Thursday, February 26, 2015

Love one another as I have loved you

If you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God. To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.
'He committed no sin,
and no deceit was found in his mouth.'
When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. 'He himself bore our sins in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness;, 'by his wounds you have been healed.' (1 Peter 2: 20-24)

How do you react when someone hurts your feelings, insults you in some way or mistreats you? It is natural to desire to retaliate and likewise injure the other person in the same way you have been hurt. Even worse might be our reaction when someone offends a loved one, especially our child. I remember with shame how I reacted many years ago when one of my children was excluded from a birthday party. Not only had a young boy not included my son, but he handed invitations out at school noticeably eliminating my child. Today, I realize that this young boy had a right to invite whom he wanted to his party. But at the time, I was livid and angry with the boy and with his mother, a friend of mine. I called up this friend and expressed my anger and then avoided her for months thereafter.

Our Savior was repeatedly insulted. The Pharisees were jealous of the attention and devotion the crowds paid to Christ. Rather than admire the care and concern Jesus extended to the poor, the weak and the suffering, they despised and rebuked Christ. Our Savior was spat upon, whipped, nailed to a cross and crucified - yet, how did He respond? He left us an example that we should follow (1 Peter 2: 21). Jesus was sinless, yet He did not curse at those who cursed Him. He did not retaliate when insulted. He didn't threaten those who inflicted pain on Him. "He bore our sins in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness." By His pain and suffering, we have been given new life. We are forgiven and healed by His wounds (v. 24).

My son who was not invited to the birthday party is now a grown man and most likely doesn't even remember the hurt he had felt that day nor his mother's pained reaction. I have mellowed with time, but I still experience grief when my children are suffering. Last week at our church's Ash Wednesday service, a woman acted out a drama depicting Mary, Jesus' mother at the foot of the cross. In her hands, she held the garment her son had been wrapped up in when lying in the manger shortly after his birth.  Like most mothers, Mary probably hung on to mementos from her son's childhood. Mary recalled the night of Jesus' birth, how much she had loved her baby boy at that time and how her love for Him had grown throughout the years as she came to realize that her baby boy was not only her son but also her Savior. The demonstration of pain on the actress' face as she looked up at Jesus, hanging on the cross in excruciating pain, brought me to tears. What depth of loss must Christ's mother have felt as she watched her baby die? Not only Mary suffered while watching her son perish; Christ's heavenly Father also suffered with the knowledge that His Son was in pain. Yet God loved us so much that He allowed His Son to die so that we might have eternal life. "This is love; not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins" (1 John 4: 10).  We are likewise reminded to follow Christ's example of love:
"We should love one another" (1 John 3:11).
"Anyone who does not love remains in death" (3:14).
"Let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth" (3:18).
"Let us love one another, for love comes from God" (4:7).
"We love because he first loved us" (4:19).

Our world is full of anger and hatred. It is easy to respond in the way we feel we have been mistreated. Yet each day, we must deny this urge and make the decision to be known -  not for anger and revenge. As followers of Christ, we want others to see in us people who are known for their love.

Dear God,
You have commanded us to love one another. This is often quite hard to do. Help me to follow Your example and not respond in anger when I am insulted. Thank You that You live in me and Your love is made complete in me (1 John 4: 12). In Jesus' Name. Amen

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