“Your ancestors have also been taught, ‘Love your neighbors and hate the one who hates you.’ However, I say to you, love your enemy, bless the one who curses you, do something wonderful for the one who hates you, and respond to the very ones who persecute you by praying for them.” Matthew 5:43-44 (TPT)
Traditions can be a beautiful thing. Eating Sunday dinner at grandmother’s house, the neighborhood camping trip, or the baseball team’s spring trip to Florida every year, each celebrate family, love, and life. These can be really good traditions, and in many cases can become generational celebrations for families, communities, and clubs.
Jesus addresses a different kind of tradition in Matthew 5. He addresses behavior that has been taught, and learned, from one generation to the next. Some may argue when Jesus transitions to the word “however,” He is simply making a suggestion. This could not be further from the truth. In Mark 12:30-31 Jesus considers this question from a Sadducee, “What is the greatest commandment?” Jesus said, “And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength. The second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ No other commandment is greater than these.”
How many of us are actually practicing this scripture on a daily basis? It can be pretty challenging in your own strength! There are people on every corner explaining their version of “justice”, others spewing hate justified by their cause, and still others working diligently in complete opposition to everything you believe and hold dear. What about the person who says unkind things about your husband or children? Finally, what about social media? Do you have your say? Are you edgy, pithy, or just ticked off? It is hard not to respond in like kind, with hate and anger, but as Christians, we are called to respond in love.
Here’s the reality, we hate referees if they make calls against our team. We call the man who cut us off in traffic a bad name. We yell at the restaurant worker for failing to put pickles on our sandwich. Depending on your particular affinity, you hate the last two presidents. We keep finding new ways to hate. Now, a smile is a smirk, and a hat is a racial slur? What?
For example, smiling Nick Sandmann of the Covington High School incident at the Lincoln Memorial was destroyed on social media in a few short hours. Trying to diffuse the tension, he quietly smiled. Because his smile was a smirk to some, there were calls for him to be thrown in a wood chipper, to go and commit suicide, and by the way, “take your parents with you.” This is a boy who made the mistake of smiling and wearing a MAGA hat.
It seems we are looking for a reason to be upset with one another. Everyone is upset about the border wall, but we have a far greater problem; the wall we are building between us. It is destroying us. Most importantly, it is an indictment of our relationship with God. How can we say we love God and hate Nancy Pelosi or Donald Trump?
In Proverbs 18:21 the meaning is clear, “Words kill, words give life; they’re either poison or fruit—you choose.” As we all see and hear daily, the world is not careful with their words, anything goes. As Christians we must not allow ourselves to be caught up in mud-slinging, grumbling or disrespecting our fellow man. We are called to be the light of the world, to illuminate the darkness so others can see we are Christians, and we are different. Matthew 5:16 says, “So don’t hide your light! Let it shine brightly before others.”
So how do we begin? Let’s all start being slow to speak, tamping down our emotions, and learning to listen. Perhaps we can begin to heap coals of kindness on our grace growers. Let’s shine our light on walls that divide us. We don’t always have to be right; we can agree to disagree in love. The enemy of our soul is lurking, licking his chops, ready to devour Christians and families in turmoil. Satan knows your triggers and he will pull them every time. Don’t step into his dark traps; stand strong in God’s light!
If we will obey God, we will begin to hear from God again. If we obey God he will heal our hearts and heal our nation. David a man after God’s own heart, and someone who faced many tough times, wrote these beautiful words in Psalm 119: 129-136 (TPT)
“Your marvelous words are living miracles; no wonder I long to obey everything you say. Break open your word within me until revelation-light shines out! Those with open hearts are given insight into your plans. I open my mouth and inhale the word of God because I crave the revelation of your commands. Turn your heart to me, Lord, show me your grace like you do to every one of your godly lovers.”
“Prepare before me a path filled with your promises, and don’t allow even one sin to have dominion over me. Rescue me from the oppression of ungodly men so that I can keep all your precepts. Let your shining face shine brightly on me, your loving servant. Instruct me on what is right in your eyes. When I witness the rebellious breaking your laws, it makes me weep uncontrollably.”
We should be leaving a legacy of love.