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Keep the Love On

Following Jesus Christ is counter-intuitive. Always has been.

In His famous “Sermon the Mount,” Jesus teaches that life in the Kingdom of God is antithetical to what most mortals think and feel.

For instance, if someone attacks you, Jesus says don’t defend yourself nor retaliate.

If someone mistreats you, forgive them.

If someone offers sincere correction, receive it in humility without being defensive or taking offense.

If someone compels you to go one mile, go two.

If someone steals your shirt, give them your coat also.

If someone hates you, love them.

If someone trashes you (gossips, slanders, invokes curses on your head), don’t act in kind. Pray for them.

In other words, even when you’re being hated, spoken evil of, lied about, and mistreated, keep the love on.

Never turn it off.

Now that doesn’t mean you are to have warm fuzzy feelings in your belly toward those who act like sub-human pigs.

That’s not what Jesus meant by “love.”

Nor does it mean that you are to trust people who act in fleshly ways. While love is unconditional, trust is conditional and must be earned.

Nor does loving a person mean that you are to fulfill their every request or whim.

Rather, Jesus defines love quite clearly for us in the Gospels: It’s treating others the same way we want to be treated in every situation.

To illustrate, here are some examples of people I’ve known in the past who kept the love on.

Jeff excelled at his job and earned the favor of his boss as well as a promotion and a raise. Two people (who were buddies with each other) now had a common enemy. Both of these befuddled souls were insanely jealous of Jeff and began fabricating false narratives about him in an effort to knock him off his horse. Some who were gullible in the office believed the lies and stopped talking to Jeff.

Jeff kept the love on. He forgave those two people and didn’t retaliate by spreading lies about them as they had done to him. A few noticed that Jeff was taking the high road and their respect for him only increased. A year later, one of Jeff’s detractors got fired. The other had a mental breakdown. Jeff was promoted again.

“The one who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him.” ~ Proverbs 18:17

“Things the Lord hates . . . a false witness who breathes out lies, and one who sows discord among brothers.” ~ Proverbs 6:19

Don was coaching a baseball team. He had to cut someone from the team because Don and the assistant coach didn’t feel the guy had what it took to be on the team. When the guy was told that he was being cut, he became livid and shortly thereafter began demonizing Don and the other coach. One of Don’s friends — someone quite naive — believed the false rumors and broke their friendship with Don over it.

Don kept the love on. Don forgave the guy who was spreading the lies and he also forgave his friend who believed them. Don never spoke ill of either men. When people asked why he cut the guy from the team (after he was whining about it to everyone who would listen), Don answered honestly without exaggeration. Eventually, Don’s friend came to his senses and saw through what was going on. And the friendship  was restored. Last I heard, Don was still coaching successfully and things were going great in his life.

“A troublemaker plants seeds of strife; gossip separates the best of friends.” ~ Proverbs 16:18

“It is to one’s glory to overlook an offense.”  ~ Proverbs 19:11

Sarah’s boss made her the manager of a group of people at her local store. One of the women who wanted Sarah’s position disagreed with her method of leadership. This person tried to persuade Sarah to take on her vision and methods. Sarah listened graciously, but choose not to go in the woman’s direction. The woman was insulted that Sarah didn’t adopt her views. So she began laying plans to subvert Sarah’s leadership by trying to win the favor of the other workers who were under Sarah, seeking to persuade them that Sarah was incompetent.

Sarah kept the love on. She forgave the hater and didn’t retaliate.  She kept silent on the matter, except when she was specifically asked about what the woman was saying about Sarah in private. Eventually, the hater at Sarah’s job eventually fell on her own sword. She got in trouble with Sarah’s boss over another matter and was fired.

“If one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame.” ~ Proverbs 18:13

“Whoever conceals hatred with lying lips and spreads slander is a fool.” ~ Proverbs 10:18

In all of the above scenarios, people opted to walk in their flesh by becoming jealous and/or taking needless offense.

Sadly, it’s often your fellow “Christians” who are the purveyors of this kind of fleshly conduct.

Even so, following Jesus Christ is taking the high road when others opt for the gutter.

When God’s people hear the way of Jesus in this regard, their natural response is usually, But this is so hard!

No, it’s not hard. It’s humanly impossible.

But we aren’t called to live as “mere mortals” – 1 Corinthians 3:3-4.

It’s only possible when we learn to live by the indwelling life of Christ.

For His life knows the cross – death to self, losing, yielding, laying your life down.

And it will always lead you up a hill during times of mistreatment.

In addition, the nature of His life is love. But the word “love” is cheap these days.

If you love someone, you won’t lie about them or distort the truth.

If you love someone, you will always think the best of their intentions.

If you love someone, you will treat them the way you want to be treated in every circumstance.

Following Jesus Christ today — or as I’ve put it so often, “following your spiritual instincts” — means transcending the reactions of the flesh.

And in so doing, God gets glory, for you are a child of the most High — the One who allows His rain to shine on the wicked and the righteous alike.

So keep the love on . . .

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FRANK VIOLA has helped thousands of people around the world to deepen their relationship with Jesus Christ and enter into a more vibrant and authentic experience of church. His mission is to help serious followers of Jesus know their Lord more deeply, gain fresh perspectives on old or ignored subjects, and make the Bible come alive. Viola has written many books on these themes, including God's Favorite Place on Earth and From Eternity to Here. His blog, Beyond Evangelical, is rated as one of the most popular in Christian circles today.