Think about what you could do to make your best friend happy. Would it be to bring them a cup of coffee or a cold soda? Would they enjoy tickets to a concert or a show? Maybe you could help them out with chores or a project at work?
OK. Now, how about offering the same kindness to someone who is being a real jerk? Imagine doing something kind to that fellow student who insults you, a co-worker who steals your lunch at work, or a neighbor who yells at you from the adjacent yard (or apartment) when you have some friends over.
Have a look at this passage from Jesus’ teachings:
But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 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.
Matthew 5:44-45 NIV
It’s one thing to talk about “loving your enemies” when we are having safe conversations with our friends, maybe just to prove that we have memorized Jesus’ words on this subject. This phrase might be passed off as a reason for not marching out and exacting revenge on someone who has insulted us, or we might say it when we don’t feel like following up on someone else’s injurious actions. Jesus calls us to do more than just quote Him, though1.
For one thing, I have sometimes been compelled to pray for people that tick me off. That is a little weird, let me tell you: It’s one thing to just pray for them to see things my way, or for them to accept the truth just so that they will be nice to me. To pray that they will be blessed, though, in ways that may not benefit me in the end (and perhaps in ways that I will never see, and never be thanked for)…well, that’s not always a level I get to.
Jesus didn’t only call us to pray for our enemies, though. He said to love them. If that just meant not yelling at them for stealing our parking space at the mall, this might be something that our human condition could muster up (along with some pride at “being the better person”). Jesus’ example of love was neither passive nor limited to His followers, though. He showed love through action: helping people, teaching them, addressing their real needs. If that example shows love, and we are called to love our enemies, the implications for us may be uncomfortable, at best.
And, why are we called to do this? Is Jesus just making up rules to steal our fun or to make His followers victims? No, this passage makes it clear that this is what being in the family of God looks like. And, if we felt that Jesus was calling us to do something He wasn’t willing to do Himself, we don’t have to look any farther than the cross, where He gave up His life to redeem us, despite our making ourselves enemies of the truth (see Romans 5:8).
So here is the challenge (both to you and to me) today: love our enemies with the same kind of love that Jesus showed. Pray for them and their needs, and be willing to do things for them that are as kind and thoughtful as we would do for our friends. That may sound crazy, but Jesus didn’t call anyone to boring mediocrity. Life with Him is an adventure, for sure.
- To be clear, I am not suggesting that followers of Jesus be unwise. While self-preservation and caution can be used as an excuse to not love as generously as Jesus did, I believe that there is a time and a place to remove oneself from danger. Listen to the Holy Spirit, and the common sense that He gave you; ask for wisdom to know when it is time to stop and step away. ↩