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Columbia Missourian

FROM READERS: 'Love those who hate you' and other lessons from the Sermon on the Mount

By CHET MANCHESTER/MISSOURIAN READERS
May 7, 2013 | 6:00 a.m. CDT

Chet Manchester is a speaker for the Christian Science church. He’ll be leading a walk and talk about the Sermon on the Mount at the ARC, 1701 W. Ash St., at 7 p.m. May 13. Refreshments will be served at 6:30pm. The talk is sponsored by First Church of Christ, Scientist, Columbia, Mo.

We use maps all the time, count on them to guide us anywhere and everywhere.  After a trip to the Holy Land several years ago, I re-discovered a road map for life itself, an ancient teaching that is like a spiritual GPS, directing our lives with thought-by-thought precision.

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I grew up memorizing parts of the “Sermon on the Mount” in Sunday school — the Beatitudes, Lord’s Prayer, Golden Rule. But not until I walked the inspiring green hills of Galilee where Jesus first gave these teachings did his message really hit home. This wasn’t just another moral teaching, but the heartbeat of a love so radical that it changed the course of human history.

Jesus spoke to a religious culture not so unlike the one that sometimes surrounds us today. There was emphatic emphasis on the “letter” of  Scripture, but he was here to open up its spirit. At the heart of his message was love — a word that, for Jesus, meant a lot more than emotion or feeling. He taught that Love was the very essence and nature of God and that if you wanted to get closer to your Creator, you had to learn to love more. He spells it out pretty clearly:

Impossible ideals? Don’t worry, this inspired Teacher isn’t adding burdens to your life, but taking them away. And that’s what his “map” is all about — a step-by-step guide to getting rid of false ego and learning to reflect the love and humility that are actually our true nature. 

Right in the middle of his message, he says something that completely sets him apart from the crowd, “Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect.” In other words, “I want you to reflect the love of Love, to see yourself and others as your heavenly Parent sees you.”

Over the last few years, I have walked through the high points of the Sermon on the Mount with audiences from Indonesia to England, from Boston to LA.  I have seen its message of universal love touch the hearts of Christians, Jews, Muslims and the nonreligious. Whether you know Matthew 5, 6, and 7 well or have never opened the Gospels, this inspired road map will take you places you’ve never been before

This story is part of a section of the Missourian called From Readers, which is dedicated to your voices and your stories. We hope you'll consider sharing. Here's how. Supervising editor is  Joy Mayer.