What Benefit is That to You?

Sunday, March 8, 2015

The quilt in my office was made by my aunt from several pairs of pants from my grandfather. It reminds me of his different walks of life; he was a welder, township leader, a grandfather, and a friend. All different from each other, yet still all one.

And that’s what we are. A patchwork of diversity. Different races and classes. Different morals and motives. Yet forming one fabric of humanity. If I were to pull pieces from that quilt for looking different, I would be left with a quilt that is incomplete and lacking.

Yet we do this in life all too often. The apostle Paul wrote:

”There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (ESV: Galatians 3:28)

Let’s start with the ‘truly evil.’ Think of the horrible things being done in the Middle East. Not just ISIL, but also in many other countries like Saudi Arabia who are sentencing bloggers (under Sharia Law) to lashings and to death for not marching in step with the Islamic Sharia Law. It is easy to hate that. It is easy to hate them.

Once we look at that which is ‘less evil,’ we still see hate for those who disagree with us. I have seen Christians hate homosexuals. I have seen Atheists hate Christians.

And finally, instead of them, let’s look at us. I have seen grown adults hold a grudge against someone for silly reasons.

What do the ‘truly evil,’ the ‘less evil’ and us have in common? Rebellion and resistance for wanting to be Christ-like.

The Unhealthy Grudge

Let’s look at the simple matter of someone holding a grudge. Not only is holding a grudge not Christ-like, it is unhealthy too. There is a reason Christ taught love. It is better than hate.

Plus, according to the Mayo Clinic, holding a grudge can actually cause continued anxiety and add stress to your life.

I have found that in cases when someone holds a grudge, it is often due to what is called ‘projection’ in psychology. It is taking your beliefs or fears and projecting that onto someone else.

Basically it means that if you call someone arrogant, maybe you have a confidence issue yourself. Or if you dislike someone, you might believe that they do not like you.

But this eats away at people over time. The Mayo Clinic has quite a few articles about anxiety and holding grudges or even getting angry at people.

“As you let go of grudges, you’ll no longer define your life by how you’ve been hurt.” (source)

This is an astute observation.

Let’s let go of the grudges and define ourselves by our love for Christ Jesus. We can show others the same love. And not just friends, but those we might not like, and even our enemies.

Now let’s expand this beyond just the relationship of two people. Let’s look at groups.

What if instead of holding demonstrations and having two crowds shouting at each other, we helped each other. Instead of blaming the other, let’s blame ourselves and extend the hand to help the others.

Specifically, I think of the race riots in several cities recently. Let’s stop for a moment and think about what is making the other person feel anxious or angry before we spew hateful speech at each other.

While I dislike painting with broad strokes, let’s now look at a bigger picture. At the risk of caricaturing an entire demographic, let’s look at entire classes of people.

Atheists (in general) can often delight in ridiculing Christians for their belief. And what ever happened to liberals being all for diversity? Well if you don’t believe in the same left-leaning belief, you are ‘closed minded.’

And Christians are not off the hook. Christians, too, are guilty of raising the anger level when protesting issue X, Y, or Z. Christians far more than I’d like to admit, will shout out hate speech towards people due to their orientation. There is a big difference between hating the person and hating the sin.

Unacceptable! All of it. The sin is bad. Yes. And we should despise it and we should help people run from sin. But most importantly, we should love the person while we hate the sin.

Projecting Anger Saves No One

It baffles me when I hear Christians (or anyone) wish violence on someone who believes something different than their own. If we dare go down this path, we are no different than ISIL. What’s so bad about wishing evil doers to be punished?

According to God’s own word, we should want others to come to Christ before judgement. Killing non-believers goes against God’s will.

Remember Jesus’ last words to us was to “make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” (Matthew 28:19).

So we should be spreading the Word and doing the will of God so He can save them. Let’s go out and help spread the Word so the Holy Spirit finds peoples’ hearts.

That said, that doesn’t mean we just send a few witnesses to the Middle East and hope the violence will end. No. Even John the Baptist and Paul both discuss the need for the government to protect their people through the use of force. But these cases are restricted to the government.

For example, Paul writes in Romans 13:4, “For [the government] is God’s servant for your good… for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, and avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer.

But for you and I, we can do more to help other people by being a light to their darkness. We can show by example so they too can become a beacon.

What Benefit is That to You?

So why else should we forgive friends and even enemies? First off, God told us so:

“But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you?

For even sinners do the same. And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to get back the same amount.

But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil.

Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.” (ESV: Luke 6:27-28, 32-36)

But not just that. We should do it to show our thanks. After all, God, the Creator of all things, sacrificed his Son, the only person to ever be sinless and blameless. He did that so that He could forgive US for all of our sins. Every one. Every sin we ever committed and ever will.

Now that’s a benefit. But what is interesting is that this is a benefit that God has already given us. We don’t have to do anything to earn it. Nothing.

And if He could do that for us, shouldn’t we show our appreciation and do the same for others?

”You will be judged by how you judge.” (ESV: Luke 6:38)

As brothers in Christ, we want to show God our appreciation for all that he did, for His sacrifice and His payment of our sins. Because while there is nothing we can do to earn salvation, there is plenty we can do because we have been saved.

Hi. I'm Scott Sullivan, a slave of Christ and husband to my awesome wife Angie. I'm an artist and writer, living in the beautiful countryside of Lancaster, Pa.

I recently published, Searching For Me, my first memoir. It’s about my adoption, search for my biological family, and how it affected my faith. Read about it here.