Jesus stunned the multitudes when He said, “You have heard that it has been said, ‘You shall love your neighbor, and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, ‘Love your enemies. Bless them who curse you. Do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you and persecute you’” (Mt. 5:43-44). The crowd must have had the same thoughts that immediately come to my mind: “Why? They don’t deserve it! I didn’t deserve the harsh treatment they gave me and they don’t deserve any of my love, my nice actions, or my prayers.”

But then Jesus redirects their eyes away from the actions of their enemies and onto the actions of their heavenly Father. He challenges them to be like their Father, not like their enemies. “…that you may be the children of your Father which is in heaven for He makes His sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust” (Mt. 5:45).

Whom would you like to emulate? Your enemies or your Father? Intellectually, you know the right answer. Of course you want to be like your heavenly Father. But your emotions speak differently. They abide by a different logic: those dirty dogs deserve the worst; I know how I can get even; revenge will be sweet. However, that logic is from the world. Jesus wants us to live by a higher standard than the world’s. He wants us to demonstrate that we are children of God.

How? By the grace of God. The only way you can love your enemies, bless them who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for them who despitefully use you, is to obey Him. Deliberately stop thinking about the injuries and those who did the injuring. Redirect you thoughts to the character of God. He forgives freely and gives because of His grace, not because one deserves his gifts. Since Christ lives in you (Col. 1:27) you can do the same, in His power

So, what do your actions reveal about you? Do they tell the world that you are a child of God? Or do they tell God that you are acting like a child of the world? Your actions illustrate your standards.

In May 2003, Tim and I Traveled to Ukraine where I taught a two week course at Zaporozhye Bible College. One day Tim walked downtown and on the way back to the college he was attacked and robbed along a street in Ukraine. Later, one of the college interpreters, Nadya Tykhovod, sent him a note to try to encourage him. In it she mentioned that some music group sang a song with lyrics that went something like this: “The rain falls on the just and on the unjust as well. But mostly on the just, because the unjust stole the just’s umbrella.” This is a humorous spin on Jesus’ words but it was appropriate for the situation. She also wrote, “I don’t believe that God just fell asleep, or something. There must be a purpose (in Tim’s suffering), that we just don’t know.”

No, we don’t know what God’s purpose is when bad things happen to us. But we know that He wants us to be like Him in our responses: love our enemies, bless those who curse us, do good to those who hate us, and pray for those who misuse us. This will then be our testimony that proves we are children of God. The unjust cannot do these things. This grace is given only to the just.