Written by Frank Mills – District Superintendent, Church of the Nazarene, Ghana North, West Africa
This world teaches us to love those who love us and to stay away from those who hate us. This world teaches us how to retaliate and cause harm to people who have done the same to us. But Jesus teaches us to love all people all the time, no matter the situation.
I know of a Christian young man who is inwardly struggling with the spirit of revenge and planning to kill his elder brother, because his elder brother took all the family property, sold it for a very cheap amount, and left the country for greener pastures in another country.
Kumah and Adotey were very good friends who went everywhere together. One day, Adotey intentionally picked up Kumah’s laptop computer without his notice and, after using it, he secretly kept it away from Kumah so that Kumah would not have access to lecture notes and other materials that would help him prepare for his school examination. Someone accidentally noticed the evil action of Adotey and informed Kumah. When Kumah got to know that his friend Adotey had picked up his laptop in order to make him fail his school examination, he confronted Adotey and decided not to be his friend anymore. Adotey later felt very sorry about his action and repented. He asked Kumah for forgiveness, but Kumah was not ready to either listen or to forgive Adotey. Kumah and was filled with the spirit of revenge.
Jesus teaches us to forgive those who are against us and to treat them just like any other person that we love. It is impossible to live a life of holiness without Jesus. Jesus is the source of the biblical holiness that pleases God. In Africa, we have many people who worship other gods and deities and claim to live a holy life, which pleases God. The Bible proclains that, Jesus is the “way and the truth and the life.” That “no one comes to the Father” except through Him.Jesus continues, “ If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.” (John 14:6-7 NIV)
Jesus came from God to teach us the way to live a holy life that pleases God the Father and to help us qualify as candidates to enjoy eternal life. (Perhaps…Jesus came from God to illustrate a life that pleases God the Father and to provide a way by which we may enjoy both an eternal life in heaven and a holy life on earth.)
Jesus was a humble man who practiced humility and he commands all his followers to practice humbleness as a lifestyle.
Let us find out from the scripture what Jesus teaches us about holy living through humbleness and through loving people.
SCRIPTURE TEACHINGS: Reading of John 13:1-17/Mathew 18:21-35.
Today we will be looking at what Jesus is telling us all in the book of John chapter 13:1-17. This chapter, and surrounding chapters contain part of the extended private teachings that Jesus gave his disciples on the evening before his crucifixion. It is commonly called the Last Discourse. This Last Discourse is important, for it is here that we find specific teachings on how Jesus’ people are to relate to God and others in this world.
When Jesus knew that the time for him to die and leave the world and his followers was near, he planned to not leave them as orphans. He prepared them well for the challenges that lay ahead of them in this life by teaching them about holiness in life. Holy living was the answer to the problems of the world in the past, holiness is the answer to the problems of the world in the present and holiness will continue to be the answer to the problems of the world in the future. Before departing the earth, Jesus taught his followers how to demonstrate true love in practical ways to all people, including those who stand against us.
The introduction to this intimate scene in John’s Gospel, as it is in any of the Gospels, features Judas, the disciple of Jesus who was against Jesus in his heart. As we continue to read the verses that follow this passage, we realize that when Judas left the table, only those who loved Jesus remained.
Judas represented everyone to whom Jesus offers light and life and yet refuses to respond with love and faith.
Judas was one of the original twelve disciples. At the beginning, Jesus chose Judas to be with Him in his public ministry. Like the other disciples, Judas saw Jesus’ miracles and heard all his great teachings. Judas grew close to Jesus during those times when Jesus explained his words to the Twelve, alone. Judas with other disciples had often watched Jesus slip away to pray to God. Yet Judas ultimately failed to respond to Jesus with love and faith. Outwardly he looked like one of Jesus’ followers. He acted like them, he talked like them, and he went with them wherever they went.
The other 11 did not suspect that Judas possessed his heart problem.. His heart was full of sin and hatred for the truth and righteousness.
This passage begins by pointing out that Jesus “loved his own.”It then goes on to describe a foot washing. Dressed like a servant, Jesus took a basin of water and began to wash His disciples’ feet. This action made Peter deeply upset. Jesus, his Lord and teacher, was stooping low to serve him as if Jesus was a common slave! This goes beyond the imagination of Peter and he was ready to refuse this offer from the Master.
However, Jesus insisted that he wash Peter’s feet. Later explained how this simple ritual helps to show how the followers of Christ are to relate to the strangers, poor, rich, friends, wives, husbands, children, parents, enemies, and every person.
In the ancient Biblical world, a person woke up in the morning and took his or her bath before leaving the home for the daily routine. Roads were mostly unpaved; and so they were often dusty or muddy, depending on the weather. When one entered the home of another, a servant would wash the dirt from the traveler’s feet. The body was clean, but the feet, having been in contact with the world, needed constant cleansing to remain clean. The duty of washing the feet of guests was considered an unpleasant task, relegated to children or foreign servants. Jewish servants were not expected to stoop to such a lowly assignment. It was certainly not something a master teacher would be expected to do for his disciples.
Jesus went on to explain that his action sets an example of humility and love that we must all emulate and practice. If the teacher and Lord of the world stooped to wash the feet of His followers, the followers of Christ should have no hesitation to stoop and serve one another.
