Keep On Doing Good
“Continue . . . to do good.”—LUKE 6:35.
1, 2. Why is doing good to others often challenging?
DOING good to others can be a challenge. Those to whom we show love may not reciprocate. Although we seek the spiritual welfare of people by endeavoring to share with them “the glorious good news of the happy God” and his Son, they may be apathetic or ungrateful. (1 Tim. 1:11) Others prove to be hateful “enemies of the torture stake of the Christ.” (Phil. 3:18) As Christians, how should we treat them?
2 Jesus Christ told his disciples: “Continue to love your enemies and to do good.” (Luke 6:35) Let us now take a close look at this admonition. We will also benefit from other points Jesus made about doing good to others.
“Love Your Enemies”
3. (a) In your own words, summarize Jesus’ statement recorded at Matthew 5:43-45. (b) What view regarding Jews and non-Jews had developed among first-century Jewish religious leaders?
3 In his renowned Sermon on the Mount, Jesus told his audience to love their enemies and to pray for those persecuting them. (Read Matthew 5:43-45.) Those present on that occasion were Jews, who were aware of God’s command: “You must not take vengeance nor have a grudge against the sons of your people; and you must love your fellow as yourself.” (Lev. 19:18) First-century Jewish religious leaders held that “the sons of your people” and “your fellow” referred only to Jews. The Mosaic Law required that the Israelites stay separate from other nations, but the viewpoint had developed that all non-Jews were enemies, to be hated as individuals.
4. How were Jesus’ disciples to act toward their enemies?
4 In contrast, Jesus declared: “Continue to love your enemies and to pray for those persecuting you.” (Matt. 5:44) His disciples were to act lovingly toward all who showed hostility to them. According to the Gospel writer Luke, Jesus said: “I say to you who are listening, Continue to love your enemies, to do good to those hating you, to bless those cursing you, to pray for those who are insulting you.” (Luke 6:27, 28) Like first-century individuals who took Jesus’ sayings to heart, we “do good to those hating” us by responding to their hostility with gracious actions. We “bless those cursing” us by speaking to them in a kind way. And we “pray for those persecuting” us with physical violence or other forms of “insulting” treatment. Such petitions are loving requests that persecutors might have a change of heart and take action that brings them Jehovah’s favor.
5, 6. Why should we love our enemies?
5 Why show love for our enemies? “That you may prove yourselves sons of your Father who is in the heavens,” said Jesus. (Matt. 5:45) If we heed that counsel, we become “sons” of God in that we imitate Jehovah, who “makes his sun rise upon wicked people and good and makes it rain upon righteous people and unrighteous.” As Luke’s account puts matters, God “is kind toward the unthankful and wicked.”—Luke 6:35.
6 Stressing how important it was for his disciples to ‘continue loving their enemies,’ Jesus said: “If you love those loving you, what reward do you have? Are not also the tax collectors doing the same thing? And if you greet your brothers only, what extraordinary thing are you doing? Are not also the people of the nations doing the same thing?” (Matt. 5:46, 47) If we were to limit our love to those who reciprocate, this would not merit any “reward,” or favor, from God. Even tax collectors, who were generally despised, showed love for people who loved them.—Luke 5:30; 7:34.
7. Why would it not be extraordinary if we were to greet only our “brothers”?
7 The common Jewish greeting included the word “peace.” (Judg. 19:20; John 20:19) This was an implied wish for the health, welfare, and prosperity of the person greeted. It would not be an “extraordinary thing” if we were to greet only those whom we consider to be our “brothers.” As Jesus pointed out, something similar was done by “people of the nations.”
8. What was Jesus encouraging his listeners to do when he said: ‘You must be perfect’?
8 Inherited sin made it impossible for Christ’s disciples to be flawless, perfect. (Rom. 5:12) Yet, Jesus concluded this part of his discourse by saying: “You must accordingly be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matt. 5:48) He was thereby encouraging his listeners to imitate their “heavenly Father,” Jehovah, by perfecting their love—making it complete by loving their enemies. The same thing is expected of us.
