some homework done all while never feeling rushed or busy. 
One of my best friends from high school just happened to be in town this weekend. One cousin from Nashville and one from Austin just happened to be in town, as well. It was definitely God-ordained!

I needed this weekend to remind me of who I am, where I came from, and where I am headed. I drive around and see the water and it calms my spirit and my soul. I spend time with my friends and family and get reminded that people believe in me and how fortunate I am to have the family that I do. I walk into church and am reminded that I have people fighting for me and praying for me. I drive through old Rockport and see my great grandparent's house and am reminded of the family that has set the foundation for my life. Don't get me wrong, I have a very close group of people in Waco that I think of as family. But going home is different. 

It's sacred. 

This morning, I was doing some homework while sitting by the water at the beach. The nice thing about seminary is that some of the homework is reading scripture. One of my favorite things about seminary is seeing my personal walk with the Lord line up with my classwork. I had to read the book of Ecclesiastes for one of my classes and one passage resonate with me quite deeply. The beginning of chapter 3 states: 

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:
 a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; 
 a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up; 
 a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance; 
 a time to throw away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; 
 a time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to throw away; 
 a time to tear, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; 
 a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace.

Life has seasons. Some seasons are fun while others are challenging and testing. I am currently in a season full of struggles and challenges. But that also means that I'm in a season of being refined and molded. For that, I choose to be grateful. 

This weekend has been sacred. I stand by the water, drive around town, laugh with my family and friends, and I am reminded that
 I am safe.
 I am cared for. 
I am loved. 
I am supported. 
I am His. 

Escaping life for just a weekend has the power to ground me in a way that I can't explain. 

A sacred grounding. 

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

The Hardest Commandment

This is the manuscript that I used for my sermon at Truett. There is a video, but since I can't even psych myself up enough to watch it, I definitely don't think I can share it!

