Loving your Enemies
Tuesday, August 21, 2007
Love your enemies
Loving your enemies is a part of Christianity 101. We’ve all heard it, we’ve all tried it, we’ve all failed at it, and we’ve all forgot about it. Lets take another look.
“You have heard that it was said, You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
(Matthew 5:43–48 ESV)
Jesus here is expanding upon Leviticus 19:18. Without looking at Leviticus 19:18, it sounds like Jesus is totally redefining an existing principle, but he is really just correcting a common misuse of the scripture.
“You shall not hate your brother in your heart, but you shall reason frankly with your neighbor, lest you incur sin because of him. You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD.
(Leviticus 19:17–18 ESV)
The scripture is pointing out the importance of not holding a grudge, but to love each other by dealing honestly and openly. It seems people had been using the fact that it says to love “your brother” where “brother” means kinsman as an excuse to treat non-kinsman poorly.
Both Leviticus 19:17-18 and Matthew 5:43-48 get read wrong. Neither one is intended to be an impossible command. As a Hebrew, loving your brother is obvious, and God was just pointing out a practical way to manifest that love. As a Christian, loving your enemy is obvious (just look at Christ’s example), but here Jesus is giving a practical way to manifest that love.
Who are our enemies? We face them everyday. They are the people who annoy us, the people we have hidden bitterness towards, the people who dress poorly and we poke fun at, and those who dress better than us and we are jealous of. Basically anyone who doesn’t fall into the easy-to-love, “brother” category fits into the hard-to-love enemy category. We are called to love everyone.
We all fail at doing this daily, but that’s no excuse to give up. One does not master something like this in a week or even a year. This is a lifelong challenge that we need to put effort into.
Jesus told them, “Hey, love your enemies by praying for them!” It might not be too much of a stretch to think that Jesus may have had this same concept in mind when He taught them how to pray a few minutes later.
Pray then like this:
“Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation,but deliver us from evil.
(Matthew 6:9–13 ESV)
To pray for our enemies with love we must recognize how in many ways we have been the enemy of God, yet he has loved us. This is the principle Jesus impressed upon them through his prayer. The fact is, by our behavior we could be thumbing our nose at God, yet He loved us enough to make intercession for us on the cross. We must follow his example and make intercession for those who have wronged us.
Jesus pointed out that everyone can love someone who is easy to love, and there is no reward for that. But the reward for loving our enemies is to become “sons of the Father in heaven.” We become children of God and receive heavenly inheritance as a reward for loving our enemies as Christ has loved us.