"Do It Anyway"

Peace and grace to you from our Lord and Savior, Jesus the Christ.

On All Saints' Day a Sunday School teacher at St. Paul's Lutheran Church was explaining to her second grade class about various Saints. "And why do you suppose," she asked, "we have such a special place in our hearts for St. Paul?" One of her students answered, "Because he's named after our church."

Even though we have special days in the church year where we commemorate particular saints, the Lutheran church doesn't pay much attention to saints, though we use the appellation 'saint' with many people from the New Testament, such as St. Paul, St. Mark, St. Matthew, St. Luke, St. John etc. And when we speak of saints, we tend to think of them as very holy, having had some sort of conversion in their life that led them to lead very humble and self-sacrificing lives for the sake of Christ; and we think of saints as being dead.

When we call someone living a 'saint,' it's because we see them as leading a good and selfless life dedicated to Christ and the Gospel. Saints, however, are both living and dead, and are saints not because of their selfless actions, but because they are believers in Jesus as the Christ, the son of God, one person in the Trinity.

St. Paul in his writings refers to members of the various communities of Christ as saints. So, we gathered here today in the name of Christ, and those gathered in other places around the world, and those not gathered, but who believe, are all saints. We saints are the church on earth, and the deceased saints are the church in heaven.

Today's Gospel lesson from Luke is a wonderful piece of Scripture which begins with what we call "The Beatitudes." In Matthew, "The Beatitudes" are the beginning of Jesus Sermon on the Mount. Matthew has nine and they're addressed to people in general. Here, Luke has four and they are in the second person, speaking to those who are gathered to hear his words.

I am focusing on two parts of today's Gospel. The part right after the four Beatitudes that says, "Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude you, revile you, and defame you on account of the Son of Man. Rejoice in that day and leaf for joy, for surely your reward is great in heaven…" and the last part of the reading that says, "But I say to you that listen, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.…Give to everyone who begs from you"….and ends with what we know as the "Golden Rule": Do to others as you would have them do to you. Jesus directs his words to the saints of every time and place. Jesus doesn't suggest, he doesn't ask, he commands us to DO. Even if what he says seems paradoxical, he says, do it anyway.

A 'paradox' is an idea that is contrary to popular opinion, something that seems to contradict common sense and yet is true. Many things Jesus said to his followers back then, and to us, his followers now, and those that are to come, are paradoxical. When I read the lesson for today I immediately thought of a wonderful little book entitled, Anyway, The Paradoxical Commandments, by Kent M. Keith. I'll read them all but make comment on only two because of time.

We tend to see the Scripture quoted today as an ideal, something that we should strive for but not something we can actually achieve. I think the Paradoxical Commandments that Mr. Keith puts forth in his book, Anyway, say that we CAN achieve what Christ is commanding us to do in today's Gospel lesson.

In the "Introduction" to his book Mr. Keith says, "I laid down the Paradoxical Commandments [to my students] as a challenge. The challenge is to always do what is right and good and true, even if others don't appreciate it. Making the world a better place can't depend on applause. You have to keep striving, no matter what, because if you don't, many of the things that need to be done in our world will never get done.

"I had heard lots of excuses, and I wasn't buying them. OK-maybe people are illogical, unreasonable, and self-centered. So what? You have to love them anyway. And maybe the good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow. So what? You have to do good anyway….I know that if I do what is right and good and true, my actions will have their own intrinsic value. I can feel good about who I have helped. I don't need any rewards. In the doing, I have already been rewarded. I am liberated and at peace. In the doing I am rewarded. I already have a sense of meaning and satisfaction that comes from doing a good job. The meaning and satisfaction were mine, whether or not anybody gave me recognition…. I am convinced that no matter how crazy the world is, people can find personal meaning. I am also convinced that the world would make more sense if people lived paradoxical lives, focused on personal meaning instead of recognition and applause. While finding meaning in our own lives, each of us can make the world a better place for all of us." [end of quote] Don't you think that pretty much catches the meaning of the Gospel lesson today? Jesus commands us to DO certain things regardless of how others interpret our acts; regardless that it goes against what is termed, 'reasonable thinking.'

So, now, here are Mr. Keith's ten Paradoxical Commandments:

People are illogical, unreasonable, and self-centered.
Love them anyway.
If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish ulterior motives.
Do good anyway.
If you are successful, you will win false friends and true enemies.
Succeed anyway.
The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow.
Do good anyway.
Honesty and frankness make you vulnerable.
Be honest and frank anyway.
The biggest men and women with the biggest ideas can be shot down by the smallest men and women with the smallest minds.
Think big anyway.
People favor underdogs but follow only top dogs.
Fight for a few underdogs anyway.
What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight.
Build anyway.
People really need help but may attack you if you do help them.
Help people anyway.
Give the world the best you have and you’ll get kicked in the teeth.
Give the world the best you have anyway.
© Copyright Kent M. Keith 1968, renewed 2001

To learn more about the origin of the Paradoxical Commandments, visit

I'm just going to look at just two of these. The first and the fourth.

The first Paradoxical Commandment is: People are illogical, unreasonable and self-centered. Love them anyway. Abraham Maslow, the psychologist, observed that love is as essential to the growth of a human being as are vitamins, minerals and protein. If we aren't giving and receiving love, we are not being who we were created to be. Jesus speaks to us over and over about love and commands us to love one another, using his love for us as an example. If we don't love, we are not doing all that we can do, not being the fullness that we were created to be.

People that we often shun because of their behavior or attitude are the people who so often have lots of needs. They are crying out for love. We need to love them. Perhaps they may feel our love and that may bring out the best in them. And if not, we still have not wasted love because we gave them something they needed, and it allowed us to fulfill who we were created to be. Jesus said that we would do even greater things than he did, and this follows a section of Scripture where he speaks about loving one another and loving each other as he loves us.

Mr. Keith concludes his comments on this 'commandment by saying, "So enjoy the immense personal meaning that comes from giving and receiving the gift of love. Love is too important to miss just because others are 'difficult.' Often, they are no more difficult than you or I!"

The fourth Paradoxical Commandment is: The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow. Do good anyway.

When you lay a beneficial foundation for a positive future, you know you have done something good. It's why every little thing we do to help protect the environment is good for the future, for our children and their children and on and on. It's why the good you do for one person continues on because love in action is energy, and it doesn't stop with just your one action.

The beneficial things we enjoy today are the result of someone who came before us. Someone may make a huge scientific discovery, may be recognized by winning a Nobel Prize, but the knowledge and tools they used to win the prize were based on someone who came before. Someone may win the Peace Prize, but it is built upon the groundwork laid by many before them, the seeds planted in the minds of people by people who are nameless, faceless. Someone besides them will get the recognition, but those folks don't care, because what they worked for has been achieved and that's what's important. Their actions had purpose, had intrinsic value whether their actions were recognized or not.

Mr. Keith concludes his comments on the 'commandment' by saying, "Do good for its own sake. Do good because it is part of who you are, part of your quality of life. The good you do will be a source of personal meaning for you, even if nobody knows or if those who know forget."

And I will close by quoting Mr. Keith's tenth Paradoxical Commandment, followed by Jesus' command to us at the end of today's Gospel lesson.

The tenth Paradoxical Commandment is: Give the world the best you have and you'll get kicked in the teeth. Give the world the best you have anyway.

And Jesus' command to us: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Jesus doesn't say that others WILL do the same for you, just because you did it for them, but he's saying, "Do It Anyway." Amen.

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