“But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.” (Luke 6:27-28)
I was asked recently during a open discussion time in a Adult Bible Study Class I was teaching in my home church here in Atlanta, “What is the biggest difference you see between Believers in our Nation and other Nations like Africa and Brazil?”
Great question! In other nations I see self-denial and fearlessness to the point of willful loss of life in order to see the Gospel move among their people. I know this because they always head to the hardest places first when asked where we need to go and engage those whom do not know Christ. I’ll touch more on this in a minute. Also, I don’t see a “falling away” like I am seeing here in the American Church. We are running towards our own “freedoms” while these nations are running towards the harvest fields!
My lesson was on ‘Self-Denial” out of Luke 6:27-36…about loving our enemies, which I am convinced I have not even come close to mastering in my own life but I do know this for sure, God is in absolute pursuit of it in me! Most of my days are still filled with selfish ambition and wanting to call down fire from heaven on some people that don’t line up with me! But God is relentlessly calling and pursuing a deeper self-denial than I have ever experienced before.
The context of these verses in Luke is not really understood most of the time nor are they applied because they seem, well…not do-able or even not-want-to do-able. Love your enemies? Bless them! Pray for them! A word is used three times in these verses…”credit”. As Jesus started these verses, he said, “But I tell you who hear me…”, meaning, HEY, CHILD OF GOD…I’M DELIVERING A LOAD OF TRUTH HERE!” With the use of the word “credit” and with how he starts this whole discourse, Jesus is inviting us to see the eternal perspective, not the here and now…in other words, something done now that will cause a return in heaven for the ones that do it.
Probably the hardest thing for a Follower of Christ to do is…do something here and now, not knowing if and when it will ever come back as some kind of favor or dividend down the road. Furthermore, it’s pretty doggon hard to do something that could cost you everything in this life, waiting for it to “return” to you in some form in eternity, which of course, is somewhere way out there.
But these verses are packed with, “HEY, this life isn’t about accumulating anything…but GIVING away everything…especially to those who ARE our enemies! If this isn’t penetrating you…let it marinate for a while. If it isn’t penetrating your heart, it is being looked at in the context of our culture and not Biblical truth! It took me a week to finally let it get into the deeper places of my heart and that is where I found the greatest truths of all….and here they are:
- We are supposed to invest ourselves more in our enemies than we are in the ones we “love”? I mean…give the greater portions of our time, resources and heart…to those whom hate us!
- Generosity is based on what we have left after we give rather than before we give it? (Why am I thinking of the Widow that gave her last penny as an offering right now?)
- This world isn’t at all about great savings plans, vacations and careers…things we call wise and prudent because Joseph stored up wheat and provisions for Egypt! What if this life is only about reaching, loving and engaging those whom hate us and nothing else?
- I am looking at my enemies through the context of my culture, not Scripture!
- I have missed the boat completely on what I am here for?
Back to the word “credit”. This word is used three times and written as if it is to be received later on, way out there in time. I think the main reason I have a problem with “Self Denial” is because I just can’t wait that long for “credit”. So, it’s about the now, isn’t it! Actually, wrap up “I want it now” with “I think God wants me to be happy” and “well, that was written for another culture and not relevant today”, and you have a triple decker Bologna Sandwich! The Gospel meets every need of every culture of every era and every person…there is no “it was relevant then”…truth is truth!
In West Africa, the few Believers we have met thus far have not once ounce of selfish ambition, willing to give their last cup of water to anyone else AND they care incredibly much for their enemy, fearing more for their enemies need for Christ than their own lives. When we were doing some planning, talking about where to move the Gospel message, they immediately pointed to the places of greatest hostility and potential danger! Out of all the friendly areas we could have pinpointed our future plans for, they picked the hottest zones of Muslim influence and greatest potential for persecution! They said, “We have to go these places first!” WOW!
I looked at them and saw something else they didn’t have that I always carry with me…entitlement!
Freedom is Christ! To us it has become what we are owed and what we have earned…so we are now slaves to our own freedom, not the same freedom Christ is!
It’s finally sinking in…we call everyone that has nothing, poor. They call this place temporary while we call it home. They either don’t need it or give it away, knowing their “credit” is coming. Self-denial can only come from an understanding of our time here being but a vapor!