Romans 8:28 And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.
All things that happen in my life are allowed by my Heavenly Father - and everything that happens to me (whether good or bad) He is working out for my good. They may be bad in themselves, but He will turn it around and bring some good out of it for me. It is not a promise of a rosy future, but a plan He is working out. The very next verse teaches us exactly what the overall good is that the Lord is bringing about in every trial and triumph in my life:
Romans 8:29 For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.
All things that the Lord allows or personally brings into my life have been lovingly approved of for my spiritual good.
This past week, I have been helping out a friend. He stayed with me for a few days, and I had given him a key to my apartment so he could still get in while I was at work. On Wednesday night, I got home to find out that he had ransacked my apartment! Various things were stolen - for the most part things that didn't really matter, plus some things that were more important, such as my checkbook and coffee can of coins that I was saving up for some teens in my church.
When I realized what had actually happened, I was surprised, yet filled with God's peace. When I started making a list of what was missing and what still remained, I began to praise the Lord that He held back this man's hand from taking more than he did. I changed the locks the next morning, and contacted my bank to cancel my checks. It turns out several days later, while I was at work, that he came back again, tried to get in, and couldn't because of the changed deadbolt lock - then he attempted to damage my doorknob, but was not able to get in.
I just praise the Lord for His grace at work in my life - and that He had put a love in my heart for this friend, that my first response was to pray for him and his repentance, not to get my stuff back (actually, I have not even prayed for that at all), nor to be bitter or seek any kind of revenge. As I prayed for him and this situation, the Lord impressed various passages upon my heart, which I was able to preach on yesterday.
Matthew 5:43 Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy.
Here Jesus is referring to an Old Testament passage:
Leviticus 19:17-18 Thou shalt not hate thy brother in thine heart: thou shalt in any wise rebuke thy neighbour, and not suffer sin upon him. Thou shalt not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself: I am the LORD.
True love means I will love my brethren, love my neighbour, that I will speak up and rebuke him if he wanders into sin, and that I would not seek personal revenge for any wrong done to me. God commands that we love our neighbours.
But then He quotes their addition to the Scriptures: "And hate thine enemy." The Pharisees and religious folks thought that they were doing good if they loved those who loved them, and hated those who already hated them - but THAT was not what God's Word taught. Jesus exposes their hypocrisy and traditions and teaches true love and righteousness:
Matthew 5:44-48 But 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; That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same? And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so? Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.
When we respond to the world around us in the exact same way they are treating us, we are no different than they are. When we respond to hatred, abuse, slander, and evil treatment with good, with the love of Christ, THEN we are showing the lost world around us that our profession of faith in Christ is real - THAT we are really the children of God.
The last verse is misunderstood by many. Perfect means "complete, mature." Jesus is saying that we are to be like the Lord God in the aspect of loving our enemies - that we are not to be immature babes and respond in evil, but mature believers and respond in Christlike love and compassion - EVEN TO OUR ENEMIES! I tell you this much, when you are truly fervently praying for your enemies, they are no longer your enemies - they may treat YOU as their enemy, but you will have done all that you can do to reconcile with them - and the ball is left in their court whether to reconcile with you in return.
That is much like what the Saviour has done to us:
2 Corinthians 5:20 Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ's stead, be ye reconciled to God.
Jesus Christ has paid the complete penalty that we deserved for our sins when He shed His sinless blood and died upon the cross for our sins. He arose from the grave the third day and is now ascended into Heaven, sending forth the Holy Spirit to be a testimony of His salvation and to convict you of your sin and need of Him as your Saviour. He has done His part to be reconciled to you - now it is up to you to respond to the Gospel invitation and be reconciled to God.
When we were at our worst, Christ came and died for our sins:
Romans 5:6-8 For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
When we were ungodly, when we were rebelling against God, when we were sinning and going astray from God, He sent His Son to die for us. THAT is the love we are to have for our enemies - when they do us wrong, we are not to do them evil in return, but to still have love and compassion for them - whether they reject it or not. THAT will prove to the world that we are different than those who live according to its philosophies and treat others the way the lost treat them. When the lost see you living differently, when they see Christ in you and living through you, they will take notice - it will have an effect on them! Your manner of living will back up your witnessing.
Romans 12:17-18 Recompense to no man evil for evil. Provide things honest in the sight of all men. If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men.
We are commanded not to repay evil for evil - we are not to do wrong in return for the wrong done unto us. The next phrase: "Provide things honest in the sight of all men," puzzled me somewhat until I thought about motivations. When my friend was hiding his evil intent, he won my friendship and hid what was really going on in his heart - he deceived me and then took advantage of me. However, as a follower of Christ, as someone who desires to be Christlike, I am to be honest in the sight of others - I AM TO BE TRANSPARENT, with no hidden motives or agenda, despite whatever evil intent others may have towards me.
Romans 12:19 Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.
I am not to seek personal vengeance, but to leave my situation and the person who has done evil towards me in the hands of the Lord, and in His own time, He will take vengeance if needed - whether that happens in this life, or in the future if the person dies as a lost person and they face God's judgment at the Great White Throne.
Romans 12:20-21 Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head. Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.
