Love for your enemies.
Love The Lord your God and love your neighbor as yourself...
For my regular readers you will notice that I have slowed down as of late. I have some health complications due to arthritis and I am facing surgery in the near future. That has toyed with my mind the past few weeks. Your prayer is appreciated.
When you are in ministry people will not like you. I have experienced that first hand. When I was called into ministry many years ago I was naïve in my thinking that if someone said that they were/are a Christian then they would automatically love God and love people. I envisioned it like an airplane set to “auto-pilot”. As I would find out serving in my first church and then in subsequent churches that - that plane would crash and burn.
As a pastor you encounter divisive people within the congregations that you serve. What is a divisive person? Simply put: someone who wants their way and will walk over whomever in order to achieve their goals. The pastors who are reading this understand this truth all to well. Divisive people do not have a love for others unless the others are on board with their agenda. They will divide over sound doctrine, over what ministries are offered, over mission groups, over how the churches money is spent, etc. the list goes on. Divisive people believe that only their way is the right way. It is hard dealing with a divisive church member, especially if they are unrepentant.
I struggle to love someone who is against the truth of Scripture while claiming to be a follower of Jesus Christ. In Luke 11:14-28, Jesus drives out a demon from a man and some in the crowd say “By Beelzebub, the prince of demons, he is driving out demons.”. In response Jesus talks about kingdoms being divided against itself (in regards to Satan’s kingdom) and then says these words in verse 23: “He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me, scatters.” When you say that you are a Christian and you cannot or will not get along within the church you are a divisive person. You are not with the Lord but against Him. You scatter rather than gather. Your unrepentant heart shows who you truly are. Like I said previously, I struggle to love these people. I have no choice but to count them an enemy of the cross of Christ. Read carefully the words of Paul to the believers in Philippi:
“For, as I have often told you before and now say again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is on earthly things.” Philippians 3:18 NIV
A divisive church member’s mind is on earthly things, not on the things of God. That is powerful and it will bring destruction to a body of believers when left unchecked. The very first post I wrote was about this very truth. “Friends with Sin” was the title and it is true.
I’m not proud of my unloving attitude and at times I have cried out in anger and frustration to The Lord during my years of pastoring. Only in the almighty grace of God and my growing and maturing in Him have I come to a place where I can love those who do not love me, love the divisive, love my enemies. Read the next few words from Christ carefully as you consider my post:
“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. 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 do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” -Jesus, The Sermon on The Mount. Matthew 5:43-48 ESV Emphasis Added.
Do I do this perfectly, of course not. I’d be a fool to tell you that I do. But as a child of God, born again by the grace of God not only am I convicted of His commands I am humbled by them. I want to do them, I want to love, forgive, grow and share in the family of God. Do you? Or are you more concerned with yourself?
The difference is a striving or wanting to please God by being obedient to His commands to love others and to seek peace and reconciliation (Romans 12).
If you have no desire to strive for the commands of God then you are just another Pharisee who “honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.” (Matthew 15:8).
Brothers and sisters, we are called to love our enemies and to pray for them.
Even the divisive ones, and the Pharisees.