When someone doesn’t like you.

hatred

I am a pretty adventurous person.  I like to get out, try new things, meet new people, stretch the boundaries.  But even with an independent personality, I still want people to like me…just like everyone else.  Sometimes we build up facades or walls because of past hurt, claiming that we do not care what other people think, and we each have some non-negotiables on which we will take a social, political or relational stand, but by-in-large we try to put our best foot forward so that people will respect and like us.  Deep within this desire is an underlying pride.  We do not want people to like us simply because we want to be friends with everyone, we want affirmation.  We want praise.  We want people to admire, think well of and build us up.

As believers, is it right and good to build one another up.  Scripture regularly admonishes us to put the needs of the body before our own (James 1.27ff), to push one another on to holiness (Heb 10.24), and husbands should love their wives and wives should respect their husbands (Eph 5.22-25).  Leaders within the church should be people of good reputation and Jesus says that the world will know that we are Christians because of our love – which means we honor and respect one another (2 Tim 3, John 13.35).

However, as believers, we must remember and be convicted of the fact that there is no righteousness in and of ourselves and that we desperately need a savior (Rom 3.10ff).  When we are saved, Christ switches places with us – taking our condemnation and giving us a covering of His righteousness.  Because of this fact, we can and should glory in the victory that God grants us over sin in our lives, but we should also be the most humble of people.  When we recognize our guilt, and when we comprehend the cost of the sacrifice required to save us, we will become exceedingly humble.  We see our worthlessness and the weight of our salvation, and are left as the beneficiary of a completely undeserved gift and inheritance.

True Christians are thankful.  True Christians are humble.  True Christians know from where they came, and praise God for their priceless gift and all progress made in dying to sin.  True Christians offer abundant grace to one another, recognizing the fact that we are all in the battle against our flesh and push one another on to die to the flesh and sin.  True Christians recognize the deceit and horror of sin and do not make peace with it in their lives or in other’s lives and purposefully walk together to remove sin from our lives so that we can honor God, all with a humble attitude knowing our own weakness.

However, there are non Christians who infiltrate the Church.  There are also non Christians in our daily lives:  coworkers, family members, neighbors, people on the street, etc.  There are also Christians who have fallen into sin and harbor bitterness and resentment in their hearts.  It will happen in each of our lives that there comes a day when someone does not like us.

How should we respond?

First of all, we must examine the situation to see if we have sinned against this person and make every effort to apologize and rectify the situation.  If we are left without resolution and the other person still has a hard heart against us, then we have an intricate and beautiful situation.  Jesus teaches us to love our enemies (Matt 5.44).  He also teaches us that when someone will not receive us and the Gospel we proclaim, we should walk away and not waste our energy (Matt 10.14).  Lastly, He teaches us that if someone proclaims to be a believer and yet continues in sin (in this situation, harbors bitterness in his heart), to completely disassociate with him and remove him from the church (Matt 18.15-17).

But in all of this, our heart must remain humble.  How do we do that?  By remembering our own guilt and the weight of the unmerited gift of salvation we have received.  Charles Spurgeon said simply,

“If any man thinks ill of you, do not be angry with him, for you are worse than he thinks you to be.”

– Charles Spurgeon

If any one person thinks ill of us, it is not because he knows the depths of our depravity.  It is because he knows a small amount of it.  This nonbeliever has never come to understand forgiveness for himself, and thus still judges those around him with a human judgment and even if the offense was a misunderstanding, we remain humble by remembering God’s gift of salvation while we were His enemies (Rom 5.10).  Instead of responding in pride, we should always respond in humility.  If someone makes a character assessment, we should examine ourselves to see if it is true, ask Jesus to change us, and remember our guilt before Him – relying on Him to change us!  Once we have made every effort to rectify the situation, however, we move on and remember that God looks down and sees the blood of Jesus covering our sin and we are righteous in His eyes.

“For this reason I say to you, her sins, which are many, have been forgiven, for she loved much; but he who is forgiven little, loves little.”

– Luke 7.47

He who has been forgiven much loves much.

