How are we to act toward those who hurt, offend, mistreat, or speak evil against us?
The bible tells believers to love their enemies and to even pray for them. (Matthew 5:24) It also tells us to live peaceably with all men and to not repay evil for evil but to repay, instead with kindness, that it may heap burning coals on the heads of your persecutors. (Romans 12:17-21) The Bible says that persecution is INEVITABLE in the lives of believers. (John 15:18-25; 2 Timothy 3:12; Philippians 1:29)
Christ is to be our example in suffering and persecution. (Philippians 2:1-8; John 15-18-20; Hebrews 12:1-3) In Isaiah we read that the Messiah (Jesus Christ) was led like a lamb to the slaughter and that He was oppressed and afflicted yet did not open His mouth. (Isaiah 53:7) He did not raise His voice against those that beat Him and nailed Him to a cross. He did not accuse them of wrongdoing. Ne never returned an evil word as they mocked and spit at Him, even placing a crown of thorns upon His head. He endured such suffering and, in the end, He spoke not one word of condemnation but,rather pleaded with the Father to forgive His tormentors, for they had no idea what they were doing. (Luke 23:34)
Christ had every reason to be hurt, offended and angry. He did nothing wrong but suffered greatly anyway. He came to heal the world and the world hated Him for it. But He chose not to return their hate. Instead, He loved them. He loved them enough to endure the greatest suffering know to man, so they could have LIFE, eternal life with Him.
We cannot begin to imagine what Jesus went through on that cross, receiving the full wrath of God for the sins of ALL mankind. Any suffering we will ever endure in our lifetime is minute in comparison. Can we not, therefore, endure for a little while for the sake of the gospel, that some, as a result, may get saved?
This isn’t about receiving a reward for our suffering. It’s about letting our lives be a living testimony. It’s about letting the love of God be revealed in our suffering so those afflicting us might come to embrace the mercy and grace of our God. We mustn’t grow weary in doing good, for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not. (Galatians 6:9)
Love is like a chain reaction. Who knows how great an avalanche of soul saving power might get released as a result of our one tiny pebble of undeserved kindness? I truly believe that one day, in the presence of our Savior, the impact of our life will be revealed unto us. In that moment, I hope that my life story will reveal that I was a conduit unto the loving grace of God.
What a shame it would be, to stand before God and find out my whole life has been all about me. My hurt. My pain. My suffering. What if it didn’t have to be that way. what if, through the power of the Holy Spirit we could surrender our right to be hurt and offended? What if we let God use our suffering for good? What if we stopped trying to avoid situations that make us “uncomfortable” so God could be glorified in our circumstances.
You see, our circumstances aren’t the source of our problem. Selfishness is. Ultimately, we want things to go “our way” and, when they don’t, we get frustrated. We get hurt, annoyed and irritated because people don’t treat us the way we want to be treated. So we react in anger. We retaliate. Eye for an eye, right? How dare that person get in the way of my pursuit of a “good day.” They deserve what they get!
But the Bible tells us otherwise. As Christians, we are told to do unto others as we would have them do unto us. (Matthew 7:12) Did you get that? It doesn’t say do unto others as they have done unto you. It doesn’t say repay evil for evil. It says that we are to do unto others what we would like them to do unto us. Wow, that almost sounds like grace, doesn’t it? When we treat others in this manner, God’s grace, His unmerited favor, is revealed through our very actions.
All of the sudden, doing good stops being a law but a loving response to good that we have received from God. We give to others because God has given to us. We forgive others because God has forgiven us. We love others because God loved us. Every good thing we do for others is like a thank you card to God for all He has done for us.
I think Romans 5:8 pretty much sums it up:
but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.Romans 5:8-10
We were enemies of God and He died for us. He paid the penalty for our sin, reconciled us unto him and gave us life everlasting. Certainly, we did nothing to deserve this amazing sacrifice but that is the point. If we could earn it, it wouldn’t be grace.
We don’t love in order to be loved. We love because we are loved! Oh what great a love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! (1 John 3:1)
As Christians, we must no longer react to circumstances the way we did before we were saved. We need to renew our minds. (Romans 12:2) We cannot afford to react to every negative thing that occurs in our lives. The time is short. We need to see the world around us as Christ sees it, redeeming the time. We need to make the most of every opportunity to reach the lost for Christ. We mustn’t let our hurt and our anger grow into bitterness and resentment. We have a higher calling. As followers of Jesus, we are called to be imitators of Christ, responding as He did when He said “Forgive them, they know not what they do.” We need to see that those persecuting us need Jesus and our lives may be the only Jesus they ever see in this life. The world is watching. They expect hypocrisy. What if we chose to show them Jesus instead?