Forgiveness

You Can’t Love Jesus with a Heart Full of Hate: 7 Reasons to Love and Forgive Your Enemies

Human beings are capable of egregious depravity toward one another. The atrocities of war. Horrifying crimes. The cruelty of torture and persecution. All in an attempt to fill a wicked heart’s insatiable lust for evil, power, money, or the approval of a god.

And no one knew more about that than Jesus.

Jesus was born into a tumultuous and oppressive world. Long gone were the golden days of David and Solomon when Israel was a self-governing nation at the peak of power and opulence. In Jesus’ time, subjugation and sorrow were the order of the day as God’s people writhed under the iron boot of the Roman Empire.

Even from Jesus’ birth narrative, we catch a glimpse of the terrorism running roughshod over his homeland. The first event Matthew relates to us about Jesus’ life is what is often called “the massacre of the innocents.”

Herod the Great, in a yet another paranoid frenzy to protect his throne, had his soldiers march through the streets of Bethlehem and the surrounding area and slaughter every baby boy under the age of three. Infants, ripped from their mothers’ arms, only to have their skulls savagely crushed. Toddlers at play, run through with the sword.

Luke tells us that Jesus’ relatives resided in Bethlehem, so it’s probable that this heinous event directly impacted His family. Perhaps He lost a cousin he would have played with as a child, or a nephew He might have apprenticed alongside in Joseph’s workshop.

Jesus was also no stranger to crucifixion. It was a common occurrence in His day, and victims of crucifixion were made a public spectacle to serve as a warning to any that dared disturb the tenuous peace of Pax Romana. It is likely He witnessed crucifixions on occasion and might even have been acquainted with someone who was crucified.

We know Jesus was well acquainted with one casualty of brutality. Jesus’ beloved cousin John – who had baptized Him, about whom Jesus declared there was no one greater – was imprisoned by Herod Antipas to appease his ill-gotten wife, and subsequently executed, his head on a platter a present for a dancing girl.

All this misery at the hands of the Romans is to say nothing of the of the scorn, rejection, and persecution Jesus experienced from His own people. “A prophet is not without honor,” He said, “except in his hometown and among his relatives and in his own household.”

And in the end, Jesus was personally subjected to unparalleled agony from an alliance between those in His household of Israel and His Roman enemies. Betrayed by a close friend. Slandered, falsely accused, and convicted by Jewish leaders. Flayed, mocked, and spat upon by soldiers. Scorned and reviled by the crowds. Coronated with a crown of thorns and nailed to a cross by the decree of Pilate.

Jesus lived a life despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.

If anyone had cause to hate someone who had hurt Him or those He loved – an individual, a people group, a religion’s adherents, a nationality, a race – it was Jesus.

And yet time and again Jesus’ example and mandate to those who would follow Him was not to hate, take revenge, or curse the enemy, but to love and forgive.

It is spiritually dishonest to claim to be a follower of Christ while nourishing and cherishing hatred in your heart against an enemy. Here are just a few of the reasons God gives us in His Word:

1. 
You can’t love Jesus with a heart full of rebellion

You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven.”
Matthew 5:43-45a

“But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you…But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.”
Luke 6:27,35-36

Christ instructs us love our enemies. This isn’t an option or a suggestion. It is a direct order from our Commander in Chief. Who has the right to say he is a loyal soldier of the King while knowingly standing in rebellion against His command?


2.
You can’t love Jesus with a heart that hates His creation 

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God
he created him; male and female he created them.

Genesis 1:27

Your enemy was created in the image of God, and intimately and intricately formed by His hands in the womb – just like you were. To hate another image bearer is to hate what God lovingly created, blessed, and said is good.


3.
You can’t love Jesus with a heart
that denies the sin He saved you from

Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.
1 Corinthians 6:9-11

The dirt you were saved out of wasn’t any cleaner than the dirt your enemy currently wallows in. You used to be just like him. And it was only the grace and mercy of God that snatched you up out of that dirt, washed you off, and saved you. You don’t have any bragging rights. You’re not any better than he is. You’re just a sinner God rescued.


4.
You can’t love Jesus with a heart full of unforgiveness

…and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors…For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
Matthew 6:12,14-15

‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt.
So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you,
if you do not forgive your brother from your heart
.”
Matthew 18:32b-35

Your enemy – that person you hate and refuse to forgive because he hurt you – has sinned infinitely more against a holy and righteous God than he could ever sin against you. And yet God is still willing to forgive him. Who do you think you are to deny him your forgiveness if your Master is willing to forgive him? Are you above God?


