Remember the young guy in Matthew 19 that asked Christ what he could do to inherit eternal life? Christ told him to keep the commandments, and this young man was elated because he was already doing the lightweight stuff … the letter of the law things that human beings think make them “good people.” But then Christ gave him a heavy weight, and everything changed. “He went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions” (Matt. 19:22). Isn’t that the way most of us are???
To Be Like Him
Christ used the example of the rich young man to teach His disciples that it is hard for a rich man to enter His kingdom, saying “it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle.” This caused the disciples to ask a question that has often come to my own mind, “Who then can be saved?”
Servants, be submissive to your masters with all fear, not only to the good and gentle, but also to the harsh. For this is commendable, if because of conscience toward God one endures grief, suffering wrongfully. For what credit is it if, when you are beaten for your faults, you take it patiently? But when you do good and suffer, if you take it patiently, this is commendable before God. For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps: “Who committed no sin, nor was deceit found in His mouth” (1 Peter 2:18-22)
Do I want to lift that weight? To really be like Him? Verse 21 tells us the the reason we were called is to follow Christ’s example … not just to see it from afar and marvel at it!
who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously; who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness—by whose stripes you were healed. For you were like sheep going astray, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls. (1 Peter 2:23-25)
Verse 23 has always been a killer for me, brethren, because I was raised to hate injustice. It’s almost automatic when somebody hits you, you want to hit back … only harder! When they yell at you … to yell louder … to hurl a more cutting insult … a more penetrating jab. But to follow Christ’s example, we have to give up the smart comebacks, the “reviling in return,” and the threatening. There’s only one reason I’d want to do that … to follow His example, and in so doing, to return to the Shepherd, Overseer and Guardian of my soul.
You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you (Matt. 5:43-44)
This seemed so easy when it was just those faceless people out there in the mainstream persecuting us for keeping the Sabbath. It was more impersonal back then. During the last 20 years though, things have radically changed in the churches of God. We are a divided house, and the situation being what it is opens the door for some things to be said and done that we should never participate in.
Bless means to speak well of … to wish good things for. Curse means to give one over to ruin … to wish evil upon them … A natural, human, and easy thing to do when someone is cursing you!
A Prayer Request
We all hear many urgent prayer requests, brethren. There is much illness and suffering in the churches of God today, and many prayer requests each week, but I would submit to you that Christ Himself is giving us an urgent ‘prayer request’ here in the last sentence in vs. 44.
What Christ is doing here with this ‘prayer request’ is presenting us with a great opportunity to prove something to His father … that we want to be His sons and daughters enough to do whatever He asks us to do. Let’s look at verse 44 again, with the rest of the sentence going on into verse 45.
But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.(Matt. 5:44-45)
I’d like to examine this phrase a little more closely. “That you may be children of your Father” — The words, “you may be” G1096, ginomai mean: to come into existence, be made, to be ordained to be, turned into. We are to be “formed in the image” of His firstborn son, who reviled not nor threatened, but committed His cause to the Father.
For first of all, when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you, and in part I believe it. (1 Cor. 11:18)
You see, there have been divisions and abuses and heresies in the churches of God from the start, but it has always been allowed to happen for a purpose. It’s so that those who want to be children of their Father can rise above it and be made in the image of Christ.
And when they had come to the place called Calvary, there they crucified Him, and the criminals, one on the right hand and the other on the left. Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.”And they divided His garments and cast lots. (Luke 23:33-34)
The first words He spoke after the scourging, and after the excruciating pain of being actually nailed to the stake were, “Forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Brethren, in the midst of the turmoil and conflict that exists in the end-time churches of God, God is offering us an opportunity to distinguish ourselves as his children by answering a simple ‘prayer request’ from Jesus Christ: “Pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you.” The reward for doing so is very great indeed … that we may be the children of our Father in heaven.