Some Christians think that because they love those that like them, they are being Christlike. And probably they are. In fact, some Christians outside of Christ would be unkind even to those that like them—they would give evil for good. They are rascals. I was one of those rascals before Christ. That is a change that the gospel makes in us.
But that’s the low hanging fruit of sanctification. Jesus said that even unbelievers love those that love them (Luke 6:32). It’s not that hard.
It’s much more difficult to be Christlike with those that dislike us.
Once I saw a social media post where some friends in a ministry I love were slandered quite unjustly. I knew all the players on both sides of the issue. I’m unfortunately thoroughly up to speed on the attacker (and those that commented approvingly) and on those being attacked.
My response? To think angry thoughts towards the poster. And it was easy for me to excuse. I justified it because of their sinful life.
But how quickly my thoughts turn to anger rather than love. How quickly I become defensive of the people I love (or myself) with nary a thought of praying for the attacker. In these situations the Spirit has used Romans 12 to convict me many times.
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. Rom 12:17–21 (ESV)
This is one reason I know I am far, far from becoming like Christ. I find it very difficult to repay good for evil. I don’t have it in me to love my enemies, but Jesus said that is what I must do.
“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 mistreat you. Luke 6:27–28 (NASB95)
The next verse tells me to turn the other cheek when someone strikes me and to give him my shirt after he stole my coat. If I cannot pray for those that mistreat me, I won’t ever give away my shirt.
You cannot minister long and well without some that you have tried to help turning on you unjustly. The Apostle Paul had both Demas and Alexander the Coppersmith, John the Apostle had Diotrephes who unjustly accused him, and Jesus had Judas. You and I will not fare any better than they did if we are faithful in ministry.
So… The Spirit brings me to my knees for confession and repentance. I need Christ to change me. Loving enemies is not natural to me. It is not easy to be Christlike. If it were easy, then I really wouldn’t need Christ, would I?
You will have a Diotrephes someday if you don’t have one right now. Will you overcome evil with good? Will your Diotrephes prove how much you still need Christ to change you?