"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. (John 3:16-17)
"God so loved the world…" What amazing words! The world that rebelled against Him, the world that disowned Him, the world that spat upon Him, mocked Him, despised Him, and crucified Him… that world is the world He loved. That world is the world He came into, in the form of human flesh, in order to reveal His love and bring His salvation to "whosoever will." It's as simple as that. It's for "whosoever will." But many just won't. They choose the darkness and the hate and the lies and deceptions in this world that exalt (they think) man (themselves), rather than to turn to the One Who created them and to learn to know Him and what He created them for, and all the love, blessing, goodness, righteousness and glory He has in store for them if they only "will."
That same love can fill the hearts of His own children, if they daily sit at His feet, at His Word, allowing His Spirit to teach them and fill them with it. Yet, being human, we struggle with our own reactions to evil. As we see evil growing more and more bold, prevailing, and overtaking the world, insisting on crushing all truth, all good, and all that is of God, we need to look at the reaction of Christ Himself, rather than let ourselves be overcome with it. It's easy to hate. It's easy to be angry. It's easy to respond in a like manner to evil in the world. It's "human" we might say. Yes, it's very human and natural. But we've been called to something greater than what's natural. We've been called beyond ourselves. We've been called to walk in that same love that Jesus Himself demonstrated in that while we were yet sinners, He died for us (Romans 5:5-8). We were actually called "love our enemies." We are called to the "supernatural."
"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 makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? (Matthew 5:43-46)
This is something the natural mind cannot accept and cannot obey! There is no such love in the heart of the natural man and it is so completely opposite of our nature that when we see it demonstrated it astounds us, and when it is told us to obey it, we simply cannot. We especially cannot when we see how evil the hearts are that oppose all that is good more and more, proclaiming good to be evil and evil to be good. How in the world could God expect us to love them? Why would He command us to do so? The very evil God hates and will one day judge - are we to love those who practice such? It boggles our minds! Our hearts rise up in anger when we hear His name blasphemed, when we hear the constant barrage of lies being told against Him, and against His Word, and against His children, those who follow His Word and seek to practice the love and righteousness that is taught there. We hear lies proclaiming those who commit acts of unspeakable violence proclaimed to be "lovers of peace" and those who truly proclaim the peace of God, and desire His righteousness, love and goodness, to be "terrorists" and anger rises up in our hearts and we want the truth to be told, lies to be seen for what they are, and we are amazed at the delusion that has taken over the world. We want to retaliate and vindicate. Truth must be told. That is for certain. It must continue to be told, clearly, whether they will believe it and receive it or not. Yet it must be told in the same spirit as thee Truth, thee Life, and thee Way. It must be told in the same love that sent forth that truth for us to "whosoever will" to come and receive eternal life from Him. It must be told with the same invitation that, "whosoever will believe may come" and find that same salvation. Even if they won't… it must be told them, and they must hear it and be given a chance to repent (turn) and receive that eternally life saving truth.
Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, "Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord." To the contrary, "if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head." Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (Romans 12:17-21)
Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. (1 Corinthians 13:4-7)
So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. (1 John 4:16)
We can in no way practice the kind of love toward this world that Jesus did, unless His Spirit is in us, and that love abides in us and we abide in that love. As believers we may have His Spirit in us, but we may be quenching His Spirit (1 Thess. 5:19), and not abiding in Him. If we are not abiding in His Word, and in fellowship with Him letting His Spirit fill us daily, we are not abiding in His love. We can't. Then we are left to act according to our own fleshly responses and our own minds rather than the mind of Christ.
I just read a novel that addressed questions of how to respond to evil when it comes against you. Should we respond with violence against violence? How should we defend ourselves? Many questions came up in this story about a Mennonite community that was being attacked by someone who hated God and was threatening their safety. Mennonites believe in not resisting their enemies, but when it came down to actually having this belief tested there was great division among them. Each one had to seek God's heart in the matter and decide what God wanted them to do and respond according to their conscience regardless of the consequences. Some believed in protecting their homes and family and community with guns. Others refused saying they needed to pray and submit themselves to God and rely solely on Him. It raised many feelings and reactions inside myself as I read. I'm still reading this book and have not finished it yet so I don't know the outcome of their decisions, and in a novel, that can be manipulated by whatever the author decides. But the Author of the Bible is the One that we need to go to for such questions and find His answers alone. We won't find them unless we look at Christ Himself and let His Spirit be our teacher each moment, and our guide through our walk in this evil world. We won't know unless we learn to know Him, not just read about Him.
