“If all you do is love the lovable, do you expect a bonus? Anybody can do that.”
- Matthew 5:46 MSG
When my sons were very young, we used to frequent a little convenience store in our neighborhood which sold some of their favorite snacks. Unfortunately, the lady who worked behind the counter was always cold and unfriendly, and even rude to us. At first, I was tempted to avoid the store completely, but something inside of me urged me to “turn the other cheek,” and to be kind and gracious to her, no matter what. Every time I went into that store and that lady wore a sour face or scowled at me, I would smile and wish her a good day. I was sincere, and she knew it. One day, when I went in with my two boys, out of the blue, she handed them each a delectable treat, and refused to let me pay for them. We graciously accepted them and thanked her for her kindness. Shortly after that day, we drove into the parking lot and discovered that her store had closed down. It never reopened, and we never saw that woman again.
The Lord brought this incident to my remembrance recently to remind me how important it is to be kind to those who are unkind to us. Looking back, I realize that this woman was probably hurting terribly at the time. She knew that she would soon lose her job--even her store--if she was, in fact, the owner, as I suspect she was. The Lord reminded me that hurting people often hurt others. And it's usually the people who treat us the worst that need the most love, understanding, and kindness from us. I have found that, in most cases, when I treat others with the kindness they withhold from me, I can usually win them over if I don't quit and give up too soon. When that happens, I not only feel good about myself, but I can sense God smiling from ear to ear. Occasionally, though, I encounter people who are steadfastly determined to be miserable, and who try to make everyone around them miserable, too. In those cases, I eventually have to leave these people to their own devices and to God, refusing to let them steal my peace and joy.
Jesus said: “Do you think you deserve credit for merely loving those who love you? Even the godless do that! And if you do good only to those who do you good--is that so wonderful? Even sinners do that much!” (Luke 6:32-33 TLB) The Savior makes it clear that He expects much more from us than He does from the world, and we mustn't think too highly of ourselves when we are good to those who treat us well. He goes on to say: “Love your enemies! Do good to them! Then your reward from heaven will be very great, and you will truly be acting as children of the Most High, for He is kind to the unthankful and to those who are wicked. You must be compassionate, just as your Father is compassionate.” (Luke 6:35-36 NLT) Here, Jesus reveals how we can please God and receive great blessings from Him. Remember that we're not given the Holy Spirit to do ordinary things, or to behave like the rest of the world. We're given God's Spirit so that we can do the extraordinary, and that includes responding in a Christlike manner when we're met with unkindness.
Do you want to make a real difference for God in this world? This is one way to do it. Do you want God to use you in new and exciting ways? This is a good way to show Him that you're ready. Do you want to walk in a greater level of blessings? Sowing seeds like these will bring you a harvest of rewards that you won't receive any other way. I like the way the Message Bible puts it: “I tell you, love your enemies. Help and give without expecting a return. You'll never--I promise--regret it”! (Luke 6:35 MSG)
Prayer: Lord, I thank You for pouring Your love into my heart by the Holy Spirit, so that I don't have to be unkind to those who are unkind to me. (Romans 5:5) Help me to remember that people who hurt others are usually hurting themselves. Remind me often that Your Word says, “Pray for those who hurt you,” and help me to pray the prayers of Your heart for these people. (Luke 6:28 NLT) Thank You for giving me the grace I need to “live a life that Jesus would be proud of”! (Philippians 1:10 MSG)
- J. M. Farro