Why Be Forgiving?
9. What is meant by the words: “Forgive us our debts”?
9 We keep on doing good when we mercifully forgive someone who sins against us. In fact, part of Jesus’ model prayer contains the words: “Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.” (Matt. 6:12) Of course, this does not refer to forgiving financial debts. Luke’s Gospel shows that the “debts” Jesus had in mind are sins, for it says: “Forgive us our sins, for we ourselves also forgive everyone that is in debt to us.”—Luke 11:4.
10. With respect to forgiveness, how can we imitate God?
10 We need to imitate God, who freely forgives repentant sinners. The apostle Paul wrote: “Become kind to one another, tenderly compassionate, freely forgiving one another just as God also by Christ freely forgave you.” (Eph. 4:32) The psalmist David sang: “Jehovah is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abundant in loving-kindness. . . . He has not done to us even according to our sins; nor according to our errors has he brought upon us what we deserve. . . . As far off as the sunrise is from the sunset, so far off from us he has put our transgressions. As a father shows mercy to his sons, Jehovah has shown mercy to those fearing him. For he himself well knows the formation of us, remembering that we are dust.”—Ps. 103:8-14.
11. To whom does God grant forgiveness?
11 People can receive God’s forgiveness only if they have already forgiven those who have sinned against them. (Mark 11:25) Stressing this point, Jesus added: “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you; whereas if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” (Matt. 6:14, 15) Yes, God grants forgiveness only to those who freely forgive others. And one way to keep on doing good is to comply with Paul’s counsel: “Even as Jehovah freely forgave you, so do you also.”—Col. 3:13.
12. What counsel did Jesus give about judging others?
12 Another way to do good was set out in the Sermon on the Mount when Jesus told his listeners to stop judging others and then used a powerful illustration to emphasize this point. (Read Matthew 7:1-5.) Let us consider what Jesus meant when he said: “Stop judging.”
13. How could Jesus’ listeners “keep on releasing”?
13 Matthew’s Gospel quotes Jesus as saying: “Stop judging that you may not be judged.” (Matt. 7:1) According to Luke, Jesus said: “Stop judging, and you will by no means be judged; and stop condemning, and you will by no means be condemned. Keep on releasing, and you will be released.” (Luke 6:37) The first-century Pharisees judged others harshly, in keeping with unscriptural traditions. Any of Jesus’ listeners who did that were to “stop judging.” Instead, they were to “keep on releasing,” that is, forgiving the shortcomings of others. The apostle Paul gave similar counsel regarding forgiveness, as noted above.
14. By extending forgiveness, Jesus’ disciples would move people to do what?
14 By extending forgiveness, Jesus’ disciples would move people to respond with a forgiving spirit. “With what judgment you are judging, you will be judged,” said Jesus, “and with the measure that you are measuring out, they will measure out to you.” (Matt. 7:2) With respect to our treatment of others, we reap what we sow.—Gal. 6:7.
15. How did Jesus show that it is wrong to be overcritical?
15 Recall that in order to indicate how wrong it is to be overcritical, Jesus asked: “Why, then, do you look at the straw in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the rafter in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Allow me to extract the straw from your eye’; when, look! a rafter is in your own eye?” (Matt. 7:3, 4) A person inclined to criticize another individual takes note of a minor defect in his brother’s “eye.” The critic is suggesting that his brother has impaired perception and poor judgment. Though the fault is minor—like a bit of straw—the critic offers to “extract the straw.” He hypocritically volunteers to help the brother see things more clearly.
