Matthew 5:38-42 (Message)
“Here’s another old saying that deserves a second look: ‘Eye for eye, tooth for tooth.’ Is that going to get us anywhere? Here’s what I propose: ‘Don’t hit back at all.’ If someone strikes you, stand there and take it. If someone drags you into court and sues for the shirt off your back, giftwrap your best coat and make a present of it. And if someone takes unfair advantage of you, use the occasion to practice the servant life. No more tit-for-tat stuff. Live generously.”
Forgiveness is one of the most humbling positions to take in the world in which we live. It takes us from a place of brokenness and vulnerability to a more compromised position according to mankind’s reasoning but according to God’s Word it is Jesus’ mandate of love. To live generously, giving to the poor and caring for widows and orphans as also instructed by God is futile if not closely associated with love. Without a relationship, it is called religion. “If someone drags you into court and sues for the shirt off your back, giftwrap your best coat and make a present of it.” There is no such thing as forced forgiveness. It is a gift which cannot be wrestled away or taken ruthlessly or it is not a present at all. Life is unfair on all accounts. Society is completely overtaken by injustice. The only hope that anyone has of a better life is the mercy and love found in the Grace of God through Jesus Christ, His Amazing Gift of forgiveness for the unthinkable rebellion and heinous acts that have been perpetrated against His Perfection is a travesty covered sufficiently by the Blood of Christ that allows repentance and redemption. As Jesus shared this message, I am sure that He saw my face and maybe yours, too. There are people who I struggle to forgive withholding my love and generosity of spirit because pride and fear have bound forgiveness up with a root called bitterness. To break EVERY stronghold in our life requires careful inspection of EVERY area of our life leaving nothing to change but anchoring our existence in that which is eternal – Faith, Hope and Love.
Matthew 5:43-47 (Message)
”You’re familiar with the old written law, ‘Love your friend,’ and its unwritten companion, ‘Hate your enemy.’ I’m challenging that. I’m telling you to love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer, for then you are working out of your true selves, your God-created selves. This is what God does. He gives his best—the sun to warm and the rain to nourish—to everyone, regardless: the good and bad, the nice and nasty. If all you do is love the lovable, do you expect a bonus? Anybody can do that. If you simply say hello to those who greet you, do you expect a medal? Any run-of-the-mill sinner does that.”
Since I am already meddling, why stop now? The Love of Jesus challenges the boundary between love and hate. He expects us to love our friends AND enemies, too! This is all too much. Those people who aggravate, agitate and attack us are to bring out the best in us and not the worst. Lord, help me. Does He know the people I deal with at work? Cut me off in traffic? Betrayed me? Turned against me? Tried to harm me personally and professionally? Heard the horrible things they say about me? Jesus do you know those people? Yes, and He died on the Cross for their sins, too. When He looks at them, the same love that He has for you overwhelms Him. They are brothers and sisters who have lost their way. I know that is hard to imagine Heaven big enough to include those you cannot seem to avoid in this life, but the truth is that the Blood of Jesus that has cleansing power can change your enemies into friends even if you are never closely related on the earth. The transforming power of Jesus Christ allows us to turn the other cheek again and again. To live generously requires it. To experience the abundance of His Love makes it a necessity. What is holding you back from loving others freely? If Jesus did it, why can’t I? Why do we struggle to offer forgiveness?
Matthew 5:48 (Message)
“In a word, what I’m saying is, Grow up. You’re kingdom subjects. Now live like it. Live out your God-created identity. Live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward you.”
The prodigal son forgot who he was when he found himself face down in the pig pen eating slop. Completely humbled, he returned to his father who never forgot him. Jesus feels the same way about you. We have all turned away from the Lord but like the brother who never left home sometimes allow pride to overtake our love for other people. His faithful brother did not glory in his return but became jealous at the rejoicing. His father feared the boy was dead and gone forever, but the brother did not care as a bitter root of pride choked out his love for his brother. We often feel the same way. Pride builds an altar to self that elevates us past the Love of Jesus that saved us and set us free. To put it in plain terms – we forget who we are and where we came from. The Lord sums up His Instructions with this – Grow Up! We belong to the Kingdom of God and should not worry over such trivial matters as what others do to harm us. (2 Timothy 2:3-5) We have overcome the world thanks to Jesus Christ and it is high time that believers live like it. (John 16:33) No more arguing, fighting, suing, challenging, opposing, backbiting, and tearing down one another which is a fear response. Those who are mature and live by faith do not concern themselves with small, unimportant things. They have a higher calling to fulfill which is a mandate of love sent straight from Jesus Christ. (Philippians 3:13-14) “Dear brothers and sisters, don’t be childish in your understanding of these things. Be innocent as babies when it comes to evil, but be mature in understanding matters of this kind.” (I Corinthians 14:20)
Philippians 3:7-9 (Message)
The very credentials these people are waving around as something special, I’m tearing up and throwing out with the trash—along with everything else I used to take credit for. And why? Because of Christ. Yes, all the things I once thought were so important are gone from my life. Compared to the high privilege of knowing Christ Jesus as my Master, firsthand, everything I once thought I had going for me is insignificant—dog dung. I’ve dumped it all in the trash so that I could embrace Christ and be embraced by him. I didn’t want some petty, inferior brand of righteousness that comes from keeping a list of rules when I could get the robust kind that comes from trusting Christ—God’s righteousness.
