Martin, Jesus, Love and Hate

Quoteweaving-banner-art1-300x63Weaving together the quote of a famous one
and The Famous One


Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.”

Jesus said it this way in Matthew 5: 43-45: “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, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven.”


God does not want us to hate others. Period. And yet, there is a lot of hate in the world. Martin Luther King, Jr. encountered it in his day. We encounter it in ours. But the truth still remains—even those we love to hate and hate to love should be loved by us. But how do we do it?

At the Core: Forgiveness
In order to love, you must be able to forgive. In order to love your enemy, you must be very good at forgiveness. Forgiveness is vital to loving in a broken world. There are simply no perfect people to love, therefore without forgiveness, you will simply be unable to love anybody for very long, if at all. We find a clue to the importance of forgiveness from one of Jesus’ most familiar teachings. He was responding to the question, “how do we pray?” But Jesus’ answer, the Lord’s Prayer, had much to say about the importance of forgiveness. In fact, Jesus taught that it is so important that God simply will not forgive those who don’t forgive others. Why this emphasis on forgiveness?
Because un-forgiveness is an incredible burden. Here’s how it works. When someone wrongs you and you fail to forgive, you carry bitterness, resentment, anger, hurt feelings, all heavy burdens that God does not intend for you to carry. The struggle to carry these burdens, if attempted for very long, gives rise to hate. The magic ingredient that reverses this process is forgiveness.

Can we do it?
We may say, “I can’t do this!” and we’re right. That’s the whole point. Only God can forgive in every situation. So when we say, “I can’t do this!” God says, “But I can!” When we claim Christ as our Savior and make Him Lord of our lives, we receive the free gift of forgiveness that His grace provides. This is not human forgiveness, but the eternal forgiveness of God Himself. Once we have received this gift we can share it with others. All others. It never runs out. Our ability to forgive, particularly in severe cases, reveals to the world whether we have received God’s forgiveness or not.

Martin Luther King, Jr. had many opportunities to hate those that opposed him. He had countless enemies and persecutors. Yet he remembered that he had the forgiveness of His Father in heaven, and thus had what he needed to love those that opposed him and persecuted him. His Savior had commanded Him and equipped him to do so. He commands and equips us to do so as well.

 

Yes, You Heard That Right – Love Your Enemies

a-Matt 5-43 imageThe YouTruth in Matthew 5:43

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.’”

Loving enemies. Now that’s a hard one. Don’t you wish Jesus would quit teaching us to do all this hard stuff? And yet, here it is, plain and simple. So let’s see how we can pull this off.

Two shifts in perspective will be helpful:

Who is the enemy, really?

When we are dealing with enemies, it is important to understand that enemies are not who they seem to be. The Apostle Paul taught powerfully on this subject when he wrote in Ephesians 6:12:

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.

If we focus on people we may consider enemies, it is virtually impossible to love them. But if we understand that the true enemy is Satan, who has lured a person into the behavior of an enemy, then it is much easier.  This doesn’t mean that you have to put yourself in harm’s way, or that you have to consider the person a close friend. It just means that you pray for the person, extend kindness when there is a safe opportunity to do so.

What makes an enemy?

Conflict makes enemies of people. Without conflict, people cannot truly be enemies.  If your response to an “enemy’s” unkindness, is more unkindness, then you’ve made an enemy indeed. But if your response to an enemy’s mean-spirited action is forgiveness and love, the condition of conflict vaporizes. Just like it takes two to fight, it takes two to be enemies. If only one “enemy” is participating, then love can find its way into the situation, and perhaps, head off the whole enemy thing at the pass.

Jesus Is With You Always

Sometimes the promises of God bump up against circumstances or conditions that seem to erase them or render them unkept. In these cases, one of two things has happened – we have understood God’s promise within the limits of this world or we have understood God Himself within the limits of this world. In both cases we are mistaken and this causes us to miss out on so much God has for us.

“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this:  I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

Matthew 28:19-20 (NLT)


When He was crucified, they thought He was gone. They were a scared, dejected, scattered lot. And then He rose from the dead. He was back! They worshipped Him and He taught them many things. Soon after He told His disciples that He would always be with them, He left again! (see Acts 1:9) Following the coming of the Messiah was a bit of a roller coaster ride. Let’s go back through the ups and downs to get us ready to discuss our passage.

He came! (see Luke 2:1-18)

Just as the prophets foretold, the Messiah, Jesus, was born in Bethlehem. Angels announced His birth, and the news spread that the Messiah had come.

He left (see Matthew 2:13-15)

Mary and Joseph took Jesus and fled to Egypt to escape the danger of King Herod’s jealous wrath. They remained in hiding until Herod died and eventually made their way to Nazareth where Jesus grew up in obscurity in Galilee.

