Friday, March 4, 2016

How Can You Love Your Enemy?

Love for Enemies
43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 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. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47 And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

It is so easy to hate our enemies. After all, they make us really mad! Usually they have done something to offend or injure us, and haven't said they are sorry. Maybe they hate us, and for no good reason other than what we represent. This started from the beginning when Cain hated his brother Abel. Cain was the first born, and Abel his younger brother. Cain worked the field and Abel was a shepherd over the flock.

When it came to offer back a portion of their produce the scripture says, "Cain offered some of the produce of the land". Whereas Abel gave back, "the first born of the flock and the fat portions." The Lord had regard for Abel's offering, but not Cain's offering. We might conclude Abel gave back the very best as a sacrificial offering, and Cain kept the best to himself and gave out of what was left. But, Cain was furious that Abel received the praise. He was jealous and angry, and took him into the field and killed his only brother.

And such was the beginning of a pattern which we still see today. At the root of all the violence and tension in the world is people not getting what they think they deserve, and then violently taking it back. And this is what creates enemies. But Jesus says "love your enemies". What gives? He uses the analogy that God causes the rain and the sun to fall on the just and unjust. Meaning inspite of how we might hate someone else, God still provides basic provision for all people. What they do after that is their responsibility.

While God hates evil, he doesn't hate people. God has no enemies, as we see Jesus died for the unjust, sinners like you and me. So while we might consider some "worse" than others, and deserving more hate because of it, God tells us to love them and pray for them. Wow! Really! How?

Jesus gives us a clue at the end of the passage when He says, "Be perfect, as your Heavenly Father is perfect!" While we are far from perfect, by praying for and loving our enemies we move in the direction of what God wants for us. A first step that sets us apart from the rest of the world, and could maybe begin to stop the violence we see all too often. This was Jesus' way and should be ours!