But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you. If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.
Recently, it’s been brought to my attention how we can so easily get in a mindset of deservedness. We are taught that hard work pays off, that getting first place deserves a medal, and that at the end of a hard working day we should get a paycheck. These are not bad to assume and are even arguably deserved, but how much does deservedness really capture our heart?
The word deserve means to do something or have or show qualities worthy of (reward or punishment).
Jesus teaches us that it is simple to love those that love us back and I believe that’s true with no explanation needed. The challenge presents itself when he tells us to love our enemies. This isn’t natural to us. If we are supposed to treat others the way we want to be treated, but then aren’t treated in the same way in return, doesn’t that give us the right to not love our enemies?
Let’s take this a little further; when the righteous man in Uz was wiped clean of all of his family and prosperity, was this based out of a concept of deservedness? Did Job lose his family because he did something wrong? Absolutely not. God wasn’t condemning Job. He was giving Job the opportunity to smash the devil in the face with his incredible faith.
To say the book of Job conclusively explains why bad things happen would be incredibly wrong. However, I think Job gives us an example of how we can choose to respond to the most crucial heartache. What if in the deepest pain, we lifted our hands in the air to praise God, even when we don’t understand. How powerful can this be not only in our own healing, but in someone else’s life as well?
My heart breaks at the pain this world is facing due to the corruption of sin in the world, but I believe there is a notion of deservedness that leaves many of us still captive to the effects of sin. We praise the Lord desiring a good life, not to worship a triumphant and loving creator. When bad things happen, is your faith strong enough to continue to worship?
I believe that when Jesus came he shattered the lie of deservedness. The principle that he taught in Luke 6:27-36 was fulfilled with the ultimate demonstration of our all-powerful God who sent his son to die for sinners. If we want to confront God with what we deserve in this life, I wonder if he is so gently whispering back… “My child, the evils in this world have nothing to do with deservedness. I love you and I hate evil too. I am here for you. Be still, and know that I am God. Trust my plan for you. Trust all of the things that you cannot see right now. One day, all pain and suffering will come to an end. Fight the good fight. I believe in you! See my son on the cross? He died so that you might live. He died and crushed the power of deservedness forever. Just choose me. Choose to rest in me.”
Life in a broken world will never be easy. We will go through tragedy. But in the midst of it, how will you position your hearts? Can we have the faith to trust even when we don’t understand?
I can speak from experience that it doesn’t work out to run from our pain. It will only bring more pain. I can also tell you that leaning on God can be hard, but it will also be what gets you through the pain.
I challenge you, no matter what you are going through, to trust God in the midst of whatever you are going through. He is where you will find your hope.