By Dr. Bascom Ratliff,
Pastor, Parker/Beagle/Fontana United Methodist Churches
The inspiration for today’s message is from:
Matthew 22: 36-40: “Love God. Love others.”
I Corinthians 13: 13. “And now faith, hope, and love abide these three; and the greatest of these is love."
Last week with a difficult week for me. My recent article about our being “fearfully and wonderfully made” drew both praise and criticism. It also led to a lively discussion about the death penalty, abortion, and faith.
Briefly, the news last week reported that Brittany Watts, from Ohio, was charged with abusing a corpse because she had an unplanned abortion. Secondly, Kenneth Smith was executed in Alabama. He was convicted of murdering Elizabeth Sennett. These were thoroughly covered in the news and I would invite my readers, who are interested, to go online for further details of these events.
Those that were critical of my wonderfully made article asked the simple question of, “how a loving and caring God” permits abortion, murder, and executions. And secondly, how could wonderfully made babies be aborted and wonderfully made people commit murder and be executed.
All too often our approach to this question is flawed. We proclaim that God does not make mistakes and when bad things happen it is because humans are endowed with free will and sometimes make bad decisions and do wrong things. We quote bible verses to support our beliefs and values. Or we simply say problematic events are God’s will and accept them as inevitable. Certainly, there are some things that are inevitable and out of our control. However, I strongly believe the challenge for us is a live our faith, open our hearts, and live a life befitting us as Christians.
As Christians, we are guided by God’s command that we love others. And, in loving others, we are asked to forgive. I admit that I struggle with the whole notion of abortions, death penalty, and turning the other cheek. However, I believe that God is quite clear when he asks us to forgive others. So, whether I believe in abortion or not, I am required to forgive and to love Brittany Watts from Ohio. I’m required to forgive and love Kenneth Smith, who was executed in Alabama. I am required to love and forgive those who have harmed me or wronged me in some way. And more importantly, I am required to love God with all my heart and to do God’s without fail. Even our modern day lepers are deserving of God’s love.
I suspect I will continue to have discussions with my friends and family about abortion. Discussions about the death penalty will also continue. My greatest hope is that discussions will also continue about our need to forgive and love others.
As I continue to seek an authentic relationship with Jesus Christ, I find that I am challenged to do more to understand others and care for them. I do not believe that God is asking me to accept doctrines, values, or behaviors that conflict with my faith. What God is asking me to do is to simply love others and spread the good news of Jesus Christ. Loving someone is important. Forgiveness and mercy are important. Following Jesus Christ is important, not as a roaring lion but as a sheep who grieves for others and seeks peace.
If you want to hear more about God’s wonderful promise of unfailing love and enjoy a great morning of music and fellowship, please come and worship with us.
We will worship at the Beagle United Methodist Church during February 2024.
We will worship at the Fontana UMC during March 2024.
We will worship at the Parker UMC during April 2024.
All Sunday services are at 10 a.m.
All are welcome to worship in God’s House.
Dr. Bascom Ratliff (913-710-5748)
United Methodist Churches