To live generously means that we must give our life away and accept the new existence offered by Jesus Christ. It is a completely new identity nothing like the old man (or woman) that lived before. Salvation is the beginning of the journey to Eternal Life which is the ultimate reward that we are after as Children of God. We are traveling through this life to make it home. There is only One Way – His Name is Jesus. The Highway of Holiness is paved in love. You cannot get into the Kingdom of God unless you walk in love. Our passionate pursuit becomes that of Jesus Christ as we become His Followers leaving all past pursuits to the wayside. You cannot have the best of both worlds because you must travel in opposite directions to reach them. A choice must be made will I chase after the Kingdom of God and all its blessings or sell my soul to this world giving into selfish desires and worldly success that most often come at the expense of another. No one has to pay the price for our prosperity in Heaven because Jesus already did. We must simply live by faith to receive it which begins by believing it is worth having. Good people are not guaranteed eternity, but God’s People are. You don’t have to be perfect just forgiven. You cannot be pride-full but faith-full and forgiving. Righteousness is not about religion or serving the Law it is about following Jesus Christ and serving God out of a deep abiding love. The closer we come to God the more humbled we are. You cannot live in the Presence of God standing on your feet but rather remaining on your knees. God is that good. He is that perfect. His Love is that overwhelming but you must live generously to receive it.
Hebrews 12:14-17 (Message)
Work at getting along with each other and with God. Otherwise you’ll never get so much as a glimpse of God. Make sure no one gets left out of God’s generosity. Keep a sharp eye out for weeds of bitter discontent. A thistle or two gone to seed can ruin a whole garden in no time. Watch out for the Esau syndrome: trading away God’s lifelong gift in order to satisfy a short-term appetite. You well know how Esau later regretted that impulsive act and wanted God’s blessing—but by then it was too late, tears or no tears.
The greatest stumbling block for new believers are so-called Christians. Work at getting along with each other AND with God. There is a definite connection between how we treat other people that affects our proximity to God. You cannot go any deeper in knowledge and understanding of His Will and His Way if you are overridden with envy that is a bitter root. Bitter discontentment is a slap in the face to Jesus Christ. He died so that you could have abundant life. There is enough to go around. Our warring with others is a true reflection of doubt and fear that rule in our heart. It means that the Lord did not provide sufficient grace and prosperity for all His People so we must fight for it. Nothing could be further from the truth. Each person comes with a plan wrapped up and tied with a bow called future and hope. It is comprised of God’s Provision, Promises and Prosperity for your life found by living as a Child of God. If we would work a little harder following the footsteps of Jesus Christ rather than casting bitter seeds of discontentment that cause us to chase after others, then maybe we could experience the Kingdom Life available to God’s Children who have been given the Keys to His Kingdom. We are fighting for what does not belong to us when everything we need is waiting in His Presence. God’s Generosity is big enough to go around – this inheritance provides for everyone He created. Stop fighting for what does not belong to you which cultivates unforgiveness and choose to plant seeds of faith that spring up to become confident hope that allows us to wait for God’s Very Best!
John 13:34-35 (Message)
“Let me give you a new command: Love one another. In the same way I loved you, you love one another. This is how everyone will recognize that you are my disciples—when they see the love you have for each other.”
Jesus asked but one thing that we love one another. Not like the world loves people and throws them out when they are no longer useful, but a deep committed love that is unconditional. It really doesn’t matter how people treat us – look at what they did to the One who came to save them. People will recognize followers of Jesus Christ not by fancy words, a Gospel script, or a long list of good deeds. They will be identified as those who loved people. Really loved them, putting aside their own selfish desires to pursue a right relationship with God by right relationships with others. What kind of relationship are we after?
John 10:14-18 (Message)
“I am the Good Shepherd. I know my own sheep and my own sheep know me. In the same way, the Father knows me and I know the Father. I put the sheep before myself, sacrificing myself if necessary. You need to know that I have other sheep in addition to those in this pen. I need to gather and bring them, too. They’ll also recognize my voice. Then it will be one flock, one Shepherd. This is why the Father loves me: because I freely lay down my life. And so I am free to take it up again. No one takes it from me. I lay it down of my own free will. I have the right to lay it down; I also have the right to take it up again. I received this authority personally from my Father.”
We must freely lay down our life. If you truly believe in the Love and Grace of God concerning you then you have nothing to lose and everything to gain in such a position. See you cannot take your life back until you lay it down. Think about it. I cannot pick up something with my hand if it is holding on to something else. What is keeping you from prosperity today may be something that you are holding on to like bitterness and unforgiveness but if you lay it down then you can have all that God has promised? He is not withholding anything from you. You may just be hanging on to something else instead. To lay down one’s life requires the greatest love and trust every known. We must believe that the One who promised is faithful and He is!
John 15:11-15 (Message)
“I’ve told you these things for a purpose: that my joy might be your joy, and your joy wholly mature. This is my command: Love one another the way I loved you. This is the very best way to love. Put your life on the line for your friends. You are my friends when you do the things I command you. I’m no longer calling you servants because servants don’t understand what their master is thinking and planning. No, I’ve named you friends because I’ve let you in on everything I’ve heard from the Father.”
Want to be a true Friend of God? Like Abraham, it will require righteousness which is right-standing with God. We have been told to “love one another” and not just our friends but enemies, too. Put your life on the line for your friends (who may just be disguised as enemies). A little love and whole lot of forgiveness will change enemies to friends. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain by releasing bitter discontentment to be filed with the Joy of the Lord that comes when we mature (grow up) in Jesus Christ. It’s like taking candy from a baby to offer them something more substantial. Those who stop serving the Law and live by love will become friends with God through Jesus Christ. You will know all His Secrets. You will live generously as He gives it back shaken down, pressed together and running over in your life! (Luke 6:38) Now if you will excuse me, it is time to for me to go make friends and live generously!
Psalm 73:21-24 (Message)
When I was beleaguered and bitter, totally consumed by envy, I was totally ignorant, a dumb ox in your very presence. I’m still in your presence, but you’ve taken my hand. You wisely and tenderly lead me and then you bless me.