Loving Your Enemies: A Forgotten Practice
It is amazing how many truths of our faith go unnoticed or not practiced on a continuing basis. One of those that I have trouble living out is loving my enemy. Yet to be a follower of Jesus this is a command and not a suggestion that our Lord asks of us.
It is important to understand what an enemy is before we can comprehend the depth of what it means to love someone like that. According to Merriam/Webster, an enemy is “a person who hates another; a person who attacks or tries to harm another.” Think of that definition; this is someone who actively promotes our destruction. Why in the world do we love someone like that? The answer is simple because Jesus said so according to Matthew 5:44.
Here is where it gets interesting. In the Greek text (the original language of the New Testament), we have different words for love. One meaning is friendship love; another sensual love. The Greek word, agape, means to love and not expect anything back. It is a God kind of love and essentially it is unconditional. Agape is the word that Jesus used to describe the love found in the greatest commandment, which is the love we are to have toward God. Agape is the same word found in Matthew 5:44. So in other words we are to have that same love for an “enemy” as we would towards God.
The reason we do that Jesus says in Matthew 5:43-48 is so we will be like our Father in heaven. Jesus teaches that anyone can love people just like them. When we love those that are different and consider to be our enemies, then we truly show ourselves different than the world.
The way we are to deal with evil, according to Proverbs and Paul, is to do good. We feed our enemies if they are hungry; we give our enemies something to drink if they are thirsty; and we pray blessings on those enemies.
I know this to be a challenge because when I see injustice or horrible things being done to people, I feel a “righteous anger”. However, many times it is not godly, but more self righteous because I think I am the good guy and the “enemy” is the bad guy.
So this brings me to things I have been witnessing for the past two years that have to be addressed because it is a sin and it has caused my spirit to be grieved. I have watched in sickening horror as many of my fellow followers of Jesus and personal friends have said vile things about people they don’t agree with politically. Some of these vile things are said about people they agree with 95% of the time, but because of one issue they judge, condemn, and label.
Do we not believe those that we disagree with are people that God loves and sent Jesus to die on the cross for their sins? Do we have any clue what is in their hearts and what they believe or feel? No question if they are supporting something that is evil we reference that and say it is wrong. But our language has gone beyond calling the action wrong and we now vilify the person.
What is even worse in my estimation is chastising them without checking the facts to see what they really believe. It works on both sides of an issue, with name calling and acting no different than the world. My friends we should be better than that! Either we believe what Jesus taught or we don’t.
Some of you might say, well Jesus called out wrong and evil. Interestingly the only group he rebuked were religious leaders, who were supposed to be on the same theological page as him. Jesus never rebuked the Romans (pagans) or sinful people (Mary Magdalene), or non Jews (the Samaritan woman). So why in the world do we attack people on Face Book, Twitter, or even in church who do wrong things?
This shows me what really is going on is our flesh nature is alive and well. We are looking less and less like our Lord to the point that non-believers are not interested in our God. Shame on all of us, me included, for not heading the words of loving our enemy.
If we don’t repent of this behavior then we will end up looking and acting no different than the society we are attacking. At the end of the day that would be the greatest tragedy because our world wants to find a loving alternative, but only will end up seeing another version of themselves.