The chief virtue of the Christian life is love. Paul tells us so in his writings to the Galatians. Love is the first fruit of the Spirit. In a sense, all the other fruit is simply an outward manifestation of the reality and the presence of authentic love. Our love for others grows out of a love for God.
It’s impossible to love God with all your heart and to hate your neighbor (1 John 4:20). Those two are incompatible. Our horizontal relationships with people flow out of our vertical relationship with God. At the heart of Christian ethics, at the heart of sanctification, is the Holy Spirit’s cultivating and developing the fruit of love in our lives.
The question I’m concerned with today is “How do we respond in love when we are wronged by another?” First, it is necessary to acknowledge that we will be mistreated, misunderstood, and misrepresented. That is the human experience and we must not show surprise or disbelief when this happens. Christ’s response is our example.
We are all called to bear our injuries and our grief and our pain in the insults we receive with patience, love, gentleness, and longsuffering (1 Peter 4:14). That’s required of all of us, because it is part and parcel to the Christian life. We are called to imitate Christ. As we are sanctified, we are being molded into His image.
In the very setting of His passion and crucifixion, Jesus prayed for the forgiveness of those who attacked Him. He was sinless, and every charge that was leveled was a false charge. Not every charge that’s leveled against us is false. We can’t say, “Nobody should be criticizing me, because I’m above criticism.” Even when criticisms made against us are valid, we get angry. We get hurt and become bitter.
Jesus was patient, gentle, and kind. Never once did He seek revenge, for He is perfect, of course. “He is the image of the invisible God” (Colossians 1:15). We’re not going to attain the same level of virtue as Jesus in this world, but we are to show Christlikeness. We are to manifest the same Spirit that was in Him. Jesus has given the Holy Spirit to us, and He calls us to nurture and cultivate the fruit of the Spirit.
What is your response when someone wrongs you? Ask God to help you cultivate a response that reflects His love for others.