For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. (Matthew 6:14)
The Sermon on the Mount as a dividing message. It makes you either want to climb the mount of faith or run from it. Christ’s words outline just how difficult the journey can become. Guard your personal relationships. Give with abandon. Forgive. Forgive. And then, forgive some more.
One of the greatest challenges is the command to love your enemies. Not that Jesus didn’t say enemy, but enemies. He must’ve known there would be many and that they would take all different forms. Neighbors. Relatives. Spouses. Children. Bosses. And rather than live overseas, they tend to live next-door or inside your own home. Yeah Jesus’ challenge is the same: “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:43 and 48).
It’s backward thinking. Embrace those who hurt others. Love those who hate. Yet in the kingdom of God, it makes sense. Jesus goes on to explain why: “In order that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven.”
That kind of forgiveness and love – it makes us His. It seems to make no sense, but it makes us His as our identity is shifted from this world into the next. It challenges us to make decisions based on eternity rather than on the temporal.
Fortunately, Christ didn’t preach this love, He lived it. A few chapters later we find Him hanging mangled on the cross. Pierced. Beaten. Robbed of His own clothes. Bloodstained. Pain-inflicted. It’s in this state that He cries out not against them, but for them, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
If He wanted to be right, He could have reminded them of the coming judgment or invoked one of His own. But instead He chose to be righteous and live out the very commandment He had spoken.
It’s precisely in those points we’re wronged, those moments we partake of the cross, when we have no obligation, when it’s not comfortable, that Christ quickly gives us the opportunity to become more like Him. Maybe it’s a bill you don’t have an obligation to pay. Maybe it’s a workplace problem you have no reason to overlook. Maybe as a person who only knows how to wrong you in words or action. Maybe it’s not what’s been done, but what’s been left undone. Whatever the reason, whatever the source, the invitation remains – to be right or to be righteous.
Consider Matthew 6:14-15. How can you respond in righteousness when you’ve been wronged?
Father, increase my level of faith and grace. Help me to choose to love my enemies and reflect Your son.
Margaret Feinberg is a writer based in Juneau, Alaska. She is author of God Whispers: Learning to Hear His Voice and a contributing writer to both Enjoying God: Embracing Intimacy with the Heavenly Father and I AM RELEVANT.