This morning as I was reading in the Gospel of John, I read of the arrest, crucifixion, and resurrection of Jesus once again. I can never read that story without it humbling me to the bottom of my heart as I see how unworthy we all were of such love. Once again I was filled with that love and its power. It once again had an effect on me that enabled me to pray truly for my enemies, and for those who embrace the lies and evil in this world, even calling them good. It once again reminded me of the answer. It once again reminded me I can "trust myself to a faithful Creator." And I know that He hates that evil. Yet though He despises it more than we can imagine, because He is all perfect in goodness and righteousness and love, though He despises that evil, He "made Himself sin for us Who knew no sin, that we might become the righteousness of God in Christ" (2 Cor. 5:21). He "became a curse for us" (Gal. 3:13). He became that very evil He despises, that caused the Heavenly Father to turn His face away from Him for a moment, in order that He could take on our evil Himself and free us from it, giving us in its place His righteousness and perfection that we could stand before God in perfect fellowship. In Christ we have a righteousness imputed to us that we did not deserve and He had our sins imputed to Him that He did not ever commit. How does the mind wrap itself around that kind of love?
How do we show that love to a world that is becoming increasingly filled with evil and hate and violence, other than the same way Jesus did? It is a love that is not deserved. I never deserved that love or forgiveness He gave me. They have to see a love that is not natural. They have to see the love that is supernatural. They have to see a love that is willing to die that they may live.
I know I'm lacking in that love, and when I see that I am, I go again to gaze at Him and let that love once again humble my heart and submit to it, and let it fill me. When that love fills me, I can't speak evil of another but only desire what is good for them. When that love fills me I can only forgive with the same forgiveness which that love forgave my selfish heart, not only because of the sin that selfishness led me to act on, but the sin that I was capable of doing had the Lord not saved me from myself. When we truly see our own selves for what we are, we are so grateful for His mercy and forgiveness that we can only look at the sins of others with the same forgiveness and mercy toward them (Matt. 18:21-35). When all I can see is what someone has done to me, and I forget what God has done for me, then I respond with an attitude of vengeance rather than mercy. I respond out of my own self-gain, self-protection, and self-serving. I try to cling to what I can get and what I think to have coming to me - my rights. Even when we have "righteous anger" we can act in a fleshly manner, rather than with the same Spirit of love in Christ Himself. We are to "be angry and sin not." He never condones evil, and neither should we. Yet as we stand against it we need to do so in the Spirit, and not in the flesh. We need to stand dressed in the full armor of God. We need to stand in His righteousness, and take up the Sword of the Spirit, His Word of truth, and we need to do so by the power of the Spirit, not our flesh, and not with a worldly mind set of holding onto this world. If we truly see those on the side of evil as God does we will have a deep sorrow and grief in our hearts, rather than animosity, knowing all they are missing and choosing to give up, remembering that Jesus gave His own life for their salvation, if only they would turn and believe into Him. How very sad that anyone would turn that away for anything else!
God will judge evil. The day of judgment could be very near. This world is the closest to heaven there is for those who embrace it as though it were their life. But it is the closest to hell those who embrace God's love and put their trust in Him will ever get. We have an eternity free of all evil and filled with perfect righteousness and goodness and love in His presence. We can afford any losses here and we can afford to face whatever this world throws at us because of that. We won't lose a thing, and we will only gain. Nothing can separate us from His love. If we abide in it perhaps others will see and join us also and escape the snare of the devil in this world. If we act as though this world were our home and all we have, then we'll fight for that (John 18:36). If we show them that our citizenship is in Heaven and there is something beyond this world, something way beyond anything we can gain here, and that we are willing to give up our lives here for that, perhaps they will also see it and see the spiritual battle going on for what it is in truth. It is a battle of the devil for this world. And our role in it is to bring the truth and light to them to save them from its destruction through Jesus Christ and His Gospel.
If you want to know more about this salvation and are not sure you are going to Heaven, you can know. His Word assures us how we can know. Click here to read more.