“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that?” -
For his followers or adversaries, a first century conversation with Jesus would have inevitably touched on many different topics. While his message was often focused on various aspects of a relationship with God, there were some themes that Jesus was particularly keen on sharing. He often spoke about feeding the poor and the dangers of money and the importance of forgiveness, but love may have been his favorite; love for each other and love from the Father were ideas he never tired of communicating and demonstrating to his followers. Love is a concept that simultaneously seems so natural and totally foreign. A child may instinctively love his mother or father and then spend an entire lifetime understanding what it truly means to love his wife. Or a young couple may honestly believe that they feel love for each other, only to discover after a few months that it was merely infatuation. Jesus constantly challenged his followers’ notions of love, and indeed his life became the greatest symbol of love in all of human history. The Apostle Paul understood that love was complex and multifaceted: “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud…It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” Paul’s sermon on love in 1 Corinthians is all about the fact that love isn’t a function of emotion so much as choice. A person must choose to love, and that choice has profound consequences on the way life is lived. It is, not surprisingly, fundamentally about choice that Jesus speaks of in the above passage from the Gospel of Matthew. He touches on an aspect of love that is perhaps the most
challenging to make a reality in one’s life: loving those that aren’t convenient to love. Though it is certainly not always easy to love a family member or a friend, it comes naturally. Jesus points out that even those who don’t know God know how to return love. Jesus, through word and deed, calls his followers to a higher standard, though. In a world full of strife and violence, the ability to love an enemy just may be the only thing that can make a difference. This type of love is not only difficult – it’s extremely inconvenient, and inconvenience is a bridge too far for so many modern Americans. Between work and cars and vacations and soccer practice and all the other things that fill up life, the opportunities to love an enemy can easily be eclipsed. Fortunately for believers, living in the power of the Spirit means not having to wonder what love like this looks like in a contemporary context. The potential is all around for showing love to an enemy or to someone who is not one of “your own people”. Whether at the grocery store or at work or at a soup kitchen or on the other side of the planet, there are people who desperately need to not just hear about the Gospel but see it demonstrated before their eyes. Jesus’ message hasn’t changed in 2000 years. Love is still the central factor in a life devoted to God, and it is the only force capable of changing this world. Though it may be inconvenient and difficult at times, Jesus has called his followers to love their enemies and stand out in the world. For more information visit http://www.tellthemthatilovethem.net
Jesus said, "Love your enemies." - A controversial statement that requires believers to fundamentally change the way they interact with othe...