I was on the computer doing some research for the dissertation Jan is working on and I came upon a book How to Live a Holy Life by Charles Orr.
I decided to look farther and the book’s introduction started:
“We have only one life to live, only one. Think of this for a moment. Here we are in this world of time, making the journey of life. Each day we are farther from the cradle and nearer the grave. Solemn thought. …Some of us are just beginning life’s journey; some of us are midway up the hill, some have reached the top, and some are midway down the western slope. But where are we all going? Listen, and you will hear but one answer – “Eternity.” … Thitherward you and I are daily traveling.” (Orr, Charles Ebert, How to Live a Holy Life, The Floating Press, 2009)
Interesting… First the title was a little off-putting because I know two things: Jesus was the only one to lead a ‘Holy Life’ and I am not Him. Maybe if the author said ‘Holier Life.’ Secondly, as I approach 70, I suspect the author implies I am somewhere down the western slope! Not so interesting.
Skipping ahead in the introduction the author said:
“There is a great responsibility in life. It means much to live. The time was when you and I were not, now we are. We are and there can never come a time when we shall not be. You and I shall always exist somehow, somewhere. One sweet thought to me is that I have time enough to do all that God intends for me to do, and to do it well. Then there comes another thought - …”
Ok and yes, I just had a thought too. I was intending to write a blog entry and the above discussion about life and God’s intentions for us, provided the following idea.
Does God really want us to bless our enemies?
There are a number of things God commands Christians to do in the New Testament that makes no “logical sense”, and “blessing our enemies” would clearly be right near the top of that list, along with “forgiving our enemies.”
On January 18th I posted a SOMA Pastor-Elder blog entry on Forgiveness. I’m not sure how many read it, but as one reply indicated, “I want forgiveness but giving it is another matter.” She prefaced that by commenting on how God deals with our hanging on to bitterness. If you have not read my previous blog post you should probably read it before continuing.
Jesus said, and yes it is a command, “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.” (Luke 6:27-28 ESV)
When Jesus said “love your enemies” that does include someone who is opposed and hostile to you as well as someone who has hurt or offended you, such that you have not forgiven them but hold something against them. They may or may not be a Christian.
The love mentioned by Jesus is unconditional love (agapao).
He further explains saying:
“… do good to those who hate you,
bless those who curse you,
pray for those who abuse you.”
If you have forgiven someone then are you willing to bless them? If not, can you truly say that you have forgiven them? Like forgiveness, blessing someone is an attitude we choose. You decide and then you act. First extend forgiveness, then offer blessing.
The Apostle Paul reinforces the wisdom of blessing our enemies, “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them.” (Romans 12:14 ESV)
When Jesus came to die, He publicly showed us the best example the world has ever known of returning good for evil. He prayed for and forgave His murderers. (Luke 23:34) He left us an example that we should follow. I need to add, our past and future sins were nailed to His cross. Since He has forgiven us all those sins, how can we do less for those who sinned against us?
Jesus Himself said, “For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” (Matthew 6:14-15 ESV)
As Christians we need to understand that forgiveness and blessing are primarily for our benefit. It helps us stay in a right relationship with God and will free us from the illness or anxiety that anger or other negative feelings create in us physically. We need to honor and follow the Holy Spirit’s direction and conviction.
Recalling C. Orr’s comment that, “One sweet thought to me is that I have time enough to do all that God intends for me to do, and to do it well.” We each have God’s work to do, we cannot afford to waste the time and energy harboring bitterness towards others as that will keep us from fulfilling God’s purpose for our lives.
The author of Hebrews reminds us, “Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no ‘root of bitterness’ springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled;” (Hebrews 12:14-15 ESV)
(As an adjunct if you are interested in C. Orr’s book you may preview it here on Google Books.)