Jesus Tells us to Love our Enemies
Jesus tells us to love our enemies. This is what He said: “Love your enemies. Do good to those who hate you. Bless those who curse you. Pray for those who mistreat you. …Do to others as you would have them do to you. “(Matthew 5:44)
We may feel like Jesus is asking us for the impossible. What a challenge to love someone who is cursing us and perhaps trying to harm us! But Jesus wouldn’t ask us to love our enemies if it was impossible for us to do. Jesus will give us the love to love our enemies with, if we will let Him. He will give us the strength to obey if we are willing. Scripture says that “God is love” (1 John 4:8) and since we are children of God we are to live lives of love also.
A group of people in Chicago, Illinois banded together to love the enemy. This group of do-gooders is trying to make a difference and it seems that their experiment in love is paying off. The homicide rate in Chicago had been extremely high and growing. And this “love” group wants to bring the murder rate down.
Many young men in Chicago become involved in gang related drug trafficking. These people, who often live in poverty and have little social capital, find community in joining gangs. They learn violence at an early age. And often never have the opportunities or advantages to learn how to make their way in society in other ways.
But in comes our “love” group who targets these angry young men. Men on the streets with guns and knives pushing drugs and killing people. Angry men who are not easy to “love”. Our “love” group knocks on the doors of these violent men. Men who society has given up on. Young men who statistically are most likely to murder or be murdered.
Our “love” group confronts these men, one at a time. Surrounds them with hope and love. Tells these bad boys that they “love” them. They want to open doors for them. Reminds these would-be criminals that if they continue in their criminal activity they will probably not live long. Many of these young men decide to leave their old lives and give these people who will help them a chance.
Our “love” group offers to take these desperados step by step through job training. Go with them to get driver’s licenses and teach them how to navigate modern life. Mothers who have lost children to gang related crimes hug these men. Tell them they want to be considered “family”. They want to be involved in their lives. After a year or more now this little “love” group has already made a big difference. The homicide rate in Chicago is lower today. This is just one example of how loving the unlovely – the enemy - can make a difference. Jesus is calling you and me to love the unlovely – the enemy in our lives. Can we do it?
As Christians we try to follow Christ in loving others, But, why do we so often fail? Our marriages sometimes end in divorce. And our relationships are fraught with problems. We want to follow God’s command to love one another but we don’t always know how to do that.
One way we can try to love is to bring out the best in the other person. Love always liberates. It creates a climate of security. Listen to the other person. Learn the art of listening. Allow for differences and negotiate problems. Respect the other person and expect respect in return. Do not demand or condemn. Look for positive things and give the other person verbal affirmation.
Love is a choice. Love is always freely given. You cannot make another person love you. Manipulation is not the language of love. Demands stop the flow of love. Love makes requests. Love is humble and kind. Love does not insist on its own way. Each of us must decide daily to love or not to love. Even God gives us the free will to love Him or not. He never forces us to love Him.
Also in learning to love, never mess up every new day with yesterday. Love doesn’t bring into today the failures of yesterday. If you are to learn the language of love, let the failures of the past be history. Forgiveness is not a feeling: it is a commitment. It is a choice to show mercy, and not hold the offense up against the offender. Everywhere in Scripture we find God telling us how important it is to forgive. Even in the Lord’s Prayer we read “Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.” (Matthew 6: 12)
The “Love” chapter in the Bible (1 Corinthians 13) tells us how important love is and what love looks like. Our love for others may not reach the lofty heights of the perfect love described there. But we can all choose to love those we find unlovable. And we can always work harder at learning to forgive. New difficulties and annoyances in our relationships may come up. But we can keep on learning to walk our “love” walk as we follow Christ, who loved us and gave Himself for us.