5.
You can’t love Jesus with a heart full of rotten fruit

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.
Galatians 5:22-23

The things in this list characterize the person who is indwelt by the Holy Spirit, a.k.a., a Christian. Hatred isn’t on the list. The heart that is full of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control leaves no room for hatred, and indeed is antithetical to hatred.


6.
You can’t love Jesus with a heart full of lies and murder

Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness…But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes.

Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.

If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.
1 John 2:9,11; 3:15; 4:20

Hatred is so out of place in the heart of a Christian that God says you’re still lost if hatred characterizes your life. Hating shows the world a picture of an unsaved person, not a saved person. It is not a truthful testimony that you are a new creation in Christ.


7.
You can’t love Jesus with a heart
that won’t follow His example

And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
Luke 23:34

For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that
while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Romans 5:6-8

Jesus didn’t just tell us to love, forgive, and extend mercy to our enemies. He practiced what He preached. In the middle of His agony and suffering, He forgave. Jesus gave every drop of His blood, every beat of His heart, and absorbed every ounce of God’s wrath for people who hated Him. His enemies. People He had every human and divine right to annihilate for what they had done to him. Including you and me. If we aren’t willing to follow His example and lay down our lives that our enemies might be saved, we have no part in Christ.


There are some things Jesus never said about loving and forgiving your enemies.

He never said it would be easy.

He never said you could do it in your own strength.

He never said you’d have to do it alone.

Forgiving someone who has wounded and scarred you in unimaginable ways might be the hardest thing you ever attempt in this lifetime. Do it anyway.

Yes, you can.

You can do it with the strength of the One who endured the cross to forgive you.

You can do it with the peace He purchased for you with His blood.

You can do it through the love with which He first loved you.

You can do it as the God of all comfort wraps His everlasting arms around you.

You can do it as Christ’s nail-scarred hands draw you close to His riven side and carry you from the bondage of hatred to the freedom of forgiving.

Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted,
forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

Ephesians 4:31-32

Because you can’t love Jesus with a heart full of hate.

Easter, Top 10

Throwback Thursday ~ Top 10 Best Easter Songs

Originally published April 3, 2015easter songs

There are so many great Easter hymns and worship songs out there. After all, how can a songwriter go wrong proclaiming the glorious truth of Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection? It was hard to narrow it down to my ten favorites, but I gave it a shot.

(Please note- I am not familiar with all of these musicians. Their presence here is not an endorsement of any unbiblical theology any of them may hold to. Please thoroughly vet the doctrine of any Christian musician you choose to follow and make sure it matches up with Scripture.)

1. Jesus Paid it All– Nominated by my 11 year old son, who said in the car on the way home from church, “They need to do ‘Jesus Paid it All’ next week, because it is a very appropriate Easter song.”

 

2. Arise My Love– The grave could not hold the King!

 

3. Low in the Grave He Lay– You’re not really a Southern Baptist unless your church does this one every Easter. Bonus- I’ve never heard this song in Korean(?), but this choir does a lovely job.

 

4. The Old Rugged Cross– What a precious song this is and what a beautiful job this gentleman does on it.

 

5. Sunday’s On the Way– The resurrection is not an allegory for your personal problems coming to an end. Other than that, this is pure 80’s “in your face, Devil!” CCM awesomeness.

 

6. The Wonderful Cross– Who ever thought something so horrific could be so beautiful? But it is.

 

7. Man of Sorrows, What a Name– Hallelujah, what a Savior!

 

8. He’s Alive– The resurrection through the eyes of Peter. Oh how sweet it must have been for him to see Jesus alive again.

 

9. I’ve Just Seen Jesus– I love singing this one with my husband.

 

10. Christ the Lord is Risen Today– He is not dead. He is alive. We have this hope in Jesus Christ! This arrangement is such a nice blend of the traditional and the contemporary.

He is risen! He is risen, indeed!

Happy Easter everyone!

Women of Genesis Bible Study

The Women of Genesis: Lesson 16- Sarah and Hagar

Previous Lessons: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15

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Read Genesis 21:1-21

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Questions to Consider

1. In lesson 13, we gave some thought to the idea that God made the formalized Abrahamic Covenant only with Abraham, not with Abraham and Sarah. But notice God’s attention to Sarah in verse 1. Analyze the two halves of verse 1. Who is the subject? The object? What action is performed? Compare verse 1 to Hebrews 11:11. What can we learn about Sarah’s faith and God’s faithfulness from these verses?

