Mark: The Second Greatest!
When asked in Mark to name the greatest commandment, Jesus answered with the first and second greatest commandments. The second great commandment is to Love our neighbor as ourselves. Why is this so hard and sometimes seems impossible? How does God enable us to live a life of love?
I would show the nature of the duty of meekly bearing the injuries we suffer from others. And,
First, it implies that injuries offered should be borne without doing anything to revenge them. — There are many ways in which men do that which is revengeful; not merely by actually bringing some immediate suffering on the one that may have injured them, but by anything, either in speech or behavior, which shows a bitterness of spirit against him for what he has done. Thus, if after we are offended or injured, we speak reproachfully to our neighbor, or of him to others, with a design to lower or injure him, and that we may gratify the bitter spirit we feel in our hearts for the injury that neighbor has done us, this is revenge. He, therefore, that exercises a Christian long-suffering toward his neighbor, will bear the injuries received from him without revenging or retaliating, either by injurious deeds or bitter words. He will bear it without doing anything against his neighbor that shall manifest the spirit of resentment, without speaking to him, or of him, with revengeful words, and without allowing a revengeful spirit in his heart, or manifesting it in his behavior. He will receive all with a calm, undisturbed countenance, and with a soul full of meekness, quietness, and goodness; and this he will manifest in all his behavior to the one that has injured him, whether to his face or behind his back. Hence it is, that this virtue is recommended in the Scriptures under the name of gentleness, or as always connected with it, as may be seen in James 3:17, and Galatians 5:22. In him that exercises the Christian spirit as be ought, there will not be a passionate, rash, or hasty expression, or a bitter, exasperated countenance, or an air of violence in the talk or behavior; but, on the contrary, the countenance and words and demeanor will all manifest the savor of peaceableness and calmness and gentleness. He may perhaps reprove his neighbor. This may clearly be his duty. But if he does, it will be without impoliteness, and without that severity that can tend only to exasperate; and though it may be with strength of reason and argument, and with plain and decided expostulation, it will still be without angry reflections or contemptuous language. He may show a disapprobation of what has been done; but it will be not with an appearance of high resentment, but as reproving the offender for a sin against God, rather than as for the offense against himself; as lamenting his calamity, more than resenting his injury; as seeking his good, not his hurt; and as one that more desires to deliver the offender out of the error into which he has fallen, than to be even with him for the injury done to himself. The duty enjoined also implies,
Secondly, that injuries be borne with the continuance of love in the heart, and without those inward emotions and passions that tend to interrupt and destroy it. — Injuries should be borne, where we are called to suffer them, not only without manifesting an evil and revengeful spirit in our words and actions, but also without such a spirit in the heart. We should not only control our passions when we are injured, and refrain from giving vent to outward revenge, but the injury should be borne without the spirit of revenge in the heart. Not only a smooth external behavior should be continued, but also a sincere love with it. We should not cease to love our neighbor because he has injured us. We may pity, but not hate him for it. The duty enjoined also implies,
Thirdly, that injuries be borne without our losing the quietness and repose of our own minds and hearts. — They should not only be borne without a rough behavior, but with a continuance of inward calmness and repose of spirit. When the injuries we suffer are allowed to disturb our calmness of mind, and put us into an excitement and tumult, then we cease to bear them in the true spirit of long-suffering. If the injury is permitted to discompose and disquiet us, and to break up our inward rest, we cannot enjoy ourselves, and are not in a state to engage properly in our various duties; and especially we are not in a state for religious duties — for prayer and meditation. And such a state of mind is the contrary of the spirit of long-suffering and meekly bearing of injuries that is spoken of in the text. Christians ought still to keep the calmness and serenity of their minds undisturbed, whatever injuries they may suffer. Their souls should be serene, and not like the unstable surface of the water, disturbed by every wind that blows. No matter what evils they may suffer, or what injuries may be inflicted on them, they should still act on the principle of the words of the Savior to his disciples (Luke 21:19) — "In your patience possess ye your souls." The duty we are speaking of also implies, once more,
Fourthly, that in many cases, when we are injured, we should be willing to suffer much in our interests and feelings for the sake of peace, rather than do what we have opportunity, and perhaps the right, to do in defending ourselves. — When we suffer injuries from others, the case is often such that a Christian spirit, if we did but exercise it as we ought, would dispose us to forbear taking the advantage we may have to vindicate and right ourselves. For by doing otherwise, we may be the means of bringing very great calamity on him that has injured us; and tenderness toward him may and ought to dispose us to a great deal of forbearance, and to suffer somewhat ourselves, rather than bring so much suffering on him. And besides, such a course would probably lead to a violation of peace, and to an established hostility, whereas in this way there may be hope of gaining our neighbor, and from an enemy making him a friend. Jonathon Edwards Charity and its Fruits
The long-suffering of God is very wonderfully manifest in his bearing innumerable injuries from men, and injuries that are very great and long-continued. If we consider the wickedness that there is in the world, and then consider how God continues the world in existence, and does not destroy it, but showers upon it innumerable mercies, the bounties of his daily providence and grace, causing his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sending rain alike on the just and on the unjust, and offering his spiritual blessings ceaselessly and to all, we shall perceive how abundant is his long-suffering toward us. And if we consider his long-suffering to some of the great and populous cities of the world, and think how constantly the gifts of his goodness are bestowed on and consumed by them, and then consider how great the wickedness of these very cities is, it will show us how amazingly great is his long-suffering. Jonathon Edwards Charity and its Fruits
Sermon discussion questions for parents to use with their children:
Why is loving your neighbor the way to fulfill the law?
Why is this important?
What does it mean to love your neighbor as you love yourself?
How do we love ourselves?
What are some of the examples given in the sermon of how this can impact all of our lives?
Why is it so hard to love those who hurt us?
How can we be enabled to do something that seems so hard?