From Maurice Harton
For a long time, I don’t think I really realized the cutting power of this verse, this incredibly hard saying of Jesus. My personality isn’t the kind to lash out against others; even when I was bullied as a child for my facial appearance, I would tend to just feel sad and retreat into myself rather than feel any ill will against my mockers. But after I grew up, I found myself in a situation where I had been loving on some people consistently week after week — and then they turned against me. I was attacked and accused of things I had never done. It was really hard. I felt like it was pointless to serve them anymore, like I should just step back.
But Jesus says that for those that hate us, we must actively love them. Love is emotion and action — it steps out and serves. So we can’t claim to really love someone if we withdraw. Jesus didn’t simply say, “Don’t hurt them.” Nah, that would be too easy. Instead, He said, “Do good” to them. Actively go out of your way to love on them. That’s hard, risk-taking love. Look, for example, and this seemingly random verse from the Torah: “If you see that the donkey of someone who hates you has collapsed under its load, do not walk by. Instead, stop and help.” (Exodus 23:5 NLT). That’s a very practical example: if you see that the car of someone who hates you has broken down on the side of the road, don’t drive by. Instead, stop and help. We can extrapolate this one little example to all areas of life.
I read that little verse in Exodus, and I immediately thought of my situation. I realized I couldn’t retreat — I had to keep on loving them, keep on doing good to them no matter what. God even used a TV episode to get the point across to my heart — the theme of the episode I watched that night was that even though the main character had faced a lot of darkness in his life, he didn’t respond like a normal person: instead of retreating, he always carried a torch of hope and kept wanting to rush around serving as many people as possible. As it so happens, my story had a happy ending: several months later, after consistently loving on them that whole time, our relationship was restored beyond my greatest expectations.
But at no point was it easy. I couldn’t rely on myself, because my weak flesh couldn’t muster that kind of enduring, risk-taking love.
Sometimes we pat ourselves on the back for loving and serving our friends and family who love us. But that’s normal; it’s not extraordinary at all. It’s the bare minimum. As Jesus goes on to say in the same passage as our fighter verse, “If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners do the same.” (Luke 6:32 – 33 ESV) What is extraordinary, what is superhuman, what is beyond us, is to courageously love those who do not love us back.
This week, even your dearest friends and family will not love you perfectly; there will be times when you’re tempted to retreat or lash out or withhold love until your needs are met. And maybe there are family or friends or co-workers or neighbors that don’t like you; maybe some of your relationships are spoiled with bad blood. Jesus urges you to react to these difficult situations not like normal humans, but like superhumans charged with all of His might. Be extraordinary by the power of His resurrection.
QUESTIONS TO ASK EACH OTHER:
Let’s do a heart-check together and discuss our answers. How “ordinary” or “extraordinary” am I? How do I respond when my loved ones don’t come through for me, or when others actively dislike me?
– Do I desire their well being?
– Do I long for them to have a full, wonderful relationship with God?
– Do I pray for them? Do I pray for God to bless them? For them to know God and to grow in His grace?
– Do I see good and praiseworthy things about them?
– Do I serve them?
– Do I say good things about them?
– Does my heart rejoice when good things happen to them?