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Taking the High Road - By Pastor Thomas Engel

Mom was right when she said, “If you don’t have anything “nice” to say, don’t say anything at all.”

Mom was right about a lot of things. She was right about keeping good friends, for she knew that we can be influenced by the company that we keep.

When you went out, mom made sure that you dressed decently. As she sent you back upstairs to your bedroom to change, you, with a slight tone of aggravation, asked her, “Why do I always have to be so appropriate in everything?”

Mom said, “Because you belong to this family, and when you go out into the world, you are representing it.”

Not every morning, but on some mornings, I stand in the parking lot and greet the students as they come in.

With the changing of the weather, a mom was holding a light jacket and a winter jacket. She was undecided about which jacket her first grader should wear.

The mom decided on the light jacket and said with doubt on her face, “I hope he is okay with that jacket.” And then she exclaimed, “Oh no, I’m turning into my mom.”

Can we ask in these days-by your mom’s concern about how you went out into the world, are you willing to admit that you turned out well at least due to some of your mom’s “fussy” ways?

To throw in here, when I looked up synonyms for “concern,” I found words like “annoy,” “irritate” and “hassle.” But also, I found that “love” was included as a synonym for “concern.”

So, whenever we think about how mom and dad were concerned about us doing the right thing even if it was a little overbearing and just so virtuuos-can we try to think that it is all out of love?

Today, we are going to be talking about how we, as children of a heavenly Father, act when we go out into the world.

What does God the Father expect from us as we engage in this world?

The saying is that we, as Christians, are not of the world, but we do live in the world and this world is such a mess. Isn’t it?

With one click as we are surfing the internet, we can find a lot of explicit stuff.

Since we do know that the world is a mess, we do have to talk about how we go out into it.

Before we move forward in today’s message, I want to be sure to point out what I don’t want to do today.

I don’t want to judge this present time. Although I have already made a judgment about the world by saying it’s a mess.

We know that humans sin, and we know sin can only make messes, but I don’t want to get specific.

I mean-what a list we could make about what is wrong with this world!

A person can admit what he or she has done wrong. I will admit that I have my faults, but it is not my place to go around finding fault in others.

In the catechism, we find the explanation of the Eighth Commandment, “You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.”

Near the end of the explanation of that commandment, we read, “We should put the best meaning on everything, that is, we should explain our neighbor’s actions in the best possible way.”

To support that statement, we see a verse from 1 Peter, “Love covers a multitude of sins.”

Let’s go back to the mom in the parking lot who was deciding which jacket her child should be wearing with the changing of the weather.

All those good parents want to do is to be sure their children are prepared for the world. Since the world is changing so quickly, it can be a worrisome task to be sure their children are ready to walk safely, steadily, purposefully, and courageously.

We can go on with the -ly adverbs for a while, but let’s just cut to the core and sum up all the ways that they are to go about walking in this world with one word-that word, and here it comes again, is love.

Any person-a child going to school, a teacher going to school, a business person going to her office, a politician going to make a speech, or a worker going to a factory, goes in love.

As I read the Epistle reading for this Sunday, Philippians 4: 4-13, especially verse 8, “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable-if anything is excellent or praiseworthy-think about such things.”

Reading this verse, I got to thinking that Christians are to be “Taking the High Road.”

The phrase, “Taking the High Road,” means living with solid moral conduct, especially after receiving ill-treatment.

If someone is bashing you, you are not to reciprocate with the “bad” that he has given you. We are to come back with at least a civil response with the hope that it will bring some calm, so productive discussion will continue to bring a beneficial solution to all that is involved.

As Christians, we have the burden to bring order and peace where there is discord.

Again, we’re not out to judge the world. It is not our place at all to condemn anyone.

If we think we can judge and condemn, we might think that we can also “fix” the world.

Humans are not the best at “fixing” things. When it comes to making a world a better place, we tend to make it just more of a mess.

A few years ago, a new term had surfaced that addresses our poor way of trying to make the world “right.” It’s called “Virtue signaling.” “Virtue signaling” is the open showing of one’s moral superiority in order to put down the opposition.

