“It’s better to suffer for doing good, if that’s what God wants, than to be punished for doing bad. That’s what Christ did definitively: suffered because of others’ sins, the Righteous One for the unrighteous ones. He went through it all – was put to death and then made alive – to bring us to God.” 1 Peter 3:16-18, The Message
Blessing our enemies serves as a “human video,” a live demonstration of the crucifixion and the resurrection. Us, being right before God, taking the abuse of those who are wrong, and then choosing to bless them rather than repay them. It is our chance to prove He lives.
“This is the kind of life you’ve been invited into, and it’s the kind of life Christ lived. He suffered everything that came His way so you would know that it could be done, and also know how to do it step by step…They called Him every name in the book and He said nothing back. He suffered in silence, content to let God set things right.” 1 Peter 2:21-23, The Message
We suffer for doing what is right and we heal. This is the normal Christian life. To repay is to forfeit our healing. To be content in God to set things right frees us from experiencing the rage of self-righteousness and vengeance—emotions He never intended for us to live from.
I can walk more confidently today knowing that I am expected to suffer for doing right, just being right before God, and that healing is a sure companion to suffering. They go hand-in-hand, and I must engage my faith believing He is able and willing to set things right without my involvement. While I am tucked away in the healing of His wings, His vengeance is setting wrong things right. The blessing I inherit is healing, a greater fullness, and the open window for my offender to be reconciled back to the Father, too.
The Lord has been instructing me not to expose the weakness and brokenness of my offenders. Their offense toward me is not intentional. They are limited in the revelation and experience of Christ. Their brokenness (limitations) causes me to suffer pain even though they may love God too; they may cry out to be right before Him, as well. He is assuring me that my suffering is due to their weakness not intentional sin. And what is His response to my weakness? His love covers my weakness; He does not repay my weakness with weakness but strength. He does not repay my ignorance with ignorance, but with knowledge and revelation. He does not repay my brokenness with brokenness, but wholeness. He does not repay my unbelief with unbelief, but faith. I am not to respond in any way less than that.
Romans make a clear statement that the act of kindness is not to be a vengeful act. If my bible commentary is accurate: coals from a burnt offering (sacrifice) with incense (pleasing fragrance) covers the mercy-seat making the sacrifice acceptable to God for forgiveness. Is this a metaphor for our own acts of kindness? Kindness in response to evil is like a pleasing act of sacrifice (right and painful) making a way for God’s undeserved mercy to become available to a yet-repentant offender? Does my act of kindness pave the way for their eventual repentance?
Forgive Until You Feel It
So many Christians struggle with forgiveness. They say they have forgiven but cannot understand why the offense resurges with each remembrance. Is it because the forgiveness is incomplete when in word only? Is it possible that complete forgiveness goes beyond word, and beyond tolerance? Is it complete when it shows itself in deed? Is it the undeserved deeds of kindness that make an offender a renewed candidate for His mercy? Is a smoking head of coals a target for God to relent and bless? If so, we may find our own selves offended; our own self-righteousness, like Jonah resisting the kind deed of giving a warning for an undeserving people, are we too afraid God will follow through and grant them a mercy they don’t deserve? Forgiveness never says the offender was right. Giving sinners what they don’t deserve is grace, the unearned favor of God. It is what was given to me, and the humility of such undeserved kindness led to my own repentance.
Are we only kind while remembering the vengeance of God, thus fueling our self-righteousness? If returning acts of goodness for evil are for the sake of the offender getting what they deserve, then our so-called love for our enemies is really motivated by selfish gain. This is not love. Jesus looked upon those blind guides, the self-serving religious generation who nailed His body to a cross and said in words, “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.” And then He followed through with a deed that backed-up His words and died for their sins.
The most challenging thing for us is to believe that same love—the ability to love the offender—lives on in us and is dying to be expressed through us. We don’t believe we can love those who offend us. We dare not consider it because we know it will cost us our best manmade defenses and we will have to live a life of vulnerability, like sheep among wolves. We get stuck in a crisis of faith and secretly, in our own hearts, doubt God. What kind of God would send sheep among wolves? A God we have yet to know in this way. If we dare to love our enemies then the reward is a life free of defenses, full of an undeserved love, and experiencing God to be all He has promised to be…narrow is the way and few are they who find Him like this.
Does my sacrifice of kindness returned for evil heap the burning coals intended to mark an undeserved enemy for God’s mercy to be demonstrated on the earth? Not only is this sacrifice pleasing to God, but our deed of love covers the sin and must make a way for God’s forgiveness to be received by the offender.
If we love only those who love us and simply tolerate our offenders, what credit is that to us? There must be an amazing well of invincible love for us to love from or He wouldn’t have asked us to love a hater.