Posts Tagged ‘Love Your Enemy’

But to you who are willing to listen, I say, love your enemies!  Do good to those who hate you.  Bless those who curse you.  Pray for those who hurt you.  If someone slaps you on the cheek, offer the other cheek also.  If someone demands your coat, of your shirt also.  Give to anyone who asks; and when things are taken away from you, don’t try to get them back.  Do to others as you would like them to do to you.  If you love only those who love you, why should you get credit for that?  Even sinners love those who love them!  And if you do good only to those who do good to you, why should you get credit?  Even sinners do that much!  And if you lend money only to those who can replay you, why should you get credit?  Even sinners will lend to other sinners for a full return.  Love your enemies!  Do good to them.  Lend to them without expecting to be repaid.  Then your reward from heaven will be very great, and you will truly be acting as children of the Most High, for he is kind to those who are unthankful and wicked.  You must be compassionate, just as your Father is compassionate.” (Luke 6:27-36)

“Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love?  Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death?  (As the Scriptures say, ‘For your sake we are killed every day; we are being slaughtered like sheep.’) No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.” (Romans 8:35-37)

“When the Lamb broke the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of all who had been martyred for the word of God and for being faithful in their testimony.  They shouted to the Lord and said, “O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you judge the people who belong to this world and avenge our blood for what they have done to us?”  Then a white robe was given to each of them.  And they were told to rest a little longer until the full number of their brothers and sisters–their fellow servants of Jesus who were martyred–had joined them.”  (Revelation 6:9-11)

Are Christians to take up arms to pursue battle with our enemies?  In a world brimming with violence and hatred, this question has been much debated among Christians.

How can victory be ours if we are being slaughtered?  How can victory be ours if we are being raped, persecuted, tortured, humiliated and oppressed?  Aren’t these things evidence of being conquered, not victorious?

It certainly appeared to the Jewish leaders and, really, all of Satan’s kingdom, as Jesus was dying upon the cross, that they had won; that they had killed their enemy and won the war.  

Had they known that their violent schemes and actions were only fulfilling the purpose of God and His plan to save humanity from the wages of sin (death), they would have never crucified Jesus.  “Yet, when I am among mature believers, I do speak with words of wisdom, but not the kind of wisdom that belongs to this world, or to the rulers of this world, who are soon forgotten.  No, the wisdom we speak of is the mystery of God–his plan that was previously hidden, even though he made it for our ultimate glory before the world began, which none of the rulers of this world knew: for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.  That is what the Scriptures mean when they say, ‘No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him’. (1 Corinthians 2:6-9)

In retrospect, we see that God’s hidden plan was hinted at by what happened to Joseph in the oldest book of the Bible, Genesis.  Joseph’s own brothers, out of jealousy and hatred, sold Joseph into slavery, hoping he would be worked to death as a slave.  But their wicked plan only led to countless lives being saved, including their own, because God was with Joseph.  “You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good.  He brought me to this position so I would save the lives of many people.  No, don’t be afraid.  I will continue to take care of you and your children.’ So he reassured them by speaking kindly to them.” (Genesis 50:20-21)  Note that Joseph, upon having power over his persecutors, did not return evil for evil.  No, this whole story is but a shadow glimpse into what Christ would later do for all humanity.

When a crowd arrived in the Garden of Gethsemane to arrest Jesus, Peter attacked a servant of the Jewish high priest and cut the man’s ear off.  Jesus stepped forward immediately and healed the wound.  He did this knowing that the servant was there to arrest him and lead him to his death (Matthew 26:47-55).   There was a two-fold purpose in this: first, that the actions of the men who were arresting Jesus would soon lead to Jesus fulfilling his destiny on the cross, thereby conquering Satan’s kingdom, and second, that the story of Jesus would not be tarnished by any actions of violence.

Nowhere in the Gospels or the entire New Testament do we have even one single instance of a Christian acting violently in any way.  When Peter tried, he was rebuked by his Master, who instantly righted the wrong.

Violence is of this world.  Violence is not of the kingdom of God.

Christians are in this world, but we are not of this world; we are of our Father in Heaven.  We are simply visitors passing through, sharing with as many as we can the story of the Son of God and His saving grace.  We are merely traveling through on an eternal train, picking up as many passengers as we can from this wasteland to take them home.

