Therefore if you have any encouragement in Christ, if any comfort from His love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, then make my joy complete by being of one mind, having the same love, being united in spirit and purpose.
Do nothing out of selfish ambition or empty pride, but in humility consider others more important than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.
This is the key to any relationship, whether it’s with our spouse, our parents, our children, our in-laws our friends or anyone else who plays a role in our life; to act in love selflessly. And it’s the hardest thing…pretty much impossible in our own strength we cannot make any relationship work well.
We’re created in God’s image (Genesis 1:27), and since by definition God is love (1 John 4:8), we all have the capacity to love others. For most people, love is a feeling which changes with the tides. But real love is deeper than that. This is because, as 1 Corinthians 13:1-8 explains, love isn’t just a feeling, it’s purposeful. And since our old nature is at war with us, love can be a lot of work!
It’s our relationship with God that helps us have long-term love for others. After all, 1 John 4:19 reminds us that we can love others, because God first loved us. Also, it’s out of respect and honor for God that we show love to other people.
Now, even if you’re a Christian, you’re still going to experience tough relationships with others, and it may be their fault. Either they’re not a Christian, or they’re a Christian who is mislead in some way. We all have our shortcomings, and as God gives us freedom to make our own choices, we don’t always make the right decision.
38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ 39 But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. 40 And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. 41 And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. 42 Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.
As we see it, Jesus’ teaching in this passage has a very narrow application. It’s mainly concerned with the issue of personal revenge or retaliation, not self-defense. Christ is telling His followers that they need to let go of the desire to “get back” at others who have wronged them in some way. Augustine, Martin Luther, John Calvin, and other great thinkers in the history of Christian theology have explained this verse as follows. Disciples of Jesus should be willing to suffer personal injustices.
1 Corinthians 6:1-8
When one of you has a grievance against another, does he dare go to law before the unrighteous instead of the saints? 2 Or do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world is to be judged by you, are you incompetent to try trivial cases? 3 Do you not know that we are to judge angels? How much more, then, matters pertaining to this life! 4 So if you have such cases, why do you lay them before those who have no standing in the church? 5 I say this to your shame. Can it be that there is no one among you wise enough to settle a dispute between the brothers, 6 but brother goes to law against brother, and that before unbelievers? 7 To have lawsuits at all with one another is already a defeat for you. Why not rather suffer wrong? Why not rather be defrauded? 8 But you yourselves wrong and defraud—even your own brothers!
But they should also realize that loving one’s neighbor sometimes implies a willingness to use force. In other words, we should always be prepared to defend others who are being abused and mistreated in some way. Complete non-resistance, then, is not necessarily an absolute standard for the Christian life.
Christ never preached pacifism and he certainly never taught us that we must avoid conflict at all costs; he wouldn’t have been crucified otherwise! His sacrifice is the epitome of manifest love, but he did not die needlessly, nor would he ask us to remain in an abusive relationship or befriend people who constantly curse us.
But all this being said, by the word’s standard there’s much rude behavior directed at us which we have a perfect right to react to, yet Christ asks us to lay our own feelings aside and act in love and gentleness towards others, even when they’re inappropriate.
14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly.[h] Never be wise in your own sight. 17 Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. 18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. 19 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it[i] to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” 20 To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
Perhaps to call the person you dislike “enemy” is rather strong wording. Perhaps calling their behavior towards you “persecution” sounds rather exaggerated. But the principle certainly remains that God often asks us “to be the bigger person,” which can absolutely only be done by His grace.
It’s good to ask ourselves too when someone does or says something wrong why does this make me uncomfortable? Or do you feel offended? Did they ask you something which brings up feelings of fear and insecurity? Reflection on your emotion’s immediate response can be a revelation of your own nature and may even bring up something which you need to lay before that Lord. The more filled with Christ you are, the less room there will be in your heart and mind for personal offense.
I’ve known people who will shut others out as soon as they exhibit any hurtful behavior. There are times if a person is dangerous where for your own safety it’s best to cut ties with them. However in most cases we are called to do something else, which can sometimes feel even harder.
Sin which leads to death
1 John 5:16-17
16 If anyone sees his brother committing a sin not leading to death, he shall ask, and God will give him life—to those who commit sins that do not lead to death. There is sin that leads to death; I do not say that one should pray for that. 17 All wrongdoing is sin, but there is sin that does not lead to death.
We know that, “the wages of sin is death,” so why is John sounding like some sins leads to death rather than others? My belief is that the sin which leads to death spoken of in this passage is the rejection of Christ.
Hebrews 2:11;12 says,
“I will tell of your name to my brothers;
in the midst of the congregation I will sing your praise.”
If someone is “a brother” (or sister as the case may be) then they have already accepted Jesus as their savior. When a brother or sister in Christ stumbles in sin, they will be forgiven. The only way their sins won’t be forgiven is if they reject Jesus as their savior.
The word, “life” in the Bible can refer to righteous living. As Christians it’s part of our duty to pray for our siblings in Christ to walk in accordance with God’s will. Those, however, who are not in a relationship with Christ are not our brothers and sisters. That’s why rejecting Christ and blaspheming the Holy Spirit is the only real sin which leads to death.
A Christian can’t “accidentally loose their salvation,” for a real blasphemy or rejection requires a conscious decision.
I also dare believe that even if a person has previously committed the sin which leads to death they will always have the chance for repentance as long as they live in this world. God’s will is that none should perish.
It won’t do much good to pray that God will give spiritual life to those who have rejected Him, because only the Holy Spirit can change hearts. Life in the spiritual sense regards a person’s attitude and behavior, and neither will really change for the better unless they allow the Holy Spirit to help them. That’s why John says, “I do not say that one should pray for that.”
But please note he doesn’t say, “Don’t pray for them at all.” Still as we feel called we may pray that those we know who are unsaved would become our brothers and sisters in Christ.
Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.