We spoke of seeing and treating people as Jesus sees and treats me. As we read the Gospels we see Jesus’ love expressed to those He encountered - with patience, mercy, grace, and love. We need to learn to see ourselves in the person Jesus is encountering - how Jesus is with them, He is with “me”. As such, having received His love by mercy and grace, patience and forbearing, we are then equipped to see and treat in the same way those we encounter. (i.e. Luke 5; 14; John 3; 4; 8)
Having been loved while an enemy, I can now love my enemy...
Rom 5:1-11 speaks of being loved as an enemy, Luke 6:27-36 loving your enemies, being good to those who mistreat you, to pray for those who mistreat you, blessing those who curse you. First, let us be reminded that Jesus never commands us to do anything that He Himself was not willing to do - and to love our enemies is chief among the list. Why? Because it is what most profoundly tests the reality, the validity of the life born in us, and our corresponding capacity to love. (See Luke 7:36-50)
It is in the great context of having been loved while an enemy, a sinner, that provokes the depth of love in one who humbly recognizes that they are one forgiven, much...
Luke 7:36 “...therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven - as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little…”
We are Jesus’ ambassadors… and this, by His choice!?
According to Matthew’s recording of this epic teaching (Matthew 5-7), IF we are the “salt of the earth”, IF we are the “light to the world” THEN the evidence of these being true, of our having Jesus' life in us and our now being Jesus’ representatives IS our growing capacity for and ability to love - and especially to love those who do not love us in return, or maybe more especially, love those who hate us - and to love them just as we have been loved.
(Not just being here in His stead, not just knowing and adhering to the TRUTH, but also growing in this life, His LIFE in us, by how we live it, the manner with which we adhere to the Truth, by the WAY we live as one who not only is here in His stead, but living as He lived, thus also representing Jesus with respect to His Way of life, living and loving. As Jesus declared “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life…” (John 1:4,14, 17; 8:32; 10:7,9; 11:25; Heb 10:20; 1John 5:20).
Are you kidding me?!
Very often we see a command like this and we wonder “How in the world do I love my enemy?” “How do I actually look at the one who hates me, who is my enemy, and wants my destruction; this one who curses me or takes things from me - and we are to love them, pray for them, bless them, give to them without expecting anything in return?” (Matt 5; Luke 6)
This seems incredibly daunting and emotionally impossible...
Well, in our flesh that is true (Mark 14:38; Rom 7; Gal 5:13-26). Our flesh is weak and someone who is weak and wounded does not have the strength to be gentle, kind, patient, hospitable and generous. It is in fact when we are weak, wounded, and lacking, that we tend to strike out at those who hurt us, those who threaten us, those who wound us, those who offend us (even if they did not mean it - and that’s because in that state, we trouble discerning the intentions of others).
So, we have a couple admonitions that we need to cling to.
1. Jesus does not command us to anything that…
a. He Himself did not do
b. He has not equipped me/us to do
c. He has not enabled me/us to do
d. He has not empowered me/us to do
...Jesus does not set us up for failure… we may fail, but His grace then covers us, He forgives us, He is patient, forbearing and kind, and re-engages, heals, strengthens and redeploys us when we’re ready (not necessarily when we think we’re ready… that time would never come ;) but, when He knows we’re ready - ‘cause He knows.
2. It is important for us to recognize that Jesus came as a human being, too - He was as much man as he was God, and in so, had to work just as hard as we do to respond lovingly to who or what opposed him. (Gen 3:15; Isa 53; Hosea 13:14 (1Cor 15:55); John 1:14; 4:6; 19:28; Mark 6:3; Luke 2:52; 1Tim 2:5; Gal 4:4; Phil 2:7; Heb 2:1-18; 4:15; 10:5, 10; 1John 4:2)
Heb 2:18 “Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.”
Heb 4:15 “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are--yet he did not sin.”
Heb 5:8 “Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered”
We must also realize that Jesus, in His humanity, set the standard. Jesus showed us that despite our fleshly weakness, (with) the Spirit that He promised to send and that is now in us, and with our cooperation (Gal 5:16-18, 24-26), that Spirit is capable of enabling and empowering and producing in us, by the “truth, the life, and way” the power to do things we ourselves could never imagine doing. (John 14:12; Gal 5:22-23)
“...it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work. 11Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the works themselves. 12Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. 13And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.”
