Loved ones, we have turned love in to a contractual obligation. “If they do this, I will do that,” or “because they don’t, I won’t.” This morning, I’m praying and meditating on this very concept when I consider what would happen if Jesus did that to us. Could you imagine if the cross was contractual? Don’t get me wrong, the power of the cross is through the blood of Christ and is given by surrender. But we don’t earn any of it, nor do we deserve it. Jesus knew what was in man, and loved people anyway. They mocked Him as He suffered and died; He said, “Forgive them, Father.” They constantly tried to discredit and kill Him; He tried to reason with and warn them, he healed their sick, He loved them anyway. And when He knew what was to come, He wept over them. Jesus, God in the Flesh, loved people fiercely, to the point of masking His godhood to become one of us, facing a cruel and slow Death, His Holy body given for burial and Resurrection for the sake of reconciliation. Jesus had, and has, many enemies, and He loves us fiercely.
When I say we should be like Jesus, I definitely mean that fierce, illogical (reckless by our standards), non-transactional love. We should love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us, yes, even to the point of death. We should seek their good and their welfare, seek their benefit, seek their reconciliation to God. The proximity to those enemies does not matter either. Whether they are in our own home, live next door, in a courthouse, in a statehouse, or live across the ocean, we should seek to love them anyway, and love them fiercely. This is the radical love that reconciled us to God and changed the world, and, should our lives be forfeit in the process, we know that, at least, some of them will join us in heaven, as Paul joined those he put to death there. Whatever it takes to get people to Jesus, love them and love them fiercely, standing firm on the truth, standing on Christ Jesus and His word, by the power of the Holy Spirit, with every breath we have.
1 Corinthians 9:19-27
For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them. To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law. To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings.
Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.
I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.
Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.
Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave iti to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.