Everything Jesus Said to Do - reflections on some specific areas
In our conversation at church last Sunday we talked about growing in Christlikeness involving three elements from Romans 6:
Three specific areas were raised:
- A fresh vision of the new life that God gives us in the person of Jesus
- An inner intention to die to our old life and to step into that new life, and
- The means of offering the parts of our bodies (thoughts, words, small actions) as instruments of righteousness (ie starting to do something good and trusting that God's goodness will flow through us)
Part of the vision we need to have in loving our enemies comes from Psalm 23: The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want ..... he prepares a feast before me in the presence of my enemies. In other words, we can trust his presence and provision even when we are in the presence of people who have or are trying to take things away from us. Romans 8 which talks about nothing separating us from the love of God is another crucial part of this vision.
- loving your enemies
- forgiving people
- being salt of the earth
We also need to hold before us, the vision of the new sort of life that Jesus talks about in the Sermon on the mount. A person that is progressively free from:
will begin to find it easier to desire and to act for the good of the other person (even an enemy).
- contempt and anger (Matt 5:21-26) then
- domination by sexual lust and disgust (v 27-32) then
- the desire to dominate and control verbally (v 33-37) and then
- grudges, ‘fairness’, and ‘paying back’ (v 38-42)
Following that vision with intention and means will lead to loving of enemies. Now loving enemies is not about letting them trample over you, rather it is seeking to overcome evil with good, and it is about praying for those who persecute you.
That is, if you like, the overall process, but in the middle of that process, where the rubber hits the road is when someone does something bad to us and we are confronted with the challenge to forgive. Vision is again critical. We need to live in the light of God's goodness and provision (ps 23, rom 8 etc) and particularly be aware of our own failings and the forgiveness that he freely gives. That will enable forgiveness to flow more easily. But particularly in large matters forgiveness is a process. We need to
Becoming 'salt of the earth' kind of people is about becoming the sort of people that overflow with a non-legalistic goodness, and that seek to overcome evil with good. The two areas above are crucial to this but it is beneficial to keep filling our minds with the vision of way Jesus lived his life as portrayed in the gospels (see his mission statement in Luke 4:18-19). The vision of life given in rest of the sermon on the mount is also important:
- take steps to stop or contain any ongoing damage/danger.
- be honest about what has happened to us and what we have lost. This can involve acknowledging and processing grief associated with that loss. It is not about glossing over what has happened
- we need to ask God to help us see the situation from a different point of view. It can take some time but we might begin to see that holding on to bitterness will just compound our hurt; that inspite of what has happened there is resurrection hope and life in our future; that the wages of sin is death in the life of the sinner as well as in the lives affected by that sin; and that in the ultimate analysis seeing the other person free from the grip of sin is the route to preventing future harm to us or others. All this can help us tap into the compassion of God
- Drawing on God's compassion and forgiveness, and asking for him to help us, we can begin to choose to forgive.
- Reconciliation and restoration of trust are further steps that may or may not follow - but that is dependent on the response of the other person. They are separate from us coming to an attitude of forgiveness towards them.
Again intention and means can then flow from that vision.
- Lives free of contempt and anger (Matt 5:21-26)
- Is free from domination by sexual lust and disgust (v 27-32)
- Is free of desire to dominate and control verbally (v 33-37)
- Is free from grudges, ‘fairness’, and ‘paying back’ (v 38-42)
- Is able to love enemies and bless those who curse, etc. (v 43-48)
- Does not ‘perform’ for human credit (6:1-18)
- Does not trust in physical substances (money etc.) (6:19-34)
- Does not manage others by condemnation ... ‘condemnation engineering’ (7:1-12)
These comments are general and they need to be worked out in the specific circumstances of our lives. Talking and praying through them with trusted friends can help in that process.
David Wanstall, 29/10/2008
, condemnation engineering
, loving enemies
, Psalm 23