This is one of the areas that has been a major fault of Christians.
The nature of humans who desire to obey Jesus commands is that we are not perfect. We will sometimes make mistakes. I can have the intention and attitude to help my fellow Christians or a poor person, but they may in that moment blow up on me for whatever reason. They may insult me or call me names or they don’t want my help at all. Likewise, I may have the right intention to go help someone with their work. However, I mess up their work. Then they get angry at you and never want you to help again.
Unfortunately, many Christians see this negative response to their righeous intentions and perhaps even righteous actions and get discouraged. When they get discouraged they often tell themselves: “well, that’s the last time I help that person” or “I’m never doing that again because of that bad experience.”
This is a major blunder that many Christians fall prey too. It is the very essence of conditional love. I will only have the right heart and attitude and help someone if they pay back my help for them with thanks.
The very essence of agape — unconditional love — is that we desire to do good works and we have the heart and attitude to do them without expecting anything in return. Whether they thank us or they hate us we still bless others. It is the same whether we make a mistake that we have to apologize for and learn from. And similarly we need to have the humility and maturity to understand that the other person will be angry even if they aren’t gracious to us.
One of the major things that I have learned as I’ve been searching for a wife going on dates and exploring relationships is that you are going to offend people. You are going to offend other girls. Offending them is not necessarily wrong (unless it’s a sin). However, in the course of an offense you need to be able to recognize that whether the situation turns out good or bad it is all still a learning and growth experience.
I need to have the frame of reference to where I have my heart right and my attitude in check before God. This will spread over to all of my other relationships.
- I can have a right heart, attitude, and mess up my actions and others may still be offended because they misinterpret what I do. If this offends me and I respond negatively in anger and sin then I have failed in maturity in love.
- I can have a right heart, attitude, and do good with my actions and others may still be offended because they misinterpret what I do. If this offends me and I respond negatively in anger and sin then I have failed in maturity in love.
It is particularly interesting that Jesus has the right heart, attitude, and did everything righteously to all and people were still offended at Him. Did He get offended and get bent out of shape and butt hurt over other people not interpreting His actions correctly? Nope. Though, perhaps the one exception could be where He drove the money changers out of the temple with a whip, but even that was premeditated because He sat down to make the whip (John 2).
Ironically, we never really examine 1 Corinthians 13 in the context of the most adverse circumstances:
1 Corinthians 13:4 Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, 5 does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, 6 does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; 7 [b]bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
- What does it mean to be patient with your enemy even if you did what was right?
- What does it mean to be kind to your enemy even when they were persecuting you?
- What does it mean to not seek your own when your enemy is seeking everything from you?
- What does it mean to hope all things for your enemy?
I think it is a failure to recognize the value of Jesus’ words:
Matthew 5:43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may [ap]be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48 Therefore [aq]you are to be perfect (teleios), as your heavenly Father is perfect (teleios).
G5046 — τέλειος — teleios — tel’-i-os
From G5056; complete (in various applications of labor, growth, mental and moral character, etc.); neuter (as noun, with G3588) completeness: – of full age, man, perfect.
Perfection is not how we modernly think of perfection. It is teleios. Completeness and becoming complete in growth be it mental, spiritual, character, or otherwise. Ultimately, complete in love.
We make mistakes because we are not perfectly submitted to the Spirit and resist the devil (James 4:7). However, each of these mistakes that we make are, in humility, a stepping stone to becoming more complete if we choose to take them. We repent of our sin and turn 180 in the other direction walking the path to perfection in Christ Jesus. And our goal is this:
1 Timothy 1:5 Now the end of the commandment is charity [love/agape] out of a pure heart, and of a good conscience, and of faith unfeigned.
Our unfaked faith is aligned with our pure hearts and our good conscience which translates into good works in love. Even to those who don’t deserve them, like God sent His son while we were yet sinners (Romans 5:8).