Offer Them Christ
The Weblog Of J.F. Howard

How To Love The Unloving

Matthew 5:43-48

43 “You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbor’ and hate your enemy. 44 But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! 45 In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike. 46 If you love only those who love you, what reward is there for that? Even corrupt tax collectors do that much. 47 If you are kind only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else? Even pagans do that. 48 But you are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect.

 

 

            Do you have an iPhone?

            I don’t, but there are times when I see them that I have struggles with the temptation to covet.

            One of the interesting features about iPhones are the endless array of applications that can be put on your phone. For example, you can get a Pizza Hut app that allows you to order Pizza Hut pizzas online. One of my boys saw a commercial for that and asked, “Couldn’t you just use your iPhone to call up Pizza Hut and order a pizza?”

            But I digress…

            One of the applications you can download to your iPhone is called Pocket God.

            Have you heard about Pocket God? It’s one of the top-selling video game applications for Apple’s iPhone. Here’s the way the game is described on iTunes:

            What kind of god would you be? Benevolent or vengeful? Play Pocket God and discover the answer within yourself. On a remote island, you are the all-powerful god that rules over the primitive islanders. You can bring new life, and then take it away just as quickly.

            The application allows you the option to play games with the islanders that include

throwing islanders into volcanoes,

using islanders as shark bait,

bowling for islanders with a large rock, or

creating earthquakes to destroy the islanders’ villages.

            It sounds like the creators of Pocket God think participants will only want to play the role of a vengeful God?

            Does that also mean they think that a vengeful God is the only kind of God participants can picture in their minds?

 

            If you could be God, what type of God would you be?

            Would you be “benevolent or vengeful?”

 

            It is a good thing that none of us are God, because we all have to fight the tendency for vengeance, retribution, and unforgiveness at times in our lives.

 

            Max Lucado writes in his book The Applause Of Heaven about a big, muscle-bound man named Daniel who was swindled by his own brother. He vowed that if he ever saw him again, he would break his neck. A few months later, Daniel became a Christian. Even so, he couldn’t forgive his brother.

            One day, the inevitable encounter took place on a busy avenue.      This is how Daniel described what happened:

            I saw him, but he didn’t see me. I felt my fists clench and my face get hot. My initial impulse was to grab him around the throat and choke the life out of him. But as I looked into his face, my anger began to melt. For as I saw him, I saw the image of my father. I saw my father’s eyes. I saw my father’s look. I saw my father’s expression. And as I saw my father in his face, my enemy once again became my brother.

            Sure enough, the brother did find himself wrapped in those big arms—but it was a hug and not a choke. The two just stood there in the middle of that river of people, held each other, and wept tears of forgiveness.

            Daniel’s words deserve a second hearing: “When I saw the image of my father in his face, my enemy became my brother.”

            Christianity at its root, is about Jesus Christ so radically transforming humanity that it is possible for enemies to become family, and even the most hurtful of wounds, to be healed and forgiven.

            Have you ever thought about all the people in your life who keep you from getting what you want, or doing what you want to do? How do you feel about those people?

            Do they frustrate you?

            Do they make you angry?

            Do you feel like they oppose you?

            In civilized America, we have a hard time admitting it, but don’t you feel like they are your enemies…they are not on your side, they are working against you.

            Your life would be better if they were not in it, wouldn’t it?

            I was reading an article on the problems in the Middle East this week and I came across this quote:

            “Peace, as Augustine said, is what we were made for and what we (normally) yearn for. But we do have a strand within human nature that licks its chops at the prospect of our enemy’s destruction, even if it results in our own destruction as well.”

            Dallas Willard wrote in his book Divine Conspiracy:

 “Few of us manage to go through life without collection a group of individuals who would not be sorry to learn we have diedBy far most of the people who have lived on earth have been confronted with certain kinds of other people—other “tribes”—who would gladly kill them.”

            It should be no surprise to you, but Jesus has another way for human beings to exist.

            In fact, while Jesus does not deny the reality of enemies—people we just do not want to be around in our lives…or who want to be around us—Jesus proposes a radical way to deal with them…turn them into friends with love.

            Let’s look at what Jesus says from the Sermon on the Mount in the Gospel of Matthew:

1) Love is not meant for those who deserve it, but for those who need it (Matthew 5:43-44).

43 “You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbor’ and hate your enemy. 44 But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you!

            When do we need love the most…when we are out our most lovable or least lovable?

            When do we need prayer the most, when we are at our best or at our worst?

            Jesus says, “Love people when they are least lovable and need love most. Pray for people when they are at their worst and need prayer most.”

 

            There is a story told about a mother who came to Napoleon on behalf of her son, who was about to be executed. The mother asked the ruler to issue a pardon, but Napoleon pointed out that it was the man’s second offense and justice demanded death.

            “I don’t ask for justice,” the woman replied. “I plead for mercy.”

            The emperor objected, “But your son doesn’t deserve mercy.”

            “Sir,” the mother replied, “it would not be mercy if he deserved it, and mercy is all I ask.”

            Her son was granted the pardon.

