Thursday, February 22, 2024

After the Message – The Way of Response

 Thursday, February 22, 2024

“You have heard that it was said, Love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven. For he causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.  For if you love those who love you, what reward will you have? Don’t even the tax collectors do the same?  And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what are you doing out of the ordinary? Don’t even the Gentiles do the same? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. Matthew 5:43-48 CSB

After the Message – The Way of Response

Read Matthew 5:38-48. How have you responded to someone who has offended you? Do you retaliate or do you respond with an attitude of grace, humility, and service? Do you love only those who love you or do you intentionally love your enemies?  

When we don’t treat those who hurt us with the same grace and love we desire to be treated with, we are keeping them from knowing the unconditional grace and love we have experienced from Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross. 

This passage of The Sermon on the Mount may be one of the most challenging. When people hurt us, it can last for a lifetime if it is not handled right. We can become hard hearted, bitter, and resentful. Many of us bury it deep inside, trying to pretend it never happened. Somehow it seeps out into our lives when we least expect it. But Jesus offers a very different way to handle personal pain and offense. He commands us to do exactly the opposite of what our natural reactions (flesh) to pain and hurt would be. He asks us to treat them opposite of the way we feel they deserve. 

Jesus ends this challenging passage with an even more challenging statement by saying Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. We can never be as perfect as God is, and surely Jesus must know this. So what did He mean?  

How can we ever be even close to being as perfect as God is? Romans 3:23 speaks of how we are all sinners. So how can we possibly be perfect as God is, yet still sinners in need of a Savior? Jesus is the only one who has ever lived a perfect life and it is only through Him that we can be perfect as God is perfect. In Jesus we are declared righteous because we can never earn it. When we become a Christian by putting our faith in Jesus, we are made righteous in Him, freed from that sin. 

As followers of Christ, we strive to live our lives reflecting God’s righteousness and holiness. Through His strength we find the ability to love our enemies, not in our own strength. 

Do you only love those who love you? Can you intentionally love your enemies? 

We can when we trust in the strength of a God who sent His Son to die for our sins when we were still sinners. Only through Him in our lives can we do any of the things Jesus says of believers in this chapter. We can, in His power, make the right choices and live our lives reflecting Him, including the very difficult act of showing love to those who offend and hurt us. 

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