“But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same… therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.”
– Matthew 5:44-48 (NKJV)
Being a disciple of Christ has never been easy. While one only needs to believe to be saved since God’s Son Jesus has accomplished the work of salvation, being His disciple is a life-long challenge, and involves continuous learning for believers over their lifetimes.
Most of us are capable of loving those who are akin to us, who are adorable, or who deserve to be loved, but many will probably find it hard to love those they have no connections with, or who are not considered lovable.
Confucius regarded loving the unlovable and returning good for evil to be unachievable. This is evident from the idiom contained in his work, Analects: “Meet wrongdoing with justice and repay kindness with kindness”. This seems to be common sense.
Repaying evil with good is not something the ordinary man is capable of, as it belongs in the realm of faith and religion, and in order to do that, one must have noble ideals and religious convictions, or a strong urge to fulfil a compelling obligation. Even then, for the act to be unaffected and unforced, one would likely need to have the attitude and mindset of Jesus.
The example that Jesus set was forgiving His enemies who had persecuted Him. Even when He was in agony on the cross, He prayed to His Father to forgive all who plotted against Him. This was an expression of incomparable love. The sacrifice Jesus made was also for those who had caused His death. Only God can accomplish this and it is something few men, if any, are able to do.
This is not to say that we believers do not have to follow the example of Jesus, but it is definitely a matter of willingness rather than ability.
God made us in His likeness, and it is because of this that Jesus reminds His followers: “But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” (Matthew 5:44-45, NKJV)
The Beatitudes presented in Christ’s Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7 describe character attributes that His disciples are meant to take on. These are Christ’s specifications of what every disciple ought to be like, and it is our responsibility to pursue them all. Jesus does not demand these to be achieved within any specific timeframe, for this is impossibly hard to do with man’s fallen nature, unless Jesus has transformed our depraved lives.
Christ reminds His disciples to continually strive to “be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.” (Matthew 5:48, NKJV) Let us start simply today, encouraging each other to press on in a life-long endeavour to be more like children of God, loving as He loves.
Bishop Dr Chong Chin Chung –
was elected Bishop of The Methodist Church in Singapore in 2016. He served as President of the Chinese Annual Conference for two quadrennia from 2008 to 2016.
Picture by PHOTOCREO Michal Bednarek/Bigstock.com