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)
Paul’s letter to the Church in Thessalonica encouraged them to love each other by following the example of Jesus. For the past year we have been part of a brand new Church plant…bringing people together from several Churches to form a new one. And today was our second service, with many new faces among us. So as I look at this verse, I’m reminded that for the past six months we’ve bonded together as a small group, but now the time has come that we must turn ourselves from our tight circle to welcome those coming in through the doors. For the agape love of Jesus can only be demonstrated by His Believers when we love others. And we can only be His hands and feet when our caring shows.
Maybe you were the child that all your parents had to do was look at you sternly and you stopped misbehaving. Or maybe it took much more effort from your parents before it finally sunk in that what you were doing was wrong. Parents correct their children out of the love they have for them, not because they want to be mean, but because they want only the best for them. Our Heavenly Father does the same for us. Deuteronomy 8:5 says, “Know then in your heart that as a man disciplines his son, so the Lord your God disciplines you.” When we can view difficulties in our life as loving correction from God rather than just punishment…our entire spiritual perspective and faith will be impacted and increased.
During the very darkest time of my life I would read Psalm 86 in its entirety out loud every morning. I was alone, isolated from friends and family, and in the middle of a very violent relationship. I felt hopeless, helpless and totally alone. As I read these words out loud, I could almost hear David reminding himself that the Lord was near. And as he recalled all of God’s attributes…His great love, His mercy, compassion, and faithfulness, I too would be reminded of them and what God had done for me. And in the end, just like David, this Psalm gave me the strength and courage to endure for one more day.
It’s easy to love those we have a natural affinity for. It’s not hard at all to love our family and those close to us. Nor is it difficult to love those we’re naturally attracted to. But what about those who are like sandpaper against our soul? What about the unlovely of the world…the disagreeable, repugnant, and unpleasant people who God has called us to love regardless? For Jesus didn’t add any exceptions when He told us to, “Love one another.” But when we have the love of God…the unconditional, Agape, love within, we are able to look beyond the exterior and love the unlovely.
Psalm 40:8 tells us, “I desire ( or choose) to do Your will O my God.” We even see Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane praying, “Yet not as I will (want), but as You will.” (Matthew 26:39) When we seek God’s will… we desire that which pleases God and thus will create joy within us…for we will find ourselves in the center of His will…and it’s the very best place to be.
Do you realize just how much God loves you? He’s not stingy or tight-fisted with His compassion towards you. Nor does His unconditional love depend on how good you are any peculiar day …or how many “works” you have on your mental score-sheet. God’s grace and love towards you is generous, abundant, and more than enough to cover anything that happens to you today.
In the Gospels, it tells us to love each other…whether it’s family, neighbors, or enemies…God’s word instructs us to love one another. For when we obey His word, His love is truly made complete in us. (I John 2:5) And by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, God’s love will manifest and be perfected in us as we display that love to others.
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.
If you want to see what a person is truly made of…put them in a long line, in the hot sun, waiting for something that may or may not arrive on time. That’s when frustration and impatience boils over into selfish love. This verse is interesting in that all it speaks of are examples of selfish love…of self-centered, looking out for #1 love that only thinks of itself. We all have the opportunity daily to choose what type of love we’ll portray to the world…the love of Christ or the selfish love of the world. And as Believers, we are to be an example of Christ’s love to others…unfortunately, whether we’re a good example or a bad one.