Love Your Enemies

“Do not resist the one who is evil.”

“If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.”

“If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles.”

“Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.”

“Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”

Of all the words of the Bible, these commands Jesus gave to his disciples on the mountain are some of the most challenging. My life is quite comfortable and easy, not often like this life Jesus requires of his disciples.

So I look for an out… Who can do these things? Am I to take these commands literally? Is it truly loving to allow someone to hurt me? What if that beggar spends my money on drugs or booze? Am I to be a doormat? Didn’t Jesus walk through the crowd and escape their murderous plans?

I justify my selfish life with logical answers to these questions, but there is still a nagging uncertainty. So with the humility that seems to inexorably accompany age, I am a bit more open to hear God’s heart on the matter, and I’m learning a few things…

First, Jesus is revealing what God is like in these words. God does not require of us what he is unwilling to do. God does indeed love his enemies; he loves us even before we acknowledge his very existence. He has patiently borne and suffered and given to evil men far beyond what I could imagine doing for one I loved, let alone one who hated me. Yes, Jesus evaded a few plots when it was not yet the time, but ultimately he yielded willingly to persecution and death. In calling his followers to become perfect “as your heavenly Father is perfect” he makes clear what his Father is like. He requires us first to embrace his priorities and to receive, enjoy, and admire his Father’s great and unconditional love.

Second, Jesus really is calling me to be like him, to be a true son of my Father who is in heaven. His priorities are clearly different than mine, and it is for me to change my mind, not him. I must no longer try to justify my life, but surrender my defenses, humbly face my selfishness, and come to him to replace it with his love. Thank God that he loves his enemies! There is mercy and patience even for me! I can be sure that he will faithfully work his sweet mercy into my heart and make it more after his own with each passing year. I will refuse pointless guilt and shame, and instead hunger for more of his Spirit in me, more of his life and love flowing through me.

His impossible commands have become for me a precious promise, that I can be kind as he is kind.

2 thoughts on “Love Your Enemies”

  1. I think that ‘love your enemies’ is the hardest and most central thing in the good news. And, like you, every human thing in me looks for escape. A justification of my way over His way.

    I do believe that Jesus is not so much setting up a set of rules to follow as He is sharing His heart. It may not be love to give a beggar money to buy drugs. The problem is that love is hard. Because it is also not love to pretend I am concerned about the beggars welfare when I am really just protecting my dollar. Or maybe I just don’t like beggars. Love might be a kind word or some food. Love is harder, not easier.

    I have to allow Jesus to love through me. I am utterly incapable of it. A hundred times a day I have to remember that I have a choice between Babylon (the world’s way of doing things) and allowing the life of Christ to live in me. Mostly, my struggle is just to be aware of the choice. It is all too easy to deal with things in an automatic way.
    The more I choose Him and His way the more I am conformed to Him and His nature.

    There is a song I like that reminds me of loving my enemies. It is ‘The Nails in Your Hands’ by Everybodyduck. I don’t know if you have heard it. If not I could send it to you. It says that when the earth and the heavens have all passed away the scars of our Lord will still remain. This is not because He will always remember the pain but because they are an eternal monument to the depth of His love.

  2. I “enjoyed” this article—and the one comment already here. I see it goes back to 2008—-so wanted you (both) to know your thoughts are still blessing others who grapple with Jesus oh-so “unreasonable” (to my ‘old man’) commands. Bless you!

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