Jesus taught some very counterintuitive things, to be sure. But I cannot think of anything more counterintuitive and more difficult to actually do than this truth from Our Lord’s Sermon on the Mount:
I say unto you, love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.
(Matthew 5:44 KJV)
I want you to consider some of the responses you have made to others lately. Are your responses in line with these words of our Redeemer? I think we would be hard pressed to find any more “out-of-this-world” responses than what Jesus commands here.
- When was the last time you blessed those that curse you?
- When was the last time you did good to those that hated you?
- When was the last time you prayed for those who despitefully used and persecuted you?
Returning good for evil is just not natural! The devil returns evil for good, and that is the way he would like everyone in the world to behave. But the child of God is to return good for evil, which, quite simply, is a response that is not of this world!
As hard as this instruction seems to be to follow, when we keep in view the One who has given it to us, it empowers us to actually live it out. No one ever received more evil for good than our Lord Jesus Christ. Never did our Lord sin—not once—and yet we scourged Him and spit on Him and nailed Him to a cross. Even on the night He was to be betrayed, He washed the feet of all of His disciples, knowing exactly what they would do that night: Judas would betray Him for thirty pieces of silver; Peter would deny Him to a servant girl three times; all the disciples would run from Him like men fleeing a burning building (Mark 14:50-52). And what did Jesus return for such evil? He gave love, forgiveness, and a cosmic compassion that went to a cross to pay the penalty for their sins . . . and yours and mine also, if we will but trust in His atoning work on our behalf.
So . . . the next time someone denies you or attacks you or betrays you, how will you respond? Remember, you can’t control how people will treat you, but you can control your response to their treatment. As Dr. Charles Swindoll famously said, “Life is ten percent what happens to us and 90% what we make of it.” You always have the choice in this life to return evil for evil . . . or to offer good for evil. The first response is the natural condition of fallen man; the second is the condition of the new man who has been raised from death to life by the mercy and grace of God. Which are you?
You can make an out-of-this-world response if you remember the One who always returned good for evil and who one day will call you out of this world and into His glorious eternal kingdom in the new heavens and the new earth.
This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!