7/2/2017 Love Perseveres

Preaching:  Jeff Crooks

Date Presented: Sunday, July 2, 2017 & Monday, July 3, 2017

Scripture Reference: Genesis 22:1-14

Sermon: Love Perseveres

Today’s reading about Abraham preparing to sacrifice Isaac before God is often viewed as a testament of Abraham’s absolute loyalty to God, his willingness to sacrifice his own son to God.  However, it can also be viewed from another angle, that of Isaac’s and one of the abuse his Father was prepared to do in sacrificing him before God as a Burnt Offering.

Abuse is prevalent throughout our society, and it is not always sexual or physical, it can be verbal as well.  The most troubling aspect of abuse is that is it contagious.  A father abuses his son, he then abuses his daughter who goes on to abuse her son and so on, and how about the Father who abuses his spouse, so his offspring go on to abuse their spouses because that is what they are taught to be ‘the way of things’.

However, the chain can be broken.  We see that example with Isaac, he survived the incident on the Mount to go on and become one of the three patriarchs of the Hebrew faith.  He is the only to never leave Canaan and the only to be faithful to his wife, it was common then for the husband to take his spouses maidens as concubines in those days.

So, what we learn here is that the cycle of abuse can be broken, how you may ask?  Well by faith in God, trust, and love.  I have witnessed firsthand how that cycle can be broken.  Sometimes it requires an ultimatum, but that ultimatum involves love at its core.

I grew up in a typical middle income household, my father worked in a Mill, my mother was a nurse until she had her three sons, then after raising them to the point of school age, she went back to work for the Elementary school her sons attended.  Like any middle income family, it was a struggle from pay check to pay check, but each payday after picking up my Dad, we stopped at the Liquor store to buy Beer and Cigarettes, then it was on to buy Groceries with what was left.

As a young boy I really didn’t understand alcoholism, heck my Grandpa, Grandma, Aunts, Uncles and my Dad all drank and smoked, it was the norm.  However, slowly over time, without realizing it, I was being affected. I was always trying my best at everything I did, so that my Father would notice me and recognize my value.  My older brother became the patriarch, always ‘protecting’ us.

Finally, that moment came where my Mother had no choice, she had to tell my Father it was either his drinking or his family, and it could no longer be both.  This was when he was tested and although he is not strong in his faith, I know God was with him and us and helped guide him in his choice.  For, he chose counseling and from that day forward has never touched alcohol again.

The before and after of what happened still has a profound effect on my life today.  It is part of what has made me the Man I am.  I thank God every day that I was able to see the transformation in my Father.  Nothing is perfect, he is still a broken man in many ways, but in so many more he is redeemed.  I have seen him show love in the only way he knows how to my daughters, and to my mother and brother and I like I hadn’t seen when we were young.  In his own way he has learned how to love.

Unfortunately, as common as this type of story is, there are so many more that don’t go this way.  There are far too many examples of abuse that don’t end, the cycle continues generation after generation.  Too many times the abuse results in death or severe injury as well, either from physical abuse or the mental impact of other forms of abuse.

I am sure every one of you know someone who has suffered from abuse, but what is more alarming, is how many people do every one of us know that are suffering from abuse but we are completely unaware.  When not done physically, abuse can be very easy to hide.  The abuser has taken absolute power of the victims to the point that they carry on as though nothing happens for fear of the punishment if they were to speak up or ‘let their guard down’.

Some forms of abuse don’t ‘directly impact’ anyone around them, but in the end they still do.  For example alcohol and drug addicts may never harm anyone else around them, or so we all may think, but in the end their addiction has taken hold of them so much that their capacity to love those around them is diminished by their need for their addiction.

Put simply addiction is a form of sin, addiction is an ‘idol’ that becomes more important than God and caring for God’s creations here on Earth.  That is why many times, you see addicts recover because of their faith in God.  They are able to rely on God’s strength and the love for God and those around them to overcome the powerful chemicals that have taken hold of them.

It’s never easy, but life is not easy.  If everything were easy, Jesus would not have had to die on the cross.  Unfortunately, easy was lost when the apple was bitten.  From that moment Satan has taken many different forms to influence us.

Despite that, abuse and addiction are not the end of it all.  God sacrificed Jesus so that everyone may be saved no matter how severe the infraction.

No matter how severe the infraction that’s a tough argument for another time, one I wrestle with myself, but when it comes to abuse even that is worthy of forgiveness.  Some may wonder how they can forgive the person abusing them, but how can God forgive us for our sins?  None of us are perfect, how often do we turn away from those in need?  Sure, we didn’t abuse anyone, but did we follow the example Jesus followed? No.  Jesus himself said as he was dying on the cross, “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do”.  Wow, he forgave those who crucified him as he was dying, if he can do that, surely we can to, we must do, if we are to truly put our faith in God and live as he has directed us to do.

Now, I’m sure there are some thinking well ok, if the abuser has been reformed and asked for forgiveness that makes sense, but surely you don’t expect them to be forgiven even as they keep doing it, well yes as hard as it is to stand before you and say this, that’s exactly what we are expected to do.  That is so much harder, but that’s what God has done through Jesus’ death, all of our sins have been forgiven even before we committed them just be accepting Christ in our life and following in Jesus’ footsteps to the best of our ability.  Keep in mind forgiveness is not ‘tolerance’.  Those terms are not one and the same.  If the abuse continues, it is a must that the folks suffering from the abuse get out of the harmful situation, that’s where we come in to support them with shelters, prayers, etc.  Still, forgiveness is needed for those who are suffering to move on.  The chain cannot be broken without forgiveness.

Forgiveness is the key that unlocks those chains, because if you can forgive someone no matter the harm that has been done for you, then you truly have followed Jesus’ example.  It allows you to move forward, to expand your faith, to see a future.  As long as fear, resentment, anger, embarrassment, etc. reside in you, you are not open to the spirit and God is not able to mold you in the image he has for you.

It is so easy to blame God and say, why should I forgive, what’s in it for me.  God hasn’t been with me all this time, just because I forgive someone doesn’t mean he’ll suddenly be at my side.  However, that could not be further from the truth.  God’s love is so strong that he never leaves us, and when we are at our lowest point he is there to carry us.  However, God does not intervene. He can’t, it goes back to the apple, we chose free will and with that God can only be here to help us as we stumble and welcome us to his glorious home when we leave this life.  That said, God answers our prayers through friend, family, shelters, police, doctors, nurses, pastors, and on and on.  We just have to open our eyes, be strong in our faith, and be willing to trust in God and we will find a way.

This topic is one of the most difficult to wrestle with.  It took me many years before I could truly be open about my upbringing.  The embarrassment I felt, the worry about embarrassing my family, the fear, etc. but as my faith has grown stronger so has my strength. I’ve learned it’s not my fault, it’s not my father’s fault, it’s not God’s fault.  It’s Satan’s fault, but he has failed to win.  If we all remember to trust in God’s love for us, we will always win.

So, I ask you to be aware of abuse, don’t be afraid to call it out.  It’s difficult, yes, but it’s the right thing to do, if we just look the other way, we’re no better.  Love compels us to act.

Amen