2. How old was Abraham when Isaac was born? (5) How old was Sarah? Imagine yourself becoming a first time mom at Sarah’s age. What might you be thinking? What are some of the things you might pray about? What are some new issues you might need to trust God about?

3. What does the name “Isaac” mean? (3- see footnote) There has been much laughter surrounding Sarah’s pregnancy and Isaac’s birth. Examine verse 6 along with these verses. How would you characterize Abraham’s and Sarah’s laughter? Scornful? Unbelieving? Shock and awe? Thinking about how absurd the situation would seem to others? (Hint: Think about how we often see God treat scorn and disbelief of His word in Scripture alongside the fact that Abraham and Sarah are both commended several times in the New Testament.) Who chose Isaac’s name? What kinds of things would Sarah have been reminded of every time she called Isaac’s name?

4. Look at Genesis 16:16 alongside 21:5, and factor in the fact that children were usually weaned (21:8) at 2-4 years of age in that time. Approximately how old would Ishmael have been in 21:9?

5. Read the footnote on verse 9, and examine this verse in a few other trustworthy translations. What set Sarah off? (10) Does this sort of behavior from Ishmael seem to fit with what God had spoken about him? Compare verses 10-13 with 17:18-21. Before Isaac was ever conceived, what had God already told Abraham and Sarah about which son would be “heir” of the Abrahamic Covenant? So what sort of heirship might Sarah have been concerned about Ishmael sharing with Isaac?

6. Compare Hagar’s second “exile” from Sarah’s household in verses 14-21 to her first in 16:6-15. What are some similarities? What are some differences? Which attributes of God are showcased in both of these stories? How is God “the God who sees me” (16:13) and “God hears” (16:11) in the second “exile” as well as the first? Compare Hagar’s trust in God in these two passages to the lack of trust in God Sarah has exhibited in recent passages.

7. Briefly review Sarah’s actions in Genesis 16 (lessons 11-12) with the consequences in both chapter 16 and chapter 21. How did Sarah’s sin of taking matters into her own hands instead of trusting God impact Abraham, Hagar, Ishmael, Isaac, and herself?


Homework

Consider the impact Sarah’s sin of failing to trust God had on all the members of her household. Consider the example Hagar still sets for us today because she trusted God. Think about a situation you’re going through in your own life. How could your failure to trust God hurt those around you? How could your trust in God set a godly example that might even open a door to sharing the gospel with someone?


Suggested Memory Verse

The Lord visited Sarah as he had said, and the Lord did to Sarah as he had promised.
Genesis 21:1

Favorite Finds

Favorite Finds ~ March 27, 2018

Here are a few of my favorite recent online finds…

 

Thanks to my sweet friend Kesha over at Bible Thinking Woman for giving me a heads up on all the great t-shirts and other products available at her online boutique, Eternal Gift Store! The BTW shirt she kindly sent me is super soft with an eye-catching design. Check out all their products and give BTW a follow on Facebook or Twitter.

 

Does your church collect Operation Christmas Child shoe boxes at Christmas time? Amy Medina and her husband Gil are missionaries in Tanzania, and she has written two startling articles at Everyone Needs a Little Grace in Their Lives about being on the receiving end of OCC shoe boxes. There’s corruption, evangelism dilemmas for missionaries, and often, no gospel. I urge you to read Opening Up Christmas Shoe Boxes: What Do They Look Like On the Other Side? and Sometimes the Starfish Story Doesn’t Work, and maybe pass them along to your pastor now, while there’s still plenty of time to decide whether or not your church should participate in OCC this year.

 

Who doesn’t love an online quiz? Here’s a Simple Bible Doctrine Quiz from Josh Buice at Delivered by Grace that will test your knowledge of basic theology.

 

 

If you’re a Sunday School or Bible study teacher, or even just for your personal daily Bible study time, The Hero of the Story is a really helpful new podcast from The Gospel Project featuring my friend Aaron Armstrong and co-host Brian Dembowczyk that will help train you to teach and/or study the Bible better. (So far, it is not specific to The Gospel Project Sunday School curriculum, so your church doesn’t have to use that literature in order for the podcast to make sense.) You can listen on line as well as get all the appropriate podcast links at the link above.

 

My Sunday School class has a breakfast rotation. Last week it was my turn to bring breakfast, so I made a doughnut bread pudding. When I mentioned it on Twitter, a lot of people seemed interested in the recipe, so I thought I’d share it here. I use this bread pudding recipe, substituting glazed doughnuts for the bread. I leave out the raisins, cut the sugar a little (since the doughnuts are glazed), and top it off with a a cream cheese buttercream icing drizzle (melt a little butter and cream cheese, add a dash of vanilla and a spritz of water, stir in powdered sugar until it’s the right consistency) when it’s done.

