Love Your Enemies
We recently began a new sermon series titled, “Road Map For Relationships: Loving Like Jesus.” As I began doing some background research, my thoughts naturally gravitated to my most significant and prominent relationships: my wife, my children, my in-laws, parents, coworkers, and friends. I would suggest this is natural, after all these people are important to me. I want to love them better, and I should strive to do better in those relationships. That being said, the reality is that I find it easy to love those people - they are lovable, and what is more, they love me.
If we are really going to love like Jesus, doing that - loving the lovable in our lives - is crucial, but it is also the bare minimum. Loving like Jesus requires something more, something qualitatively different, it requires loving our enemies. In my opinion, few exhortations are more self-evidently world changing, more clearly gospel-revealing than Jesus’ call for us to love our enemies:
32 “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them.
35 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. (Luke 6.32, 35, NIV).
Now, “enemy” is a rather extreme word, and I have no doubt Jesus has used it on purpose. But I want to warn us not to read that and conjure up a hypothetical enemy. I know you don’t have any “real” enemies. Me either. I don’t have a nemesis; no one that I am aware of is out to get me or destroy me. And the temptation for all of us is to use that fact to evade Jesus’ point. “Phew, we are off the hook, we don’t have to love our enemies because we don’t have any.” It’s a nice try, but we all get the point, and none of us are off the hook.
The point is that we are called to love those we find difficult to love, and called by no one less than our Lord and King Jesus. The coworker that makes your life difficult? Love them like Jesus. The jerk neighbor? The family member with the political positions that make you crazy? The people who denigrate what you hold most dear? Love even them like Jesus. Nothing I can say or you can read will make this easy, but then Jesus didn’t say it was easy, he said it was necessary.
I promise that in this, I struggle at least as much as the rest of you. I actually wrote this to remind myself that I am not off the hook; I am just sharing it with you. The truth is I gravitate to what is easy, and it is easier to love those who love me. But Jesus calls us to more. He calls us to love our enemies, and he is at work in us to make it possible.