Paul here quotes Proverbs 25:21-22. What he is saying is to do right no matter what - to treat our enemies with the love of Christ and not to treat them in the same manner that they have treated us. When we feed them or give them drink, though they are the least deserving of it, we show them the same love our Heavenly Father has shown us time and again - even when we have rebelled and sinned against Him, when we have despised His grace and turned our backs on Him. His goodness eventually led us to repentance (Romans 2:4), and frankly that is what can happen when we show love and mercy to those who have sinned against us.
You see, if we treat others with the same hatred and evil that they have treated us with, their heart is hardened and (in their mind) they feel justified for their wrongdoing - YET if we treat them with love instead, with forgiveness, with compassion and sympathy, they may be broken and see the error of their ways, and see that our profession of Christianity is REAL! They will see it is not all words, that it is not all a sham - the Bible is real, and God is real, Christianity is real - because if Jesus can still work through me and reach out to the lost or straying soul that hurt me, then perhaps they will get a glimpse of the love of God towards themselves. Perhaps this view of what God has done for them and to them will bring them to repentance and to the Saviour.
If not, there will be more coals of fire heaped upon their head, there will be more that they will be accountable for if they still persist in rejecting the gift of God and His offer of grace. They will not be able to stand before Jesus, the Great Judge, one day and say, "I rejected Christianity, I rejected the Bible, I rejected You, because all the so-called Christians around me were all hypocrites, they were all out for themselves, they all lived like the lost around them, and NONE of them showed me the love of Christ." Because now they've seen this love in action in your life!
1 Peter 2:19-25
1 Peter 2:19-20 For this is thankworthy, if a man for conscience toward God endure grief, suffering wrongfully. For what glory is it, if, when ye be buffeted for your faults, ye shall take it patiently? but if, when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye take it patiently, this is acceptable with God.
God will reward the believer who endures wrongdoing for doing what is right in His sight. He will praise them and be well-pleased with them choosing to obey God's Word and submit to the Holy Spirit's leading in this manner. If we suffer wrong because we have done wrong, then we have no one to blame but ourselves - we deserve what we get then, it is sowing what we have reaped! Yet, if we suffer wrong because we are being faithful to our Heavenly Father, there is a reward and a blessing promised.
1 Peter 2:21 For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps:
Big shoes to fill, a big example to follow - but the Lord never commands us to do something that He will not equip us and give us strength to do. We CAN follow Jesus in this manner, we CAN be perfect as our Heavenly Father is perfect in regards to loving our enemies. It is a matter of growth and relying on God's grace.
1 Peter 2:22-23 Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth: Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously:
It is man's natural response to fight evil with evil, to pay back in the same manner we were treated - if reproached and spoken evil of to respond likewise, if slandered or cussed out to dish out coarse speach in return, if stolen from or taken advantage of to respond in kind - to do unto them exactly what they did unto us - BUT that is not God's way, nor is it the example Christ set for us (see Jesus' contrast to this world's philosophy in Matthew 7:12 and Luke 6:31). When He went to the cross, when He endured the false trial, the false witnesses, when He suffered the beatings and the scourging and heard so many things spoken against Him, Jesus, our example, did not fight back in return. He could have threatened them all with extinction - He was God after all! Instead, He left His life, His trial, His death upon the cross, in the hands of His Heavenly Father - knowing He was in control, and His will would prevail. Jesus then went to the cross, and died the same way He lived: FOR OTHERS!
1 Peter 2:24-25 Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed. For ye were as sheep going astray; but are now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls.
What a blessed example to follow in the Word of God - what a convicting example! We should love others as He has loved us (John 13:34-35), we should forgive others as Christ forgave us (Ephesians 4:32), we should show the mercy to others that we have been shown by Christ Himself (Luke 10:37; Titus 3:3-6 and Lamentations 3:21-23).
Luke 7:40-43, 47
In Luke 7:36-50, there is the account of the woman who broke an alabaster box over Jesus' feet and washed and anointed Him with her tears. She was so grateful for the salvation and forgiveness the Lord had given to her. Simon, a Pharisee, was self-righteous and looked down upon this women, so Jesus told him an illustration to portray their spiritual condition:
Luke 7:40-43 And Jesus answering said unto him, Simon, I have somewhat to say unto thee. And he saith, Master, say on. There was a certain creditor which had two debtors: the one owed five hundred pence, and the other fifty. And when they had nothing to pay, he frankly forgave them both. Tell me therefore, which of them will love him most? Simon answered and said, I suppose that he, to whom he forgave most. And he said unto him, Thou hast rightly judged.
Luke 7:47 Wherefore I say unto thee, Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much: but to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little.
Those who have truly seen their sinful condition before God and have received His forgiveness will love the Lord in return and want others to know that same Saviour, have that same peace with God and forgiveness that they have personally experienced.
If you are filled with bitterness, angry and hateful towards others, unwilling to extend forgiveness to your enemies, perhaps you have never experience the love and forgiveness of God for yourself. It is still available - salvation and forgiveness is a gift, free for the taking. It is received through repentance (changing your mind about your sin and turning away from it in your heart) and faith (turning to the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ, and receiving Him instead).
What the Lord has done in my life through His grace, He can do in yours. Do you know my Saviour?
Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much: but to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little.