Let’s circle back to last week’s “transgressors” thoughts and add a little something to them. Something else I’ve been noticing in the gospels recently, which I suspect you have too in some similar way….
The people we’d normally think of as transgressors (or whatever word we’d substitute for that)—those who commit sins of some obvious type of self-indulgence—aren’t let off the hook by Jesus, but are also offered his compassion. He calls them out on the carpet, but at the same time He calls them to something better. He understands these people are only trying to fill a void in their lives, however poorly or self-destructively. Thus, He points to Himself and says, “I’m what you’re looking for. Lay down all the rest of it and come follow Me.”
The people who truly anger Jesus aren’t those people I’ve just described. Rather, it’s the victimizers—those who corrupt others, who take advantage of children, those who hurt and damage others, especially those who do it under a veneer of self-righteousness. These are the people Jesus takes on constantly, who are subject to His anger and pronouncements of judgment. And not surprisingly, it’s these people who ultimately condemn Jesus to death—enabling Him to “be numbered with the transgressors.”
And yet, how does Jesus tell us to respond? “But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you.
“If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful (Luke 6: 27-36).
In short: You don’t get to hold onto your hurt. You don’t get to allow it to fester into bitterness. You don’t get to hold it over their heads. Let Me handle it. You, lay it down.
And eventually, Jesus’ “head disciple” and our repeated example gets it too. First Peter is full of encouragement to live as Jesus told us to, and I’ll close with these for today. See you next week:
Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble. Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing (3:9-10)
But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. “Do not fear their threats; do not be frightened.” But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander (3:14-16)
Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude, because whoever suffers in the body is done with sin. As a result, they do not live the rest of their earthly lives for evil human desires, but rather for the will of God (4:1-2)
Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling (4:8-9)
Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you (4:12-14)
However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name. For it is time for judgment to begin with God’s household; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God? (4:16-17)