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Listening and Loving the Unlovely

Luke 6:27-28
‘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 ill-treat you. (NIVUK)

We tend to listen out for what we want to hear.  But Jesus said that, unless the disciples and the crowd chose to hear His vastly different 'take' on relationships, they would learn nothing.  His lesson was about loving. Naturally, we love those who love us and hate those who are hostile.  However, Jesus knew that enemies would stay hostile unless love came into their lives from somewhere.  If people who pour out hatred could be loved by the individuals they hate, how potent that love would be (Luke 6:32-36).

Blessing and cursing are mentioned frequently in the Bible (Joshua 8:34).  They are words spoken with a deliberate intent that good or bad things would happen to somebody else.  Of course, Satan uses curses as a permission to spoil and destroy.  So, Jesus (as the life-giver and restorer) said His disciples should never use curses because He never wants to see Satan's work perpetuated in the lives of those He loves.  Although the devil manipulates people into hatred in order to precipitate an avalanche of enmity, Jesus wants that bad cascade to stop and be reversed.  He commanded that the right response to a curse is to desire that person's good, and to confirm that by speaking it out.

Jesus demonstrated this principle on the cross.  He refused to curse His executioners, the religious leaders who mocked Him or the thieves crucified next to Him.  Instead, He asked Father God to forgive His torturers, He granted absolution to the penitent thief (Luke 23:32-43) and He cared for His mother (John 19:25-27).  Following His example, Stephen, the first Christian martyr also prayed that his murderers might be forgiven (Acts 7:59-60).  Peter, who denied knowing Jesus, later wrote, “But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God. To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.  'He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.’  When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly.” (1 Peter 2:20-23)

Ill treatment, victimisation, bullying, threatening and abuse are unfortunately no strangers to the community or workplace.  There may seem to be little we can do directly to change somebody's attitude.  But we can and must love those who hate us, praying that God will bless the hostile neighbour, employee or employer (1 Peter 2:18).  The motivation of Jesus in submitting to suffering was to save rebels (Luke 23:34) (see www.crosscheck.org.uk to know more).  If we are to be disciples of Jesus, we need to learn the lesson too.  The reason to love those that hate us and bless those who curse us is that they might see something of the love of Jesus in us and turn to Him for salvation (1 Peter 3:9).

Loving heavenly Father. I am amazed at the graciousness of Jesus Christ who not only submitted Himself to so much abuse and injustice but also prayed that the perpetrators would be forgiven. Although my trials seem much less serious, please help me to listen to the words of Jesus so that I may learn to love the unlovely, blessing those who curse and praying for those who do me harm. May I practise this discipleship in the office and hospital, hotel and port, and in private and public. Please forgive me when I have turned against You or Your people, and help me to fix my eyes on Jesus as the perfect example of God's love towards rebellious sinners, spiteful accusers and evil liars. In Jesus' Name. Amen.
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© Dr Paul Adams