Loving your enemies

It's doubtful that many of us are facing enemies seeking our lives. So who are our modern day enemies? I think it is people who treat us unfairly, who try to get the better of us, who try to trap us, namely because we believe in Jesus Christ as our risen Saviour and they do not. We might think about them, I don't deserve to be treated this way, or what have I ever done to them? We might find ourselves wanting to retaliate in a similar fashion, or at least to act smug as if they don't matter at all.  Consider Matthew 6:43-48

43 "You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 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. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48 You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

and Luke 6:27-36

“But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also, and from one who takes away your cloak do not withhold your tunic either. Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back. And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them.  “If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to get back the same amount. But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.

I think I must have read this passage a dozen times, but never had to apply it until recently. I found myself in a difficult situation with some unbelievers, struggling with my own sin of harsh words and a glib attitude. These passages helped me to put everything into perspective. Here's how.

{1} I have offended God as much as these people. Neither of us deserve to have breath every morning, to have the sun shine on us, to experience God's blessing of life every day. And while they might not see things this way, I know all these things come from God. And on top of that, God has overcome my own sinful nature and cause me to believe in His Son, securing  for me and inheritance of eternal life and joy in him. How can I be anything but grateful? I should not be moved to disdain, but to mercy. I should want for them more than anything what I have in Christ. This realization moves me to a more humble spirit around them, to showing compassion instead of trying to overcome their hatred on my own.

{2} These verses say to love your enemy. They do not say to act as though you love your enemies as to fool them. Anyone who has been married for any length of time knows first hand that love is a choice. This is proven in the passage because if love only sprang from giddy emotion, if it was only natural and easy, then we could not be called to love our enemies. Love requires a heart change, not mere behavior modification. Heart change requires the Holy Spirit, we can't manufacture genuine love on our own. But a good place to start is remembering what God has done for us in Christ. Remembering the love shown to us when we had nothing to offer God but ugly, offensive sin will make us more inclined to love those who have nothing to offer us. Pray for God to give you a heart that loves, and to show you ways to apply that love practically in difficult relationships. The change will most likely not occur overnight. Certainly relationships take time to mend and love takes time to grow. Galatians 6:9 says And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.

{3} Go above and beyond. We might be tempted to act in one loving way or to offer one prayer for our enemies. But the Luke passage speaks to doing more than expected to show love. If they take something from you, give them more. If they hurt your feelings, don't go away and hide, stick around even though it might provide more fuel for their fire. Allow them to show you hatred if it means showing them grace. Allow yourself to be misunderstood and embarrassed if it means showing them love. If they never saying 'thank you' for any kindness you do for them, do more. Do this over and over and over. This is the grace that was shown to us in our salvation and every day we live under the grace of God.