8 Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind. 9 Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing. 10 For
“Whoever desires to love life
and see good days,
let him keep his tongue from evil
and his lips from speaking deceit;
11 let him turn away from evil and do good;
let him seek peace and pursue it.
12 For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous,
and his ears are open to their prayer.
But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.”
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version copyright (c)2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved. http://www.esv.org
How do we know if the love of Christ is truly controlling our lives? We can certainly consider our affections for the Lord and our hatred for sin. But God’s Word invites us also to examine the way we relate to other people as a barometer of how we’re doing. “How are we loving our brothers and sisters in Christ?” is a good question and a legitimate way to measure our spiritual health. But Jesus, Paul, Peter and others push us to ask a more difficult question: “How are we loving our enemies?” On Sunday we considered this question through the lens of blessing: “How are we doing when it comes to blessing those who curse us?”
Why does this question reveal so much about the state of our hearts? The answer is simple: When people curse us or do evil to us, our natural response is to return the curse or repay the evil. We see this reality everywhere in the world. We see it in little children who push and hit when another child “steals” their beloved toy. We see it on social media when an exchange turns nasty and no one is willing to let the other person have the last word. We see it all over the world when the cycle of revenge claims another life: “You killed one of ours so we have killed one of yours.” Left to ourselves, our hearts are bent on revenge and retaliation. Have you ever reflected on what rises up in you when you feel wronged?
When revenge is second nature, a radically different response bears witness to a great change. If our “opponents” cool down and consider what just happened, they might ask: “Why didn’t you hit back? Why did you respond with love rather than hate?” In that moment, we have an amazing opportunity to share the good news of Jesus Christ. Because when we hit Jesus with everything we had, He didn’t hit back. When we hated Him, He loved us and gave Himself for us. When we did evil, Jesus responded by blessing us, absorbing our wrong into Himself, and inviting us back into a reconciled relationship. Though we deserved the worst curse, Jesus “has blessed with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 1:3).
Brothers and sisters, have we received the blessing of Christ? Do we realize that loving our enemies pales in comparison to Jesus loving us when we were His enemies? The Lord is calling us to bear witness to the amazing grace that breaks the cycle of revenge. It is the only answer to our spiritual poverty, and it is the only ultimate answer to the broken relational dynamics that we see all around us. What if we love the Lord as much as we love the person that we love the least? And what if the Lord gave us His eyes and His heart for the people around us?