“What if He meant it?”
“What?” It was one of those moments where you stop in your tracks, do a double-take and ask the Holy Spirit, “Are you talking to me?” I mean, clearly, I knew it was the Holy Spirit. It’s just that the message was so pointed, so cut-to-the-heart-of-the-matter, that it took me a second to catch up.
Yet again He said, “What if He meant it?
You know: Love your neighbor as yourself.
Pray for those who hurt you.
When someone treats you badly, return good to them.
Turn the other cheek.
Forgive and treat people the way you want to be treated.
What if He meant all these things?”
Okay, maybe the Holy Spirit doesn’t use sarcasm when He speaks to you, but He does when He speaks to me. And it’s okay. He knows it will work and get the message through. On this day, He knew that a little sarcasm would be just the ticket to cut through all of the anger, tension, and stress, break the ice, make me smile, and get the point that was, of course, Jesus meant what He said. He really does expect us, as His followers to do all of these things, even when our human flesh is screaming, “I DON’T WANT TO!”
Trust me, on this particular day, my focus wasn’t exactly on being like Jesus. Instead, my mind was consumed with thoughts like, “This isn’t fair!” I could give anyone who’d have asked a list of reasons that I was right and the person who was aggravating me was wrong. It’s a shame that no one asked me because they were very good, well-thought out reasons!
I wasn’t thinking about ways that I could bless the person who was taking advantage of me. Ha! I was thinking about my rights, the things I was entitled to, and why I would be justified if I responded in kind to their behavior.
Basically, I was angry.
And well, afraid. Yet, into this turbulent sea of emotions, the Holy Spirit spoke the words, “What if He meant it?”
Then He went a step further. After the tension was broken and I was smiling at the question, the Holy Spirit said, “What if this whole situation has nothing to do with the other person at all? What if God allowed it to test your obedience? What if it's a test to see if you'll turn the other cheek and love like Jesus? What if it's a test to see if you'll do the right thing even when they don't? Will you return evil for good? What if your attitude and whether or not you'll really follow Jesus determines it all? Maybe it isn't about them---maybe it's about YOU!”
In that moment, I felt like Peter walking along the water’s edge with Jesus in John 21:20-23. Right in the middle of his intimate moment with Jesus, Peter sees John and says, “Lord, what about him?”
Jesus answers, “What is that to you? You must follow Me.”
Suddenly, I began to get it.
Was I being treated unfairly? Oh yeah.
Was the other person wrong? Big time.
Did I deserve the treatment I was receiving?
In this situation, not really. Did it matter? Not at all, because no matter whether it was fair or not, I was called to obey Jesus and follow in His footsteps.
1 Peter 2:21 says, “To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in His steps.”
This is what it means to be a Christian---a follower of Christ. You do what He did and obey His commands.
Well, I wish I could say that I immediately realized the error of my ways, repented, and changed my attitude. But I didn’t.
Instead, I went and prayed about it (very spiritual, huh?). It was during my prayer time that I heard myself say, “But You don’t understand.”
“Really? Jesus doesn’t understand betrayal? He doesn’t understand people loving you one minute and acting in their own best interests the next? Seriously? Remember Judas? Remember the crowds of people who loved Him on Palm Sunday and screamed “Crucify Him” less than a week later? Remember the cross?”
(Like I said, the Holy Spirit doesn’t always speak to me in delicate, soothing tones.) However, this time, His Words really got through to my heart.
As I remembered the enormity of the betrayal that Jesus experienced---living every day of His life alongside of a man He knew would betray Him. Ministering life and healing and offering love to the crowds He knew would soon turn against Him. Giving His life for a world of people who would have the option of rejecting Him. In that moment, it became clear that my miniscule hurt, my tiny injustice was nothing compared to what He endured.
It was I who didn’t understand His suffering and what was really required of Him when He loved those who hated Him, used Him, took advantage of Him, and rejected Him. He sacrificed more than I could ever imagine when He laid down His rights, His entitlements, and gave up what He deserved to be sacrifice for a world who didn’t deserve Him.
Philippians 2:1-8 says, “Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from His love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit.
Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to His own advantage; rather, He made Himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!”
Take a closer look at verse 5 “In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus”.
That means, loving your neighbor as yourself, praying for those who hurt you. When someone treats you badly, return good to them. Turn the other cheek. Forgive and treat people the way you want to be treated.
Basically, it means living as if Jesus meant what He said.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve recalled these words over the past few weeks, even long after my original anger had subsided and choosing to follow Jesus rather than retaliate resulted in peace and healing in the situation that was causing me so much anguish.
They went through my mind when a person who had caused both myself and my family a large amount of life-altering pain was hovering around the anniversary of my Mom’s death. Although my first reaction was, “How will I deal with this?” the Holy Spirit gently said, “Live like He meant what He said, and do what Jesus would do.”
When an angry woman looked at me with hate and anger and I wanted to respond in kind, the Holy Spirit said, “What if He meant it? How would you respond then?” Over and over again, the Holy Spirit has been challenging me to follow God in fearless obedience and live like Jesus really did mean what He said.
And it’s been changing me. Slowly, I’ve been realizing that it’s not my job to retaliate or defend myself. It’s not even my job to work everything out and make sure that I’m treated fairly. It’s my job to follow Jesus---obey His commands---walk like He walked, and let the results up to Him. Once again, I’m realizing that it’s about being FEARLESS. Choosing to let obedience rule my life rather than fear, trusting that Jesus knew what He was talking about when He told us how to live as His followers. Gathering my courage, I’m determining to live as if He meant what He said.
“What if He meant it?”
He did. The question is, “Do we mean it when we say, 'I will follow You?' Are we willing to fearlessly obey Him and live as Jesus did, believing that He meant what He said?