Mailbag

The Mailbag: MLM-ing Essential Oils at Church

 

Our church has recently had a visitor come who is now promoting essential oils to the women who are flocking to a class she is having in one of their homes. This makes me very uncomfortable as it appears (to me) that she has visited to increase her MLM [multi-level marketing] customer base while touting medicinal cures via essential oils. Do you have any research on this?

Sounds like a multi-level mess! There are several different issues going on here, so let’s dig in…

Cold-calling at church
Um, no. I mean… OK, I’m just going to go there. Have you no shame? Have you no home training? I don’t care how much of a go-getter saleswoman you are, there are some lines you just don’t cross. And I can’t believe I’m actually having to explain to grown up, adult people that you don’t go church hopping to make sales and recruit people to work for you. What’s next, showing up at funerals to sell Avon? Pampered Chef demonstrations at wedding receptions?

Church is the place where a local body of Believers gathers to worship the almighty God of the universe. How dare anyone sully the Bride of Christ it by making it something as low and common as a networking site for her business! If you are visiting a church, you should be doing so to worship, not for any other reason. Jesus made that really clear.

Depending on how blatant, intrusive, and disruptive the visitor’s behavior at your church is, someone – preferably one of the women in the class that the visitor is close to, but if not, possibly an elder or the pastor – may need to pull her aside and firmly, yet lovingly, explain that she is welcome to come to church to worship, but not to hustle.

Multi-Level Members
The reader who sent in the question asked about someone who’s visiting her church, but I want to take a moment to speak to you ladies who are MLM-ing your own church.

Your fellow church members might be uncomfortable telling you this, so I’m going to do so on their behalf: Some of you are going too far and being too pushy with your businesses. And you’re putting your brothers and sisters in the no-win situation of either having to acquiesce to the pressure you’re putting on them or hurt your feelings by telling you no.

It’s certainly fine to tell people at church what your job is when they ask, but leave the ball in their court:

“What do you do?”

“I’m an independent sales consultant for Fancy Widgets.”

“Oh? That sounds great!”

“Yeah, it’s an awesome company. I love it! If you’d ever be interested in working with us or adding to your widget collection, just let me know. Want some coffee?”

And don’t bring it up again. She knows you’re her Fancy Widgets connection. If she wants something, she’ll find you.

If you leave it at that and you end up having a few people at church who want to order from you, it’s certainly OK to discreetly take orders from them or bring their products to them at church after services are over. It’s fine for people to approach you about your business, but don’t repeatedly ask people at church to host parties, invite people from church to parties others are hosting for you, attempt to recruit people, or push products. That’s a distraction from worship and fellowship, it gets on people’s nerves, and it will eventually end up alienating your church family.

Scientifically proven?
I don’t have much experience with essential oils, but it’s my understanding that some essential oils can help alleviate the symptoms of some ailments in some people. In other words, peppermint oil may work wonders on your migraine, but do nothing for mine. As long as the limits of the powers of the essential oils are made clear along with the potential benefits, there’s no problem. If the visitor is making snake oil-type promises that the essential oils don’t deliver on, that’s lying and she needs to be confronted about it. If it gets to that point, you need to let your pastor or elders know what’s going on in case she doesn’t stop and one of them ends up having to deal with her.

Essential Oils and New Age Spirituality
Some (not all) essential oils companies claim that their oils will bring about spiritual benefits in addition to (or instead of) physiological benefits. While it’s fine to say that a little lavender oil in your bath will help relax you, saying that it will balance your chakras or yin your yang or bring you inner peace and confidence or whatever is crossing the line into unbiblical (usually New Age) spirituality. No Christian should have anything to do with buying or selling such essential oils. If there’s someone in your church who’s promoting a company like that at church, that’s a church discipline issue, because she’s introducing false doctrine into the church.

Marcia Montenegro over at Christian Answers for the New Age has published numerous posts on the problems with New Age spirituality and essential oils, as has Sola Sisters.


If you have a question about: a Bible passage, an aspect of theology, a current issue in Christianity, or how to biblically handle a family, life, or church situation, comment below (I’ll hold all questions in queue {unpublished} for a future edition of The Mailbag) or send me an e-mail or private message. If your question is chosen for publication, your anonymity will be protected.