Scriptural Gem for February 2016

In Luke 6:27-28, we read: "But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you." (NIV)

In 1 Peter 3:9, we read: "Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing." (NIV)

Let us take a closer look at the word "blessing" as used in our readings. Perhaps you are among those who think they are obeying this instruction by uttering the words, "Lord, I bless my enemies...." But it is essential to examine the dark corners of our hearts lest some dark motive lurks behind the "blessing." Have you ever said anything like: "I have forgiven, but, of course, I cannot forget." Or, "I have forgiven them, but…," or "I have nothing against the guy, but you must agree he is a bit strange," or the classic, "We have a working relationship..."

When we look at the original Greek, we find that our concept of 'blessing' may need adjusting. The original word is 'eulegeo.' It is the word from which our English word, 'eulogy,' is formed and it means 'to speak highly of or to praise someone.'

We need to understand that the bar is not where we might think. It is not a question of whether we have forgiven someone. The question is whether we can speak well of them. Period. And if we cannot, that is simply an indication that there is still some vestige of bitterness, hatred or resentment hidden in our hearts. And why is the bar so high? Well, let’s say, for example, that you are diagnosed with the most virulent cancer there is. An operation is scheduled straight away and upon waking up the doctor smiles cheerfully and says, "Congratulations! We got 90% of it out!" Would this please you? No! because you know that next week or next month you will be back to square one or even worse. Indeed, you would wonder what good the operation was at all! So it is with hatred in our hearts. God wants the operation to be complete, and the acid test to see if any ill-feeling remains is whether we can speak highly of that person with a sincere heart. If we cannot do that or if we have to tag a little remark onto the end of that, the operation is not complete and our forgiveness and 'blessing' is just superficial lip-service.

Pretense is dangerous ground for a believer. At best, we fool ourselves, and at worst, we treat God as an imperceptive fool. Be careful that you not cover over the "goo" in your heart with a lot of doctrinal talk, or religious activity, or 'work for God.' This will do nothing for the state of your heart, and like a white-washed tomb, the bitterness, hatred, and resentment becomes an ever-worsening toxic cesspool beneath the religious veneer.

Dear Lord, forgive us for thinking that we can hide anything from You. Our hearts are laid bare before You. Cleanse us completely, dear Lord, that not a trace of hatred, bitterness or resentment remains, leaving no foothold for Satan at all. Amen.

Werner Schreiber