My parents did not always do nice things for my two brothers and sister and me. No games, TV, or talking with friends UNTIL our homework was done. We were expected to behave in a certain way, do our chores without being asked or reminded, and speak to our parents with respect, or there were consequences. We learned the most loving thing is not always the nicest thing to do.
Jesus did not always do the nicest thing either, back when he walked on the earth. In today’s world of tolerance (where every view and action seems to be equal in value), the words and actions of Jesus would appear to be as troubling as they were in the first century.
I spoke with a student once who was reading the New Testament in a college literature class. She was upset that Matthew wrote in his Gospel about Jesus casting demons out of a man (8:28-34). She argued that God was hateful toward animals because Jesus sent the demons into a herd of pigs and they went over a cliff and drowned in water. “Why would God kill innocent swine?” she asked. “They have just as much a right to life as any human does!” she pleaded.
I said God does not always do “nice” things, but “loving” things. Jesus loved the possessed man so much but knew the demons were destroying him. He freed the man from the demons by commanding them to enter the pigs, and allowed them to perish. The pigs were created by God just like the man was, but He chose to sacrifice them by His sovereign hand. Nice and loving are not necessarily synonymous. By the way, God can exercise love, judgment and wisdom without asking anyone’s permission. When you are sovereign, you can do those sorts of things.
Read Luke 14:25-35. Love is the point here, too.
Jesus said in Luke 14:26, “If anyone comes to Me and does not HATE his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters, yes, even his own life, he (or she) cannot be my disciple.” That does not sound nice does it? It actually sounds harsh, exclusive, even a bit demanding. What does that have to do with love? Hint: See the first 4 Commandments.
Jesus used the word “hate” to state that our love for Him must be greater than our love for others, and even ourselves. Certainly not a nice thing to say, but consider the implications of His words. Jesus knew that those who followed Him would be forced to choose between their families and the cross (His way of salvation). He knew marriage and family loyalties would be tested and threatened. He knew there would be division…difficulty…decision…and it would not be easy.
Love was the point. Jesus demanded a love that reveals itself in complete surrender and commitment to Him and life in His Kingdom. Jesus said, “Anyone who does not carry his or her cross and follow Me cannot be My disciple” (Luke 14:27). This is hard stuff.
Think theologically. The cross Jesus died on was not “nice.” Jesus chose to place His body on it for you and me. He willingly allowed spikes to be driven through His bloody hands and feet for you and me. He died in agony for you and me. Not to be nice. Jesus had a far greater purpose – to win us back through extravagant love.
Jesus knows loving others and being nice do not always mean the same thing. Following Jesus means we will be often misunderstood. How do you need to be less “nice” and more loving?
Love is a verb,