Most Christians have a visceral reaction to the word, “liberal,” believing all connotations of the word are negative. It’s not hard to see why. In a moral or doctrinal sense, “liberalism” usually means letting go of, and moving away from, a biblical standard. However, there is an extremely important way in which we MUST be “liberal” if we want to follow Christ and be pleasing to God.
In addition to the other ways the word is used, the word “liberal” also means “generous.” In that sense, Jesus taught His followers to be radically liberal. The following are three ways Jesus teaches us to be liberal. Ask yourself, are you really as liberal as Jesus wants you to be?
1. Jesus Wants You to be Liberal Toward Mean People
How did Jesus teach His followers to treat those who are harsh, mean, and cruel to them? He taught His followers to liberally give them time, energy, and resources:
“And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles” (Matthew 5:40-41).
Rather than being people who say, “That’s not fair! You can’t treat me this way!” Jesus taught His disciples to say, “What else can I do for you, friend?” He teaches us not only to refrain from doing harm to our enemies, but even, “do good to those who hate you” (Luke 6:27).
How incredibly generous do you have to be to do good deeds for people who hate your guts? But we shouldn’t think that strange, because that’s precisely the kind of liberal life Jesus expects every one of us to live.
2. Jesus Wants You to be Liberal Toward the Poor
Of course we must be discerning and wise about the way we give. If someone asks us to provide something which will hurt them physically or spiritually, it would be cruel – not loving – to grant that request. However, sometimes we try to be so discerning about when, how, and to what extent we give, we end up being as conservative with money as Mr. Scrooge.
Jesus taught His followers to give liberally to the poor.
“Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you” (Matthew 5:42).
We can always find an excuse not to give to people. We can say they’re lazy, we can say they’ll probably spend it on the wrong things, and we can say they just “choose to be poor.” But while we’re making those excuses, consider the words of Jesus:
“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life” (Matthew 25:41-46).
In the context of giving to help the poor Christians in Jerusalem, Paul confirmed, “God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:7). That’s the whole point in Jesus’ teaching about giving to the poor, we ought to be happy to share liberally with those in need.
3. Jesus Wants You to be Liberal with Mercy and Forgiveness
The apostle Peter asked Jesus how many times he should forgive someone who sinned against him. Peter threw out the number “seven.” Perhaps Peter thought he was being generous by suggesting he would be willing to forgive the same person up to seven times for sinning against him. Jesus told Peter he would have to be far more liberal than that, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven” (Matthew 18:22, NKJV).
Jesus went on to tell the parable of the unmerciful servant to illustrate the fact that God has liberally forgiven us and He expects us to liberally forgive others. When the servant in the parable withheld forgiveness from his brother, the master delivered him to the jailers. Jesus said, “So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart” (Matthew 18:35).
When someone hurts your feelings, then comes to you and apologizes, but you tell them, “No! I won’t forgive you. You hurt me too bad this time,” you are disobeying the Lord. God has liberally extended mercy, grace, and forgiveness to us through the blood of Christ and He expects us to liberally extend mercy, grace, and forgiveness to others as well.
Don’t Be So Conservative You Go to Hell
It’s great to be morally and doctrinally conservative. Hold tight to the truth of God’s word and don’t let go. But if you hold tight to your money and your mercy – not liberally giving it as it was liberally given to you – then you will be lost forever.
Isn’t that a sad thought? A person could hear the gospel message, believe it, and obey it, but be lost forever because he didn’t let the gospel message change the way he treats others. Truly ask yourself that question, are you as liberal as Jesus wants you to be?
Personally, I know I’ve got a lot of work to do on my own heart and life.
I love you and God loves you,