May 17th 2010

The Measure You Use

“But I say to you who hear:  Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, and pray for those who spitefully use you.  To him who strikes you on the one cheek, offer the other also.  And from him who takes away your cloak, do not withhold your tunic either.  Give to everyone who asks of you.  And from him who takes away your goods do not ask them back.  And just as you want men to do to you, you also do to them likewise.”
Luke 6:27-31 (NKJV)

Jesus’ call to love enemies frightens us at first.  If we love our enemies, surely they’ll take advantage of us!  If we love our enemies, we’ll be more vulnerable to attack.

At first Jesus seemed to ignore this rather obvious objection.  He simply reminded us that God is a lover of enemies, and that as God’s children now we are expected to act as He does.  Never mind the practicalities.  Just do what is right.

But then Jesus went on to remind us that doing what is right is practical as well! “Give,” He says, “and it will be given to you . . . For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you” (vv. 37-38).  You can break patterns of hostility and animosity!  You can use the innate principle of reciprocity, which God has planted in human nature by breaking the pattern of blow for blow, of pain given for pain received.  You can initiate a new pattern by returning love for hate, good for evil, and in so doing establish the measure by which, in time, it will be measured back to you.

After all, didn’t God do the same thing?  We human beings were “enemies in our mind by wicked work” (see Col. 1:21).  And God broke the pattern by one bold act of love, sending His Son to suffer and die for our sins.  As we respond to that love, accepting the salvation Christ brings, our whole attitude toward God has changed and we now love and want to please Him. God too has received in measure as He has given.

Oh, I know.  It doesn’t always work.  Some who know of Christ remain as hostile to God as before, and sometimes, the people we treat lovingly continue to do us harm.  But the principle remains valid and true, whatever the individual exception.  There is a way to break patterns of hostility in relationships.  That way is to take the initiative and begin now to give love where there is hate, compassion where there is hostility, and devotion where there is antagonism.  When we do, we live out our calling as God’s children, and we initiate transforming change.

The larger the measure of love you use, the greater the possibility of receiving love in return.  Ray Anderson said, “It is possible to have compassion without love, and it is possible to have kindness without love; but it is impossible for one who has put on love to be unkind and without compassion, for love itself is not just an accessory garment.  Love is the complete garment that has all the others built into it, so that love is a total way of life.” 

Prayer

God, help me to love and show forgiveness and mercy to others in the same measure that you have shown me.

Amen 

Study by Fraser Murdoch 

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