The Old Testament Law was very specific when it came to personal injuries. Exodus 21:23-24 says, “But if there’s serious injury, you are to take life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, bruise for bruise.” And Leviticus 24:19-20 went on to direct, “If anyone injures his neighbor, whatever he has done must be done to him: fracture for fracture, eye for eye, tooth for tooth. As he has injured the other, so he is to be injured.” So when Jesus spoke these words of passive resistance and tolerance rather than retaliation and revenge…it turned these Old Testament Laws on their heads. Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace, came to earth declaring a message of love and harmony with our fellow man…and not of repaying evil for evil. (Romans 12:17 & I Peter 3:9)
The kind of love spoken about here is Philadelphia, or brotherly love…a Christian love, one to another, born out of a common spiritual life. But let’s admit it…some fellow Christians are just plain hard to love! They rub us the wrong way, are argumentative, and are always seeing the glass half empty sort of people. But the Scripture here calls us to keep on loving, despite how we feel. By simply asking the Lord to see them through His eyes may give us insight into the why…but for many times, it will have to be our attitude that changes not theirs.
We are to continue to love one another as family, even when the family unit becomes dysfunctional. For we can choose our friends, but we’re born into a family…and family last forever. So, regardless how messy it may get, as Christians, we’re to love each other with a brotherly love out of the common bond of Jesus Christ. Because the commonality we have with each other is far stronger than any friction.
The word that stands out in this Scripture to me is the word always…repeated four times in this short sentence. So, what does always really mean? Well, according to Webster, it means, at all times. Thus, this verse shows us what true unselfish love should look like. It’s the type of love that is constantly looking for the good in people…believing in and expecting for the very best. It’s a love that will bear up under a load of misery, adversity, persecution, and provocation with faith, hope, and a smile…thinking of others first. And just like the love of Christ, unselfish love never fails, and never gives up on others.
Later in the Bible, the Apostle Paul admonished the Church in Philippi to, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.” (Philippians 2:3) This has to be one of the toughest things to do given mankind’s self-centered, egotistic nature. Instead of seeking out our own 15 minutes of fame, we need to be trying to outdo one another in showing honor. Rather than demanding respect, we need to be recognizing others and praising them for important work they’re doing. Vanity looks for fame and glory, while humility moves “self” off the throne as we esteem others.
In your life time, you’ll only be able to count on one hand the same kind of friendship that David and Jonathan had. Their relationship was extraordinary, amazing and unique…and much closer than being biological brothers. When you have such an intimate friendship with someone, it doesn’t matter the space of time or distance, the friendship still endures . If you haven’t connected recently with this friend…don’t you think it would be a wonderful time to do so?
You can’t change how others in the world will react and behave towards you. The only thing you can change is how you respond…and this scripture is very direct in how you should go about it. You should love. Not loving the sin, but loving the sinner. You should bless. This means speaking well of someone even if you don’t agree with their life-style. You should pray. Now this is probably the most important command… for pray changes not only the person you’re praying for, but it changes you.
Your Christian walk starts out on a Christ-shaped foundation…grounded in His Word…built on the solid rock of His love for you. But then starts the journey all Believers must make towards maturity. This scripture shows the progression from baby Christian to deeply rooted saint. Like a house being built on a stable foundation, each moral quality is stacked on top of the next…teaching, disciplining, and encouraging as we go. And in the end, a perfectly built structure will stand before our God.
The world view of love is selfish…it focuses on greed, ambition, self-glory, and what I can get out of. In contrast, God’s love – agape love – is unconditional. It’s not depended on what you can do for me, or what I can get from you. Agape love can not be offended, it will never retaliate, it will never stop loving…for agape love is a decision, not a feeling.
Christian love…brotherly love…love for each other. In this fast pace, hectic world we sure could use more of it. In our daily grind, we too often forget that the person behind the checkout, or assisting us with a purchase is also a fellow brother in Christ, and deserving of our love and respect. Practicing brotherly love takes just that…practice. And it takes practicing it in mundane places that makes the most impact for the Lord.