Inward Reaction to Others
The woman in the last illustration is acting kindly toward her husband because she submits to the inner strength that God can give through faith in Christ. This is not to say that she does not want her husband to change his ways. She does this because, before God, she has a responsibility toward her husband regardless of his behavior. Peter tells of our Savior, “…and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously” (1 Peter 2:23).
Christian love–a test of discipleship
In the upper room, following the last supper that Jesus was to have with His disciples, He gave them instruction in witnessing to others. His was a strange order. He said, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34-35). Love is not verbal. It is invisible. The emphasis that Jesus made is not on how you approach people who are strangers to you. The emphasis here is on your inner reaction to the people you do know, to the people who are close and intimate with you. A continuing, consistent, inner relationship with these people will manifest itself so that others will know of your discipleship. In other words, people will know of your discipleship according to your inner relationship toward your mother, father, wife or husband, your children, your in-laws, your relatives, neighbors, friends, and co-workers. Jesus repeated this thought in the garden of Gethsemane. Read John 17:20-23.
Christian love–a forgiving spirit
An executive who had many men working for him resigned his position. As he was making the rounds, bidding farewell to all his associates, he came to an employee who was ready with a speech that went something like this: “I don’t like the way you treated the men; I don’t like your policies; I have disliked working for you the four years that you have been my boss. I’m glad to see you go. I despise you.”
The executive went back to his office and told an associate of the incident. He said: “I can’t believe it. I’ve worked with that man for four years and didn’t know his attitude toward me.”
Eventually, poor relations between people will be revealed. In this case, the executive did not suffer; the employee did. For four long years that employee had lived a lie. He had pretended loyalty and friendship. Actually, he was disloyal and unfriendly. Likewise, it is the inner life that determines discipleship. Love toward your neighbor is not the same as tolerance. Love is being, not pretending or tolerating or acting.
The executive, of course, had been unaware of his employee’s attitude toward him. Once he became aware of that attitude, there was immediate, spontaneous, inner reaction. You, too, will have such an inner reaction toward the words or actions of others. It is said of the Lord Jesus that He was “kind to ungrateful and evil men” (Luke 6:35). We ought to follow His example.
Peter asked Jesus how he should react to the negative behavior of others, saying:
“Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven” (Matthew 18:21-22).
Once Christ was speaking to His disciples about dealing with those who might trespass against them. He said:
“If your brother sins, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him. And if he sins against you seven times a day, and returns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ forgive him” (Luke 17:3-4).
When the disciples heard this, their response was the same as ours should be, “Lord, increase our faith.”
There are times when someone will approach you, asking you to forgive a trespass. There are also times when you will be subject to another kind of treatment as described by Peter, “For this finds favor, if for the sake of conscience toward God a person bears up under sorrows when suffering unjustly” (1 Peter 2:19; compare verses 19-25). There is no thought on the other person’s part of asking for forgiveness, or of ceasing the behavior that causes grief. An illustration is the woman mentioned at the beginning of this part of Lesson 3, dealing with inner reactions.
The Christian life gives promise of victory over the difficult circumstances of every day. When you have the inner resources that enable you both to forgive and to endure grief, you are surely living life on the highest plane.
The Lord Jesus said, “If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them” (John 13:17). We all want to be happy. We know these things. How can we do them? The next lesson will deal with steps that lead to the strength we need.