3. Next, seeing that it was “the Father living” in Jesus “doing His work”, and that, we too have the Holy Spirit (really, that same Spirit!). The problem is that we tend to underestimate the Holy Spirit’s ability to guide, protect, empower, and enable. Or, maybe, more accurately, we underestimate our ability to hear, listen, and follow the Holy Spirit. We must remember that God did not leave us as orphans, but gave us Himself by the Spirit – the very power that raised Jesus from the dead is now at work in us - and this for a purpose. And we must trust that all of this is true! (John 13-14; Eph 1:14; 2:8-10; 2Tim 1:7; Gal 5; 6; Rom 15:13; 1Peter 4:14)
(if I may…) isn’t it funny that so often we think that we are the one person in all of God’s kingdom that the Holy Spirit can’t use…? We are goofy!
4. Instead of seeing and knowing, trusting and relying on the truth of the Spirit in us, we tend to focus on the weakness of our flesh, our emotions, and our feelings - and often, this is because we tend to think that we are our body or our flesh - but, we are not, we are the soul and spirit within us, enlivened by His Spirit! So, because our focus is often on the wrong set of “muscles” we often fall back on our own strength and understanding, and use human logic and the human definition of “justice” which is actually for us to avenge, when in God’s economy, for the children of God, our taking vengeance is not “justice”. That is actually a sign of a lack of trusting faith and immaturity and weakness. Instead, we are to love (Turn to Romans 12:9-21)
Holding on to this human mindset keeps us immature . We do have a natural inclination, a way our flesh, or our old self, sees and approaches people and things. Though we have been saved and given the Holy Spirit, there is a process we must go through to realize, or live out, the truth of our holiness and righteousness of Jesus’ life in us, in the everyday - that is the process of sanctification - or - our being (continually) transformed by the renewing of our minds while being conformed to His image and likeness (Rom 8:29)
The question here might be “immature?!” How do I mature? How do I know it is God’s Spirit speaking to me? How do I know what God wants from me?
5. So, we misunderstand or misinterpret, or, just don’t believe that when the scripture says “in my weakness I am strong” or “I can do all things through Christ…” whose life is in me “...who strengthens me” by His Spirit - this IS a new mindset, a transformed view accomplished by the renewal of the mind - (that we might have the mind of Christ - 1Cor 2:10-16)
a. We don’t believe
b. We don’t trust - as we don’t trust God, but grow in trust through life’s circumstances
c. So cannot entrust - me, this moment, my welfare to God and His truth and Spirit - and rest in Him, learning to trust that:
i. He has been there, too, before me
ii. He will be there, with me, and strengthen me
iii. He will work everything out for the good, for me
iv. He does have a plan and a purpose and will accomplish it regardless of what the world does around me or to me
d. This going and going through life’s circumstances is what enables to entrust…
Morally and ethically we can see that we have been loved and ought to love in the same way… that we should - as grateful and appreciative recipients of this kind of love, we ought to do the same.
But, it is the realization of that love - which is Jesus’ life in us - that will bring us to be compelled to love this way and to be held (rightly, justly) accountable if we do not - BECAUSE - not only have we been loved this way, we have been made (born again, (re)created) and empowered and equipped and enabled to love this way - we are truly “new creatures in Christ” (John 3:3; - so to not then love is to take all of this for granted and hold in contempt God’s kindness toward us)
And really, here’s where our hope lies, that spiritually, not only have we been loved this way, but we have the life of Christ, by His Spirit, Who is in us to love this way - that it is the Spirit (of the Father and the Son) in us to do the work of their, our, kingdom
Phil 4:13 “I can do all this through him who gives me strength.”
2Cor 12:9-10 “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
Jeremiah 29:11-14 “11For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 12Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. 14I will be found by you...”
Judges 7-8 Gideon and God’s power
So what is our hope? How do I grow beyond this? We must be “transformed by the renewing of our mind” (or, mindset, attitude, perception). This transforming by renewing changes the way we see and perceive, interpret and understand our world - this process works to change our view of the world and our circumstances from a “worldly” point of view to a “Spiritual” point of view, or, from our’s to God’s (2Cor 5; 1Cor 2:14). In joining God in this process we begin to grow in (God’s) wisdom and develop the ability to gain insight and discernment and be able to see and approve of God’s will - “...His good, pleasing and perfect will” (Rom 12:2; James 1:2-5; Prov 2)
How can this be? We need to trust that God was being totally real when He said that His word is “alive and active… sharper than a double-edged sword... even dividing soul and spirit…” (Heb 4:12; Isa 49:2), that His word “does not return to Him” without having accomplished what He sent it to do (Isa 55:10-11), that His word “washes” or “cleanses” us or makes us “clean” (Eph 5:26-27; John 3:5; 15:3; 17:17; 1Cor 6:11; Col 3:16). And that He HAS placed in us the Spirit of Truth - who teaches and reminds us of all things Jesus. (John 15:26; 16:13; 1John 3:24; 5:6-8)