Romans 12:21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (NKJV)
Picture that person in your mind that you find if most difficult to offer forgiveness.
It might be someone that did something terrible to your family. Maybe a family member who has caused extreme pain. Maybe it’s an unfaithful spouse or a co-worker who lied about you and cost you the promotion you deserved. It could be the person at church who is gossiping about you (does that really happen??). Maybe a criminal who caused you great harm or some adversary who seemed to particularly enjoy ruining you.
If your heart beats, most likely you can immediately picture that person in your life you find it most difficult to forgive; that person you consider your worst enemy. If you don’t have any person that you find difficult to forgive, you are either extremely blessed, or in denial, or you have already learned and put to practice the Biblical model of forgiveness. Most people, including me, still struggle with it. Picture that person. Got the picture?
Here’s what Jesus said we you and I must do about that person:
Matthew 5:44 But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, (NKJV)
Do you love that person or feel bitterness towards them? Do you bless them with kind words asking God to deal mercifully with them? Or do you curse them and long for their misfortune?
Do you pray for them? Or do you never miss a chance to tell everyone how bad that person is? Do you offer intercession to God for their welfare, or do you seethe in resentment hoping that the Lord’s punishment will fall quickly?
I have learned one thing for sure: no matter how much I can hide my unforgiveness and bitterness from people, there is no reason to try and pretend in front of God that is doesn’t exist.
If you struggle with bitterness, unforgiveness or hate, God knows.
Better to be honest and ask for the Lord’s help,
than to pretend you aren’t guilty of it.
What’s that old saying? You can fool all people, some of the time; some people, all of the time; but not all people, all the time. Well, that’s just a bunch nonsense. There are plenty of people who can fool everyone around them pretty much all time about the hate, bitterness and unforgiveness in their heart. I think a more truthful version of that saying is:
It’s pretty easy to fool all the people, all the time;
but you can’t fool God about anything… ever.
So if you struggle with unforgiveness towards the person you are picturing in your mind, don’t try to hide it from God; He already knows. Instead, ask God for help.
Jesus commands us to do something that seems almost absurd: love your enemies, bless them and pray for them. Think of the person you are picturing…. can you do this for them? Can I? Not in my own strength. I have to pray and admit to God that I don’t feel like it, that I cannot do it and feel sincere about it, nor can I do it and enjoy it.
But I don’t remember feelings, sincerity or pleasantness being mentioned by Jesus as an option concerning his commandments. He didn’t say “love your enemies if you feel like you can”; or “pray for those who mistreat you if you can pray and really mean it”. Jesus is fully human. He was horribly persecuted. He knows how it feels.
He commands us to love our enemies because it demonstrates God’s power in our life. He tells us to bless those who curse us because it glorifies Christ to do so. He instructs us to pray for our enemies because the same Holy Spirit that indwells us longs to draw the soul of the person you are struggling about. To do these things glorifies God because:
Satan returns evil for good.
Humans return good for good.
Only God returns good for evil.
I didn’t think that up, I’m not nearly that smart. I don’t remember where I read it, but it has stuck with me. Think about it. You are glorifying God when you love your enemy. You are glorifying man when you love those who love you. You glorify Satan when you despise those who love you.
Satan is the father of lies and is purely wicked. He always repays goodness with evil. To repay good with evil is to honor Satan.
Humans sometimes repay good with evil too, but this is not typical behavior. What is typical of mankind is to repay good for good, kindness for kindness. Someone does something nice for you, you have no trouble doing something nice for them. The reverse is also generally true… someone hurts you, it’s “okay” to give them a dose of their own medicine.
Only God repays evil with good. The ultimate example of that of course is God giving His only Son to save a wicked and evil human race. So why has the Lord commanded us to do these things?
- Because praying for your enemy is not “normal”, and it draws attention to God when we do it.
- Because blessing those who curse you is the opposite of what we feel like doing, and it opens the door to telling people about God.
- Because praying for those who persecute creates a natural curiosity about “how” you can do that which leads to telling people about Jesus.
There are also many benefits to us personally:
- We enjoy the benefits of a clear conscience
- We enjoy the blessings of obedience
- We enjoy a release of our hate and unforgiveness
- We avoid bitterness that can rot our heart
- We enjoy greater opportunity to share Christ
- We enjoy a more real and tangible Christian witness
- We enjoy the peace of God that surpasses all understanding
- We can live in happiness despite our circumstances
- We develop a greater compassion for all people when we can love those who deserve our hate
- We open ourselves to a greater spiritual fulness from God
- We can identify with the person of Jesus Christ who was our ultimate example of loving the enemy
- You will inherit a blessing (1Pet 3.9)
- You learn to be even more forgiving each time you practice forgiveness
- When you give forgiveness, you get forgiveness (Mark 11.25-26)
- When you are kind to the wicked, it convicts them (Rom 12.17-21)
- You will receive great reward from God (Luke 6.35)
- If you don’t forgive, you risk punishment (Matthew 18:21-35)
Okay, let’s get to the down and dirty. Still got that mental picture of your enemy? Like me, you may find it hard to love them. You may find it almost humanly impossible to bless them. It may tie your stomach in a knot to utter a prayer for them… to which I have two very plain words of response:
Luke 6:27 “But I (Jesus) say to you who hear: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, (NKJV)
Our Lord, who saved us while we were still sinners; who loved us when we were unlovable; who has forgiven us exponentially more than we will ever have to forgive another human…. our Lord commands us to love our enemies, bless those who curse us and pray for those who mistreat us. So let’s get busy doing it.
If you don’t feel like it, ask for God’s help. If you think you are incapable, ask God for strength. If you literally can’t begin to form the words in your mouth, ask God for the power to begin. God doesn’t command us to do something that He won’t give us the power to accomplish. If you will but ask God for help, then He will give you what you need to obey His commands.
Picture that person. Ask God to give you love for them. Picture that person. Pronounce a blessing from God on them. Picture that person. Offer a prayer for them that God will show them the same love that He showed You.
There you did it. THAT… is serious faith!
Lord God, Help us to love those we can’t bring ourselves to love. Help us to bless them and pray for them. We don’t have it in ourselves to do this, we need Your grace. In Jesus Name, Amen.
Contemplation: Do you have a person(s) you know deep down that you would rather gouge your eyes out that have to love them, bless them and pray for them? Are you that person for someone else? Have you ever just obeyed God even when you didn’t feel like it?
Application: Obey God. Feelings will follow. Stop right now. Ask God, “Lord, I don’t have it in me to love this person but you can give me love for them”. Speak a blessing on that person, ask God to bless them. Now try to see them the way God sees them, and pray for them in a way that glorifies God. Obey God. Feelings will follow.
James 1:22 – But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. (NKJV)
- What is the most obvious Bible truth you have learned today?
- What change in your life needs to be made concerning this truth?
- What specific thing will you do today to begin that change?