What is it that finds favor with God?

bottle

As believers we often grow complacent in our identity as the children of God.  We claim the promises of Scripture that all things work together for good for believers, we echo the mantra “If God is for me, who can be against me?” and we spend a lot of energy defining our identity in Christ, being of Christ (Rom 8.28, 31).  And while it is extremely important to understand these truths and to take comfort in them, it is important to remember that the ultimate goal for all of creation is to bring glory to God.  As God’s children, we should want to obey Him, please Him and bring honor to Him through our lives.  We need to look outward instead of looking at ourselves.

My small group is reading through the book of 1 Peter right now, and Peter exhorts the believers who have been scattered by the persecution to look to and and trust in God through their suffering.  Peter, however, takes a slightly different approach than Paul in many of the fighter verses we claim.  He teaches us that not only does God bring about character and perseverance through our suffering, He says it actually finds favor with God:

“For this finds favor, if for the sake of conscience toward God a person bears up under sorrows when suffering unjustly.”

– 1 Peter 2.19

These brand new believers, these baby Christians, were suffering persecution to the measure that they had to flee their homes and run for their lives for no other reason than because they trusted the Gospel; they turned to Jesus.  And Peter encouraged them to submit to the governments who are in authority over them and  to submit to their slave masters who treat them harshly.  He echoes the teaching of Jesus that when someone demands of us or persecutes us, we should turn the other cheek and give more than was requested (Matt 5.39-40).  We love our enemies (Matt 5.44).  We bless those who persecute us (Luke 6.28).

Peter’s logic, however, takes us to the next level.  He states that there is no honor in humbly receiving the discipline and harsh treatment when you have sinned (1 Peter 2.20).  But the way to find favor with God is to endure the persecution and harsh treatment when you do not deserve it.  He says, in fact, that this is the calling of Christianity:

“For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps, who committed no sin, nor was any deceit found in His mouth; and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously; and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed.”

– 1 Peter 2.21-24

This is where the value of looking outside of ourselves becomes vital.  If we continue to focus on ourselves and our “identity”, we will have difficulty bearing up under persecution and suffering.  This is why Peter calls Jesus into focus as our example.  We have indeed been called, and that calling is to suffer – in the same manner that Jesus suffered:  to the glory of God.

But how often do you find yourself being persecuted or suffering for choosing to do what is right?

I was in the seventh grade.  My family went to a smaller church, and the Jr. High was included in much of the Sr. High students’ activities.  One day we all went over to the associate pastor’s house and most of the youth group was there, as were the church staff, just having an evening together.  After dinner, the youth all went upstairs.  One of my girlfriends and I remained downstairs with the adults, but after a while we decided to head upstairs to see what everyone was up to.  As we climbed the stairs there was a young man sitting outside of the game room door – standing guard.  We entered to find everyone playing spin the bottle.  We were invited to join, and as my friend sat down in the circle I was shocked and appalled.  Seeing my reaction, two of the seniors in the group grabbed me and took me to the other room to calm me down and assure me that this was no big deal.  Wanting no part of it, I went back downstairs to leave them to their game.  I had no malice in my heart or intention to tattle, but the associate pastor’s wife could see the frustration on my face, so she asked me what the problem was.  So I told her.  The staff, of course, broke up the game.  And for the next year I lived in the youth group as the whistle blower goodie two shoes.

This, of course, is a funny story.  But for a little seventh grader, this was a very real and difficult situation in which I had to choose if I was going to go with the crowd or not.  I chose not to, and I suffered the consequences for it.  The first century Church was probably not in crisis of deciding if they would play spin the bottle, but rather if they would claim Jesus at the risk of their lives.  But they were also choosing to obey their masters, live peaceably with one another, and to submit to the government and authorities.  Peter is certainly speaking to life and death situations, and he is also speaking to the day-to-day situations of turning the other cheek and loving those who hate us.

Here in the states it is rare to find ourselves in a situation whereby our lives might be required of us because of our faith.  We are, however, regularly in situations where people hate us because of our faith.  And if people do not hate you because of your faith, you should have a conversation with Jesus about that, as He promised us,

“You will be hated by all because of My name, but it is the one who has endured to the end who will be saved.”

– Matt 10.22

If you want to find favor with God, you will follow the example of Jesus:  to do what is right and honor God, and while we are being hated for doing what is right, we bear up under that suffering and love those who are hating us.

