Many years ago, a person came up to me during a prayer meeting and told me that Christianity is the easiest thing to do. He continued by saying that all you have to do is accept Jesus and ask for forgiveness.
When you think about it, the first few steps are very easy to do, but it still takes a lot of effort to make that decision and take those steps. But, for the sake of discussion, let’s put the decision aside. It is easy, but what we are called to do is often very difficult especially when you view them from your old, sinful ways.
In chapter five of the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus, while delivering the “Sermon on the Mount”, tells those listening to him, “You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbor’ and hate your enemy. But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! 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. If you love only those who love you, what reward is there for that? Even corrupt tax collectors do that much. If you are kind only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else? Even pagans do that. But you are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect.”
God provides for all of His children. When you think about it, we all started as God’s handiwork. In the beginning, we were all created in His image. He breathed life into us and gave us the gift of a soul. But, over time, we become disobedient and become part of this fallen world. We walk in darkness and do evil to ourselves and one another. God, out of His love for us, gave us the gift of salvation through His son, Jesus. We all have a choice to accept or reject His gift.
Once we accept that precious gift, we proclaim to the world our acceptance of God’s salvation by following Jesus’ example of being baptized. That symbolic act shows how we die and are raised to walk in the newness of life as a believer and follower of Christ Jesus and as a child of God the Father.
As a child of God, we must live a life that is Christ-like and have an attitude that goes along with it. Jesus, in his famous sermon, tells us how we are to act and how, as a child of the Father, to live our lives daily. This is where the hard part comes into play.
When we accepted Jesus as our personal Savior and Lord, we also gave up the things of this world. We gave up our sinful ways in order to walk daily with the Lord along the path of righteousness. This means we are to be obedient to God’s will and accept what He has laid out for us. Simply put. In order to be obedient to God, we must be disobedient to ourselves and deny our natural tendencies.
In his sermon, Jesus reminds us of the words of Leviticus and its teachings to the children of Israel.
In chapter nineteen, the Lord says, “Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against a fellow Israelite, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord.”
It isn’t enough to love yourself and your neighbor, but it is quite a different thing to love your enemy and pray for those who persecute you. Jesus tells us that we must do more as children of God. By going that extra mile, you show the world that you have truly overcome it as well as its disobedient ways.
It is all well and good to read the words, but you must resist the urge to go back to your old ways or stop short. Following Jesus is all about denying yourself and becoming Christ-like in all areas of your life.
When Jesus was nailed to a cross to suffer for our sins, he prayed for those who mocked him. He endured every moment of his crucifixion just so that each of us could receive that gift of love and salvation from the Father.
In chapter twenty-three of the Gospel of Luke, Jesus, while on the cross, said, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.”
Instead of asking God to deliver him from the cross or to destroy those who were seeking his blood, Jesus asked God to forgive them for what they were doing. It took a tremendous amount of love and effort to ask for that. But, Jesus had only love in his heart for us and gave his life as our sacrifice and became the way back to the Father.
So, as children of God, it is incumbent on us to do more than just love our neighbors as we love ourselves. We must take that extra step and love our enemies. By doing that, our enemies will wonder why we’re loving them even when they are persecuting us.
Paul, in chapter twelve of his letter to the church in Rome, reminds them of the words of the Book of Proverbs, “Instead, ‘If your enemies are hungry, feed them. If they are thirsty, give them something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals of shame on their heads.’ Don’t let evil conquer you, but conquer evil by doing good.”
When you act out of love, people who mock you will feel ashamed of what they are doing to you. They will begin to wonder why you aren’t returning evil for evil. Some will even ask you why you aren’t seeking revenge or asking God to destroy them. When they wonder about your actions, your actions have brought conviction to their hearts. They feel something stirring inside of them. It is that small, quiet whisper gently calling to them. It is the same voice you heard. It is the voice of the Master calling out to them just as he called out to you.
By being that example and forgiving those who persecute you and showing them love, you become truly righteous in the eyes of the Father. You have become Christ-like in all aspects of your life and an example to those around you. When you have achieved this, you can most assuredly stand firm in His grace.
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.