Responding to Cruelty
How should I respond when someone says or does really mean things to me?
Suggested Daily Reading: Matthew 5:38-48
A young soldier was cruelly bullied and mocked by another for being a Christian. The bully insulted and degraded him with words and actions. One night after a long march in the rain and mud, the Christian soldier was hit on his back and head by objects when he was praying at his bedside. The bully, with loud laughter, had thrown his muddy boots at him. The next morning, however, the bully found his boots at his bedside, neatly cleaned and perfectly polished. This act changed things. The bully could no longer enjoy cruelly teasing the Christian soldier and the bullying stopped.
Living out of a charitable spirit and showing unconditional love is challenging for all of us. It is difficult when others, in our opinion, do not deserve it. It is hardest when the person has mistreated us by unprovoked, inappropriate, cruel words or actions. To really respond with charity from our hearts, we need God’s grace.
When Jesus provided us with examples of how to show unconditional love, he gave two scenarios that would have been very challenging for the Jews of His day. Reflect on the suggested reading above. The “smiting” referred was an insulting hit, a “slap with an open hand,” not hitting with a fist. We would say today, “A slap in the face.” Also, Roman soldiers had the authority to force the Jews, and others under their rule, to carry their loads for one mile. It was very humiliating and insulting for a Jew to be treated like this. They were compelled/forced to do the work of a slave for the Romans who they hated ruling over them. You can be sure that a Jew did not carry a load one step beyond what he was compelled to do!
Yet it is exactly at such times, times when we are unjustly insulted and humiliated that provide wonderful opportunities for the truth of the gospel to shine in and through us. The polished boots, the turned cheek, the offering to carry the load for a second mile, would all clearly draw the attention of unbelievers. Seeing unconditional love in action causes the unbeliever to think, “Why do Christians do this? Why do they respond like that?” In times of persecution the world often witnessed persecuted Christians responding with unconditional law. They heard Christian’s charitable words and saw their forgiving actions. In times of persecution many unbelievers were converted to Christianity and the church grew both in quantity and quality. A “living gospel sermon” is often a powerful one!
What is a “living gospel sermon?” Why is a “living gospel sermon” often a powerful sermon? Is your life, by God’s grace, a “living gospel sermon?” How is Jesus the perfect example, as well as the necessary source of strength, for you to be a “living gospel sermon?”