June 1, 1998 Issue
by Don L. King

    In Matthew 5:43,44, Jesus said: "Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbor, and hate thine enemy. 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."

    It is somewhat ironic that this passage is so familiar and yet many of us find it rather difficult to implement the directive. How often do you hear of anyone really paying someone back in kindness for an insulting remark? Do you notice this happening often? Can you recall an incident in your own life where you were mistreated and you retaliated by being good to them? Well, that's what you should have done; that's what we should have done, according to Jesus. There is a very good reason why Jesus said these things. Likely, the key is found in what Solomon said in Proverbs 15:1 "A soft answer turneth away wrath but grievous words stir up anger." It is very difficult to speak softly, and with kindness, when another has spoken insulting things. However, we must remember Solomon also said: "A fool's wrath is presently known: but a prudent man covereth shame." (Proverbs 12:16) What do we know from this? Simply that when we allow our anger to show through, we have designated ourselves as being very foolish indeed! Jesus' would have us to be wise (Matthew 10:16), and wisdom (to say nothing of our need to be Christ-like dictates that we return evil with good. That is the way to really win! Peter said, "Not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing; but contrariwise blessing: knowing that ye are thereunto called, that ye should inherit a blessing. (1 Peter 3:9)

    Can you imagine the impact this would have during a business meeting when one becomes angry with his brother? What if we handled all our problems in the Bible way? Would we be better husbands, wives, children, preachers, church leaders elders, and deacons? Do you answer yes? Then why not try it?

    Remember the story of Joseph? He was sold into slavery by his brethren. They hated him. Why did they hate him? Because he was good! Because his father loved him! Joseph became a ruler in Egypt and years later when the very brethren who sold him came to Egypt to buy food, he treated them with kindness. Most would have said, "I don't care what happens to you, I have been treated badly and so far as I'm concerned, you had better hit the road."

    Children have a great attitude. They are truly remarkable. Jesus used them to illustrate the Christian spirit of forgiveness. He said: "...verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 18:3) Did Jesus mean that we are to act as children? Of course not. However, children have the wonderful ability to get over a problem quickly. Have you noticed that children at church services may argue and even fight? But, before the parents have calmed down the children are playing again. They have forgotten it entirely.

    We believe this is the point the Lord made. Unless we change (i.e. are converted) and learn to forgive as children do, we will not enter into the eternal kingdom of heaven. No wonder Jesus said: "...Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven." (Matthew 19:14) Don't be concerned about going to heaven with someone you don't like because they may have mistreated you in some way. Jesus says those in the kingdom of heaven are going to be like "little children," In other words, those who make it will be those who are able to get over their anger. They will be those who do not hold a grudge.

    It is frustrating to go into a place and have to walk the tight rope, so to speak, because some in the congregation are angry with others. Every preacher has had to deal with this problem. Do not misunderstand, we speak not of doctrinal problems or of public sins which need to be confessed before the congregation. It is the little personal problems which vex the church so many times. Brethren, we had better learn to forgive each other!

Think on these things.

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