It matters how we treat each other. Our behavior towards our friends and enemies alike is of great interest to our Heavenly Father. God commands us to love one another and to show kindness and compassion even to those who call themselves our enemies. Not an easy thing to do!
I think most of us who call ourselves Christians understand this on an intellectual level but I wonder if we have really taken it to heart. Do we understand why God commands us to love one another and what our motivations should be when we interact with others?
The heart of the gospel is God reaching out and showing His awesome love to mankind. The word gospel literally means “good news” and to a creation that is lost in enslavement to sin and corruption, God’s redeeming love is the best news possible. God wants all the world to know, every single man, woman and child, how much he loves them and how much he desires a relationship with them.
God loves us in spite of our fallen state. He loves us and seeks us even when we are at our worst. God’s love is consistent despite our attitudes or actions and no sin of ours can ever stop God from loving us and seeking us. And so it should be with us and how we treat those around us. Simply put, when we show love, compassion and mercy to others we are showing forth Godly attributes that points people towards Him. However, when we fail to show love and instead respond with an attitude of complaint, aggression, superiority, judgement or self-seeking we put the focus squarely on ourselves and do not show God through our actions.
Remember what Jesus said was the most important commandment?
“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.” Matthew 22:36-40 (NASB)
Jesus thought our treatment of one another was important enough to include in what we know as “The greatest commandment”. Loving God first and foremost and then out of that relationship, loving others unconditionally is the cornerstone of the Bible. And lest we think that was a new idea first presented in the New Testament we can go all the way back to the book of Exodus to see something very similar.
If you meet your enemy’s ox or his donkey wandering away, you shall surely return it to him. If you see the donkey of one who hates you lying helpless under its load, you shall refrain from leaving it to him, you shall surely release it with him. Exodus 23:5-6 (NASB)
This passage from Exodus is in the midst of several chapters of instructions that God gave directly to His people on how to treat each other and how they should act. Notice verses 5 and 6 above that specifically talk about how we should treat those who call themselves our enemy or even those who hate us. We are to actively seek to help and render aid whenever and wherever we can.
I think it’s interesting that verse 5 talks about a donkey or ox that has wandered away, meaning a lost possession that would be nonetheless important to him who lost it. If we were to come upon such an item most of us would think that there would be no harm or foul in simply going on about our business and hoping that things turn out ok. After all, we didn’t take the item and we didn’t cause it to become lost, right? But God says specifically to take the initiative in returning that thing to him who lost it and by our action, show love and concern. Why? Because it’s what God does for us all the time!
God is not miserly or stingy with his love and blessings on us and neither should we be with each other. If we have an opportunity to serve someone and be of help to them then it is our God given duty and privilege to do so.