Study Guide: Unexpected Enemies

Sunday April 22, 2007 | Scott Boren

Focus Scripture:

Brief Summary:

To follow Christ is to live a life of love. Love is at the center of Jesus’ message and is the central teaching given in the Sermon on the Plain. To love like Christ is to love even when it is not deserved or expected. It is a radical love that calls us to love our enemies. The call to love also includes loving those who are close to us, even when it’s messy.

Extended Summary:

Following Jesus is demonstrated as we practice radically loving our enemies. We are to love those who hate, mistreat, and curse us. Jesus calls us to love all. That includes enemies that we know about, but also unexpected enemies, those who are close to us, who do or say something that is hurtful. As a follower of Jesus, we are called to reflect Christ’s love in all of our relationships. We are to relate to one another as Christ has loved us. This is opposite of the world’s message to us. The world tells us to love those who love us, but Jesus teaches us to love others without considering how they treat us.

When someone does harm to us, it is so easy to respond in an unloving way with resistance and retaliation. We are told that this is acceptable by our culture. This is what makes the message of love so offensive and different from the patterns of this world. As the representatives of Jesus in this world we are supposed to be different. We are called to make people wonder, “Why are they still so nice to me, after all I’ve done and said?” This was the ministry of Jesus. He reached out to those that the culture of the time considered enemies such as the prostitutes, the demon possessed the Roman centurions and the tax collectors. Jesus knew who these people were and what they represented to the culture of the time but He chose to do good, bless, and pray for these people. Jesus commands us to “Be merciful, as your Father in heaven is merciful.” This is only possible through the power of God in our lives and hearts. Through Jesus we can love those who hate us and bless those who curse us.

To love those who harm us is easier said than done. To love requires faith. It is important to rely upon God in the midst of our messy relationships. God can bring beauty out of the messes in our lives. It also requires intentionality and creativity to respond in a counter-cultural way.

This is a process of making daily decisions to not react as the world tells us, with “justified retaliation”, but instead with prayer and patience for those who hurt us whether family, friend or other person. Through this radical kind of love we can impact our world!

Reflection Questions:

  1. Reflect on the command to love your enemy. How would your life change if you chose to follow this command in your personal relationships?
  2. How has our culture taught us to respond to being hurt?
  3. In what ways have you been hated, cursed or mistreated this week? How is God calling you to respond in love?
  4. Imagine an unexpected enemy in your life right now. How are you reacting to his or her actions toward you?