Monday, May 2, 2011

Love your enemies

Matt. 5:44-47 NLT 
   44 But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! 45 In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike. 46 If you love only those who love you, what reward is there for that? Even corrupt tax collectors do that much. 47 If you are kind only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else? Even pagans do that. 48 But you are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect.

We have been talking about supreme love for God ahead of others and other things for committed Christ followers. We have seen how God equips us to have the renewed nature necessary to have this supreme love for God that is illustrated by our unquestioning obedient response when His calls become clear to us.  But sometimes the things Scripture teach us that God wants us to do are hard to believe.  Did Jesus really say I should love my enemies?  Yes, I have enemies, some of them I made and others are God's enemies who also hate and oppose me personally. I have people with whom I have theological disagreements and whom I tend to think are causing harm in the church. How should I treat those people? Jesus said I should love them. In fact He connected my loving my enemies with the degree to which I love God first.

Paul had a lot of experience with enemies, to be sure, and in Romans 12:14 we read Paul telling Roman Christians to "bless those who persecute you. Don't curse them; pray that God will bless them." Jesus is recorded by Luke (6:27) as instructing us to love our enemies and do good to those who hate us. We who are in the church are supposed to be like Christ. When it comes to enemies and people hating us, however, we tend more often, to act toward them like they act toward us. Instead of reflecting Christ back to them, we reflect themselves back. In doing so, we harm the new nature that God's Holy Spirit is creating within us. When we take spiteful action, railing back to enemies, showing animosity, anger, and hostility because we disagree with their ideas or because we are hurt by their actions, we are failing to look like Christ. In such moments we look like the rest of the world. Is it any wonder that people of the world question whether we are actually any different than they?

When you grasp this point, as I am beginning to now, you will probably want to spend some significant time in prayer seeking forgiveness and seeking understanding as to how to look like Christ did toward enemies (when he prayed from the cross for them to be forgiven for what they were doing to him).
Your servant in Christ's love

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