We don’t know where our last stop on Earth will be, only our Father knows.  Our last stop may be as an old person, simply fading away in the comfort of our bed.  Our last stop may be suddenly, unexpected, untimely; it may be after much suffering in our bodies.  Our last stop may be tragically, on a highway or by a freak accident.  Our last stop may be at the brutal whims of those who are acting out the violent ways of their religion or lack of religion and we may therefore take our place with the countless others who have been given white robes washed in the blood of the Lamb, martyrs.

No matter the nature of our death, we are guaranteed we will all die.  And if it’s at the hands of another because of our testimony of Jesus Christ, then our life and death has assisted the grand purpose of God and our death brings glory to God. Indeed, so many of the very ones who have oppressed, persecuted and murdered Christians have themselves been saved in the aftermath of their horrendous deeds.  The grace of God is at work in everything.  We need only to surrender our lives to Him.

Those who love their life in this world will lose it.  Those who care nothing for their life in this world will keep it for eternity.” (John 12:25)  We are not called to seek to preserve our lives on this Earth.  Yes, we are to treat our bodies as the Holy Temple of God and care for them, but we are not to love ourselves so much as to place our lives ahead of or above God’s purpose.  We do not seek risk to ourselves, but if it comes to us, we are to face it boldly and righteously as Jesus would.  In all things, we are to follow Jesus.

And Jesus died for His enemies.  He loved them.

How does the Christian, then, battle wickedness and evil?  We battle by living righteous lives and by prayer.  Jesus led by example and we simply follow Him and pray that God’s Kingdom come soon!

If your enemies are hungry, feed them.  If they are thirsty, give them something to drink.  In doing this, you will heap burning coals of shame on their heads.  Don’t let evil conquer you, but conquer evil by doing good.”  (Romans 12:20-21)

“If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.  If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing.  If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing.” (1 Corinthians 13:1-3)

Love is patient and kind.  Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude.  It does not demand its own way.  It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged.  It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out.  Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.” (1 Corinthians 13:4-7)

Three things will last forever — faith, hope, and love — and the greatest of these is love.” (1 Corinthians 13:13)

But to you who are willing to listen, I say, love your enemies!  Do good to those who hate you.  Bless those who curse you.  Pray for those who hurt you.  If someone slaps you on one cheek, offer the other cheek also. If someone demands your coat, offer your shirt also.  Give to anyone who asks; and when things are taken away from you, don’t try to get them back.  Do to others as you would like them to do to you.  If you love only those who love you, why should you get any credit for that?  Even sinners love those who love them!  And if you do good only to those who do good to you, why should you get credit?  Even sinners do that much!  And if you lend money only to those who can repay you, why should you get credit?  Even sinners will lend to other sinners for a full return.  Love your enemies!  Do good to them.  Lend to them without expecting to be repaid.  Then your reward from heaven will be very great, and you will truly be acting as children of the Most High, for he is kind to those who are unthankful and wicked.  You must be compassionate, just as your Father is compassionate.”  (Luke 6:27-36)

Scripture makes one thing absolutely clear about love: it is not a feeling. 

Indeed, in spite of our feelings, we are commanded to love; and by “love”, we are to take Action in the best interest of others whether they are friend or enemy.  Jesus gives specific examples of what loving our enemy looks like.  And he makes it very clear that there is no special credit given to us from heaven when we do good things for and are kind to our friends and those who like us.  The positive reaction from these people is reward in and of itself and those who belong to the world do just as much, as it’s a natural thing to do.  Unless particularly selfish or wicked on some grand level, all humans by instinct do good to those we like and care about.

But when the very thought of an individual provokes a furrowed brow, we are commanded to love.  When our natural reflex at the sight of someone is a snarled lip and tightened muscles, we are commanded to do good to them.  The group of people we don’t fit in with, who make fun of us and belittle us; we are to love them, to bless them even as they curse us.  When we’ve been wronged, mistreated, humiliated, we are to love and to pray for those who hurt us.  We are commanded to be patient and kind to all.  When feelings of jealousy creep into our hearts, when we feel enraged because we didn’t get our way, when we feel irritable and stressed and are tempted to be rude, we are to check these feelings/emotions against our Lord’s command to LOVE.  Through every circumstance, we are to love.

By human standards this is impossible.  We need only to look at the turmoil of the whole world to see the effects of the world system without love. No matter the philosophy or religion, the outcome is the same: turmoil and destruction is caused by the absence of love.

