This past weekend, we dove into the well-known, less-practiced, teaching of Jesus from Matthew 5:43-48 (NRSV)…
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
In many ways, there isn’t a lot to actually unpack with this teaching. There is a lot to do, but the passage is actually fairly straightforward: We are called to love others, even our enemies. But, this is hard to put into practice. As Søren Kirekagaard once said…
“The Bible is very easy to understand. But we Christians are a bunch of scheming swindlers. We pretend to be unable to understand it because we know very well that the minute we understand, we are obliged to act accordingly.”
“We are obliged to act accordingly” – to love our enemies, just as God loves us. This is where the teaching is really grounded in the nature of God’s love for all of us. That just as God loves everyone, and gives sun and rain to both the good and evil, our response should be similar. We should be giving love and grace to people without reservation. Because, there is nothing supernatural about loving those who love you, look like you, and act like you.
God loves His enemies, and we need to as well.
And, that was our main point, meaning really simply that there aren’t people that we get to love and people that we don’t. Rather, there is just God’s call for us to love ALL people, enemies included. There is no “us” vs. “them.” There is no such thing as “those people” that we can hate. There is no room for labels that divide and therefore stop us from our calling to love.
Again, God loves His enemies, and we need to as well.
We then looked at how to do this, which actually involved three steps: Pray, bless, and do good. And, this is how this works…
As we pray for our enemies, our hearts will be turned toward them, so we can love them. Prayer changes our relationship with our enemy. After we pray, this is when God can direct us to bless and do good. When we are in a place of love toward our enemy, we can hear from God about the right actions to take that will demonstrate this love. But, the first step is to pray, and have our hearts changed, so we can hear and act on God’s direction.
So, we closed with this challenge: We need to love our enemies. And, if Jesus says it, I think we should just do it.