As brothers and sisters in Christ, how should we be treating one another? Does it matter what we say, or how we say it? Should we think before we speak? Should we speak in anger? Or, out of bitterness? Should we judge one another by ourselves, and by our own motives? Or by the standards of this world, or by our own prejudices, or by our own traditions?
Should we be quick to judge on the basis of what we have always believed or always been taught, especially without making certain that what we believe is true? And, should we automatically assume we are right and others are wrong, just because they believe different from us?
But, of course, if the scriptures are consistently quite clear on what we should all believe, as true followers of Christ, then we must stand on what is truth.
But, even then, we should not fight and argue with those who believe differently. We must be careful not to attack the messenger, too, but to address only the issues. We should state what we believe, and be willing to defend what we believe to those who ask for the hope that is within us. But, once we have stated our stance, if the other person does not accept it, then we need to just agree to disagree, and neither one should try to force the issue with the other. We should always treat one another with respect.
The Lord Jesus led me to read 1 Peter 3 (Select vv. ESV).
Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind. Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing.
Unity of mind does not mean we will all agree on everything. Unity of mind means we have the mind and heart of Christ. And, thus, we can have unity of mind with those who also have the mind and heart of Christ. But, we are imperfect people with imperfect understanding, and with all kinds of beliefs, traditions, thinking, etc. ingrained in us from childhood which must be worked through in prayer and in the study of God’s Word.
So, what we all need is willingness to hear the heart of God, and to be willing to change some of our beliefs, traditions and thinking if what he reveals to us is different from what we were taught early on in our lives. The problem with disunity in the church, I believe, is not so much that we have different ideas about things, but rather that so many are unwilling to bend, even if the scriptures themselves consistently speak differently on an issue. Traditions often speak louder than truth.
For “Whoever desires to love life
and see good days,
let him keep his tongue from evil
and his lips from speaking deceit;
let him turn away from evil and do good;
let him seek peace and pursue it.
For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous,
and his ears are open to their prayer.
But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.”
We hurt the body of Christ when we are hateful with one another. Now, let me qualify that statement a minute, for there are those who call “speaking the truth in love” “hate speech.” There are those who call the gospel, as taught by Jesus and his NT apostles “hate speech.” And, there are those who call the moral teachings of scripture “hate speech.” So, let me be clear here that when I say “hateful,” that it is “hate” as defined by scripture, not as defined by culture, which is often opposed to the teachings of scripture.
So, what is hateful? Tit for tat, for one, i.e. getting even with those who have hurt us, trading insults with insults, or what we perceive to be insults, which may not be that at all. Gossip and slander are another, i.e. saying mean and hurtful things about people to others purposefully to hurt the other person or to get even over something we perceive they did to us. Or, perhaps leading others to draw the wrong conclusions about someone, knowing this was done, in order to raise ourselves up and to put them down.
Lies and willful deception, hiding things from those we are supposed to love and protect, but to protect our own secret sins, instead. Adultery, cheating, stealing, abuse, using others to our own advantage, manipulation, trickery, and the like, are all hateful. Treating others with disdain, stomping on their hearts, and treating them like they don’t matter, as though they have no value, and to do so willfully, in order to gain power over them, is hate, too. So, if we are doing any of these things, we need to repent, turn from our wickedness, make it right with those we hurt, and follow God in love.
Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil.
If you are a recipient of such hate treatment, because of righteousness’ sake, you are blessed. Don’t fear those who treat you that way. And, don’t try to get even with them, either, for vengeance is God’s job, not ours. Ours is to forgive those who treat us badly and who persecute us. Ours is to love our enemies and to do good to them who despitefully use us. Ours, too, is to stand on what is right, and to defend the truth, and to take up the armor of God daily to fight off Satan’s evil attacks against us, but to not be hateful to those who have mistreated us.
For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit.
There is not anything we have had to endure for righteousness’ sake that Jesus Christ did not suffer for us, and to give us the example for how we should respond to mistreatment from others.
Although he did humble himself, and he went to the cross for us, even though he did no wrong, this is not to say that he always laid down and played dead when he was accused falsely, mistreated, judged unjustly, and derided because he obeyed the Father instead of the traditions of man.
Read the New Testament, especially the four gospels, and you will see what I am talking about. Jesus rebuked the Pharisees for their hypocrisy, their false worship of God, their refusal to believe in him as their Messiah, their mistreatment of others, their lack of love, and their self-righteousness. He often chided his own disciples for their lack of faith and their failure to trust him with their circumstances. He responded to Peter with “Get thee behind me Satan,” when Peter was contradicting Jesus’ declaration of his upcoming death. And, he told his own brothers that the world didn’t hate them, but it hated him, because he told the world that what they did was evil.
Jesus was meek, but he wasn’t weak. He said what needed to be said, when it needed to be said, the way it needed to be said, because that is what the people needed to hear, and because he loved them, and he cared that they were trapped in sin’s deceitfulness, for he came to set them free! So, love for our enemies may often involve speaking the truth in love, because knowing and doing the truth is what will set people free!
Jesus gave his life willingly for us for our freedom from sin, and we should do the same for others, being willing to be hated in return, in order to tell them the truth that will set them free.
Alas! and Did My Savior Bleed
Isaac Watts/ Ralph E. Hudson
Alas! and did my Savior bleed
And did my Sovereign die?
Would He devote that sacred head
For sinners such as I?
Was it for crimes that I had done
He groaned upon the tree?
Amazing pity! grace unknown!
And love beyond degree!
Thus might I hide my blushing face
While His dear cross appears,
Dissolve my heart in thankfulness,
And melt my eyes to tears.
But drops of grief can ne’er repay
The debt of love I owe:
Here, Lord, I give myself away
’Tis all that I can do.
At the cross, at the cross where I first saw the light,
And the burden of my heart rolled away,
It was there by faith I received my sight,
And now I am happy all the day!
Tuesday, January 9, 2018, 4:40 a.m. – Thank you, Jesus, for this teaching from your word. May we all take these words to heart.