Of all the teachings of the LORD JESUS CHRIST, none is more contrary to the natural bent of the human mind than when HE told us to love our enemies and pray for them that despitefully use us. His words in Matthew 5:39, “But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also” are seldom quoted or taught without some explanation which tries to soften its grating sound to this old sinful flesh. Surely HE didn’t mean exactly and simply what HE said; did HE? I mean don’t I have every right to haul off and hit someone back if they hit me? The truth is I may have that right in the flesh, yet the LORD said if we are to be like HIM then we must not act like those who are not HIS children. “There is a way that seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.” (Prov 16:25)
The LORD has laid down some very helpful instructions for our relationships with one another that not only insure peace and tranquility for those who heed them but set forth an example that is useful in bringing men to repentance. (see I Peter 2:12; Rom.12:20) Even the hard heart of King Saul was made tender by the self-denying actions of David (see I Sam. Chap.24-26). Now while we have mainly been discussing our reaction to those who have mistreated us we should also understand that the LORD is teaching us a principle that is to guide our behavior and attitude towards all men at all times. I believe this principle is that we must take responsibility for our actions and behavior, realizing that while we cannot change others we must (by HIS grace) change ourselves. I cannot prevent the misconduct of others towards me; nor can I keep them from failing to live up to my expectations, but I must strive to prevent my misconduct toward others (even if I feel they deserve my wrath).
What a revolutionary concept this is, which could bring untold harmony and peace among mankind. Think of the harsh words that would be avoided. Think of the families and churches that would not be divided. Think of how the divorce rate would be affected. Think how the SPIRIT of CHRIST would be manifested in the earth
I am not so naive as to think that there shall be any great clamor to follow these simple concepts by the multitudes. But I am bold enough to admonish those who call themselves the LORD’s own to prove your faith by your actions. (see James 2:14-23) The LORD never charged us with changing the world but he has demanded that we change our behavior towards others. “This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you. “ (John 15:12) HE has not only given us the commandment but HE has set the example for us. Our love to one another is to be like HIS. Therefore our love to others should be characterized by :
- Being willing to lay our best interest aside.“Why do ye not rather take wrong? why do ye not rather suffer yourselves to be defrauded?” (1 Cor 6:7)HE laid aside HIS glory for our sake, taking on HIMSELF the likeness of sinful flesh. As the song writer said “ For me it was in the garden, HE prayed not my will but THINE. HE had no tears for HIS own grief, but sweat drops of blood for mine.” If HE cared not for HIS own comfort how can we set limits upon the lengths to which we go in demonstrating love, what conditions can we rightly set.
- Giving without the thought of receiving.“But love ye your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again.” (Luke 6:35)Too often, we give love expecting that we should receive it in return. When that doesn’t happen, we grow bitter and begin to regret that we gave it in the first place or place demands on others to reciprocate. Love which is not given cheerfully with no thought of return is no love at all. We are not called to be mutual admirers of one another, rather we are to be givers of love. Husbands are to love their wives whether or not their wives love them, (see Eph.5:21-33) for this is the example of CHRIST’s love for the church. We are to love one another regardless of whether we receive love or respect from others. (see II Cor.12:15)
- Loving the unworthy.“But GOD commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, CHRIST died for us. “ (Romans 5:8)If we wait to show love until we find someone worthy of it we likely will never love anyone at all. HE loved us in spite of our hatred of HIM and HIS way.
- Loving continually and continuously.“Then came Peter to him, and said, LORD, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times? JESUS saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven.” (Matt 18:21-22)We must not be looking for an excuse to lessen our love for our brethren. We are sometimes called to have no fellowship with brethren, but we are never to cease to love them. (see I Cor.5:5; II Cor.2:6-11)
So if we are going to exhibit CHRIST’s love in the earth, we cannot wait for others to act like we think they should act, think like we think they should think, or become loveable. We must recognize that we can only modify our behavior and not theirs. This daunting and frustrating task cannot be accomplished in the power of the flesh, but HE gives “grace to help in time of need” (Heb 4:16) for those who come to the throne of grace. Paul said “for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. ----- I can do all things through CHRIST which strengtheneth me.” (Phil 4:11,13) May our prayer be for grace to love others as HE loved us. May we be reminded constantly of the example of our LORD; “Who, when HE was reviled, reviled not again; when HE suffered, HE threatened not; but committed himself to HIM that judgeth righteously: “ (1 Peter 2:23)mam