Humbling ourselves to serve each other is Jesus’ way to greatness and holy living.
21 Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, if my brother keeps on sinning against me, how many times do I have to forgive him? Seven times?”`
22 “No, not seven times,” answered Jesus, “but seventy times seven, 23 because the Kingdom of heaven is like this. Once there was a king who decided to check on his servants’ accounts. 24 He had just begun to do so when one of them was brought in who owed him millions of dollars. 25 The servant did not have enough to pay his debt, so the king ordered him to be sold as a slave, with his wife and his children and all that he had, in order to pay the debt. 26 The servant fell on his knees before the king. ‘Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘and I will pay you everything!’ 27 The king felt sorry for him, so he forgave him the debt and let him go.
28 “Then the man went out and met one of his fellow servants who owed him a few dollars. He grabbed him and started choking him. ‘Pay back what you owe me!’ he said. 29 His fellow servant fell down and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you back!’ 30 But he refused; instead, he had him thrown into jail until he should pay the debt. 31 When the other servants saw what had happened, they were very upset and went to the king and told him everything. 32 So he called the servant in. ‘You worthless slave!’ he said. ‘I forgave you the whole amount you owed me, just because you asked me to. 33 You should have had mercy on your fellow servant, just as I had mercy on you.’ 34 The king was very angry, and he sent the servant to jail to be punished until he should pay back the whole amount.”
35 And Jesus concluded, “That is how my Father in heaven will treat every one of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart.”
Peter thinks it is a great matter to forgive even to seven times; he means not seven times a day, as Christ said (Luke 17:4), but seven times within his life. This, supposing that if a man had in any way abused him seven times, though he were ever so desirous to be reconciled, he might abandon his society, and have no more to do with him.
Christ’s answer to Peter’s question was very direct, “I say not unto you, until seven times (he never intended to set up any such bounds), but, until seventy times seven.” Here, a certain number was replaced by an indefinite number, a great number. Note that it does not look well for us to keep count of the offences done against us by people. There is something of ill nature in scoring up the injuries we forgive, as if we would allow ourselves to be avenged when the measure is full. God keeps an account (Deut 32:34), because he is the Judge, and vengeance is his; but we must not keep an account, lest we be found stepping into his throne. It is necessary to the preservation of peace, both within and without, to pass by injuries, without reckoning how often. We must be willing to forgive and forget. God multiplies his pardons, and so should we (Psalm 77:38,40). This generous pardoning of God suggests that we should make it our constant practice to forgive injuries, and should accustom ourselves to it until it becomes habitual.
A CHALLENGE FOR YOU AND ME:
The application of this parable of the unmerciful servant in Mathew 18:21-35 is simple: “So, likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you.” God will do to us, exactly what we do to others. It shall be done to us by our Father, which is in heaven. It sounds terrible and threatening, but that is exactly what we are claiming for ourselves when we find it difficult to show love when things go wrong towards us. If God’s governing is fatherly, then it follows that his governing is righteous. However, it does not follow that it is lenient. When we pray to God as our Father in heaven, we are taught to ask for the forgiveness of sins, as we forgive our debtors. As followers of Christ Jesus, we must forgive from our hearts, just as we expect God to easily, quickly and sincerely forgive us.
We must be ready to immediately and sincerely forgive our brothers and sisters who deliberately or undeliberately offend us. We have to sincerely forgive from the heart and when we forgive our offenders, we must not keep any records of the offences in our heart; for that is what God looks at. No bitterness must be harbored there in our hearts, which are supposed to be pure with good and godly intentions. No projects of revenge must be hatched in our hearts. We should not even have the desires of revenge in our ‘pure hearts’ or else our hearts become impure for the Holy Spirit to duel. There are many people who outwardly appear peaceful, forgiving and reconciled with others and yet they struggle inwardly with the power of revenge. The Bible says such is not enough; we must from the heart – desire and seek the welfare of even those that have offended us.
The danger of not forgiving is heard in this warning found in verse 35: “so shall your heavenly Father do.” If we want to be forgiven by God, then we must also learn to quickly and sincerely forgive others. If we decide to not forgive those who wrong us, we choose to allow God to not forgive us when we wrong him.
It is striking to realize that Judas was one of those whose feet Jesus had just washed. The betrayer was served in the same way as the faithful, and through it all, Jesus knew who was going to betray Him. How is Jesus’ attitude and service both an example and a challenge to us?
All followers of Jesus have been called to reflect the love of Jesus to all people including the “Judas” who reside in our life and in our community. We are not to treat people with judgment because they are sinful or strangers. Judas was more than just another sinner or stranger—he was the betrayer. His actions helped to lead Jesus to his death. To follow Jesus’ example in this would be revolutionary. In some parts of the world it would be suicidal. But it might be just what it takes to end the cycle of violence and revenge.
Jesus could have chosen to wash the feet of all the disciples excluding Judas but he chose to wash everyone, including the impure Judas, because his still loved him, despite Judas’ rebellious spirit, sinful heart, and sinister plan.
We are to be humble leaders and servants who are ready to show love to everyone, wherever we find ourselves. Jesus is our master and teacher; and we are his followers and disciples. Let us all be ready to practice what Jesus has commanded us to practice. The lesson is: Love all people and be a humble servant-leader.