Katie ran into the kitchen out of breath. She poured a glass of cold water and gulped it down. A few minutes later, her sister walked in.
“Why didn’t you wait for me?” Kennedy asked.
Katie shrugged. “I saw you were walking home with Seth, so I decided to go for a run.”
Kennedy sighed. “Are you still mad at him for what he did last month?”
“He tripped me on purpose and made me get a big scratch on my face on picture day!” Katie exclaimed.
“But he apologized,” Kennedy reminded her. “He’s having a birthday party at his house this weekend and told me to invite you.”
“I’m not going!” Katie said firmly. “Not after what he did.”
Dad walked into the kitchen and poured himself a glass of water. “Not going where?” he asked.
“To Seth’s birthday party,” said Kennedy. “Katie’s still mad at him for tripping her over a month ago.”
Just then a fly landed on the rim of Dad’s glass. “Ew!” said Dad. He poured the rest of the water in the sink. “I’ll teach that fly to try swimming in my water. I’m never drinking water again!”
Katie stared at her dad, puzzled. “Dad,” she said, “it’s just a little fly! And besides, you have to drink water–your body can’t survive without it.”
“So giving up water would hurt me more than the fly?” Dad asked. Katie nodded. “Well, it sounds to me like you’re trying to hurt Seth for what he did to you, but you’re just going to end up hurting yourself a lot more. I know that what he did was wrong, but he said he was sorry. And Jesus tells us to forgive others because He forgave us. He tells us to do that so we can show His love to others, but also because He knows that when we hold on to bitterness and anger, we hurt ourselves more than anyone else. You’re trying to get back at Seth, but you’re going to be the one sitting home by yourself while your sister and friends are having fun at his party.”
Katie sighed. “Okay, Dad,” she said. “Maybe it’s time I finally forgive him.”
When someone treats us badly, how do we respond? How do we treat them? The answer matters a lot. Negative responses such as back-stabbing don’t solve conflict. They don’t give us peace. Christ tells us to pray for those who persecute us. When we pray for them, God sets us free from the anger, the resentment and the pain. Sometimes the enemy changes, and sometimes they don’t, but praying for our enemies changes us.
When we are persecuted or harassed, we need to respond with a blessing. This is what God wants us to do. It isn’t easy, but it’s the most powerful witness we have about God’s love. When we respond to hatred with love, God will be pleased and we will be blessed.
Loving our enemies doesn’t mean we condone their actions or letting a pattern of abuse to continue. Loving someone who doesn’t deserve it is hard to do, but if love and mercy were given only to people who deserve it, all of us would be lost. God’s love and grace are like rain-they fall on both the just and the unjust. Because of Christ’s death, all of us have been judged by God. We receive His mercy even though we are unworthy and don’t deserve it.
Jesus has introduced something new. Loving everyone, even if they don’t deserve to be loved, is contrary to what the world teaches. If we follow Jesus’ new way of life, we will be energized by a new Spirit. We will act in a new way because of the God we worship. He changes us and encourages us to be to others what God has been to us.
Jesus was not speaking to a general audience but to those who were aligning themselves with Him. To them He gave a standard of behaviour impossible to achieve except through the Holy Spirit. Christians should respond to hatred with love and to antagonism with blessing. This rule applies to individual believers, not to states or governments assigned with keeping the peace.
The Golden Rule cited here did not originate with Jesus, although He gave it its most memorable form. He put this principle in a positive context. He tells us to accept our suffering. We will dishonor God if we retaliate. God will deal with those who persecute us in His own time and in His own way. Forgiveness is like a muscle we have to exercise. It’s proactive. It’s doing.
A person’s behaviour reveals the true nature of his or her relationship to God. The first-century world operated by an “I give to you so that you might give to me” equation: Jesus turned such thinking on its head. Those who are children of God will behave in an others-centered way.
When Jesus tells us to give, most of us think He is referring to giving to the church, but that’s not always the case. If He puts something else in our heart, or if He places someone in need in our lives, it’s okay to give to that person. This involves doing the Lord’s work because it involves giving to our neighbour, and no one knows our neighbours as well as we do.
Remember that failing to tithe is the same as robbing God. It reflects our spirit toward God. If we aren’t willing to give of our money, time or talents, we’re probably not willing to give our whole hearts and lives to God. He won’t let us have a key to His house and steal from Him at the same time. Can we afford not to give to God?