16. Why can it be said that the Pharisees had “a rafter” in their eye?
16 Especially were the Jewish religious leaders highly critical of others. To illustrate: When a certain blind man who was healed by Christ declared that Jesus must have come from God, the Pharisees retorted: “You were altogether born in sins, and yet are you teaching us?” (John 9:30-34) As regards clear spiritual vision and the ability to judge properly, the Pharisees had “a rafter” in their own eye and were totally blind. Jesus therefore exclaimed: “Hypocrite! First extract the rafter from your own eye, and then you will see clearly how to extract the straw from your brother’s eye.” (Matt. 7:5; Luke 6:42) If we are determined to do good and treat others well, we will not be harsh critics, always looking for a figurative straw in our brother’s eye. Instead, we will acknowledge that we are imperfect and should therefore avoid being judgmental and critical of our fellow believers.
How We Should Treat Others
17. In view of Matthew 7:12, how should we treat others?
17 In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus pointed out that God displays a fatherly attitude toward His servants by answering their prayers. (Read Matthew 7:7-12.) It is noteworthy that Jesus set out this rule of conduct: “All things, therefore, that you want men to do to you, you also must likewise do to them.” (Matt. 7:12) Only if we treat fellow humans in this way can we prove that we are true followers of Jesus Christ.
18. How did “the Law” show that we should treat others as we want them to treat us?
18 After saying that we should treat others as we want them to treat us, Jesus added: “This, in fact, is what the Law and the Prophets mean.” When we treat others in the way that Jesus specified, we are acting in harmony with the spirit behind “the Law”—the writings that make up the Bible books of Genesis through Deuteronomy. Besides revealing Jehovah’s purpose to produce a seed that would do away with evil, these books set out the Law given by God to the nation of Israel through Moses in 1513 B.C.E. (Gen. 3:15) Among other things, the Law made it clear that the Israelites were to be just, were not to show partiality, and were to do good to the afflicted and to alien residents in the land.—Lev. 19:9, 10, 15, 34.
19. How do “the Prophets” show that we should do good?
19 By referring to “the Prophets,” Jesus had in mind the prophetic books of the Hebrew Scriptures. They contain Messianic prophecies fulfilled in Christ himself. Such writings also show that God blesses his people when they do what is right in his eyes and treat others in a proper way. For instance, Isaiah’s prophecy gave the Israelites this counsel: “This is what Jehovah has said: ‘Keep justice, you people, and do what is righteous. . . . Happy is the mortal man that does this, and the son of mankind that lays hold of it, . . . keeping his hand in order not to do any kind of badness.’” (Isa. 56:1, 2) Yes, God expects his people to keep on doing good.
Always Do Good to Others
20, 21. How did the crowds react to Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, and why should you meditate on it?
20 We have considered only a few of the many vital points made by Jesus in his peerless Sermon on the Mount. Even so, we can readily understand the reaction of those who heard what he said on that occasion. Says the inspired record: “Now when Jesus finished these sayings, the effect was that the crowds were astounded at his way of teaching; for he was teaching them as a person having authority, and not as their scribes.”—Matt. 7:28, 29.
21 Jesus Christ unquestionably proved to be the foretold “Wonderful Counselor.” (Isa. 9:6) The Sermon on the Mount is a prime example of Jesus’ knowledge of his heavenly Father’s way of viewing things. In addition to the points we have discussed, that discourse has much to say about genuine happiness, how to avoid immorality, the way to practice righteousness, what we must do to enjoy a secure and joyous future, and many other matters. Why not read Matthew chapters 5 through 7 once again carefully and prayerfully? Meditate on Jesus’ wonderful counsel recorded there. Apply in your life what Christ said in his Sermon on the Mount. Then you will be better able to please Jehovah, treat others properly, and keep on doing good.
How Would You Answer?
• How are we to treat our enemies?
• Why should we be forgiving?
• What did Jesus say about judging people?
• According to Matthew 7:12, how should we treat others?
[Blurb on page 10]
Do you know why Jesus said: “Stop judging”?
[Picture on page 8]
Why should we pray for those persecuting us?
[Picture on page 10]
Do you always treat others as you would like to be treated?