A man’s character is revealed through how he treats his enemies. A man’s love extends only as far as his nearest enemy. Or does it? There are many religions in the world that refer to conflict, human interactions, and behavior choices. During the time of Jesus’ life racism was as strong as ever. Especially between the current reigning empire of Rome and the ever persevering minority group of Jews. They were excluded, forced to walk in filth on the roads instead of on sidewalks with others, they would be heckled, ridiculed, robbed, spit on, and more, even by Roman ‘police officers’.
Jesus did not avoid these issues when while spending his days with us here on earth. Kingdoms and individuals, political parties and people groups all have enemies, and all choose to respond to their enemies in certain ways revealing what lies within their make-up. In regards to individuals, Jesus’ revelation on how we should respond to people who have hurt us, robbed us, and taken something from us is VERY clear.
We may not be slapped in the face, and someone may not take our clothing from us, but there are plenty of offenses that happen to EVERYONE in daily life. No one is immune to opportunities for woundedness and accusation to take root in our hearts. Jesus, again, very clearly gave instructions for appropriate responses in these situations. The places of grievances and bitterness in our lives are the very thresholds of which the body of Christ stands on to shine something that lives inside of them that exists beyond human justice and selfish reasoning.
Here are a few examples of teachings for instance:
“Love your enemies. Pray for those who give you difficulty and hard times. In that way you will be acting like My kids. For I give good to everyone, naughty and nice alike. Even corrupt politicians love the people that love them, how does that make you any different? But love with perfection as I do.”
“If you do not forgive others, I will not forgive you.”
“Do good to those who hate you.”
What would this like if we acted like this toward the people who hate us? What would it look like if we acted like this as a nation towards countries that hate us?
I heard a man here talk about all that happened to him from under the hands of ISIS here in the middle east. He said to me, “If you knew everything they did to me, you would be friends with no Muslim.” This statement revealed not only the hurt of the individual but also his lack of the knowledge of God. God himself was beaten, betrayed, abandoned and murdered, and still the words on lips that revealed the content of his heart were “Let none of this be counted against them.”
In his innocence, God did not bear up under scorn and cry “I must have justice! I must have payment!” Instead, in complete selflessness, God denied what was rightly due him, and gave himself–his life–as an offering for their freedom, their peace, and their wholeness.
So often–myself included–we get caught up in this loop-hole of a thought process of self-justification, self-consideration, self-sympathy. We are in the right; others are in the wrong. The very ones we accuse in our minds are the very one’s God thought were worthy to give his life for. ‘Being right’ is not the answer; ‘being love’ is.
It is in the opportunities of offense, injury, and hurt we have a divine opportunity to confound the mind of our offenders in reckoning ourselves having been already crucified with Christ and not acting on our own behalf, but in his likeness living in us, as us, and through us.
We have the power to let yesterday go in the relationships we hold with people around us. I’m not saying this is easy, but it brings to mind Corrie Ten Boom who forgave one of the very guards that held her in a concentration camp, but she knew it wasn’t of herself but it was God giving that man forgiveness through her. Displays of forgiveness, selflessness, generosity, and blessing without them being deserved or earned, or even in the face of hatred, is giving others the experience of heaven here on earth.
I feel like this would be most profound on a political and international level as well. Sometimes we are holding onto power so tightly that we don’t actually utilize the opportunities we have in using the power we’ve been given.
This loving response to injury does not only reveal his glory here on earth, but is our own path to liberty and restoration; individually and nationally. Restitution follows forgiveness rather than being a prerequisite for it.