Summary: Focus is on 8 Relational Remedies, especially relinquishing our desire for revenge over to God.
Loving Those You’d Rather Hate
Rev. Brian Bill
During one of our wars a military unit hired a local boy to cook and clean for them. Being a bunch of jokesters, they quickly took advantage of the boy’s seeming naiveté. They smeared Vaseline on the stove handles so it would get all over his hands. They put buckets of water over the door so he’d get soaked when he opened it. They even nailed his shoes to the floor during the night. Day after day the young boy took the brunt of their practical jokes without saying anything. Finally the men felt guilty about what they were doing, so they met with him and said, “Look, we know these pranks aren’t funny for you, and we’re sorry. We’re never going to take advantage of you again.”
The boy smiled and then asked, “No more sticky on stove?” The guys responded, “Nope.” “No more water on door?” They answered, “No more water on door.” “No more nail shoes to floor?” “Nope, we’ll stop that, too.” “Okay” the boy said with a wide grin, “No more spit in soup.”
Instead of choosing revenge or retaliation when we’ve been wronged, we’re going to learn how to love those we’d rather hate. Last week our focus was on just one verse – Romans 12:14. Let’s see how many of us can quote it from memory: “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.” While this verse deals with our attitudes and our talk, the section of Scripture we’ll be studying this morning covers our actions and our walk. If there was some pushback last week, my guess is that you’ll have some major blowback today because Romans 12:15-21 contains some radical and revolutionary teaching about our relationships. That reminds me of what someone has said, “The more I get to know the human race, the more I love my dog.” Or, as one of my pastor friends likes to say, “Ministry would be wonderful, if it weren’t for the people.”
Most of us need some help when it comes to our relationships, don’t we? Please open your Bibles to Romans 12 as we begin in verse 15 and continue on to the end of the chapter. I see 8 remedies that if followed, will mend our relational ruptures.
8 Relational Remedies
1. Empathize with the emotions of others. We see this in verse 15: “Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.” This is a statement of incarnational relationship where we are invited to share both the blessings and the burdens of others. The word, “mourn” means, “to shed tears and lament loudly.” Literally it reads this way: “Rejoice with the rejoicing ones, weep with the weeping ones.” Let me ask you a question. Which is more difficult to do, to rejoice with those who rejoice, or to weep with those who weep? I think most of us struggle more with entering into the joy of someone who has received a certain blessing that we have not received. If someone here inherited a million dollars, could you really say, “I’m so happy for you!” The story is told of two writers who were very jealous of each other and their animosity was apparent to everyone. One of the writers eventually wrote a book that was very popular and became an immediate bestseller. When the two met at a party, the other man said, “I bought your book the other day. It’s a good read. Who wrote it for you?” Shaken a bit by this, the first man nevertheless thanked him for the compliment and then asked, “Who read it to you?”
We should also admit that sometimes when someone is hurting, inside we’re secretly thinking that maybe they deserve it. Proverbs 17:5: “He who mocks the poor shows contempt for their Maker; whoever gloats over disaster will not go unpunished.”
In order to rejoice in someone else’s joy, we need to get rid of all jealousy and to mourn with those who mourn, we must jettison a judgmental spirit. Instead of being indifferent to the emotions of others, we’re called to be empathetic. 1 Corinthians 12:25-26 pulls both of these responses together: “So that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.” Someone has said that a sorrow shared is but half a trouble and a joy that’s shared is joy made double. Oh, to have the compassion of Paul when he asks in 2 Corinthians 11:29: “Who is weak, and I do not feel weak? Who is led into sin, and I do not inwardly burn?” Fellowship is more than coffee and a cookie; it means sharing burdens and blessings.