By Stephanie Fredrick

Jesus’ Most Counterintuitive Command

We live in a time where you can sign onto your favorite social media platform and systematically rebuke, chastise, and abuse others all from the safety and anonymity of a screen. There’s no shortage of disagreements or debates out there. As Christ followers, how should we engage with others when we don’t see eye to eye?

I recently went to see Bob Goff speak. If you have never heard him or read his books, you are missing out! Bob is a character; his life reads like a novel. But you could boil down all his good works and exuberance to two words: love people. His whole life’s mission is to love others and share that message with anyone who will listen. During his talk, Bob shared Galatians 5:6: “The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.” This convicted me to ask myself, “Have I always expressed my faith in love?”

There was a time in my life when I wanted to be right. I didn’t listen to others, and when I pretended to hear, I was usually just thinking of my rebuttal. I thought speaking louder or repeating my views would get my point across—which it never did. I argued with people about politics, social injustices, and how to fix the government, to name a few topics. After my arguments, I never felt like I had changed anyone’s mind, and if anything, I felt sad and empty.

Often, it may feel like those we disagree with are our enemies. And I’ve learned a lot from the Bible over the years, but the one concept that’s been hard for me to grasp is how Jesus teaches us to “love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you” (Luke 6:27–28). God gives simple instructions, but they aren’t always easy to live out.

If we break down the passage into four parts, it can be an excellent way to check ourselves and our motives:

Love your enemies— This can start by having a loving heart and mind beforehand. Take time each day to center yourself on Jesus and pray that he’ll help you love all people the way he does. Taking care of yourself by getting enough sleep and taking care of your body can also help you love others well.

Do good to those who hate you— What if you sent a note or message to someone whom you have disagreed with in the past, apologizing not for how you feel but for how you handled the situation? Could you do something nice with them or for them, like making them a meal, sending flowers to brighten their day, or asking how you can help them or something they care about?

Bless those who curse you— This may be the hardest of them all. It doesn’t seem natural, but if we are to live like Christ, then we need to speak kindly to and of those whom we disagree with, rather than cursing them (including insults, reproaches, and verbal offenses of all kinds). When we bless, we believe and trust that God will bring ultimate healing and reconciliation. I was once criticized by a boss of mine, and I carried feelings of anger, embarrassment, and sadness with me for years without knowing that I was in bondage to a curse. Once I heard the message from this passage, I decided to ask God to bless my old boss, and I almost immediately felt better. There’s a release when we bless others.

Pray for those who mistreat you— How often do you pray for an adversary? How often do you pray for the people you love? If you’re anything like me, I bet you pray for the latter a lot more often. It makes sense; who wants to pray for someone who hurt you? However, Jesus commands us to do this. Asking God to soften your own heart is a good place to start.

James 1:19 says, “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.” What I should do when someone says something that I don’t agree with is listen (with my mouth shut), think, state my views lovingly, and then ask God to shape both our hearts and minds. Raising my voice or demeaning the person will not help anyone. 

I love to learn new ideas, and I like to think that I am open-minded. But it’s sometimes hard to combine that with my natural tendency to want to be right. As I have matured as a Christ follower (and in age), I have taken verses like the ones I’ve shared to heart. The Bible has a lot to say on loving those you disagree with and those who may have hurt you through past arguments. Disagreements and debates will not go away anytime soon. But if we know what the Bible says and how God wants us to respond, we can be prepared when conflict comes and better understand the love God has not just for us but for everyone.

 

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Stephanie serves as Communications and Operations Manager of InterVarsity's Learning and Talent department. When she's not working, she enjoys spending time with her husband and four young children.

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