He came again!

About 25 years later, Jesus, now an adult, was proclaimed as the Messiah and baptized by John the Baptist. God’s voice proclaimed from heaven, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3:17) During the next three years, Jesus taught, gathered disciples, performed miracles, and established His authority as the promised Messiah. The Messianic roller coaster hit an epic high point when Jesus entered into Jerusalem to shouts of “Hosanna to the Son of David!” “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!” (Matthew 21:9)

He left again (see Matthew 27:26-50)

In just a few short days, Jesus was flogged and executed on a wooden cross as a criminal. The roller coaster hits the lowest of lows.

He came again! (see Matthew 28:1-10, Matthew 28:18-20)

Three days after being buried in a rock tomb, His followers discovered that He had risen! He was alive! It was during this period that Jesus delivered the promise that is in our passage – He would always be with them. The disciples must have thought, ‘Finally, the roller coaster ride is over.’ But, alas, it was not. Soon after Jesus made His promise. . .

He left again (see Acts 1:1-11)

Jesus was giving His disciples important instructions when all of a sudden He rose up into the sky and disappeared into a cloud. They were stunned! They just stood there, looking up, not knowing what to do or say. I’d forgive them if they were a little confused.  Jesus took His place at the right hand of God in heaven and seemingly reneged on His promise to always be with them. Jesus’ last instruction to His disciples holds the key to understanding how He was going to keep His promise. He told them to stay in Jerusalem until God sent what He had promised – the Holy Spirit.

Let’s get off the roller coaster for a minute and discuss an important concept:

The Trinity

There is only one God, the Creator of the universe. God also exists as three unique persons. The triune (three-in-one) nature of God is a hard concept to grasp. It defies the ‘either-or’ requirements of the laws of physics that prohibit three people from also being one person or vice versa. Let’s remember right off the bat that God, as the Creator, is not bound by the limits of the universe He created. We would never argue that an auto designer must be bound by the limits of the car he designed. The designer, as with God, must be outside of the limits of that which he designs by definition. Some illustrations are used to help explain how God can be three persons and still be one person. While none can completely satisfy, consider this one:

The chemical compound H2O can exist in three unique forms – solid as ice, liquid as water, and gas as water vapor. Each is fully and completely H2O yet each has its own unique characteristics. So it is with the three persons of God. Each is fully and completely God, yet each is unique in their own right – God the Father and Creator, God the Son and Redeemer, God the Holy Spirit and Helper.

So how did Jesus fulfill His promise to ‘be with you always?’ while also residing in heaven at the right hand of God? He sent His other person – the Holy Spirit.

Now back on the roller coaster. . .

He came back! (see Acts 2:1-11)

On Pentacost an amazing thing happened. The promised Holy Spirit came upon the believers waiting as instructed in Jerusalem. With the sound of a mighty wind and with the appearance of fire, the Holy Spirit settled in among them. They were instantly transformed. Jesus was with them again in the person of the Holy Spirit! They poured into the crowded streets preaching the Gospel, miraculously in the many different languages spoken by those who were there. And so it is today. Jesus is with each believer in the person of the Holy Spirit bringing along with Him, His transformative power. And it gets even better because…

He is more than just ‘with us’

When Jesus is with us, He is within us. The very person that has the power to create the universe, overcome the grave, and teach us the truth is the same person that resides within us when we make Him our Savior and Lord.

[If you’re not sure Jesus resides within you, click here and learn how to be absolutely sure. It’s too good to pass up.]

You see, Jesus is more than just an almighty bodyguard that walks with each of us, He is the very person that walks in each of us. The apostle Paul put it perfectly when he wrote, “. . . I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.” (Galatians 2:20 NIV) Jesus can never be separated from us because He resides within. It doesn’t get any better than that! So what are we to do with this Good News? Jesus tells us in this passage – tell others about Him!  Make disciples, baptize,  and teach. It’s hard work but Jesus knows we can do it – after all, He is within each of us! That’s the truth.

“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, for I am within you. Remember My three persons – baptize them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, for I am within you. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you, for I am within you. And be sure of this:  I am with you always, for I am within you, even to the end of the age.”

That’s the YouTruth – Jesus Is With You Always.

You Are the Salt and Light

Salt, light, trampling, bushel baskets, cities, hills, mockery, persecution, lies. Believe it or not, these are all pieces to a puzzle that, when properly assembled, clearly reveals this picture: God loves those of the world that have turned away from Him and He wants us to help Him get them back. (And by the way, our participation isn’t optional.)

“You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men. You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden.  Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.”