On October 2, 2006 Charles Roberts IV arrived at the Amish one-room school house in West Nickel Mines School in Pennsylvania. He had been to this community multiple times delivering milk to the families. However, this time, he had a very different agenda in mind. At 10:30 am, he entered the school house and took 10 girls, ages 6 to 13, hostage. Within 20 minutes of holding them against their will, he had shot 8 out of the 10 of them. Five of the girls ended up dying shortly after Charles Roberts took his own life. Wouldn’t you agree that Charles Roberts IV is the definition of an enemy to this small Amish community? As Christians, how are we to respond to a situation like this? I know that my natural instinct is not what scripture tells us to do. Let’s look at Matthew 5, verses 43 through 48. Before we turn there, let me give you a warning. What The Lord commands us to do with our enemies is most likely not what we want to do; especially when the enemies are pretty intense like the one in this story.
Key text: 43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor[a] and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47 And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
Background to text: Before looking at what this text is telling us, it’s important to look at what is happening in the bigger picture. If we didn’t look at the context of the passage, it would be like watching just the 4th quarter of a football game. That would be no fun, right? For all you Baylor fans out there, imagine if you had only watched the 4th quarter of the Cotton Bowl in 2013. You would not have gotten the whole picture and you would think Baylor football was the worst. Which, ya know, right now might be true. But in 2013 it wasn’t. This passage on loving your enemies comes at the very end of the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus has gathered his disciples on a mountainside in Galilee. He talks about issues like divorce, adultery, oaths, and retaliation. With every topic, He takes something that society is telling His disciples and turns it on its head. There’s a pattern of “it is said...but…” throughout this chapter. At the beginning of this passage, he says, “It is said, love your neighbor and hate your enemy” and then tells his disciples the opposite. This specific passage is drawn from Leviticus 19:18 which states basically the same thing. It says, “Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord.” So even though society is telling the disciples one thing, The Lord is telling them to do otherwise. One scholar even argues that in this context, neighbor means a fellow Jew and an enemy would be a Gentile. This makes sense because those two people groups typically were not the best of friends. So what are we supposed to do with this? Who is our enemy? And why does Jesus insist that we love them? Wouldn’t it be easier to just ignore them and move on with life?
Point 1: What do yall think of when someone says enemy? I like to think that I’m a pretty easy going and likeable person but I can still think of a few enemies. However, I think of enemies on different levels. We’ve all been stuck behind the person in the express line at HEB that actually has about 30 items. Is that my enemy? Or the friend that said horrible things about me in high school. Are they my enemy? What about the men that flew the planes into the towers on September 11th. They’re my enemy, right? One scholar breaks down the word “enemy” and says that there are two kinds. The first is “echthros” and this is a personal enemy; someone that has wronged you and hurt you as an individual. For instance, one of my good friends has a boss that is not very nice to her. She belittles my friend every chance she gets and just is not very kind to her. Technically, she would also be my enemy because no one messes with my friends! My friend’s boss would be an example of echthros; a personal enemy. Then, there is Polemios which is an enemy of the state but one that still affects you personally. ISIS would be the perfect example for this type of enemy. ISIS is an enemy to Americans and the group is my enemy even though they have never done anything to personal harm me. So we all have enemies whether they are echthros or polemios. Yall can think of some, right? I know I can. Now what are we supposed to do with this? Now that we’ve all identified those people, what are we supposed to do with them? Wouldn’t it be great to just recognize our enemies and that was all? It would be easier for sure.
Friends, I’m gonna be really honest with you for a second and you can’t hold it against me. I did not want to preach this sermon. When I decided to preach on this passage, I was okay with it. I welcomed it, even! I like to think that I’m a pretty loving person so I can speak on loving other people, right? But then life happened. I work with abuse victims and we’ve had really awful cases lately. I hear stories about my clients being severely abused by men that honestly, I have no respect for. And this passage is telling me to love and pray for those that abused my clients? As Americans, we experienced the most tense and aggravating election season. I’m supposed to love and pray for politicians that I don’t respect? I’m supposed to love those that said awful things to me because we have different beliefs. Or! People are supposed to love me after I said things that I shouldn’t have? I felt like a toddler stomping my feet and bawling up my fists while screaming “I DON’T WANNA!!!” It’s a heck of a lot easier to just erase that person from my life or make an ugly face whenever I think about them. What this passage is telling us to do isn’t easy, isn’t fun, and isn’t natural.  But that’s exactly why it’s necessary. It’s necessary because we don’t want to do it and without Christ living within us, we simply won’t do it. See, the thing is, we don’t love and pray for these enemies because we want them to change their behavior towards us. I think when people hear “love your enemies” it’s because they expect the enemy’s actions to change. But that’s not the case. We love them and pray for them because we are the ones that need to change. We need Christ to soften our hearts towards the ones that have wronged us. Remember my friend’s boss that I said was always rude to her? My friend called me on Thanksgiving Day and we were talking about how things were going. She said that her boss had had hand surgery and had no family nearby so my friend was going to take a plate of food to her so she could still enjoy Thanksgiving. This woman, who is hateful to my friend all the time, was getting food delivered to her from my friend, who is the recipient of hateful words and actions. Apparently my friend is a better person than I am because I was floored. I asked her, “she has never been nice to you. Literally ever. Why are you so nice to her?” Yall, I was so impressed with her response. She said, “Erin, what good is it if I’m mean to her? What will that accomplish? At least if I’m nice to her, then maybe she’ll get a glimpse of Christ. If not, then oh well.” She’s living out exactly what this scripture is telling us to do.
