Obedience can be hard sometimes. It can be hard to forgive someone who has wronged you, and it can be even harder to forgive them “seventy times seven” (Matt. 18:21-22). It can be hard to love enemies (Matt. 5:43-48). It can be hard to show patience and kindness toward people (1 Cor. 13:4) – especially when they do not deserve it. Yet God calls His people to do all of these things.
Though much could be said about this struggle, there is one thing in particular that we often seem to forget: these things are not struggles for God at all. Interestingly, many of the very commands God gives us are things God has already done Himself. He does not call us to act contrary to His own actions but rather to be holy as He is holy (1 Pet. 1:15-16). Why does that matter? Because too often, our struggle is made more difficult by failing to realize the grace we have received. Obedience is fueled by meditating on the grace God has lavished on us rather than by simply focusing on the demands He has placed on us. So take a moment this morning to consider how God has loved you.
First, consider God’s command to forgive others who sin against us. It can be difficult. And yet, does God not know what it is like to forgive someone who has wronged Him? Of course – this is the very foundation of the faith. God knows precisely what it is like to be wronged by every person – including you and me. Yet He is faithful and just to forgive our sins (1 John 1:9). Even though we have broken His law, He has forgiven us (Col. 2:13; 1 John 2:12). Even though we did not deserve it, He has removed our sins as far as the east is from the west (Ps. 103:12). And here is the most amazing part: this was not difficult for Him. He did not struggle with anger or bitterness or frustration. He lavishes His grace on us in forgiving us – it comes freely, easily, and abundantly. And He does it time and time again. How many times have you sinned against God? And He forgives every sin. I would venture to guess it is far more than “seventy times seven” times that we have wronged Him. Yet grace continues to pour out, and forgiveness continues to flow. Grace. So the next time you are struggling to forgive, take a moment to consider that God never struggles to forgive you. Give thanks that He is not like you. You may just find it a bit easier to forgive others – or yourself – once you have considered that.
Or take another example: God’s call to love enemies. Just like forgiveness, this can be difficult. And yet – just like forgiveness – this is an action with which God is very familiar. Every human being enters this world as an enemy of God. Even so, God gives them life and breath (Acts 17:25). God makes the sun to rise on the evil and the good, and He send rain on the just and the unjust (Matt. 5:45). God is kind to the ungrateful and evil (Luke 6:35). And if you are already His child, remember that it was while you were still an enemy that God sent His Son to die for you (Rom. 5:10). You have life today because God loves enemies. And once again, this is not “hard” for Him. In His perfect holiness, it is “easy”. Thankfully, God is not like us, and we are the beneficiaries of this incredible enemy-love. So the next time you are struggling to love someone who is unlovable and may even hate you, take a moment to consider that God has done that exact thing for you. Before He called you to love that person, He loved you as a person just like that. More than likely, you will find it easier to love them after that.
Thankfully, God is not like us. He does not find it difficult to obey. He does not struggle with how to behave. You might say, “Of course He doesn’t, because He is God. But I am not so that is not a comfort to me.” Of course, we are not God, but I would remind you of this: He is working to transform us into the very image of His Son…who is God Himself (Rom. 8:29). As we behold the glory of the Lord (which we have been doing in the last two paragraphs), we are being transformed into the image of that glory (2 Cor. 3:18). God tells us what He is like so that we will imitate Him like beloved children who imitate their Father (Eph. 5:1). One day, we will see God, and we will be like Him (1 John 3:2), and we will become partakers of the divine nature (2 Pet. 1:4). Obviously, we will never be the object of worship, but we will share in His holiness – the holiness that not only does what is right but does it easily because it is natural and instinctive. That will be glory. That will be good. And that process of transformation has already begun.
God acts a particular way toward us, so that we will act that same way toward others. Too often, we stumble because we focus so much on the duty of loving others that we neglect to consider the way God has loved us. Yet it is the love we have received that fuels the love we give. We love because He first loved us (1 John 4:19), and when we love, it is because God abides in us and His love is working through us and being perfected in us (1 John 4:12).