Welcome to this week's ToGather.church Our focus comes from our Verse of the Day, Leviticus 19:18:
Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the LORD.
Hanging onto bitterness and keeping alive grudges make for consuming work that has destructive consequences. Bearing grudges and seeking revenge leave little energy for blessing others, praising God, or enjoying life.
Imagine living in a world where bearing grudges, taking revenge, and multi-generational blood feuds are the norm. One slight brought a responding slight until things escalated into murder. With no shared common law, people sought to get justice for themselves, but this kind of justice was only an escalating form of revenge! This vengeful world was the ancient world before God gave Israel the Torah.
Into this vengeful world, God gave his 613 religious, criminal, and civil laws in the Torah — also called the Law of Moses (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers). Into the world of grudges, taking revenge, and blood feuds, God gave this principle for law among his people:
But if there is serious injury, you are to take life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, bruise for bruise (Exodus 21:23-24).
People use the phrase "an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth" to talk about vengeance and violence. The exact opposite was true when God gave it. This principle ran through God's laws for his people to limit their vengeful response. An offense demanded fair retribution under God's law. When the wronged person received appropriate retribution, any new violence or harm was considered a fresh offense that would be punished suitably. God intended for this principle to limit violence and prevent multi-generational blood feuds.
However, God's goal for his people wasn't just limiting retaliation and vengeance. The Almighty wanted to prevent vengeful and grudge-filled hearts in his people. He tried to get to the heart of the revenge and grudge problem! God's goal was for each of his people to LOVE their neighbor as they loved themselves, even when they had been wronged, mistreated, or suffered violence.
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus emphasized God's ultimate goal when he taught against grudges and revenge and about loving enemies:
"You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect" (Matthew 5:43-48).
The apostle Paul followed suit when he talked about vengeance, grudges, and retaliation:
Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.
. . .
Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good (Romans 12:17-18, 21).
Jesus called us to God's standard! We are to love our neighbors and withhold vengeance from those who have harmed us. God's high standards are certainly upside down to how we often feel and how the world usually functions.
We acknowledge that God's standard is high and hard to live. While upside down to the world, we recognize that our world was broken by the Fall and is different and often operates by standards upside down to the LORD! We choose to be people shaped by our allegiance to God, not by our selfish human desires or our world's upside down standards.
How do we live up to God's will to love and not bear grudges and not seek revenge?
On our own, we will not! Yes, we must make every effort to live up to God's way of living, but without divine help, our efforts will fail. However, Phil's video message shares ways the Spirit can enable us to live up to his way of love. Demetrius has songs that open our hearts to the work of the Holy Spirit, helping us become more like Christ as we seek to love others. Our fleshly nature wants to get even, exact revenge, and bear grudges, but God has a better way for us!
We pray that you will be blessed by our time in the word with Phil's message video on our Verse of the Day and by our additional time in worship with our prayer, songs, Communion time, and blessing in our full worship video.
Phil's video message is based on Leviticus 19:18, and challenges us to follow God's way of love rather than our fleshly desires to bear grudges, get even, and extract revenge:
Let's remember and faithfully utilize the four strategies Phil presented to help us live and treat others as God wants!
- Pray for others and have others pry for us to be full of the Spirit like Stephen was! (Ephesians 3:14-21; Acts 7:54-60)
- Ask for the Spirit's power to enable us to live upside down to the world and right side up to God! (Acts 4:23-31)
- Pursue Jesus as we trust the Holy Spirit to continue his work of transforming us to be like Jesus. (2 Corinthians 3:18)
- Treat others as if our feelings are already where they should be, trusting the Spirit to help our hearts follow suit. (Matthew 7:21-27; John 13:17).
The full worship video leads us to open our hearts to God and his love as we pray, sing, share the Lord's Supper, and share a closing blessing. We pray the Spirit fills and empowers you as we worship!