Love Your Enemies??
Jesus commands us to love our enemies, and we are finding this hard to do! The heart of Jesus’ teaching is love and He invites us to follow His loving lead. He walks ahead of us joyfully with a light heart full of love and He turns and asks us to follow. There is music and freedom on his peaceful path and we are drawn to be with Him on this glory road. . We say “yes” and start out with excitement but after we take just a few steps we become out of breath and must slow down! What is wrong? Why can’t we move along easily on this joyful road?
Jesus turns and beckons for us to catch up and walk with Him on this path called “love”. He gives us His personal invitation. “Come, take My yoke upon you and learn of Me for I am humble and gentle in My heart and you will find rest for your souls,” (Matthew 11:29-30) We want to follow this humble gentle Jesus, drawn to His love and yearning for the promised rest for our souls. We are so tired and worn out with life’s struggles!
We get up and try to follow Him but stumble again and can’t keep up. We are carrying a heavy load of hurt. Could that be slowing us down? And also our heart is burdened with anger. Jesus looks back and waves to us again to walk with Him but our resentments are too heavy to drag along and we fall down under the load.
Jesus comes back and stands in front of us looking concerned. “We want to follow You but we are too burdened down,” we tell Him. “We want to walk on this gentle glittering road after You.. But how can we love our enemies? They are too unfair – too mean! Can You help us?”
“Yes, of course I can help you. All you need to do is be willing to give your enemies to Me,” Jesus smiles, holding out His hands. “Give me your hurts and your anger. They are too heavy for you to bring on the trip. There are so many delights to enjoy along the road with Me but you need to travel light”
We want so badly to walk this road with Him but we are still weighed down with anger. “This person who hates us, who is saying terrible things against us had once been close and dear to us,” we tell Jesus. “We love this one so much and now we feel so lost and betrayed!. How can we give You our hurt and anger?” With tears and sighs we look down at our feet.
“I know,” He answers lovingly. He is still holding His hands out to us. “Come on, give this one to Me. I will carry her for you.” We kneel before Jesus and with tears running down our faces we give Him this loved one who hates us, and already we feel lighter. It was so much work carrying all of the broken expectations, the sorrow and the anger-like poison to the soul. And now we feel light as a feather – free- able to follow Him.
We finally start again down the narrow road following Jesus and the comforts and joys of this Jesus journey are all around us. We are traveling light and we are loving it. Let’s hope we aren’t tempted to take back any of those old burdens again.
. But then we hear that the one who hates us is spreading more lies about us, influencing others close to us to quit speaking, tearing down our reputation. We have given Jesus our confusion and anger to carry- our fear and insecurity – but now we could lose even more! We must fight not to be misunderstood, not to be lied about! We must protect our reputation mustn’t we?
Jesus can see that we are slowing down yet again. We aren’t following Him as closely, - lagging behind! “What’s wrong?” He asks as He turns and comes back to us. “Our reputation!” we moan. “Our reputation and our respect! This one who hates us is criticizing us and causing even some of our family members and friends to think badly about us. We must fight back to protect our reputation- our very selves! ”
Jesus puts His arms around us and says He understands. He has been through this Himself, He was misunderstood and maligned and He invites us to follow in His footsteps. “No we must not fight back. We are to be “wise as serpents and harmless as doves.” (Matthew 10:16) He says. He holds His hands out again gently and with tears in His eyes asks that we give this up also.
“Give what up?” we question. “Give up your reputation, your ego, give up being understood.” He answers. We hardly know what to say! “But members of our family are being influenced against us!” we cry. “I know,” He says. “I will take care of it. You are not to worry about your reputation. It’s too heavy a burden for you to carry. Your reputation is My problem.” He keeps loving us and holding His hands out as He pleads, “Come on, give Me your reputations. They are too heavy for you to carry on this spiritual journey.”
We want to keep following Him on His amazing road, so with tears running down our faces we kneel and hand Him our reputations- our egos – all that we are proud of, or at least we try to. Following Jesus is not as easy as we had thought! First we gave Him our anger and resentments and hurts. Then we gave Him our friends turned enemies. And if that wasn’t enough now we are asked to give Him our reputations- ourselves!. People are saying unkind things about us, turning loved ones against us and He tells us not to respond! Turn the other cheek. Not stand up for ourselves! Not fight back! He will deal with it, maybe when we are in heaven. No wonder this road Jesus is taking us on is a narrow road! Without His help – His strength – His guidance – the Holy Spirit beside us - we could never follow.
But this is the very road- the faith road- that Jesus invites us all to take with Him. And we can’t take this trip on our own – not without Jesus giving us the ability to do it. The passage in Galatians perhaps describes this somewhat: “I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live, yet not I but Christ lives in me. And the life that I now live in the flesh I live by the faithfulness of the Son of God, who loves me and gave Himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20)
Let’s read Jesus’ words in the Bible where He commands us to love our enemies! “But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone strikes you on one cheek turn to him the other also. If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you. …Love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. And then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because He is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father in heaven is merciful.” (Luke 6:27-31 & 35-36)
Jesus also spoke about what might happen to His follower’s reputations. “”Blessed are you when people hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man. Rejoice in that day and leap for joy because great is your reward in heaven. For that is how their fathers treated the prophets.”…”But woe to you when people speak well of you, for that is how their fathers treated the false prophets.” (Luke 6:22-23 & 26) When we follow Jesus sometimes things appear to be backwards, don’t they?
In order to follow Jesus on this impossible road we need to live by faith. But what does it mean to live by faith? Galatians 2:16 says: “Knowing that a person is not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law:…” This scripture verse reads that we are justified “by faith in Christ Jesus” but another translation of the Greek reads that we are justified “by the faithfulness of Christ Jesus”.
The narrow road is impossible for us to walk without Jesus doing it for us- living in us.. But we have to allow Him to live in us. Scripture says He emptied Himself for us. And He asks us to follow Him and empty ourselves too. He prays for us. He is there waiting for us. To walk by faith is to receive forgiveness. to receive grace upon grace to be open to Him, to live in Him and He in us, To give what you have first received, And yes, to live this rich life of faith is to love your enemies. That’s part of following Jesus.