Our thinking needs to be renewed by God’s Word. The fact is that we are not even entitled to basic human rights. No one deserves love; rather damnation. No one has the “right” to be treated well. We deserve to go to hell and that’s it. (Romans 3:23; 6:23) When people treat us with hatred, it should open our eyes to the kind of treatment we gave to Jesus. God gave us mercy and grace in spite of the way we treated Him.
Jesus gives us a love that we do not deserve. What He asks of us now is that we show that same kind of love to the rest of His children. This is a love that Jesus demonstrated when He was on this earth. On the cross, being mocked, scorned and killed, He prayed, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” He was willingly beaten for the sins of those who hated Him. He willingly died for the transgressions of the ones who killed Him. In the midst of it all, He prayed a prayer of compassion for His enemies. Jesus’ focus was on forgiveness, rather than His own entitlement as the Son of God.
We have been given the responsibility to emulate this radical example! “Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” Sure, our culture preaches an opposite message; but this is the truth. The only way that we will be an accurate “advertisement” for the Holy Spirit’s transformation and a correct representation of God’s character is if we act like Jesus. In this way, “they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.”
God’s Word commands us to love in a way that is incomprehensible, rather than in the way that is natural. Jesus calls us to, “love [our] enemies and pray for those who persecute [us.]” It is natural for us as humans to love those who love us; but it is unnatural, unheard of, and crazy when we love those who hate us, especially when that love leads us to prayer for the well-being of our enemies. This love is impossible to live out without the Holy Spirit working supernaturally within us.
One example of Jesus’ crazy love in an everyday situation was the time when He washed His disciples’ feet. When He had finished, He said to them, “Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.” If we call ourselves to a “dignified” way of living that the Son of God didn’t call Himself to, then we are inadvertently saying that we are greater than our Master. If He was a servant, how much more should we be servants? And that is what He was. “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.”
A more detailed characteristic of Christian love is that it is "not self-seeking.” Jesus explains selflessness in this way: “if anyone slaps you on your right cheek, turn to him the other also. As for the one who wants to sue you and take away your shirt, let him have your coat as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two. Give to the one who asks you, and don’t turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.” R. T. France, a commentator on the book of Matthew, says, “In a culture which took honor and shame far more seriously than ours, this was a paradoxical and humiliating demand.” That is what we have been called to. It seems that we may have a more flowery idea of what it means to be a child of God. A big part of what it means is that we give up our own rights and become “bond-servants” of Jesus. We must let ourselves be humiliated for the sake of our Lord. God’s way of thinking is completely backwards to our man-made philosophies. Our culture tells us, “Be the biggest and the best and you will have success.” God tells us, “Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you.”
When faced with the humiliating occurrence of being insulted or hurt, we have the option of standing up for our dignity. Although, if we were to ask ourselves, “What would Jesus do,” our response should be drastically changed. When the government was falsely accusing Jesus in order to put Him to death, “…he remained silent and made no answer.” In our case, instead of taking advantage of the opportunity to build up our own self-confidence, “a personal insult becomes an opportunity for a saint to reveal the incredible sweetness of the Lord Jesus.” It is our culture that elevates the concept of boldness and self-confidence. Jesus elevates the attitude of gentleness and humility.
Now, before a misunderstanding occurs, we must reaffirm the fact that Christians are called to build up the church by leading them away from sin. While our focus should be on seeking to show mercy, rather than demanding justice, we cannot forsake the responsibility to cleanse our brothers from sin. The call to forgive does not replace the call to rebuke those who are living in sin. We cannot overlook sinfulness in an effort to be loving. Our love should compel us to point out the sin in others’ lives in a way that encourages them toward righteousness.
Those of us who have inherited the hope of eternal life should not be focused on what is physical, but on what is spiritual. Our culture focuses too much on our unwillingness to become a human doormat, when the point should be elsewhere. If our biggest fear is of having to part with our clothing or let ourselves be hurt (physically or mentally) without standing up for ourselves, then our focus is in the wrong place. What matters is not what is passing away. Our aim should be to please our Heavenly Father first, and then to influence the souls of those He loves. That is what matters and that is what lasts.
The attitude that you can find in most Christians today is a feeling of pity for one’s own losses. Their focus is on the fact that they do not want to feel like a doormat. This focus needs to be shifted to a desire to become a servant. We should be characterized by the desire to serve others, influenced by our desire to serve Jesus. “…if [we] love Jesus Christ personally and passionately, [we] can serve humanity, even though people may treat [us] like a ‘doormat.’” Jesus Himself said, “Do you love me? …Feed my sheep.” This is how we show our love for Jesus – by making ourselves servants of humanity, for His sake; by making our lives all about Jesus’s honor, rather than our own. “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” We need to change our frame of mind from the fear of being treated unfairly, to a gratefulness that we can bless and serve others as we walk in the footsteps of our Lord.