Paul has said his goodbyes. He is headed to Jerusalem. Forewarned by the Spirit of God that trouble would meet him there. These warnings seem to strengthen the resolve of Paul. He is headed to Jerusalem.
We have witnessed Paul’s fellowship and love with the church. His farewell to the brothers and sisters in Christ was rich and loving. What a great example of the love of Christ within the church. They are our legacy.
But know we see another side of love.
Matthew 5:43-46 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward have you?
Luke 6:27-28 “But I say to you who hear: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, and pray for those who spitefully use you.”
Paul not only loved those that loved him, but he loved those who hated him. His motive was to reach his people for Christ. He would go to great lengths to see that happen.
Romans 9:1-5 I tell the truth in Christ, I am not lying, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Spirit, that I have great sorrow and continual grief in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my countrymen according to the flesh, who are Israelites, to whom pertain the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the service of God, and the promises; of whom are the fathers and from whom, according to the flesh, Christ came, who is over all, the eternally blessed God. Amen.
When Paul finally arrives in Jerusalem the opposing Jews seized him. They dragged Paul off with the desire to kill him. The Roman soldiers intervened and pulled Paul away from the raging crowd. The mood of the crowd was murderous the atmosphere was tense. As the commander pulls him away Paul asks, “May I speak to the crowd?” Paul turns to a crowd that moments ago was attempting to kill him. He turns too a crowd still seething with hateful rage towards him. Paul turns to the crowd and shares the love of Christ.
With wonderment I watch wondering what words were planted in hearts that day. Did any leave with Gospel taking root? Maybe, possibly?
I witness Paul and ask myself what manner of love had he known. This love of Christ had deeply effected Paul. Is this the love that I know? Paul was once part of the rage, a leader of it. Remember Stephen (Acts 7-8.) Paul was confronted by Christ’s love on the road to Damascus (Acts 9.) What I recognize is that this love of Christ had a transformative effect on Paul. Now he could lay his own life down for the Gospel sake, he would lay it down for his brothers the Jews, all because the love of Christ had deeply effected him.
We are called to love our enemy, to love the difficult, to love those that are hard to love. They don’t have to be people on the other side of the world, they could be in the cubicle next to yours, in the tailgating car behind you, or in your home with you. We are called to love.
Paul showed love by sharing how Christ changed his life. That is our task.
I believe the only way for this to be accomplished is first to realize the depth of God’s love for us. We need to be in that process, constantly discovering a new depth of His love. It is when we are there, when we have been transformed by His love that we can begin to love. When Christ’s love has effected us then we can begin to love those are difficult, we can begin to love our enemies.
Paul’s own counsel is this
Romans 12 :17-21 Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men. Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but [rather] give place to wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance [is Mine, I will repay],” says the Lord. Therefore “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; If he is thirsty, give him a drink; For in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
Paul was no hypocrite, he lived it and so should we. But his counsel here to love our enemies was preceded in chapter 12 with the counsel of a life that has been transformed.
Romans 12:1-2 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.
This is the first step to love. This love that Paul experienced is the same love available to us. Oh, that it would change us like it changed Paul.
My prayer – Oh Lord I lay my life before you. My heart’s desire is to follow you, to serve you. Transform me as you transformed Paul. As I receive your love make me a vessel of your. Send me out with an abundance to share.