Point 2: This passage is also not just an individual calling, but a communal one. All believers are part of the Kingdom of God. We are walking representations of Christ at all times. And lets be real, we usually fall way short. What are we saying if we treat our enemies horribly mean? We have to love our enemies in order to overcome the evil in the world. Imagine what the world would be like if every single Christ follower followed these verses.  Myself included, obviously. It would change the world! We cannot let the evilness of the world overcome us. Maybe I’m just dramatic, but I feel like that is so easy to do in today’s world. The world gives you more than enough reasons to be overwhelmed. This past weekend, I was reading an article about Fidel Castro dying and pubic figure’s responses to his death. Most people, like politicians Donald Trump and Marco Rubio, rejoiced at his death. There was only one person that I could find that had a compassionate response to his death and do you know who it was? Pope Francis! Pope Francis tweeted (because the Pope is super cool and tweets) and said that he was praying for Fidel Castro and his family. He was doing word for word what this scripture is telling us. He was praying for them when no one wanted to pray for them. We all know that Castro wasn’t the best person by any means and could very easily be described as an enemy. Yet we are called to pray anyways. Jesus is telling us that we need to love our enemy so that evil, which is everywhere around us, doesn’t overcome us. More than that, He is telling us that we have to overcome that evil by doing good to our enemies. This “love” that He is telling his disciples about doesn’t just mean praying for his enemies; it means loving in a concrete way. Turn to Romans 12:20 with me real quick. It states, “Instead, if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” This is loving them in a concrete way that overcomes the evilness.
I was reading a story about John and Deborah Upton who were missionaries to Taiwan. After completing their language training, they settled in the small city of Taitung to establish a congregation there.
Predictably, their intention to begin a church in the city threatened the local Buddhist priest who resolved to drive them away. Every morning promptly at seven o'clock the priest stationed himself at the front gate of the Upton's house where—for ten hours a day, seven days a week—he shouted curses and incantations against the house itself; he set off strings of firecrackers; he warned the neighbors not to show kindness toward the Uptons lest they anger the gods and bring tragedy to their own homes.
The noise was unnerving; the paper residue from the firecrackers grew so deep that John had to shovel it aside before he could move his car out of the driveway. The possibility of growing a church in such soil seemed bleak.
What were the missionaries to do in the face of such a threat? John and Deborah felt that they had to respond in some way, and this is what they did: Every morning before the priest arrived, they took a stool and a table out to the gate. On the table they placed a pot of tea and a bowl of rice; they set up an umbrella to shade the priest from the sun. They continued this routine for almost four months, until one day the priest did not show up. From that day on, never again were they harassed, and their home became a gathering place for the community.
The Uptons later learned that their neighbors had finally intervened on their behalf, telling the priest, "Here you are cursing their home and the foreigners are giving you something to eat. That's embarrassing. Go away and leave them alone." They loved their enemy in a very concrete way. He was a threat to their livelihood every single day yet they loved him in a very concrete way.
Point 3: Let’s look at the end of the passage now. Verse 48 states “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly father is perfect.” Yall, the first time I read this, I mentally checked out. I thought “how the heck am I supposed to be perfect like God? It’s God!! I don’t think I can do that. Maybe I’ll just leave on that last verse.” However, in this case, perfection simply means “resemblance to God.” “To have all parts, to have reached full maturity or the desired end.” This last verse isn’t telling us to be sinless like God is sinless. It’s telling us to have the same character that He has. We are to emulate Him. Especially when interacting with other people like our enemies. God was telling this to the disciples so they had something to strive for, not necessarily something that will ever fully achieve in life. I worked at a tennis camp for a few summers. When I was working with the kids, I would tell them that they should try and copy Roger Federer. Did I honestly think that a bunch of 6 year old kids would hit like Roger Federer? Of course not! But it gave them something to picture in their head. They could picture his strides and serve while they played in order for them to hit just like that. In the same way, Jesus was telling his disciples to think of God and try and emulate him. When they were interacting with people in the various towns, they should remember how God loves his people and cares for them. Then they should copy that. The word “perfect” was only used one other time in Matthew and that was when Jesus tells the man to sell everything he has, be perfect, and to follow Christ. I think the fact that this verse is at the end of the book is worth noting. It serves as a challenge. A challenge to love as God loves. A love where partiality does not exist. A love that doesn’t depend on skin color, doesn’t depend on gender, doesn’t depend on poverty level, doesn’t depend on religion. A love that doesn’t depend on someone’s actions towards us. A love that simple exists because God calls us to love his people like he loves his people. Friends, that isn’t easy by any means. We’re humans. We want to cast someone aside when they wrong us. But when we stop loving our enemies, we forget that they are humans just like we are.
Conclusion: I know yall are just waiting on pins and needles to learn how the Amish community responded to the gunman killing five of their children. I know if that had been me, there would have been a lot of anger, bitterness, and hatred within my heart and it would’ve taken a very long time to move past that. The Amish community had the exact opposite reaction. On the same day of the shooting, a member of the community said, “I don't think there's anybody here that wants to do anything but forgive and not only reach out to those who have suffered a loss in that way but to reach out to the family of the man who committed these acts.” Yall, that was on the SAME day as the shooting. Only a few hours after the shooting, the Amish community visited the gunman’s family and grieved with them. One man even held the gunman’s father for an hour while he sobbed. They also set up a charitable fund for the family of the shooter. They attended his funeral. Does this just blow your mind like it does mine?! They are giving us the perfect example of what this passage I telling us. They are praying for their enemy. An enemy that most would say is unforgiveable. They are loving in a very concrete way and they are doing it as a community. Surrounding the shooters family with love and support. And most importantly, they are emulating Jesus in their words, actions, and thoughts. It is said “to return evil for good is devilish; to return good for good is human; to return good for evil is divine.” As we leave here today, I want to challenge you. Each and every one of us has an enemy. Whether it’s a large scale enemy or a personal enemy, it is still a person associated with bitterness and anger in your heart. Pray for them. And pray for your own heart. That Christ would soften your heart towards them while also drawing their heart towards Him.  Who is it that you can pray start praying for today? And what is a tangible way that you can show Christ’s love to them? Let us pray.
Prayer: Dear Heavenly Father, we thank you for this time together this morning. I think you for the people in this room and everything that they have added to my life. Lord, I pray that you would soften my heart towards those that I declare as my enemies. I pray that you would put people in my path to remind me that above all else, I am to represent you in my thoughts, actions, and words. I pray that you give me ways to love these people just like you love all of your children. Amen.