Jesus’ challenge to get it right - 18 March 2021
By Louise Gevers
These words of Jesus are clear, but difficult to process at first reading, because they go against our natural instincts. We don’t need to be in a war situation to suffer at the hands of others; in all aspects of life when people treat us badly it affects us, especially if we believe that we haven’t done anything to warrant it. For each one the enemy is anyone who makes our hackles rise, and causes us to feel defensive; who hates, curses or mistreats us. Jesus instructs us to love them, do well to them, bless them and pray for them.
Does Jesus understand how hard this is? Of course He does, He practised what He preached; so when we obey Him and follow His example when confronted with the person who has hurt or offended us, we will, like Him, bring about peace and make a positive way forward. This encourages us, but it doesn’t necessarily make it easy when we have unresolved feelings, because we have to deal with our hurt and pride to accomplish it. His words challenge us to the nth degree, but necessarily so, because that is how we will change.
Solomon would have understood why Jesus spoke so directly because he’d long searched and found God’s wisdom painful, but trustworthy, because it was straightforward but didn’t pander to individual’s feelings: “The Philosopher tried to find comforting words, but the words he wrote were honest. The sayings of wise men are like the sharp sticks that shepherds use to guide sheep …. They have been given by God, the one Shepherd of us all.” (Ecclesiastes 12:10-11)
Jesus calls for us to do what is right, not what is comfortable and suits our own understanding of a situation; yet it’s for our well-being. Resentment becomes unforgiveness, which turns into bitterness and leads to ill health if not addressed. Holding onto a grudge doesn’t help us in the long run, even if we weren’t to blame originally, no matter how much we try to justify it.
Perhaps it’s like the stones that our little granddaughter added to our birdfeeder when I was replenishing it which blocked it, unaware that they would upset the balance and soon stop the seed from flowing through. Psycho-therapist Gregory Popcak says that, “bitterness is unforgiveness fermented.” It blocks healthy development because a person who doesn’t forgive actually feeds the hurt and anger instead of dispelling it.
The writer of Hebrews warns: “Guard against turning back from the grace of God. Let no one become like a bitter plant that grows up and causes many troubles with its poison.” (Hebrews 12:15)
Jesus’ words are not only genuine and righteous, but wise for our souls. What will we do with His challenge?
Prayer: Lord Jesus, these difficult words challenge us, but Your mercy is great. “You have the words of eternal life” (John 6:68), please help us in our need. Amen