LOVE YOUR ENEMIES
Scripture Reading: Matthew 5:43-48
“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? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
"Love your enemies." When Jesus told his listeners that they needed to love their enemies, they must have been shocked senseless! Never had they heard such a thing. They had always been encouraged to hate the enemy and destroy him, if possible. And here was Jesus telling them, in no uncertain terms, that they were to love them instead. Why? Because, as he went on to explain, God loved them. And this would have shocked them even more! God loved his enemies? Really?
Yes, really, because see, we were God's enemies. In his letter to the Romans, Paul writes, "God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8). Sinfulness is rebellion against God, which puts us in the enemy camp. However, this didn't stop God from reconciling us to him and then gave us the resources to keep the friendship. Paul goes on to say: "While we were God's enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!" (Romans 5:10).
As children of God, we have to follow in his footsteps. But we cannot do this if we haven't experienced his love. This comes ONLY from understanding that as his enemies, he could have turned us into toast but instead gave us the means to become his friend instead. This is why John writes: "We love because he first loved us" (1 John 4:19). But then he clarifies this. "Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister" (1 John 4:20-21).
And who is our brother and sister? Not just those who attend church with us or raise their hands alongside ours in prayer meetings, but all those other people out there who may not share our faith and our beliefs. Some of them might be life-threatening, like ISIS or Boko Haram, but they could also be just common spiteful, self-righteous, mean, and judgmental people. The world tells us to retaliate, but God tells us to reconcile. Are you fasting this Lent? How about fasting from hate and feasting on love for a few days.
Love your enemies.