Jesus’ teaching style draws you in with something you “think” you know, and then just turns it on its head. He was literally challenging the common thinking of the day.
Jesus’ teaching style draws you in with something you “think” you know, and then just turns it on its head. He was literally challenging the common thinking of the day. It was understandable to love those that you considered a part of your family, friends, tribe or ethnic group, but not those considered the enemy or the “other” such as non-Jews. The New Testament Scholar, Michael Wilkens writes,
“Later groups within Israel took this further by identifying “neighbor” exclusively with those within their Jewish community and the “evildoer” as Gentiles or those outside of their community and therefore God’s and their enemies. The starkest extreme is found in the Qumran [a first century Jewish document]. The Role of the Community gives instructions for seeking God and doing what is good and just, with the purpose “that they may love all that He has chosen and hate all that He has rejected, that they may abstain from all evil and hold fast to all good” (1QS 1.3-4). The instructions then go one step further, “that they may love all the sons of light, each according to his lot in God’s design, and hate all the sons of darkness, each according to his guilt in God’s vengeance” (1QS 1.9-11). Because God hates evil, those who embody evil are understood to be God’s enemies. It was natural to hate God’s enemies.”
Jesus does not give us any extra points for only loving and connecting and supporting those that you like and that like you. There is nothing sacrificial or difficult about that. N.T. Wright, states, “The rule of love, I say again, is not an optional extra. It is the very essence of what we Christians are about.”
Sometimes, when we talk about loving our enemies or those that are intent on making our lives miserable, we skip over how difficult it is. When we love our enemies, it highlights that we are connected to God and a part of his Kingdom. Even more, the act of loving our enemies helps transform us into the image of God. We must learn to consider it as character development.
To live out this teaching is impossible without the power of the Holy Spirit. We cannot will our way or make ourselves love our enemies. Paul wrote in Romans 5:5: “And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.” We can’t give what we have not received. We can only love our enemies when we have been loved by God, as we yield ourselves to the movement of the Holy Spirit in our lives.
There are three points to keep in mind when we move to act on loving our enemies:
- First, community is needed to walk this out. We experience a synergy when we are part of group who are committed to the same thing. We learn from one another what it means to love others that we don’t want to love.
- Secondly, there will be a cost. Walking out the command to love our enemies will entail sacrifice of time, money and comfort. We very well may experience embarrassment and ridicule.
- Finally, we start to love our enemies by praying for them. This is a way to move into a huge task with small steps. Prayer allows God to get involved in the situation, while we are also being changed as we pray.
The command to love our enemy requires that we “do” something about it. It is a call to action, not an intellectual endeavor. We can only love through the choices we make to love.
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