Ever had a day at work that made you say, “I hate this job?” Maybe it was the long, tedious hours or coworkers who let you do all the work while they coasted to the end of the day. And then, every once in a while, it’s your boss. You know how the thoughts go: “He/she doesn’t understand,” “He/she finds the smallest things to scrutinize,” or “I can’t believe he/she just said that.”
If you’ve ever been frustrated by your boss, then I’m sure finding a witness was easy. Misery loves company. But Peter’s words in the verses cited above challenge us to reevaluate our approach to frustrating employers. Instead of “pointing fingers” or talking about them, we should respect their leadership. Does he mean all the time or just when they treat us fairly? All the time! Respecting them means we also respect God, who gave them the position.
Another way to be uncommon is to respect your boss. When others are sharing how he/she pissed them off, take the high road and keep silent. Remember, “God will bless you, even if others treat you unfairly for being loyal to him” (1 Peter 2:19, Contemporary English Version).
If you follow professional golf, then I’m sure you saw, or heard about, Tiger Woods’ public apology last Friday. This was an epic event because it commanded so much attention. Major broadcasting networks interrupted their normally scheduled programming to cover this press conference. Many people rearranged their work schedules just to hear what he’d say. Shockingly, even the Stock Market slowed to listen to Woods speak. Needless to say, Tiger Woods received special attention last week.
Don’t get me wrong – I believe in giving honor where it is due. But, we must be careful not to honor only the people who look honorable. That’s James’ point in the verses included above. He says that if we truly love our neighbors, as much as we love ourselves, then we won’t “play favorites.” When you love unconditionally, then everyone is special and deserving of your attention.
Can you imagine what kind of world this would be if we treated everyone as special as many treated Tiger Woods last week? Surely, we’d have less crime, less cases of depression, and fewer incidents of loneliness. Let’s make the world a better place by treating everyone like they’re special. Like James said, “… it is good when you obey the royal law as found in the Scriptures: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself'” (James 2:8, New Living Translation).
Ever noticed how easy it is to give people a piece of your mind? If you’re not careful, your mouth can get you in situations your feet can’t easily escape. Earlier this week, I learned that a teacher in North Carolina may face serious punishment. She had a frustrating day with her students and decided to vent on Facebook. No doubt, she had encouraged and inspired the same students before, possibly earlier that day. Yet, those endearing experiences quickly faded in the shadow of her “explosion.”
Isn’t it amazing how much trouble our words can get us into? That’s James’ point when he wrote, “… but no one can tame the tongue. It is restless and evil, full of deadly poison” (James 3:8, New Living Translation). We use the same mouth to bless God and blast people. And, James is right: this is not right, especially if we’re striving to demonstrate unconditional love.
One way to be uncommon is by watching our words. Instead of “going off’ on others, we should pray for them or praise their good qualities. Remember, when we criticize others, we criticize God, who made them in His image. So watch your words, knowing “if we could control our tongues, we would be perfect and could also control ourselves in every other way” (James 3:2, New Living Translation).
Here’s a quick question for you: who advises you on how to treat people? Who do you listen to when determining how to respond to someone who has frustrated you? Who commands your attention when you’re finalizing your rebuttal to someone who has made you angry? Who’s cheering you on when you finally have a chance to get even with someone?
There are plenty of “stations” we can tune in to for advice on how to treat people, but every “station” isn’t beneficial. You may choose to listen to the SELF station and do what you think is appropriate. But, we have to be careful with our opinions because our thoughts are not like His thoughts. Some choose to listen to the EVIL station, and agree to be governed by anger, hatred, or jealousy. Again, we have to be careful because the paycheck for sin is death.
Who should we listen to? In the text included above, Jesus reminds us that His sheep listen to Him. Sheep learn their shepherd’s voice by consistent exposure to and experiences with Him. The same is true for us. We learn His voice by exposing ourselves to His Word.
The good thing about Christ is that He’ll always give us the right answer. If we trust Him and seek His advice, He’ll show us how to respond (see Proverbs 3:5-6). So the next time you’re pondering a response to someone, wait for His answer. If you listen to Him, you’ll definitely show uncommon love!
Yet another childhood experience inspired today’s recharge. I remember this moment like it happened yesterday. One of my cousins spit in my face at a family gathering. Now, before I share my response, think about what you would do. Spit back, right? And that’s exactly what I did. And as soon as I retaliated, I got in trouble.
For a long time, I didn’t understand why I got in trouble. After reading this excerpt from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, I understood. In these verses, Jesus encourages us not to stoop to the level of those who treat us poorly. Instead, we should stay in control of our emotions, with His help, and take the “high road.” When we’re nice to people who mistreat us, ” (we) will heap burning coals of shame on their heads, and the Lord will reward (us)” (Proverbs 25:22, New Living Translation).
The best thing about Jesus is that He never asks us to do anything He’s not willing to do. When Judas betrayed Him, He called him friend. When the people crucified Him, He said, “”Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34, New Living Translation). The same Jesus who walked in the Word has given us power to control our emotions. When you’re pushed to the limits, lean on Him and stay in control of your emotions!
