Believers already hold the key to overcoming worldly strife.
As believers, we know that the commandment we have been charged with is simply to love. It sounds so simple, and yet when we consider the state of the world and the social environment in which we live, we see what appear to be unlovable people everywhere. There is rumor and inuendo prevalent through personal social media, criticism and outright vitriol promoted in the legacy media, all of which spills over into division and strife among our friends and family groups.
Many believers feel this is an indication of how things are getting worse and worse, and we just need to hold on until Messiah returns. However, this is nothing new. Even in Yeshua’s day, the wicked state of the population even in that time could be characterized in a similar fashion. Paul elucidates the characteristics evident even within that generation.
Romans 1:29-31 – …They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless.
How can we love people such as this? Aren’t these the people that God will destroy in vengeance? Perhaps we need to step back and broaden our understanding a bit and recognize how that type of mentality plays out.
Consider how Paul believed that the Torah command to love one’s neighbor was effective even amidst that wicked generation.
- Galatians 5:13-14 – For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love be servants of one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
- Romans 13:8-10 – Owe no one anything, except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law. The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not kill, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this sentence, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.
These encouragements, of course, were equally based on and supported by the teaching of Messiah.
Matthew 22:37-40 – And he said to him, “You shall love Yahweh your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the law and the prophets.”
But besides this clear teaching of Yeshua, Paul’s admonition to love others struck at a deeper place in the hearts of his hearers. He simply confronted them with their own histories of past disobedience.
Titus 3:2-3 – to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people. For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another.
Paul includes himself in this characterization of “malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another.” If we can likewise arrive at this place of naked recognition in our own lives, we can begin to find the compassion for others who seem at first glance to be unlovable. We ourselves have been in that dark place, and yet God somehow saw past that rebellious and disobedient exterior to demonstrate his own love for us.
And this leads to the corresponding method of our own love for others: to love the unlovable, we need to view them, not with the eyes of our flesh, but through the eyes of God’s compassion. It is the most difficult thing any of us can hope to accomplish, at least in our own strength. However, relying on his Spirit for our strength, we can take steps toward compassionate actions that would be beyond our own strength or willingness to do so.
Galatians 5:16, 22-25 – But I say, walk by the Spirit, and do not gratify the desires of the flesh. … the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such there is no law. And those who belong to Messiah Yeshua have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.
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