WIN BY LOSING
LIFE Devotions–Wed. Mar. 2
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and
hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray
for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of
your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and
the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.
–Mathew. 5:43-45 [NIV]
Many think Jesus implies that the Old Testament encourages hatred against our enemies in His sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5. Nothing could be further from the truth. The Old Testament is God’s perfect law and it is holy. It reflects His compassion and justice, without compromising either.
Exodus 23:4-5 says for example that if you come upon your enemy’s ox that has strayed away, you must take it back to him. If you see the donkey of someone who hates you fallen down under its load, you must not walk away but stop and help. Proverbs 25:21 says that if your enemy is hungry, you should give him bread to eat. And if he is thirsty, you should give him water to drink. Pro 24:17 declares that when our enemy falls and stumbles, our hearts should not be glad. God’s Word is clear. We can’t turn away from providing for our enemies in need and not even feel relief when they are in trouble. We should in fact do all we can to bring them the free salvation our Heavenly Father provides.
So when Jesus said, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy,’” he was never suggesting there was a time when God encouraged such behavior. God is the same yesterday, today, and forever, and His character never changes through time. Jesus was referring to the twisted teachings people were hearing from the Scribes and Pharisees of the day. They were perverting God’s holy counsel. In order to justify their hatred against those who attacked them or even those they could not control, they taught as law what God never taught. A very dirty thing to do. To clear one’s conscience from sin at the expense of God’s Holy word.
Looking carefully at the context of Matthew 5, Jesus prepares his statement on verse 43 by saying, “…anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:19a). This is precisely what the religious leaders were doing. In the eyes of people they looked strong and invincible as they retaliated against others. In the eyes of God they were pitiful cowards. Jesus sets the record straight and reaffirms the heart of God bravely. He chases after diabolic doctrines and makes straight the crooked laws of self seeking hearts. Jesus basically declares that the God of the Old Testament and the God of the New Testament is one and the same. He has not changed. He asserts that God’s command of loving our neighbor includes those who attack us, hurt us, and dislike us. So we must never become biased against the Old Testament, having preconceived notions about it. We must see it for what it is, God’s infallible and holy word, confirmed and affirmed by Jesus Himself.
God spoke from the cross to the whole world when His Son cried out, ‘forgive them for they don’t know what they’re doing.’ This may look like weakness to men, but it is greatness to God. His wisdom proclaims that those who live by this command and teach it, will be called great in the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 5.19b). When Jesus died, He died in weakness, but resurrected in power. From the cross God shows us that it is possible to win the battle by losing. Losing our right to get even. Losing our right to seek revenge. Yes, God’s armor helps us manage our enemies, but God’s love empowers us to overcome them forever.
– Is there a conflict in your life that could be won by losing? Humble yourself and God will come close to you (James 4:6-7).
– When you humble yourself, God gives you a generous amount of grace. Use this grace to love those who are difficult to love.