The recent events in Haiti have sparked generosity worldwide. As of January 27, 2010, people have given $528 million to 40 U.S. nonprofit organizations providing disaster relief. This exceeds the pace of giving after the September 11 attacks in 2001 and the Asian tsunamis in 2004. It’s wonderful to see so many people joining the efforts to restore Haiti.
Our willingness to provide foreign aid also convicted me about our local giving. Just think about the times you’ve hurried by or ignored the homeless person in need. Or, maybe you’ve denied a family member or friend because you remember how they mismanaged your donation the last time. Yet again, however, Jesus issues a challenge, “Give to those who ask, and don’t turn away from those who want to borrow” (Matthew 5:42, New Living Translation). If we’re able, we should give to people in need.
The wonderful thing about giving is that it qualifies you to receive. An old song say it like this, “You can’t beat God’s giving, no matter how you try … The more you give, the more He’ll give to you.” So let’s give, unconditionally, knowing that God will reward our generosity (see Luke 6:38).
Have you ever heard this phrase: “Don’t get mad; get even.”? As harsh or hilarious as it may sound, some people live by this statement. If you say something about them, they’ll say something worse about you. If you hit them, they’ll make sure they hit you harder. They’ll do whatever it takes to make sure they have the last laugh.
In this text, however, Jesus discourages retaliation. Why would He do that? Aren’t we justified when we defend ourselves?
First, retaliation is not in our job description. Our assignment on earth is to love God and His people (see Matthew 22:37-39). When we retaliate, we overstep our bounds, for God said, I will take revenge; I will pay them back” (Romans 12:19, New Living Translation). Second, every action is a down-payment on a forthcoming action. Paul said it like this, “You will always harvest what you plant” (Galatians 6:7, New Living Translation). Retaliation doesn’t resolve issues; it just keeps the cycle going.
Long story short, Jesus advises us to love, unconditionally. When people talk about you, praise them. When people hit you, hug them. Remember, you reap what you sow, so why not sow love.
Maybe it’s just me, but it seems like apologizing is one thing people dread. Maybe it’s pride, stubbornness, or an infatuation with anger, but people struggle to say “I’m sorry.” It doesn’t take long to develop resistance to apologizing. I work with children periodically, and you usually have to mention punishment to encourage them to apologize. Even biblical characters struggled with apologizing. Judas, the disciple who betrayed Jesus, thought committing suicide was better than apologizing to Jesus.
In today’s passage, however, Jesus reminds us of the importance of reconciling with those we have offended. He thought it was so important that He encouraged the listeners to interrupt their worship to make peace with others. Say what? Yes, we should leave the presence of God to settle our differences with others. And we shouldn’t wait for them to make the first move. Rather, we should take initiative and make peace quickly.
Our relationships with people are a reflection of our relationship with God. John said it like this, “… for if we don’t love people we can see, how can we love God, whom we cannot see?” (1 John 4:20, New Living Translation). Therefore, whenever you have a disagreement with someone, be sure to make peace with him or her. Those who make peace are the children of God (see Matthew 5:9).
Have you ever gotten angry with someone? Maybe someone said something insensitive, looked at you the wrong way, or did something that got on your nerves. If you have, then I can relate; I’ve been angry. In fact, I was angry with someone for four years! I spent the majority of that time making sure he knew it. Worse, I felt good about it. I thought to myself, “That’s what he gets for what he did to me!”
The text included above helped me pump the brakes on my anger. This is another excerpt from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, and in context, He is encouraging those listening to be better than the Pharisees. The Pharisees were the religious leaders; they often criticized certain behaviors while celebrating actions that were equally as appalling. In particular, they thought murder was such a heinous act, and they shunned inflicting physical harm upon others. But Jesus wanted the audience to know that our thoughts and words are just as heinous as our physical actions. John said it like this, “Anyone who hates another brother or sister is really a murderer at heart” (1 John 3:15, New Living Translation).
The message today is the same message Jesus had for this audience and me a few years ago – let it go! When people talk about you, let it go. When people mistreat you, let it go. Don’t waste energy storing up anger; instead, be uncommon and love the devil out of those who irritate you.
I’ve shared this before, but it’s still a fitting segue into today’s recharge. I’ll never forget what someone I know said about someone he doesn’t like: “If I saw him on fire beside the road, I wouldn’t stop to help.” Wow! Now, before you label him hateful or insensitive, just think about what you would do if you found the person who irritates you the most in a compromising situation. What if he or she made a mistake and you had a chance to report it? Would you stick to the facts or use it as an opportunity to put the nail in the coffin?
Thankfully, Jesus provides the prescription for this scenario in today’s text. During the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus encouraged those who were listening to be merciful. That’s right; He said it. And I love how He doesn’t define a particular audience toward which we should direct our mercy. In other words, we should be merciful to everyone, as often as possible. Why? Extending mercy is our ticket to withdrawing mercy later!
The Bible encourages us to live in harmony with everyone (see Romans 12:18). Showing unconditional mercy is a great way to walk in the Word. So if you have an opportunity to get even with someone who really irritates you, then decline the offer. Follow Jesus’ advice and be merciful.