Gifts that Transform
Last updated 11/23/2013 at 5:03pm
Each year at this time, we hear messages about hope, love, and peace. Between Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s, there are faint signs of brotherhood and “peace on earth.”
This year, if there’s anything that’s pretty obvious, it’s the fact that love, peace, and hope, are in very short supply. Just take a look at the world around us.
In the U.S., there has been so much bickering and discord that the federal government was forced to shut down because Congress and the White House could not come to a resolution on the budget and spending limits.
In Canada, peaceful protests by First Nations in New Brunswick turned violent when the RCMP tried to shut down the demonstrations. This brought back memories of the Oka crisis some 23 years ago.
Going overseas, there was the terrorist attack on a shopping mall in Kenya killing over 60 people. There are the continual brutal attacks on Christians in Nigeria by the Boko Haram, a Muslim extremist group connected to Al-Qaida. Extremist groups affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood have attacked and burned Coptic Christian churches in Egypt, killing followers of Jesus.
Back in the U.S., there have been several mass shootings, killing innocent people and causing widespread panic, including the shooting at the Los Angeles Airport and a mall in Paramus, New Jersey.
Will it ever end?
My wife and I are part of a small group and we’ve been studying the Book of Luke. We just finished Chapter 6 where Jesus speaks to several issues which relate to the lack of hope, peace and love mentioned above. He deals with “loving our enemies” and “not judging people.” Two very difficult issues to look at honestly.
Loving our Enemies
Here’s what Jesus said: “…to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you,” (Luke 6:27-31 NIV).
Obviously from the news reported above, there are a lot of enemies in the world. Who are our enemies? From what Jesus said, an enemy would be anyone who curses and/or mistreats us. Anyone who assaults us or steals from us. But an enemy may also be someone who vehemently disagrees with what we believe.
Here’s what we are to do: “…love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back” (Luke 6:35 NIV).
When we do those things, Jesus says our reward will be great and we will be children of the Most High. Now here’s something shocking. He says God is “kind to the ungrateful and wicked.” Really? Yes, He is and it’s because He is merciful. And because God is merciful, He wants us to be merciful.
Then Jesus talks about judging others. He says, “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven” (Luke 6:37 NIV).
Now that one hits right between the eyes. Who hasn’t judged someone? It’s so easy to do. Most of the time we don’t give it much thought. But on a daily basis, people are judging others on the way they dress, what they say, what they believe and yes, how they live.
In a survey done on why people are leaving the church, one of the main reasons people gave for why they left was because of the “judging attitude.”
Recently a church conference was held in California for the sole purpose of judging those they disagreed with. Maybe they should have discussed Luke 6 instead.
James Robison recently wrote that Billy Graham had counseled him years ago, suggesting that he “spend time with other believers you’ve been taught to avoid.” Robison says he did and it was a transforming experience not only for him but also for those he reached out to.”
Jesus concludes the passage talking about giving. “Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”
This has to do with giving and most people think of money. But think of this as it relates to loving your enemies and forgiving those who have offended you. The more you love your enemies and forgive, the more you will receive in return.
What better gift could we give this Christmas than to love and not judge those we don’t like? If we put into practice the teaching of Jesus concerning loving our enemies and not judging others, there would be a lot more peace and love in this world.
Have a loving and forgiving Christmas!