Success in obeying this command to love requires SUPERNATURAL help and intervention.  Love is the great separator of the Followers of the Crucified One and the rest of the world.   The Christian is the only creature on earth who has been given the gift of the Holy Spirit of God, Who takes up residence inside of us when we believe in Christ Jesus and are born again (by professing our belief and being baptized).  It is the Holy Spirit Who intercedes for us and makes the impossible possible.  And herein lies the mystery of love; it is the essence of God Himself, Who is kind and compassionate to all, especially those who are unthankful and wicked.  Love is the most powerful weapon we possess against evil and against our true enemy Satan.

I will greet this day with love in my heart.  For this is the greatest secret of success in all ventures.  Muscle can split a shield and even destroy life but only the unseen power of love can open the hearts of men and until I master this art I will remain no more than a peddler in the market place.  I will make love my greatest weapon and none on whom I call can defend against its force.  My reasoning they may counter; my speech they may distrust; my apparel they may disapprove; my face they may reject; and even my bargains may cause them suspicion; yet my love will melt all hearts liken to the sun whose rays soften the coldest clay.  I will greet this day with love in my heart.  And how will I do this?  Henceforth will I look on all things with love and I will be born again.  I will love the sun for it warms my bones; yet I will love the rain for it cleanses my spirit.  I will love the light for it shows me the way; yet I will love the darkness for it shows me the stars.  I will welcome happiness for it enlarges my heart; yet I will endure sadness for it opens my soul.  I will acknowledge rewards for they are my due; yet I will welcome obstacles for they are my challenge.  I will greet this day with love in my heart.  And how will I speak?  I will laud mine enemies and they will become friends; I will encourage my friends and they will become my brothers.  Always will I dig for reasons to applaud; never will I scratch for excuses to gossip.  When I am tempted to criticize I will bite on my tongue; when I am moved to praise I will shout from the roofs.  Is it not so that birds, the wind, the sea and all nature speaks with the music of praise for their creator?  Cannot I speak with the same music to his children? Henceforth will I remember this secret and it will change my life. I will greet this day with love in my heart. And how will I act?  I will love all manners of men for each has qualities to be admired even though they be hidden.  With love I will tear down the wall of suspicion and hate which they have built round their hearts and in its place will I build bridges so that my love may enter their souls.  I will love the ambitious for they can inspire me! I will love the failures for they can teach me.  I will love the kings for they are but human; I will love the meek for they are divine.  I will love the rich for they are yet lonely; I will love the young for the faith they hold; I will love the old for the wisdom they share.  I will love the beautiful for their eyes of sadness; I will love the ugly for their souls of peace.  I will greet this day with love in my heart.  But how will I react to the actions of others?  With love.  For just as love is my weapon to open the hearts of men, love is also my shield to repulse the arrows of hate and the spears of anger.  Adversity and discouragement will beat against my new shield and become as the softest of rains.  My shield will protect me in the market place and sustain me when I am alone.  It will uplift me in moments of despair yet it will calm me in time of exultation.  It will become stronger and more protective with use until one day I will cast it aside and walk unencumbered among all manners of men and, when I do, my name will be raised high on the pyramid of life.  I will greet this day with love in my heart.  And how will I confront each whom I meet?  In only one way.  In silence and to myself I will address him and say I Love You.  though spoken in silence these words will shine in my eyes, unwrinkled my brow, bring a smile to my lips, and echo in my voice; and his heart will be opened.  And who is there who will say nay to my goods when his heart feels my love?  And most of all I will love myself.  For when I do I will zealously inspect all things which enter my body, my mind, my soul, and my heart.  Never will I overindulge the requests of my flesh, rather I will cherish my body with cleanliness and moderation.  Never will I allow my mind to be attracted to evil and despair, rather I will uplift it with the knowledge and wisdom of the ages.  Never will I allow my soul to become complacent and satisfied, rather I will feed it with meditation and prayer.  Never will I allow my heart to become small and bitter, rather I will share it and it will grow and warm the earth.  I will greet this day with love in my heart.  Henceforth will I love all mankind.  From this moment all hate is let from my veins for I have not time to hate, only time to love.  From this moment I take the first step required to become a man among men.  With love I will increase my sales a hundredfold and become a great salesman.  If I have no other qualities I can succeed with love alone.  Without it I will fail though I possess all the knowledge and skills of the world.  I will greet this day with love, and I will succeed.”  (Chapter 9, The Scroll Marked II, “The Greatest Salesman In The World” –by Og Mandino)

