But I say to you who hear, love your enemies. Do good to those who hate you…. (Luke 6:27ff)
From time to time, all disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ will have it hard. Things will not go right, someone will falsely accuse you, you will be victimized by those who oppose what you stand for, that sort of thing.
In many countries of the world, the opposition believers face will not be nearly that subtle, but open persecution. In fact, surely a third of the governments of this world are repressive regimes in which a religion hostile to Jesus Christ is in control. Martyrdom for Jesus Christ did not go away with the printing of the New Testament; it’s a common occurrence throughout the world.
In America, the opposition to Christ tends to take quieter forms. A neighbor curses you out over nothing. An atheistic neighbor accuses you of being the problem in your community. Liberal unbelieving critics place you on a par with Islamic terrorists simply for believing the Bible.
They go to court to stop you from buying a piece of property for a church. They erect billboards with the John Lennon line, “Imagine no religions,” and this in a city which was fairly well rebuilt after Hurricane Katrina by Christians.
They hate you. They drop their beer cans on your lawn. They discriminate against your children because they are home-schooled by a Christian mother.
All of these and more.
And what are you to do? You are to love them and bless them, to pray for them and do good acts to them. You are to rejoice when you suffer for Jesus’ sake and to count yourself blessed. (The biblical teachings for this are found in Matthew 5:43-48, in Luke 6:27-42, and several other places. The Lord has not left us in the dark on this.)
Why? Why should you do this when everything inside you cries out to do unto them as they did to you?
Here are the 12 things that happen when a Christian turns the other cheek and loves the enemy, when he blesses those who curse him, when she prays for those who mistreats her, and when we give to those who would forcibly take what is ours.
Because of the Lord….
God is honored.
Christ is pleased.
The Holy Spirit is able to do whatever He planned to do in this situation.
Because of the enemy….
The devil is infuriated. He “just knew” that you would retaliate in the flesh. Instead, you are acting in love.
The enemy–those doing bad things to you–is puzzled. You are not doing what they expected.
The church’s critics are silenced.
Because of the church….
The church is edified and strengthened.
Christians in similar circumstances see what you are doing and are encouraged and instructed.
Outsiders are drawn to Jesus. Finally, they’re seeing someone act like Him!
Because of yourself…
You yourself are blessed.
Your anger goes away.
Your reward in Heaven is great (Luke 6:35)
A prayer that we will get this right…
Father, we thank you for the privilege of suffering for Jesus’ sake. Most of us never thought we would be called on for this incredible honor. Oh, please help us to do it right. This means you are up to something.
We know from Scripture that times of persecution of God’s people were when You did your best work, reaped the greatest harvests, gave Satan the biggest black eye.
And so, as we love those who do us wrong, as we do good to those who hate us, pray for those who mistreat us, and give to those who would take from us, we pray that all these things shall come true….
That the Father will be glorified,
The Son will be pleased with how we’re doing this,
And that the Holy Spirit will be liberated for His own purposes.
We pray that–
The devil will be infuriated; this was not what he had anticipated;
The enemies–the perpetrators–will be puzzled; we did not react according to their plan;
And that the critics of the church will be silenced when they cannot point out our hypocrisies.
We ask you that–
The church will be strengthened and blessed by our actions,
That church members who are also suffering will be encouraged to be faithful,
And that outsiders who are watching all this will find themselves drawn by Thy Spirit to know more about Jesus.
Finally, we pray that–
We will be blessed by Thee,
That the anger we originally felt would dissolve,
and as Jesus promised in Luke 6:35, our reward in heaven will be great,
Be glorified in us in all these things. We pray in the wonderful name of Jesus,