“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” (Matthew 5:43-44)
Many years ago, I asked the Lord to keep me on the planet long enough to get this Christian life half right. Often when I assess my progress, I get a sense that the gap between Jesus and me is getting wider rather than narrower. Though I definitely have my regrettable moments, I’m not convinced that the widening gap is due to a personal spiritual regression. Rather, I believe that the more I am exposed to God’s Word, the more I see an increasingly transcendent standard required of those who would be Christ’s disciples.
Nowhere is the loftiness of that standard more evident than in our calling to love distinctively. We are to lay down our lives for those in the faith (1 John 3:16); love our neighbor as ourself (Mark 12:31); love our enemies (Matthew 5:44); and, above every other commandment, we are to love the Lord with all our heart, soul, strength, and mind (Mark 12:30).
Apart from the miraculous movement of God that enables us to love Him, the most unnatural, and therefore supernatural, of these requirements is the obligation to love our enemies. In his remarkable exposition of 1 Corinthians 13 entitled “Charity and Its Fruits,” Jonathan Edwards writes of the Christian’s responsibility to not only be willing to bear injuries from others, but to do so without the slightest inclination toward wrath or retaliation. We are instead to “preserve the calmness and quiet of our spirits … ready to suffer considerably … rather than to stir up strife and contention.” Our example is the meek and quiet spirit of Christ “who bore innumerable and very great injuries from men … yet pleaded in their behalf with His Father.”
The gap remains.
Question: How good are we at loving the unlovable?
Challenge: Study the true meaning of meekness as exhibited by our Savior. And consider the length and depth of God’s forbearance with us.
Prayer: Lord, help us to attain to the humility that comes from making you greater and us less.
Arnie Knecht, League Coordinator -- American Association