We also can go Latin here and use the term “ad hominem.” In learning about the argument, “ad hominem” refers to how a person might attack the character of the other person of the debate instead of going after the substance of the argument.

Usually, when a person is frustrated with the turn of events in an argument, he will go after the other person’s character. The conflict is not finding his desired solution, so he attacks the other by showing he is standing on higher moral ground.

The frustration can go into a rage, and the rage hits hard with tones of hate. When we show how much that the other person is immoral for their stance, and when we are showing ourselves to be morally superior, the gap widens and goes deep with any possibilities of reconciliation far out of sight.

We have to right to our opinions, and we have the right to speak our opinions, but in speaking our opinions, we have the responsibility to speak well in sharing our opinion.

Getting back to what mom told you about saying nice things-never are we to shame others into our way of thinking.

We are to put together our thoughts that go into words that are meant for the best outcomes.

These outcomes may not come just from our opinion but from all the opinions. The best that we can do is to listen with empathy so that all opinions get heard.

It’s like the churning of whole milk. After a lot of agitation, the cream rises to the top.

To get to best practices, it might take some heavy debate, but if our words are only to lash out or to make us look better than others in our attempts to show that we are right, well, Scripture says we are only clanging cymbals. And we keep coming back to it-that verse talks about love.

Without love for others, especially those of a different opinion, we run the risk of looking self-righteous, and at some point, it just seems to work out this way-becoming hypocritical.

Trying to dominate only brings undesirable results for everyone. What good is winning the fight of who is right if so many divisions are the only result?

Scripture says nothing can stand when there is division.

Talking about mom and dads, it seems like the world needs a good spanking. But, it’s God’s place to do the disciplining by His wisdom and His time.

It’s our place to love the world as God has loved us.

And we know He loved us so much that He gave us His Son, Jesus, to show His love for us all of us in this messy world caused by every person’s sins.

God the Father knows about love because He is love. He wanted the world to know this love, so He sent Jesus to show this love.

Jesus taught people about the Kingdom of God, he healed and fed people. When Jesus walked this earth, he reached out to every person in his path.

Most of all, he was so gentle and kind. He never pushed or forced people to believe in him as their Lord and Savior.

Even at his trial, Jesus remained mostly silent. He could have defended himself because he was completely innocent.

When he was on the cross, he asked God the Father to forgive the people who were hurling insults at him.

Jesus was able to take the highest road that there is. He took the punishment for our sins, and he did not once utter a word of malice.

He was mocked and beaten, and he could have stopped it all as people said he could have, but he went through all that suffering until he died.

When it comes to wanting to fix people and this broken world that is causing such messes, That all seems so good, but let’s just love it.

I know we want to make it better by fixing it since it is so broken, but all that we can do is to love it as it is and go from there.

Although, to be sure, in our going, we need to know that the world is fixed. God the Father made everything right by Jesus’ death and resurrection. Sin, eternal death, and Satan are defeated, and Jesus’ victory over all evil is our triumph.

All that is left to do is to love all people, even the unlovable, which is the true test of taking the highest road of love.

This past week I had students write their prayer requests for our prayer board in the school hallway.

A student wrote a prayer for our hurting world, and she ended the prayer with these words, “I hope for everyone to be safe and healthy, and I’m sorry for what we have become. Amen.”

I just saw that on Friday when I was finishing this sermon. It makes me sad that a child has those last words in her prayer.

With those words coming from the innocence of childhood, I have come to realize more than ever that we need to stop the nonsense of trying to win our opinions over others, for it is causing so much hate.

In the settling of the conflict of opinion, we need to be sure we are leaving an impression on the world that shows love and care for every person, even if that person has a strong and wide different opinion than ourselves.

I’m not sure what we can do about the world, but we can do something about who we, each of us, are becoming.

In these days, as messy as they are because people are going the low way of sinfully rooted agendas, I need to stop, did I make a judgment there?

Or is that just what we can expect from the world?

Anyway, let’s leave all that alone and do this-you and I can go the way of following our Lord on the high road.

On this high road, we can be people who are sharing the love of God in Christ, for if we can do anything, we always can be loving others as God is loving us in Christ.

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