Are you doing what is right, even when it brings you suffering and hatred?  Are you dying to yourself and choosing to love those who would hate you and persecute you for doing what is right?  If so, then Scripture teaches us that you are finding favor with God.  If you want to find favor with God, then get busy loving your enemies.

What wrong have you suffered?

retribution

Have you ever paid the penalty for someone else’s crime or mistake?  Perhaps someone rear-ended you and you chose to pay for your car repairs yourself.  Maybe your coworker forgot to send vital paperwork to a customer and you chose to take care of the matter without letting him know his mistake.  Maybe a guest in your home broke a lamp or vase that you had on display and you said nothing but fixed it on your own dime.

It is a rare occurrence that we have the opportunity to pardon someone’s mistake and take it.  Usually our feelings of justice and fairness bubble up, while our desire for vengeance burns beneath the surface.  If we are able to fight back our anger when something goes awry, we typically default to our culture’s peace-keeping system.  We have car insurance to help when there is a car accident, and police to determine fault.  We have hierarchies within the work place so that the boss can keep the employees accountable for their work.  And our expectation of common decency demands that we pay for what we have used and fix what we have broken.  We have built peace-keeping systems in order to mediate our personal wrath and vengeance.

But Jesus taught us to turn the other cheek, to go the extra mile, to give more to the one who steals from us.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘AN EYE FOR AN EYE, AND A TOOTH FOR A TOOTH.’  But I say to you, do not resist an evil person; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also.  If anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, let him have your coat also.  Whoever forces you to go one mile, go with him two.  Give to him who asks of you, and do not turn away from him who wants to borrow from you.  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 causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.  For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have?  Do not even the tax collectors do the same?  If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others?  Do not even the Gentiles do the same?  Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

– Matt 5.38-48

This is an incredibly difficult teaching to grasp and to obey.  Few of us have ever been in a situation in which we have a true enemy who is seeking our demise.  It is not a daily occurrence that someone slaps us, steals from us, or forces us into physical labor to serve him.  But we have all been in a situation where we have been wronged, or a simple mistake has happened, and we should test ourselves in how we have, do and would react.  Do you turn the other cheek?  Do you go the extra mile?  Do you show love, as God shows love, to those who hate you?

Jesus taught this extremely difficult principle and then lived it out.  He served and loved those who were killing Him, until the very moment He died.  Peter teaches us to love our enemies by following Jesus’ example:

For this finds favor, if for the sake of conscience toward God a person bears up under sorrows when suffering unjustly.  For what credit is there if, when you sin and are harshly treated, you endure it with patience?  But if when you do what is right and suffer for it you patiently endure it, this finds favor with God.  For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps, WHO COMMITTED NO SIN, NOR WAS ANY DECEIT FOUND IN HIS MOUTH; and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously; and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed.

– 1 Peter 2.19-24

Jesus bore our sins in his very body.  Imagine a man having multiple affairs and giving to his wife, who has been faithful, an STD.  This wife is now bearing the sins of her husband in her physical body.  She has the illness, the consequences and the pain of His sin affecting her very health – above and beyond the emotional scarring of unfaithfulness.  But even this is minuscule in comparison to what Jesus did.  Jesus willingly took our sin, while the wife unknowingly was given the disease.  Jesus bore the punishment and wrath in our place so that we would not have to, and the wife is only a co-sufferer with the husband who also has the disease.  Jesus took the Spiritual death along with the physical.

Jesus willfully and lovingly took in His body our sin.  In fact, Paul says that Jesus actually became our sin.

He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.

– 2 Cor 5.21

There is no injustice that you will suffer that can compare to that which Jesus suffered, and that for your sake.  Let us remember this the next time we are wronged, taken advantage of, wrongfully accused, or simply inconvenienced.  Jesus became sin for us, He loved us while we were His enemies so that we might be saved.  And He commanded us to do the same.  It is by loving our enemies that we set ourselves apart and prove ourselves to be His disciples, because everyone loves those who love him.  Only those who are in Jesus love those who hate them.

We can trust God that He will handle every sin rightly.  “‘Vengeance is mine’, declares the Lord, ‘I will repay'” (Deut 32.35).  He is not mocked, He does not take sin lightly, and He will handle it.  Let’s trust Him to do so!