            When we love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us, what we are doing, is seeking their best interests in life—it’s not what they deserve, but it is what they need.

            Unloving people do not deserve love, but it is love that they need.

            Now look at a second thought:

2) Loving those who are unloving is a reflection of God’s love in me (Matthew 5:45-47.

45 In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike. 46 If you love only those who love you, what reward is there for that? Even corrupt tax collectors do that much. 47 If you are kind only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else? Even pagans do that.

            Do you see why Jesus tells us to “love enemies and pray for them”?

            Jesus says in this way we take on the nature of our Heavenly Father.

            Do you know what Jesus is saying to us by that? What does it mean for us to be children of our Heavenly Father?

            It means we are to love like God loves.

            How does God love?

            Our Father in Heaven is not partial or particular in who He shows love to.

            God shines His love like the sun on all people with no discrimination.

            God showers His love like rain on all people with no distinction.

            God loves all people, those who love God, and those who don’t; those who go to church and those who don’t; those who follow Jesus Christ and those who don’t.

            Jesus gives a specific example of God’s love. Have you ever noticed how God sends the rain upon believers in God and atheists? When it rains, it rains on Methodists, Baptists, Catholics, agnostics, cynics, and unbelievers…all the same.

            When the sun rises each day, it rises to shine on those who love God and praise God, and on those who don’t give God a passing thought.

            Jesus wants us to understand that God’s love is for all people—not just for people who deserve to be loved.

            Jesus helps us to understand that the children of God are to love in the same way as God the Father does—indiscriminately—and not just to love those who love us.

            When we ask the question, “Why am I commanded to love enemies?” Jesus would say:

            “Because that will mark my followers as different, with hearts and minds turned over to God alone, who can help them do just that.”

            Jesus says, “It is easy to love our neighbor and hate our enemies” but I am calling My followers to live differently from the rest of world.

            “If you follow Me,” Jesus says, “you will transform the world, not just go along with it.”

            Listen to Dallas Willard on this:

            “Jesus does not call us to do what He did, but to be as he was, permeated with love. Then the doing of what he did and said becomes the natural expression of who we are in him.”

            Finally, think about this:

3) I am the most whole when I love those who are the most broken (Matthew 5:48).

48 But you are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect.

            You’ve often heard the saying, “Nobody’s perfect, right?”

            But Jesus commands us to “be perfect just as our heavenly Father is perfect.”

            In you follow the sequence of Jesus’ teaching in this passage, it logically sounds like Jesus is defining “perfection” in this life as the ability to love all people, even those who do not love you.”

            John Wesley taught Methodists that we were to “go on to perfection.” By that he meant we were to have our hearts filled with love for God and for our neighbor.”

            Jesus defined “neighbor” as any person we encounter in our lives.

            We are to love others, as completely as God loves us.

            Think of perfection, not as flawless or never making mistakes, but in the sense of wholeness or completeness. We are commanded by Jesus, to work toward wholeness—in our own lives, and in the lives of other people—especially people who are the most broken.
            Jesus has a set of higher expectations on those of us who are His followers.
            We are told to be perfect, in the sense of whole, and the way we become whole is by love—love for God, and love for others.

            It is the sense of wholeness—we are to be all that God has called us to be—that is best experienced when we have the ability to love our neighbor, even if our neighbor does not deserve our love.

            In 1976 when Muhammad Ali was getting ready to defend the heavyweight title against Jean Pierre Coopman of Belgium. Now these two guys were supposed to step into a boxing ring and punch each other for 15 rounds. To do something like you have to develop a certain level of ill will toward the opponent.

            It was obvious from the first press conference that Jean Pierre Coopman was a big fan of Muhammad Ali. Instead of the usual tough words and stare down for the cameras, Coopman kept hugging Ali and kissing his hand and asking for autographs.
            Finally Ali said “How am I supposed to get myself mad enough to fight this guy if he keeps hugging me and kissing me? He’s taking all the fight out of me!”
            That’s exactly what Jesus wants us to do! He wants us to love our enemies so much that it takes the fight out of them! Romans 12:21 says “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

            When Jesus went to the cross, he did so to take all of the fight, the bitterness, and the brokenness, out of this world, one transformed person and relationship, at a time.

            Do you really think what Jesus is teaching works?

            Would you be willing to give it a try in order to find out?

            Take a moment and think of the most unloving person you know.

            Would you be willing for the next seven days, to put the words of Jesus into practice, and to love this unlovable person, and to pray God’s best in the life of this person?

            For seven days, make up your mind that you will treat this person with love, no matter how they act in response.

            Why should we do this?

            Because Jesus teaches that love is not for those who deserve it, but for those who need. And who needs love more than the unloving?

            Why should we do this?

            Because when we love others we are the most like children of our Heavenly Father.

            Why should we do this?

            Because when we love the unloving we help the broken to become whole, and we find our own brokenness made whole as well!

            Why should we do this?

            Because Jesus said this is the way to transform the world…one person, and one relationship at a time.

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2 Responses to “How To Love The Unloving”

  1. thank you :D…

    […]How To Love The Unloving « Offer Them Christ[…]…

  2. fantastic post! thank you!


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