Matthew 5:13-16 (NIV)


Jesus taught that great rewards come to those who follow Him. He also taught how we could tell we were getting the ‘follow Him’ part right. His teaching on the subject contains a whole list of objects and indicators – salt, light, trampling, bushel baskets, cities, hills, mockery, persecution, lies. A proper understanding of this confusing stack of stuff reveals fundamental underlying principles. To help navigate through all of this, we’ll hijack two of Newton’s Laws of Motion (anyone remember these from science class?) and repurpose them as “YouTruth Laws of Spiritual Motion.”

Jesus taught us that once saved, we assume a vital role in a great ‘redirection project’ for the world. The bottom line: Those of the world are heading in the wrong direction. God loves them and desperately wants them to turn to Him. (It’s important to remember that those redeemed by Jesus once belonged to this group.) We are to help turn them around (see Matthew 28:19). How to do it and how to know you’re getting it right is the core of Jesus’ teaching in our passage. In it He tells us to bright and salty. Let’s start to dissect and understand His teaching by rolling out our first principle:

The First YouTruth Law of Spiritual Motion

The world, in a state of uniform motion away from God, tends to remain in that state of motion unless an external force is applied to it.

Jesus used two examples to illustrate how this spiritual law works—salt and light. The proper use of these items is akin to applying an external force, influencing and changing that to which it is applied.

Salt

Salt was used as a seasoning in biblical times as it is today. Salt was also used as a preservative. In order to change the taste of unseasoned food, salt must have flavor. In order to halt the steady decay of meats, salt must be ‘salty.’ In both uses, ‘salty salt’ makes a difference. It turns things around. It’s qualities slow decay or give bland food pizzazz. It is an external ingredient that, when applied, undoubtedly changes that which it touches.  Once salt has lost its flavor it becomes useless for either purpose. Such ‘used up’ salt was used in biblical times to cover walkways and roadways, much like gravel might be used today. Thus Jesus described it as ‘trampled by men.’

Light

In order to change darkness into ‘lightness’, a force that is fundamentally different must be applied. Simply put, light is the opposite of darkness and therefore qualifies, but when covered by a bushel basket, would lose its differentiating quality from darkness and would thus have no effect on it. Unencumbered light, as with the lights of a city upon a hill on a dark night, makes such a difference that it can be seen for miles.

We are to be like these things. We must make a difference. Our presence, words, and deeds, must be markedly different. They must, as the law states, be external. They must come, not from the world, but from God. Then, and only then, can they turn people of the world, heading in the wrong direction, around. How do we know when we’re getting it right? How do we know, when we are sufficiently ‘bright and salty’, letting God direct our actions and our testimony? Let’s look at our next principle:

The Second YouTruth Law of Spiritual Motion (see Matthew 5:11)

For every godly action, there is an opposite worldly reaction.

Many will wrongly expect the world to receive our testimony with open arms, willing acceptance, and maybe even applause and accolades. While some will embrace the message, there will always be those who don’t.  You see, the world likes the direction it is going. A life of material self-focus is very comfortable and fully acceptable to those who don’t know that God has something far greater for them. And the world will fight to protect these comfortably ways. When we follow Jesus, the world will press against us. There will be opposition at every turn. This opposition will often be unpleasant and sometimes downright nasty. People will mock us. People will tell lies about us. We will face persecution. When this happens, Jesus says to receive it with joy! Why? Because the 2nd Law instructs that we are not on the right path, we are not heading in the right direction, we are not following Jesus if we are not facing these consequences. If we are not facing opposition, we are not on the path to the great reward Jesus promises! It is Jesus’ great reward, and only Jesus’ great reward, that can bring us true joy. As it turns out, mockery, lies, and persecution are exactly the assurance we are looking for. And the world unwittingly provides it.

Jesus was no passive teacher on this point. (see Hebrews 12:1-3) He led by example. He died a shameful, agonizing death on the cross because of the joy He knew would be His for having done so. There are many other examples of faithful people that faced worldly opposition too. Prophets, apostles, and countless others who were simple, average folks like us, were beaten, ostracized, even killed. These predecessors form a ‘great cloud of witnesses’ that surround us everywhere, every minute of every day, especially when we are facing opposition ourselves. They remind us of the joy of the prize and to not lose hope or grow weary (see Hebrews 11:1 – 12:1). That’s the truth.

You are the salt of the earth. So you are called to be salty! You are the light of the world. So you are called to let your light shine! You are called to be the external force that turns the direction of the world around. You will face opposition. When you do, receive it with all joy! It is the assurance that you are on the road to great reward in heaven!

 That’s the YouTruth – You Are the Salt and Light.