"But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.”
It is not difficult to be kind to people who like us. To be a blessing to our friends is something that we enjoy doing for it brings goodwill and comradery. But in real life, not everyone is a friend, and not everyone wants to do us good. As believers, how are we supposed to respond?
“But I say unto you,”
It is crucial that we remember who is speaking these words. These are not the words of someone whom everybody loved. These words did not come from a child with a privileged life of no pain or personal hurts. These are the words of our Lord who knew well what it was to be despised and rejected by His own people. He was hated, and He had many enemies, and yet He never responded in kind, and He shows us a different way to live and treat hateful people.
“Love your enemies,”
Before Jesus Christ was born on earth, these words were never spoken. No one had heard of loving an enemy. This is not the way the world works! Everyone knows you must mistreat your enemies, doing much worse things to him that he has done to you so that he learns to fear you and leave you alone!
“Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbor and hate thine enemy,” (Matthew 5:43).
But this is not Jesus’ way of doing things. Anyone can return evil for evil done to him. He turns the world’s idea on its head when He teaches a new way to handle our enemies. Love them!
I suppose we should mention here that you will have enemies! Jesus clearly acknowledges that fact in His statement. It’s not that you are trying to make enemies, but because you are God’s child and are living for Him, you will have them. If you love Jesus, some people will not like you!
Jesus said our only correct response to our adversaries is to love them. By the way, the kind of love mentioned here by Jesus is the highest form of love1 that sacrifices itself for the object of its love. Loving our enemies is not about how we “feel” about them, but how we view them and treat them. We treat them as Jesus would if He were here in our place.
“None but God could have imposed a yoke so contrary to self-love; and nothing but the supreme eternal love can enable men to practice a precept so insupportable to corrupt nature,”2 (Clarke).
This kind of love is far beyond the childish fickle nature of love that children often show toward their playmates. This type of love is expensive for it will cost you something to love your enemies. Jesus will give you the strength to obey. And you will gain the smile of the Lord for your obedience to Him.
Come back tomorrow when we discuss how to treat people who mistreat us.
1. Agapao is the word Jesus used here.
2. Adam Clarke, Adam Clarke’s Commentary on the Bible, the electronic version in eSword.