Another reason to give to those in need is because what we have is a gift from God, and God is concerned about how we use those gifts He has given us. Many of us have the philosophy of “get all you can, can all you get, sit on your can.” One instant is all it takes for us to lose what we’ve hoarded. Someday we might need help. What we sow is what we reap-and that has been proven countless times throughout history. The Law of Investment- “Give and it shall be given”-works whenever it is put into practice. A person who puts this principle into practice will know some measure of God’s blessing in this realm.
A good example of how God blesses those who give to Him is found in the story of Elijah and the widow, which is found in 1 Kings 17:10-16. When Elijah arrived at the gate of the city of Zarephath, he saw a widow gathering sticks. He asked her to bring him some water. When she did, he asked her to bring him a morsel of bread. She replied that she only had a little flour and oil, and that she was going to prepare them for herself and her son so they could eat it and die. Elijah told her to go ahead with her plans, but to make him a small cake and bring it to him first. He promised that in return God would provide flour and oil until the rains came. She did what she was told to do, and God did provide flour and oil.
Throughout Luke’s presentation of the Beatitudes, the underlying theme remains the same: those who claim to know God should act as God does. Since God is merciful, His children should be merciful.
The principle expounded by Jesus in verse 37 extends through all of life: those who judge others should not be surprised when they are judged in return. The command to “judge not” does not relieve Christians of their responsibility to be discerning but instead warns against harbouring a contemptuous, condemning attitude.
Following Christ leads us away from the logic of the world. It requires a divine amount of grace-laced empowerment. Christ will bless us for allowing His mercy to flow through us in a way that brings good things to those who don’t deserve it.
When it comes to God’s blessings, the measure we use is what is measured back to us. If we use a serving spoon, we will get an overflowing serving spoon. If we use a shovel, we will get an overflowing shovel back. If we do things for the right reasons, they will come back to us.
Jesus teaches us the true managing of God’s grace. It’s an attitude of kindness, mercy and love toward us that God has chosen, not because of what we have done for Him but because of His decision to show kindness, mercy and love.
A few years ago, someone put together the Paradoxical Commandments. Here they are:
- People are unreasonable, illogical and self-centered. Love them anyway.
- If you do good, people will accuse you of ulterior motives. Do good anyway.
- If you are successful, you 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 favour underdogs but follow only top dogs. Fight for a few underdogs anyway.
- What you spend years building might 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’ve got anyway.
We have to love. It’s the only weapon we have against our enemies. Love creates a barrier against bitterness and cynicism. It’s an antidote to hatred and indifference. We don’t love people because they are likeable. We love them because we and they are children of God.
- Jeremiah, David: The Jeremiah Study Bible: New King James Version (Brentwood, TN: Worthy Publishing; 2013; p.1396-1397)
- “Giving Up Water.” Retrieved from firstname.lastname@example.org
- Paul Estabrooks, “Cross-Turning the Other Cheek.” Retrieved from Crosswalk@crosswalkmail.com
- Pastor Bobby Schuller, “Give to Your Neighbour.” Retrieved from email@example.com
- Harold Sala, “Why Should I Give?” Retrieved from firstname.lastname@example.org
- Pete Briscoe, “The M in BEMA Stands for Mercy.” Retrieved from Crosswalk@crosswalkmail.com
- Berni Dymet, “Love Thy Enemy.” Retrieved from christianityworks.com
- Berni Dymet, “Generosity.” Retrieved from christianityworks.com
- Vikki Burke, “Positioned for the Supernatural.” Retrieved from christianityworks.com
- Berni Dymet, “Forgive and Forget.” Retrieved from christianityworks.com
- Mary Southerland, “To Forgive or Not to Forgive.” Retrieved from girlfriendsingod.com
- Tony Evans, “The Restitution and Reversal of Theft.” Retrieved from Crosswalk@crosswalkmail.com
- Jim Burns, “Go for It.” Retrieved from homeword.com
- Bayless Conley, “What’s Your Measure?” Retrieved from Crosswalk@crosswalkmail.com
- Bayless Conley, “Giving to Get.” Retrieved from Crosswalk@crosswalkmail.com
- Pastor Mark Justice, “What do You Mean ‘Grace’?” Retrieved from christianity.com/devotionals/grace-moments-devotions/
- Pastor Rick Warren, “Do Good to Those Who Oppose You.” Retrieved from connect@newsletter,purposedriven.com
- Jude Siciliano, OP, “First Impressions, 7th Sunday, -C-.” Retrieved from preacherexchange,org