Summary: A pratical look at one of the hardest commandments
Last week we began to look at what Paul calls the greatest internal force in all creation; love. This week we need to make a rather specific and probably painful application of what we’ve been learning; we’re going to talk about loving our enemies.
We have a lot of ground to cover, so let’s get right to it. Listen with me to the words of Jesus from Luke 6:27 – 36
We should probably begin with a definition; what do we mean by enemy. Jesus gets us started, In vs. 27 when He defined an enemy as someone who hates you. Regardless of how you feel about them, if they hate you, you have an enemy.
In vs. 28 He expanded the word enemy to include those who curse you and mistreat you. People who use their words to hurt you or their actions to harm you are your enemies.
In vs. 29 He said an enemy is someone who uses violence against you or steals from you. They respect neither your property nor your body.
In Matthew’s account we find two more ways to think about enemies.
Matthew 5:41 mentions those who force you to what you do not want to do,
Vs. 44 mentions those who persecute you.
If we stopped right there, we’d have a pretty expansive list. But if we think a little deeper, we can expand the definition even more.
An enemy is anyone who hates you, but he is also anyone you hate. That can be someone you share a house with. Or used to. She could be a stranger in traffic; a rude customer in your store or an unfriendly clerk where you shop.
A neighbor who is hard to live nearby. Your ex-spouse’s new mate. Your ex-spouse. Even you current spouse.
Parents, children or siblings in families with a long history of relational warfare. A boss who treated you unfairly. An employee who accused you.
A teacher who seemed to have it in for you. A student who made your classroom difficult. A colleague who undermines you or takes advantage of you. The other woman. Or man. The person who stole your childhood through abuse or neglect.
An enemy is anyone who has hurt you physically, emotionally, or spiritually.
Ali Ibn - Abu Talib, the son-in-law of Mohammed the prophet, wrote a book titled A Hundred Sayings. One of his sayings was, "He who has a thousand friends has not one to spare. And he who has one enemy will meet him everywhere."
So when Jesus talks to us about how to love our enemies, we should listen. But once you hear what Jesus has to say, I wonder if your first reaction is anything like mine? Which was pretty much, "Jesus, have you lost your mind? Love your enemies? Do good to them? Speak well of them? Show kindness? Give to them?" I’d much rather return evil for evil, cursing for cursing, and meanness for meanness. And that’s just for the guy with 21 items in the express lane in the grocery store.
I grew up in a loving Christian home. We had our share of quirks and dysfunctions, but never once did we fear our parents. Except maybe that one time when we took a cattail and put it under my Dad’s pillow to see if he was really allergic to them or not, which he is.
And there was the time I was practicing throwing my Chinese throwing stars into my bedroom wall not noticing all of the little holes that they left behind. That didn’t go over very well.
And there was the time Trae and I skipped the sermon after we served on the table to go to the store and get some candy and a coke, lost all tract of time and showed up 45 minutes after church was over. Other than those moments we never feared our parents.
Maybe you did, though. Or still do. The people who were supposed to guard your innocence, took it. The people who were supposed to be your protectors were, instead, predators. Now here’s Jesus telling you to love your enemy.
So let’s be sure we understand exactly what Jesus is and isn’t commanding us. Jesus isn’t trying to legislate our emotions. He isn’t telling us how to feel. Jesus doesn’t care how we feel and that’s not because he doesn’t care about our feelings -- he cares deeply. It is, rather, that how we feel about our enemies is irrelevant to how we behave toward our enemies. When we let our emotions determine our actions we become slaves to a most fickle, unpredictable god. Jesus wants to liberate us from the tyranny of our emotions. This is a gracious liberation.
Jesus is talking verbs, not nouns. Nouns don’t do anything. They just sit there. Verbs vibrate. They move. They cover ground. They radiate. They initiate. Love is a verb. And verbs don’t feel; they do. Jesus is telling us what to do about our enemies. We are empowered by doing. And in the doing our feelings change.