Don’t rejoice when your enemies fall; don’t be happy when they stumble.  For the Lord will be displeased with you and will turn his anger away from them.” (Psalm 24:17-18)

You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbor’ and hate your enemy.  But I say, love your enemies!  Pray for those who persecute you!  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.  If you love only those who love you, what reward is there for that?  Even corrupt tax collectors do that much.  If you are kind only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else?  Even pagans do that.  But you are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect.”  (Matthew 5:43-48)

“But to you who are willing to listen, I say, love your enemies!  Do good to those who hate you.  Bless those who curse you.  Pray for those who hurt you.  If someone slaps you on one cheek, offer the other cheek also.  If someone demands your coat, offer your shirt also.  Give to anyone who asks; and when things are taken away from you, don’t try to get them back.  Do to others as you would like them to do to you.  If you love only those who love you, why should you get any credit for that?  Even sinners love those who love them!  And if you do good only to those who do good to you, why should you get credit?  Even sinners do that much!  And if you lend money only to those who can repay you, why should you get credit?  Even sinners will lend to other sinners for a full return.  Love your enemies!  Do good to them.  Lend to them without expecting to be repaid.  Then your reward from heaven will be very great, and you will truly be acting as children of the Most High, for he is kind to those who are unthankful and wicked. You must be compassionate just as your Father is compassionate. (Luke 6:27-36)

Never pay back evil with more evil.  Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable.  Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone.  Dear friends, never take revenge.  Leave that to the righteous anger of God.  For the Scriptures say, ‘I will take revenge; I will pay them back,’ says the Lord. Instead, ‘If your enemies are hungry, feed them. If they are thirsty, give them something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals of shame on their heads.’ Don’t let evil conquer you, but conquer evil by doing good.” (Romans 12:17-21)

How do we feel inside when someone who has hurt us, humiliated or disrespected us or our loved ones falls upon hard times, devastating times?

In the world, when people “get theirs” or when “karma shows up”, it is most often celebrated.

But in the Kingdom of Heaven, rejoicing at the troubles and suffering of another person displeases the Lord.

The whole world is a spiritual battlefield and our actions can impact the eternal lives of others.  When someone is being dealt with and they are mocked or their unfortunate situation is celebrated, their hearts will harden, their hatred will grow worse.  Where they may have otherwise turned to God and repented of their sins, they may instead be lost forever.  This is not a burden that any of us wants to bear, no matter what has been done to us.

So what’s the appropriate thing to do? 

The appropriate thing is to outwardly show grace, compassion.  Depending on the wrong committed, maybe the only appropriate thing we are capable of outwardly doing is to be silent, saying nothing.  But we are commanded to love our enemies and this “love” is a verb, a word of action; actively doing good to those who hate us, blessing those who curse us, praying for them.

When God’s command to do this is obeyed, miracles happen.  Countless stories are told of the absolute worst among men and women being turned to God’s glory.  Persecutors, murderers, traffickers, wracked with guilt, show up at the doors of those they’ve hurt, asking about Christianity, asking for forgiveness.  If they are wicked and evil, they are lost, and as long as they draw breath, there is the opportunity for them to be found (Luke 15).  Once found, they turn their lives around with the help of Almighty God, crossing from darkness into light, and this is a glorious event, celebrated in heaven (Luke 15:7).

When we leave it God to serve up justice, to take revenge on our behalf, to pay back wrong-doing and we obey his command to do good to others, especially those who wrong us, we demonstrate that we fully understand the eternal stakes and are trustworthy soldiers in the service of God.

That said, it is a normal, very human reaction to feel vindicated; to experience the satisfaction of the knowledge of a wrong being righted, however our hearts tally up the score.

Whatever is going on inwardly, the safety-zone is prayer.  Prayer is the place where we are safe to be completely honest with God.  Prayer is where we say whatever our hearts are yearning to say, thanking Him for His justice, for vindicating us, that we have been able to witness it.  Tell it to the Lord alone, and then love your enemies.  In this way, while followers of other so-called gods wreak havoc across the world, seeking revenge and justice for themselves, the followers of Jesus Christ stand out as lights in the darkness.