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)
To carry out the Law of Christ here, we must first know what it is. James 2:8 tells us, “If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself,’ you are doing right.” When we bear other’s burdens in a way we would want to be treated, we are fulfilling the royal law of King Jesus. But what does this look like? It’s done with compassion and love in a nonjudgmental way…listening attentively and always speaking the truth of God’s word. It’s inspiring hope in places of sadness and always it’s done with integrity, and trustworthiness.
When a close friend takes the time to give you sincere advice…you listen. Why? Because first, they know you, what you’ve come through, and what is happening right now in your life. To you, they have credibility… for often they can perceive things you are blind to…or sadly, choose to be blind to. Finally, you trust them and their wise advice…for you know it comes from that deep place in their soul that loves and cares for you. I’ve just finished 30 classroom hours of Biblical Counseling and it has opened my eyes to how often we counsel people in our everyday walk. Just think how many times a day you minister to the hearts of family and friends with earnest counsel. So in a way, we are all Counselors…our arm around the person, pointing to the Cross.
This verse has been used out of context many times. But to look at it correctly, we must read the verse before it. In Ephesians 5:21 we are told to submit to one another out of reverence to Christ. When we are subject to one another, we take on the heart of a servant…putting the needs of others first. In that context then, wives are submitting or placing in an orderly fashion the family unit…with all parties acting in the interest of another.
To love your neighbor as yourself, is an excellent example of unselfish love. It’s a love that isn’t contrived, plays favorites, or is narrow-minded simply because the person don’t look or act like us. Jesus Christ patterned this unselfish love for us… always looking on anyone He encountered with love and mercy. And since the Lord has shown such great mercy towards us…how can we not show this same mercy to others?
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.
Jesus wasn’t cocky or arrogant. Nor was He condescending, even though He had every right to act in this manner. Just imagine, God came down from heaven and willingly became nothing. He humbled Himself to the lowest of social status…a slave or servant, as an example for us to follow. Servant-hood is probably one of the hardest things to do and do well. Our selfish human nature would rather be waited on, rather than wait on others. And the whole humility and obedience thing is in direct contradiction with everything the world tells us to do. But it all starts with our attitude as the verse says. For we can bring under submission our bad attitudes and then take on the role of servant for His glory. We can extend His grace and mercy with genuine love and concern if we become humble and obedient… with Jesus as our guide.
Jesus says to us in John 15:4, “Remain in Me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in Me.” For us, this means being rooted and established in the truth of the Gospel and trusting in the Lord daily. And from this will come a over-abundance of fruit in our life…of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. (Galatians 5:22)
For the next few days I’m going to writing on the familiar verses in the 13th Chapter of I Corinthians, also known as the Love Chapter. These verses tell us what Christian love should look like. But even more importantly, they tell us what selfish self-centered love looks like. The love Jesus taught of was an unconditional agape love…love that is compassionate, and understanding…refusing to retaliate or repay evil with evil. But the love the world teaches of is egotistical, self-absorbed, and arrogant….refusing to put others first. These verses will look at both types of love…selfish and unselfish, and their impact on the world.
We can’t force others into peaceful co-existence with us…we can only control how we react and behave around angry people. You know the ones…people with huge chips on their shoulders…always thinking the world is out to get them. It takes a conscious decision of the will on our part not to take the bait when attacked. It takes lots of deep breaths and determination not to lower ourselves down to that level…and sometimes, it takes just walking away for a few minutes to regain our composure and pray. “Lord, help me look past the angry hostility and see rather the hurt, the fear, the frustration. Allow me Lord to see this person through Your eyes and how I may show Your love to them.” Amen