Monday, August 31, 2009

Loving Enemies

I teach a Bible study class at my church for young professionals. In reality, I moderate a discussion time because the class members are generally very open and the dialogue is good. We have been working our way through the Sermon on the Mount. This past week we made our way to that difficult passage about loving your enemies.

Matthew 5:43-48 (NIV)
"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 sons 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 brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

In Jesus’ day the command to love one’s neighbor would be understood by a Jew to refer to another Jew. It does not really sound that much different from our day. We tend to love our family, our friends, people like us, and those who help us. Jesus response was, “What’s different about you? Everyone does that! Even people who do not believe in God love those groups!”

I don’t know about you, but I think this is one of Jesus’ hard sayings. Love your enemies? That does not seem right at all. I think we sometimes confuse love and like. We really do not have to like someone or agree with them in order to care about them. If we care about them we act in their best interest. Christians are seen to be sons of the Father who is in heaven when we allow his love to be expressed through us. God’s love does not show favoritism. God’s love is shared with friends and enemies alike. God always acts for the good of every person.

Jesus calls us to live in a radical new way. This new way of living is only possible as he possesses more of us and our lives reflect more of his character. In his book Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis wrote, "Do not waste your time bothering whether you 'love' your neighbor act as if you did. As soon as we do this, we find one of the great secrets. When you are behaving as if you loved someone, you will presently come to love him. If you injure someone you dislike, you will find yourself disliking him more. If you do him a good turn, you will find yourself disliking him less." May God grant us a the grace to love our enemies.

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