There is one point which I cannot accept. Viewers were advised to place self first. Very toxic people were to be loved from a distance. Sounds good. Real good! It makes for a very comfortable and peaceful life. But does that conform to what Jesus says about how we should conduct ourself towards others? The issue is not really about forgiving but about love.
When we learn to love as our heavenly Father does it becomes much easier to walk in love towards anyone. Here is what Jesus said about love.
‘Love your neighbor as you love yourself’ (Matthew 22:39). Not love them less than yourself. Notice that there was no qualifier to their behavior. You are not asked to love your good neighbor. Both the good and bad neighbor must be loved at the same level. Who is your neighbor? Anyone. Anyone you come into contact with: spouse, friends, family, relatives, strangers on the street, co-workers, etc.
‘Love your enemies’ (Matthew 5:44). Now this is a difficult one. It is so easy to love those who love me. Loving the person who hates my guts needs divine help. There isn’t an opt-out plan. As children of God, this is something we must strive to achieve. Building ourself in our faith through the word and acting in obedience is absolutely necessary to build our love muscle. The love of God will radiate from us. Empowering us to love unconditionally.
‘Pray for those who persecute you’ (Matthew 5:44). Our prayer should not be focused on providing God with a long list of our enemies fault. He already knows their fault. He know what they did and why. In his time He will repay them for their deeds. His desire is for them to change. That’s where you come in. You must ask God to bless them. You must ask God to show us how we ought to pray for them. If we ask with sincerity of heart the Lord will expose the secret things to us.
Areas in their life that causes bitterness, hatred, striving should be prayed against.There are many examples of men of God who prayed for people who persecuted them. Many of the prophets prayed for the people. When God revealed his judgment against them. They interceded for the people. Jeremiah was beaten, imprisoned, starved and treated with much disrespect yet he prayed for the salvation of Israel. Imagine what Jesus faced. He was tortured, beaten and nailed to a cross. He did no wrong. There was no guile (evil) in him. He would have been bitter. Yet He chose love. Love compelled him to forgive. Sometimes the only problem we face is our feelings being hurt. We must learn to overcome the dictates of the flesh. Chose love. Pray for your enemy. Forgive quickly.
We were never promised a comfortable life. we we’re never promised a life without persecution. For the sake of the gospel we will suffer persecution. ‘In this life you will suffer persecution. When they persecute you in a city flee to the next city. In Revelation 2 Jesus told the church of Smyrna that they were about to suffer. Some would be thrown into prison but they were to be faithful even unto death. Isn’t that shocking! Why didn’t He pledge to deliver them from the suffering? He may not deliver us but he will take us through the persecution. After the suffering there will be a crown of life. The prize only comes after a cross.
Trials Bring Perfection
These trials are meant to perfect us. They grant us the grace to stand in any arena and minister with kindness, gentleness, humility, mercy and patience in any conflict. It is easy to act based on how you feel. Very easy to react to a person or situation instead of remaining in control. Our challenge is to come higher. To be perfect as our heavenly father is perfect. You may hate your enemy. Know that your Heavenly Father loves them. He causes his rain to fall on the just and unjust; His sun to shine on the just and unjust. Rain signifies blessing. Sunshine signifies help so they may succeed. Wait a minute! Aren’t these reserved for the children of God? More is available for us. God does not withhold good from those who hate him. He doesn’t show partiality. The unjust may not care for Him but he still loves them anyway. He still provides for them. He ensures that they prosper in this life.
I once heard a wonderful story of a Pastor who God taught to love. In the lesson he learnt patience and forgiveness. The story begins with an old lady. She lived in a shoe. Just kidding 😁. Although it makes for a better backdrop for the story. She lived in his neighborhood. Her husband had died and she lived alone. She hated Christians. No that is too mild. She was as mean as a skunk to Christians. Her hostility was legendary. One day while he was having a wonderful time in God’s presence he heard this command.
“Go help the old lady. She is alone. She needs help. Go!”
His gut reaction was to rebuke this spirit. Obviously the Devil was talking to him. Isn’t that how we respond when God tells us to do something that does not excite our flesh? I know I do. He protested a little but gave in. He knew without a shadow of doubt that God had spoken. With very little enthusiasm he went to help. The reception was very cold. She was not welcoming of the help. After a bit of contemplation she accepted. He was given something difficult to do. He did it without complaining. He maintained his composure and was pleasant to her. He did it and left without getting a good thank you. Time after time God sent him to help her. Years later her mood changed. She welcomed his coming. One day she told him she wanted to accept Jesus as her Lord and Savior. It wasn’t his preaching that broke the stony heart. The walls of resistance came down from his kindness and generosity in the face of hostility. That broke down the her defenses. That drove out bitterness.
Jesus wants us to be so dead to self and focused on the individual’s salvation that we overlook the hatred or brutish behavior. He did this every day. Although he was hated by Pharisees, Sadducees, Priests and Elders He accepted invitations and dined with them. Their agenda was to trap him. His focus was singular. He went to fulfill his assignment, which was to seek and save the lost. They didn’t know it that they were lost. They were in need of salvation. He was salvation. He was willing to paid the necessary price so they may receive.
When we examine the ministry of Jesus we see extraordinary accounts of forgiveness, love and compassion. He was gracious in the face of ridicule. Gracious in the face of ensnarement. Firm when necessary. Yes he corrected disrespect and dishonor but he never shun his detractors. Spies from the Pharisees and the religious sects are among his disciples. He knew their motive. Yet they were never turned them away. He allowed them to walk with his disciples. Why? He knew that their hardness of heart could change with time. When they witnessed his love change came. Some were changed. That was what was most important to him.
Now remember, it is I who sends you out, even though you feel vulnerable as lambs going into a pack of wolves. So be as shrewd as snakes yet as harmless as doves. (Matthew 10:16)
I say to you, love your enemy, bless the one who curses you, do something wonderful for the one who hates you, and respond to the very ones who persecute you by praying for them. For that will reveal your identity as children of your heavenly Father. He is kind to all by bringing the sunrise to warm and rainfall to refresh whether a person does what is good or evil…Since you are children of a perfect Father in heaven, you are to be perfect like him.” (Matthew 5:44,45,48)
I encourage you to show love to your enemy. Show love to those who despitefully use you. Pray for them. It is key to your going to the next level. Being the greatest of the greatest is absolutely guaranteed if you are known by your love (in heaven). When you love, some of your enemies will come by night (that’s privately), like Nicodemus, to ask how they may be saved.
We are called to be soul winners. We must be concerned about the salvation of others. The end of our love must be that all men will come to the knowledge of the love of Christ through us.