Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against any of your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the LORD.
1. It was twice quoted by our Lord (Matthew 19:19 and Matthew 22:39).
2. It shows us the Law as closer to the gospel than we are apt to think; it proves that, under the old dispensation, God was not satisfied with a mere mechanical propriety of behaviour, that he demanded rightness of feeling as well as correctness of conduct. We have -
I. THE BROAD PRINCIPLE OF GOD'S REQUIREMENT. Man is to "love his neighbour as himself" (verse 18). No man, indeed, can
(1) give as much time and thought to each of his neighbours as he does to himself, and no man
(2) is so responsible for the state of others' hearts and the rectitude of their lives as he is for his own. But every man can and should, by power of imagination and sympathy, put himself in his brother's place; be as anxious to avoid doing injury to another as he would be unwilling to receive injury from another; and be as desirous of doing good to his neighbour who is in need as he would be eager to receive help from him if he himself were in distress. This is the essence of the "golden rule" (Matthew 7:12).
II. THE ROOT FROM WHICH THIS FEELING WILL SPRING. How can we do this? it will be asked. How can we be interested in the uninteresting; love the unamiable; go out in warm affection toward those who have in them so much that is repulsive? The answer is here, "I am the Lord." We must look at all men in their relation to God.
1. God is interested, Christ is interested in the worst of men, is seeking to save and raise them; do we not care for those for whom he cares so much?
2. They are all God's children; it may be his prodigal children, living in the far country, but still his sons and daughters, over whom he yearns.
3. The most unlovely of men are those for whom our Saviour bled, agonized, died. Can we be indifferent to them?
4. They were once not far from the kingdom, and may yet be holy citizens of the kingdom of God. When we look at our fellow-men in the light of their relation to God, to Jesus Christ, we can see that in them which shines through all that is repelling, and which attracts us to their side that we may win and bless them.
III. THE FRUITS WHICH HOLY LOVE WILL BEAR. There are two suggested in the text.
1. Forbearance; "not hating our brother in our heart," "not avenging or bearing any grudge against" him. Without the restraints and impulses of piety we are under irresistible temptation to do this. Unreasonable dislike on our brother's part, injustice, ingratitude, unkindness, inconsiderateness, features of character which are antipathetic to our own, - these things and such things as these are provocative of ill will, dislike, enmity, resentment, even revenge on our part. But if we remember and realize our brother's relation to the common Father and Saviour, we shall rise to the noble height of forbearance; we shall have the love which "beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things" (1 Corinthians 13:7).
2. Restoration by remonstrance, Thou shalt in any wise rebuke thy neighbour, and not suffer sin upon him." Instead of nursing and nourishing our indignation, allowing our brother to go on in the wrong, and permitting ourselves to become resentful as well as indignant, we shall offer the remonstrance of affection; we shall "reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering" (2 Timothy 4:2). We shall try to win our brother back to that path of truth or righteousness which he has forsaken; so shall we "gain our brother" (Matthew 18:15), instead of "suffering sin upon him." This is the conquest of love, the crown of charity. - C.
Thou shalt not avenge
Scientific lllustrations.Small birds have an intense natural antipathy of nocturnal birds of prey. If one of these birds happens to be seen out of its lurking-place during the day they assail it vigorously, resent its intrusion, and avenge the oppression exercised over them during the night by combined attacks. This antipathy has been taken advantage of for the purpose of catching birds ever since the days of Aristotle. The catcher imitates, for instance, the voice of an owl about an hour before sunset, when the birds will flock together and perch on the trees or bushes in the suspected neighbourhood. The twigs, &c., having been previously covered with bird-lime, the birds pay their liberty and perhaps life as the penalty of their desire to avenge themselves on the owl.
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