In Matthew 22:36-39 a Pharisee, hoping to stump Jesus, comes and asks: “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?” 36
The Pharisee thought Jesus should say all of the commandments came from God and all of them were great, right? I mean, that does make sense, doesn’t it? However…
Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’” 37-39
Jesus gave the Pharisee those two commandments because they cover all the other commandments combined. That’s what made them so great. If we love the Lord God with all our heart, soul, and mind, it should be naturally easy to also love our neighbor as our self. And if we happen to not like ourselves very much, we know we are valuable because we are made by God, and made in God’s very image.
However, in our fallible and errant condition, that’s not so easy at all. We often struggle to just be nice to our own family and friends. Yet as followers of Christ we are told we must demonstrate love and respect to all people, including those we don’t like, love, or agree with.
It’s God’s way.
Even those who rub us wrong? Yes!
Well then, they should be nice back to us if we are nice to them. Isn’t that common courtesy?
It is, but we won’t always get that result. In fact, a person who is selfish and inconsiderate towards us may ridicule us and act even worse when we are nice back because they may assume we are stupid and weak for not retaliating.
It’s our human way.
We already know from the story of The Good Samaritan that our neighbor doesn’t mean our actual next-door neighbor. It’s the person in the next cubby at work, someone we carpool with, our child’s soccer coach or school teacher. It’s our family or an in-law; maybe those we live with.
But worse yet, it could be someone we despise so much, someone who at one time made our life a living hell, that we cannot ever, ever see ourselves tolerating, let alone loving them. Just the mere thought of them can give us hives.
Yet—hives or not—Colossians 3:12-14 says we are to forgive them as God has forgiven us:
“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.”
As a matter of fact in Matthew 5:43-44 Jesus actually tells us to love our enemies:
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you,”
And in Luke 6:27-28 Jesus’ expectancy is repeated just in case we didn’t read Matthew.
“But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.”
“Do good to those who hate you,” that one there’s a bit hard to take. Notice He actually used the words enemy and those who hate you. No matter how nasty that person is, we are to go beyond our puny human selves because when we call ourselves Christ Followers, we must hold ourselves to a higher standard, higher in every way.
And why do we have to be the ones to bend?
Because maybe, just maybe, our love and kindness will soften a hard heart and open a stubborn pair of eyes, and that person may eventually welcome Jesus into their own heart because of our love.
Loving someone like that doesn’t mean we must tolerate nasty behavior. It does mean we are not to be revengeful or “return the favor” when someone behaves badly towards us. As Christ Followers we can stand for truth and righteousness graciously.
When any blood-purchased saint desires to follow Christ, we’re to live His example; we’re to die to the urge to get our way and to get even. That flawed part of our humanity must die within us because we cannot serve two masters—our own desires and will and God’s at the same time—unless God’s will is also our desire. But God knows we cannot do this alone so He offers to help us resist the urge to be mean and get even when we look at the offender through God’s eyes of love. That’s when we let our light shine before others.
“In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:16.
And that should be our goal—to glorify our Father.
By ~ Elizabeth Yalian 2013-2015 ©http://hiseyeisonthissparrow.com. ♛