Loving your enemies.
On the list of things most of us wish Jesus hadn’t said … this would be at the top! But it’s right there in Matthew…
“You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbor’ and hate your enemy. But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you!”
Love your enemies! Really?! Love?! Forgive … maybe. Tolerate … possibly. But love.
Love seems unimaginable. Love feels impossible.
You pictured someone, didn’t you? A face or name popped into your mind. That person or persons who betrayed you, who intentionally made a decision that changed your life, who went out of their way to make your life miserable. Or maybe it’s someone who still deliberately gets under your skin every . . . single . . . day.
And Jesus said to love them! Did He really mean love? Yes!
It’s important to remember that we tend to think of love as a warm fuzzy feeling. We picture romantic love or friendship love. But Jesus wasn’t talking feelings here, He was telling people to DO love.
Agape love … God’s unconditional kind of love. It is acting with love no matter how we feel. Love that cares about the welfare of others intentionally wanting what is best for them and purposefully doing it!
How does this kind of love look? It’s remembering that…
- When you want to get even. You don’t.
- When you want to complain to your friends. You don’t.
- When you want to get ugly angry and tell them off. You don’t.
- When you want to write them off. You don’t.
I don’t now about you, but those things can rise up fast in me when I’m hurt. I know I need help. And the only things that help me love … NO, the only things that make it possible for me to love my enemies are:
1. The power of the Holy Spirit to help.
Paul said in his letter to the Ephesians:
Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.
I can’t do that on my own and I’m guessing you can’t either. Bitterness and anger come much more naturally than kindness and forgiveness.
Paul also said in a letter he wrote to the Galatians:
But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!
What you and I can’t do on our own, we can do with the help of the Holy Spirit. We can be loving and patient and kind. We can be faithful and gentle. We can have self-control. AND we can also have peace at the same time.
So, when dealing with an “enemy” … you and I begin with prayer. We can pray and ask the Holy Spirit to give us the power we need to love and we can as Jesus said…
2. Pray for those who persecute you.
First Century Jews understood persecution. They lived under Roman rule. Persecution and prejudice were part of everyday life. They could identify the enemy…
And then Jesus said to love and pray for them.
Pray for those who make your life miserable. Pray for those who are bigoted. The ones who hurt you. Who are unfair. Who are mean. Who gossip about you. Who ________.
And as if love and prayer aren’t hard enough, Luke added these words to Jesus instructions:
“Bless those who curse you. Pray for those who hurt you. If someone slaps you on one cheek, offer the other cheek also. If someone demands your coat, offer your shirt also. Give to anyone who asks; and when things are taken away from you, don’t try to get them back. Do to others as you would like them to do to you.”
Bless them. Give to them. Do to them as you would like them to do to you.
But I can’t!
It’s just that simple. Seriously, I can’t do it.
So, I go back to #1 again and again, and I ask for the Holy Spirit’s help. I pray. And I pray again.
And I think that’s what we’re supposed to do. We pray and ask for the Holy Spirit’s help, turn to God’s Word in faith, and hold on to verses like:
Don’t say, “I will get even for this wrong.” Wait for the Lord to handle the matter.
Give your burdens to the Lord, and He will take care of you.
Give all your worries and cares to God, for He cares about you.
1 Peter 5:7
3. Give it all to God in prayer.
There will be times when it feels frustratingly hard because as you look around the people who hurt you may seem to be doing great and you’re not. And then, once again we start over at #1.
Because if you and I really want to feel better, if we really want peace and contentment, if we really want joy. We have to give it to God.
We have to take our eyes off our enemy and turn our focus to the One who will never betray, forsake, or hurt us. We give it all to God and surrender to His perfect love.
We ask the the Holy Spirit to help our hearts heal and ask the Holy Spirit to soften and work in the heart and mind of the person who has acted as our enemy.
If you’re like me, when you’re hurt and angry you have no idea what you should pray for but you’re pretty sure asking God to get even with them is probably not what Jesus meant when He said we should pray for those who persecute us.
Everyone, even your enemy, is someone dearly loved by God.
Through the power of the Holy Spirit, God will give you everything you need to love … even when you need to love your enemy.