Recapping and reorganizing some material previously published on Truth in Palmyra
But I Don’t Even LIKE That Guy!
But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;
That’s a tough one, isn’t it? The honest truth is, not everyone is likable. The honest truth is, we ourselves simply aren’t likable sometimes. Sometimes, for a myriad of different reasons, people just don’t find some other person’s company and presence to be pleasant. Gather a group of, say, a hundred or so people together, in something like a church environment and not all of those people are going to get along.
Despite the natural, God created differences in our personalities God has still commanded that we love one another. As I said, that’s a tough one. How, then are we to accomplish that? Well, the answer is: we DON”T accomplish that. If we are saved by the Grace of God, we allow the Holy Spirit to accomplish it through us.
As we have discussed before, Biblical love is not based on feelings. Part of Biblical love is to act in a loving manner towards those who are not lovable. This would include those who don’t deserve it, who can’t do anything for us, are jerks, mean or just generally unpleasant. That would include those who are jerks, mean and unpleasant directly to us! Wow, that’s tough.
Obviously, we are not going to feel pleasant feelings towards a person who is mean directly to us; therefore our love toward them cannot be based on feelings.
Biblical love, then, becomes an action; it is an act of the will rather than a feeling. If we allow our human weakness to dominate us, we will only allow our feelings to dictate our actions; filled with the Holy Spirit we can allow our actions to be the driving force, then perhaps our feelings will follow.
Let’s put this in action. Let’s look at Jesus on the cross. Who was to the left and right of Him as He hung dying on that cross? The two thieves of course. No doubt these were quite unpleasant individuals. In fact, they even joined with the crowd gathered at the crucifixion in mocking Jesus. Read Matthew 27:44.
In Luke 23, we see another aspect of this story. One of the thieves came to a saving faith in Jesus, as they hung there, and was promised everlasting life with Jesus in paradise. What if Jesus had just said, “Sorry, you should not have been so meant to me, you are out of luck!”?
And of course we can never forget what Jesus said to the mocking, killing crowd in general in Luke 23:34, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
All those people hated Jesus; they were killing him; they were mocking Him and most would ultimately reject Him. Yet, He loved them. He loved them because that was His Father’s will. He allowed the will of His Father to become His own will. That is what God wants from us.
Next time you say you can’t love someone because they are simply too unlikable, just remember what Jesus did on the Cross. If He had based His actions on how likable we are, we would be in deep deep trouble, right?
Laying Down Your Life
Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.
Of course, when He made that statement, Jesus was directly referring the the fact that He was about to literally lay down His life for His friends. Jesus was about to literally lay down His life for the entire world and its sins. Is that necessarily the application for all of us? In certain circumstances, it might be. Any one of us could encounter a situation where literally laying down one’s life might be an appropriate expression of ultimate love. What about the rest of us? What if we are never asked to literally sacrifice our lives for a friend? Are we just off the hook? Hardly! What, then, might it mean to lay down one’s life for a friend?
We live in a culture today where people won’t even lay down their thoughts, ideas and opinions for their fellow man, much less their lives. The United States, particularly, is a “me” culture. “Looking out for number 1,” “If you don’t take care of yourself, nobody will.” These are all reflections of the way we are. Yet, Jesus’ still said to lay down one’s life for friends is the ultimate expression of love.
We can do this by making others needs more important than our own. Jesus did that for us; He gave up his rightful place in Heaven to come here, live as a man, suffer and die just because our need for a savior was so great. Next time you have a situation where two needs are presented and only one can be met, meet your brother or sister’s need and let yours go unmet.
We can do this by forgiving. People wrong us; that is simply a fact. Scripture teaches us over and over that we are to forgive. Jesus asked His father to forgive the very people killing him on the cross in Luke 23:34. We simply have to learn to forgive the same way; we need to forgive no matter the seriousness of the offense that is committed against us
We can do this by sacrificing for others. Not only might we be required to meet another person’s need and leave ours unmet, but we might actually have to give up something our our own to meet their need. Maybe you have plans but a brother or sister has a need; give up your plans and be there for them.
We can do this by meeting the needs of people who don’t deserve it and cannot or will not do a thing for us. Some folks don’t deserve help. Some are not capable of doing anything for us in return. Some are capable, but in our hearts we know they wouldn’t give us a fire extinguisher if we burst into flames. Help them anyway.
Laying down one’s life for friends is similar to Jesus mandate that we pick up our cross and follow Him. He didn’t mean for us to literally pick up a cross, and He probably didn’t mean, in most cases, for us to literally die for or friends. Jesus was setting a pattern for us here, and in our efforts to be Christlike, we should follow that pattern.
Who have we laid our lives down for today? If the day is just starting, who will we lay down or lives for today?
This Is How They Know
By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.
In this simple verse, Jesus gave the world the authority to evaluate the quality of our Christianity by how we, as believers, love one another. He didn’t say they would know we are Christians if we go to church, read our Bibles, not drink beer or cuss or anything else. Jesus said the world would know we are His if we love each other.
The world cannot know that we love each other unless we show the world that love. As we have previously discussed, love has to become an action and an act of the will much more than just a feeling. People cannot see our feelings; they can only see the evidence of our feelings, whether bad or good.
What do people see when they come to our church? Do they see a group of people who rejoice in the opportunity to be with one another worshiping God? Or do they see a bunch of sullen people glued to pews? Are they themselves welcomed as fellow brothers and sisters in Christ (unless we find out otherwise, and that’s another love topic), or do we ignore them at best or make them feel like intruders at worst?
What do people hear when they hear about our church? Do people report it as a place known for love and getting along? Or are we the church that always has some drama going on? What do we ourselves say about our church and the people in it? Are we kind and supportive of them in public or are we running around stabbing them in the back?
Are we ourselves showing every person we encounter the kind of love we are supposed to show to a brother or sister in Christ? We can’t go wrong treating everyone that way, really. Even if they aren’t, that might be the beginning of them becoming one.
Love is the key. We already know that everything God expects of us as believers flows from love. First from our love for Him, then our love for each other. And love is how we show the world who we are. Just ask Jesus.