Friends and enemies.
Encouragers and persecutors.
Jesus said “Love them, do good to them.”
“But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you…” (Matthew 5:44)
Time and again Jesus posed a question following a question and finished with “Go and do likewise.”
And so He gave the perfect example of doing just what He calls us to do.
He submitted to the Father and endured hatred from His enemies and persecution from those who were blind to the Truth out of His love for us…and for them.
“Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34)
Then He breathed His last, “Tetelestai!” It is finished! The debt we owe was paid in full. Ours is to receive that free gift, humbly seek to live out the love evidenced by truth that paid it, and return that agape love – that gift – to others.
They were kind to me…love them.
They wounded me…love them anyway.
They spoke words of encouragement to me…love them.
They tore me down and maligned my character…love them anyway.
They agreed with me…love them.
They disagreed and would not listen…love them anyway.
They found my words helpful and wanted to hear more…love them.
They ridiculed my beliefs and my love for you, Lord; they rejected you…love them anyway.
They made life easy for me…love them.
They made life miserable for me…love them anyway.
What that love looks like may be different and, yet, always the same.
“Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.” I Corinthians 13:6
We won’t love our enemies like we love those who love us; still, we love by choice. Jesus knew that; it is why He said to do both – pray for them and love them, knowing we cannot pray for someone without it changing our hearts to initiate a compassion for them even as we ask Him to transform their lives through a relationship with the living God! Love can only be achieved by submitting our disdain, anger, hurt, and pride to Jesus who redeemed us not just to pay our penalty for eternity but to make us more like Him; to bear His image well and to break our hearts for what breaks His. In obedience, as we pray for those we consider “enemies” or for friends who have wounded us, we will supernaturally begin to love like Jesus; we will begin to desire a heart change in them and in us. If we do not have concern for the lost or reconciliation among brothers and sisters in Christ – regardless of their “reason” or their attitude towards us – we are blind to Calvary love.
Love speaks the truth and does not change it to suit the situation or the audience. But love that extends from a heart submitted to Christ is kind and patient; it does not pick and choose who is worthy of love. It is hard, but it is good.
Loving someone may mean saying hard things, those they will not “feel” are loving or kind; but doing so in a way that reflects the heart of God rather than our prideful one – speaking to bring healing and change rather than to be “right.”
Love is bold and responds out of obedience to Christ so it does not compromise nor does it excuse behavior. We can be angry about the sin that ensnares their hearts and ours, but the love He calls us to is not haughty, arrogant, easily angered, or rude. It extends the grace of God but does not cover the offense; it offers the reality of what was done at the cross. It remembers that, apart from the grace of God, we would be His enemies. Apart from Him softening our hearts and opening our eyes, we would still be blind to the truth – that redemption and the ability to run in freedom from sin is made possible by the love of God through Christ’s work on the cross and His resurrection! Apart from His grace and our continual feeding on that grace, we are entangled by sin that so easily weighs us down and causes us, in pride, to look and live with our own eyes and hearts instead of His.
If He calls us to something, we can do it! But it takes the total grace of God, the choice to submit our wills to Him and begin to pray for their heart change and their redemption, and, when we have opportunity, to do good to them and provide for them even if they don’t deserve it; provide the way out then walk alongside them in the process. We cannot will ourselves to “feel” love for someone; but we can, by an act of the will, be faithful to do what God has told us to do, even if we don’t “want” to.
Love is an action. Love is a choice; a decision to submit our hurt, our wills, and our desire for justice to the God who knows the hearts of our enemies. We act out of that obedience not out of our emotions. Sometimes it changes their hearts, but it always changes ours.
They are friendly…love them.
They are harsh…love them anyway.
They love truth…love them.
They hate truth…love them anyway.
They love me…love them.
They do not love me…love them anyway.
Then leave the results to the God who is exceedingly able to redeem and transform our enemies…and us!