Andrew Host - Testimony

This speech was given at Ashfield Uniting Church on Sunday, 28th January 2024



Morning everyone. I'm Andrew. I've only been coming here since June last year. But I've been asked, I think I'm the first of many who will be asked, to just give a brief talk about my faith and where I am right now.

I don't believe that I know it all. I'm on a journey. I'm still learning.

But where I'm up to now is, I'm trying to free myself from unnecessary rules and regulations. I'm not saying, "Throw out all the rules," because obviously you have to stop at a red light if you're in a car, otherwise you can have an accident. There are rules in place for a reason, and I agree with keeping those rules that matter. But I'm trying to get rid of unnecessary rules, particularly in religion.

I grew up in churches where rules and regulations were very, very important to the churches that I was in. "You can't take Communion unless you've been baptised." "You can't get baptised unless you've passed a test and that you declare that you have the same faith as the rest of us." Rules about what you should wear to church. Rules about how much money you should give. And I'm trying to free myself from that.

You know, Jesus lived in a time when the church of his day, the Jewish church, was full of rules and regulations. No one was advocating, not even Jesus was advocating abandoning the Ten Commandments given by God. But Jesus said, "I've actually come to fulfil the law."

The Jewish leaders, had added hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of extra rules and regulations, making a huge burden on the Jewish people of the day, and Jesus could see this burden, and he said, "Look, I've come to set you free. I've come to fulfil the law."

The Jewish leaders of the day didn't like Jesus saying that, and they tried to trap him. They wanted to make sure he was still on the same page [as they were]. So one of them in the group said to Jesus, "What do you think is the most important commandment?"

And Jesus said, "The most important commandment is this, Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength." And he didn't pause. Then he said, "The second most important commandment is very much like it." He said, "Love your neighbour as yourself."

Well, the Jewish elders couldn't argue with that, but they still wanted to make it difficult for Jesus. So one of them piped up and said, "Alright, what do you mean by neighbour? Define what neighbour means."

And Jesus told the story of the Good Samaritan. You probably know it, but I'll just relay it.

There's a Jewish man on the road to Jericho walking along, and he got beaten up and robbed - left for dead on the side of the road. He's lying there dying. And a Jewish priest comes along and sees him and goes, "Ohh." He thinks to himself, "If he's dead - I don't know if he's dead or alive, but if he's dead and I touch him. I won't be allowed to go to church. The rules and regulations say I'll be unclean. I won't be allowed to go to church and I won't be allowed to perform my priestly duties." So he just walked away and went, "Somebody else's problem."

Another Jewish elder, I think a scribe or a rabbi or someone high up in the church, he looked up ahead and then didn't even go over. He just walked on the other side of the road, went, "Ohh. Somebody else's problem."

And then along came a man from Samaria. Now, the Jews hated the Samaritans (the people who lived in Samaria) because the people from Samaria didn't keep all the rules and regulations that the Jewish people did. So the Jewish people thought that the Samaritans were outsiders, outcasts, not worthy of God, bad people. And they hated them.

But this man from Samaria, this Samaritan, saw the man on the side of the road. He took pity on him, had compassion for him. And when he got out his first aid kit, put antiseptic on his wounds, wrapped up the wounds in bandages, put him on the back of his animal, (whether it was a donkey or a horse, I don't know. He had an animal.) He put him on the back of his animal, took him to a hotel and said to the hotelier, "Look after this guy. I'll pay for it. I've got some business in town and I'll be coming back. And if there's any extra expenses, don't worry about it. I'll pay for that."

Jesus finished the story there and he said to the crowd, "Now, who do you think in that story, out of those three people who walked along the road, who was the neighbour?"

And somebody piped up and said, "The man who had pity and showed compassion."

And Jesus said, "Go and do likewise."

That hits me very hard because the rule of love is all that matters. Jesus said, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength, and love your neighbour as yourself." [This] actually fulfills everything in the law. Of course, we have to adhere to the Ten Commandments. "Do not steal." But you're not going to steal from the person you love, and Jesus said to love everybody. One of the Ten Commandments says, "Don't murder." Well, you're not going to murder someone you love. So the Ten Commandments are taken care of by those two top commandments of Jesus. "Honour your father and your mother." There's another commandment. Well, obviously, if you love your father and your mother, you're going to honour them.

So, Jesus could see what a burden all those rules and regulations were, and he was just saying, "Love one another. Forgive one another." Why did he want you to forgive? Because, when you hold on to unforgiveness, when you build up resentment within yourself, you only damage yourself. You're not actually damaging the person who you're refusing to forgive. You're only damaging yourself because resentment fills you and then it becomes bitterness, and bitterness is like a cancer that just takes over your whole body, and Jesus wants you to be free. So he says, "Forgive so that you can be free."

I'm still trying to do that. With God's help, I will keep being able to do that. I have fallen a thousand times (as the as the beginning of the service says). I'm not good at forgiving. I'm good at forgiving people I like and who like me. I'm not good at forgiving my enemies and people who don't like me. But Jesus said, "You have to forgive them all." God's forgiven all of us. God's forgiven me, even though I've fallen a thousand times. And he keeps forgiving me, and I've been aware in my whole life, I've had the blessing of knowing my whole life that God loves me, and God continues to forgive me and encourage me to keep loving one another.

"Love the Lord my God with all my heart, mind, soul and strength and love everyone as I love myself." I'm not perfect at it. And I ask you to forgive me when I fail. And if you're doing what God asks you to do, I will forgive you when you fail. But we have to keep trying.

I don't claim to have all the answers, but if you want to discuss this further, please email me: Email Me

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