Some things in life are easier than others.
Changing a light bulb is easier than sky diving or zip lining, especially for somebody who suffers from Acrophobia (otherwise known as the fear of heights). Likewise, some things in the bible are easier said than done. In particular, I’m thinking about the words of Jesus where He talked about loving your enemies.
Most people love their friends. Your friends love you and you love them. Kumbaya, my lord, Kumbaya. It’s relatively easy. Atheists, agnostics, quasi-spiritual, unspiritual and carnal Christians can even do it. Anybody can be nice to the nice and friendly to the friendly. Jesus said, “if you greet your friends only what credit is that to you?” (Matthew 5:47)
In other words, if you’re only kind and friendly to people who are kind and friendly to you then you really haven’t done anything more than the average heathen would do. The challenge is to be kind and friendly to those who are mean, nasty or indifferent. We all know people can be heartless, selfish and even cruel. Should we return the same? Not according to Jesus.
Now you might think. That’s easy for Jesus to say because He’s……….Jesus. True, but there are a couple of things we need to keep in mind. Firstly, it might help to remember that Jesus certainly practised what He preached. From the cross He cried out to the Father and asked Him to forgive the very ones who put Him there. “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34) Secondly, as Christians we are called to be like Jesus. Obviously, this doesn’t mean we have to go around wearing long robes and sandals. But we are to strive to be like Him in our character and conduct.
Jesus provides the ultimate example of non-retaliation. He could have smote His enemies in an instant with the help of thousands of angels. But instead He overcame evil with good. He calls us to do the same.
Life is not like an NHL hockey game. The unwritten rule of hockey is that if somebody slams you into the boards, trips you up, or does anything deemed dirty or dangerous then you have to “send a message.” Usually the message is given via a similar type of dirty or dangerous play or by “dropping the gloves” (which means fisticuffs for those of you who aren’t acquainted with hockey talk). But it’s okay to retaliate because “they deserve it.”
In Jesus’ system we don’t get to say who deserves retributive justice. And it’s certainly not our place to administer it. The settling of accounts is God’s prerogative. We must leave the doling out of each man’s pay in His capable hands. Somebody has rightly said, “God does not pay at the end of each day, nevertheless, He pays.” Our problem is that God refuses to repay according to our timetable. We want Him to pay after each day, or at least after each week, or month or year. But sometimes God doesn’t pay until eternity.
Indeed, we ought to be thankful that God’s payroll system is not entirely fair. If God suddenly fired up the printing press and cut us a cheque for what we deserve there’d be no numbers on it. There’d be just one word written across it. DEATH.
Why? Because all of us have sinned (Romans 3:23) and the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23). It’s only by God’s grace that we are permitted to draw our next breath.
Let’s face the facts. Some people have adopted the following mission statement for their lives: “I will endeavour to cause as much trouble and pain for others as I possibly can.” They’re like ministers of misery, hucksters of hurt, or peddlers of pain. God will repay them according to their works, unless they repent. God takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked. (Ezekiel 33:11) He would rather that people repented and lived. But alas, many don’t. Their blood is on their own hands. Sorry if I sound harsh, but these are not really my words, they’re from the bible.
As Revelation 13:10 says: “He who leads into captivity shall go into captivity; he who kills with the sword must be killed with the sword. Here is the patience and the faith of the saints.” All people will eventually reap what they have sown. The only thing that can stop the process is the grace of God.
We’re all going to need grace in the days ahead, not to mention patience. Judging by current trends in North American society and throughout the world, it seems like the enemies of Christianity are piling up like snow banks during a Newfoundland blizzard. What are we to do in with such blustery conditions?
We are to do as the old hymn says: “Trust and obey, trust and obey, for there’s no other way, to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.”
And that includes Matthew 5:44: “love our enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you.”