Love your enemies

“But to you who are listening I say:
Love your enemies,
Do good to those who hate you, 
Bless those who curse you,
Pray for those who mistreat you. 
If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also.
If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them. 
Give to everyone who asks you, and
If anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. 
Do to others as you would have them do to you.”

Luke 6:27-31 NIV

Love your enemies

Jesus says to love our enemies. He doesn’t just say “don’t retaliate.”

Notice Jesus addresses this section of His sermon to anyone who is listening. That begs the question, “Are we listening?” Not did we “hear” him, but are we actively paying attention with our ears, our minds, our hearts?

The love with which we love our enemies is both about our attitude, and it is actionable. It is not just a warm feeling tucked deep inside our beings; it’s not a generic platitude; it’s not just words. Jesus says to do good to our enemies. He gives four examples.

  • If we are slapped in humiliation or insult, we maintain a positive attitude toward that person. We continue to work on that relationship, even with the possibility of being rejected again.
  • If someone takes from us, again we make an effort to remain in a relationship by being vulnerable. We offer to meet unmet needs.
  • Jesus reiterates his stance on being generous to those in need. We give to those who are needy whenever and however we can.
  • And last, when we lend, we do so without any expectation of return.

Here’s how —

We do good to our enemies to reflect the love of God. The scripture says God loved us even when we were sinners, even when we were the ones who were insulting God with our lives. When we love our enemies we demonstrate in a concrete way this love that God had for us.

Jesus tells us to bless those who curse us. That means we want to see them flourish. We want them to do well.

And then He tells us to pray for our enemies, those that mistreat us. We pray the model prayer – give them, Lord, this day their daily bread, and forgive them their trespasses. We pray Paul’s prayers, may they know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that they may be filled up to all the fullness of God.

In its deepest sense love is the perquisite of Christianity. To feel toward enemies what others feel toward friends; to descend as rain and sunbeams on the unjust as well as the just; to minister to those who are unprepossessing and repellent as others minister to the attractive and winsome; to be always the same, not subject to moods or fancies or whims; to suffer long; to take no account of evil; to rejoice with the truth; to bear, believe, hope, and endure all things, never to fail—this is love, and such love is the achievement of the Holy Spirit. We cannot achieve it ourselves.

F. B. Meyer, The Heavenlies, p. 26.

Who are they?

Our enemies are those who purposefully try to hurt us. They snub us, spread rumors, talk about us behind our backs. They call us names, assume the worst about us. Our enemies are those that mistreat us. They threaten us. Our enemies are those who in the world’s eyes, would not deserve our forgiveness. They are the ones who have wronged us. These are the ones Jesus says we are to love.

Maybe you cannot think of someone like that in your life. But there are potentially other enemies. What about those to whom you react defensively? Those whose words, actions, social media posts or political stance offends you? In that moment when your blood pressure increases, you feel the need to clear your throat, roll your eyes, or raise your voice, in that moment that person is your enemy. What if God is calling you to love, do good to, and pray for that person’s flourishing? What if Jesus is saying we need to actively love even those people who are disagreeable and those with whom we disagree. What might happen in our families, among acquaintances, in our churches if we reacted with love instead of anger?

“If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.

Luke 6:32-36 NIV

Recently someone I follow on Twitter asked this question, ” Which of your enemies are you actively praying for today?” This is the challenge in my heart today.

Check out our pastor’s sermon on this passage.

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