Loving Our Enemies

But I say unto you which hear, Love your enemies, do good to them which hate you, Bless them that curse you, and pray for them which despitefully use you. And unto him that smiteth thee on the one cheek offer also the other; and him that taketh away thy cloke forbid not to take thy coat also. Give to every man that asketh of thee; and of him that taketh away thy goods ask them not again. And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise. For if ye love them which love you, what thank have ye? for sinners also love those that love them. And if ye do good to them which do good to you, what thank have ye? for sinners also do even the same. And if ye lend to them of whom ye hope to receive, what thank have ye? for sinners also lend to sinners, to receive as much again. But love ye your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest: for he is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil. Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful. Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven: Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again. (Luke 6:27-38)

In this passage, Jesus is speaking to His disciples, or followers, (in other words, to believers) regarding how they should act toward their enemies. Who are their enemies? Their enemies are the same enemies of believers everywhere: Non-believers; the lost, the unsaved, the self-reliant and self-righteous, the powerful and influential oppressors of God, His word, and His church.

Enemies are those who will oppose us, belitle us, make fun of us and jeer at our beliefs. They may leave us out of their parties, meetings, and other social or business events because of our Christian beliefs. They may try to take advantage of our Christian kindness, using us to serve their purposes. They call us names; they insult our character and intelligence, and even go so far as to put trials and temptations in our paths to try to make us stumble, so they can hold us up as examples of failed Christianity. Sometimes they can even be family members who criticize us for having "too much religion", or "being too involved", or "giving too much to the church".

Do you have an enemies in your life? Have you ever been criticized, used, mistreated, abused, or left out for Jesus' sake? How did you react? Did you react according to our natural, human instincts; or the way our Lord taught us to react?

Jesus understood that our natural, human reaction to our enemies is to retaliate in kind; to strike back. But He was very clear that believers are not to react according to our own human instincts and inclination. We are not held to human standards of behavior, but heavenly ones. We are to love our enemies, do good to those who spite us; to bless those who curse us, and pray for those who despitefully use us.

The Greek word for "love" used here is "agape", which is a holy, divine, all-encompassing concern for the well-being of others. It is more than mere emotion, it is the highest order of selfless love. Agape love recognizes that every person is valuable, regardless of their outward circumstances or actions. It is that kind of love that God demonstated toward us when He provided a plan of salvation for a wicked, uncaring and ungrateful creation. It is the kind of love Jesus showed when He accepted death on the cross to redeem us.

Jesus didn't say that we have to like our enemies, and we certainly don't have to like what they do. What He is teaching here is to decide, by a free act of our own will, to demonstrate a positive and loving concern for our enemies. We are to take the initiative: to love our enemies, to do good to those who spite us, to bless those who curse us and pray for those who despitefully use us.

It is important to understand that Christian love does not depend on the actions of others. They don't have to deserve it; it is something we are to do out of obedience to our Lord. We are to deny our natural instincts for retaliation, and demonstrate the love of Jesus.

The question here is why? Why does Jesus expect us to actively seek good for our enemies? Why does He want us to love even those who hurt or abuse us? Why?

And the answer is simple: to glorify God. To demonstrate the love of God to a lost and dying world. To point others to Jesus Christ as the standard to which we are held accountable, and to which we strive to live. To brings them to Jesus for the salvation they so desperately need.

Christians act no differently than sinners if we love only those who love us. But when we love the unloved and unlovable, then the world sees that we are different; (and if Christians don't love these people, who will?) When we love our enemies, when we love the lost, when we love the unlovable, we are demonstrating the same love that God showed toward us!

Do we demonstrate the love of God in our lives by loving our enemies? Do we treat others the way they treat us, or do we treat them the way we would want to be treated, as Jesus taught? Does the world see Jesus in your actions? If not, why not?

Jesus said in Matt. 10:8 "Freely you have received, freely give." We are to show the love of Jesus in our lives, not by following the world's standards, but by following God's standards. This is one way we show obedience to God's word, and how we demonstrate the love of God to a lost and dying world.

(See also Matt. 9:2-8, and Luke 5:18-26)

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