IN THE DAYS OF HIS POWER SERIES.
TOPIC: THE POWER OF LOVING YOUR ENEMIES
Rev. Innocent Peace-Udochukwu
President Living Fountain Ministries Int’l LIFOM
“But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you.”
LOVING YOUR ENEMIES GIVES YOU POWER OVER THEM.
LOVING YOUR ENEMIES MAKES YOU PERFECT LIKE GOD YOUR FATHER
LOVING YOUR ENEMIES HELPS YOU TO ALSO LOVE YOURSELF BECAUSE EVERY PIECE OF US IS FOUND IN ALL HUMANITY.
I want to turn your attention to this subject: “The Power of Loving Your Enemies.” It’s so basic to me because it is a part of my basic philosophical and theological orientation: the whole idea of love, the whole philosophy of love. In the fifth chapter of the gospel as recorded by Saint Matthew, we read these very arresting words flowing from the lips of our Lord and Master: “Ye have heard that it has been said, ‘Thou shall love thy neighbor, and hate thine enemy.’ But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them that despitefully use you; that ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven.”2
Certainly these are great words, words lifted to cosmic proportions. And over the centuries, many persons have argued that this is an extremely difficult command. Many would go so far as to say that it just isn’t possible to move out into the actual practice of this glorious command. They would go on to say that this is just additional proof that Jesus was an impractical idealist who never quite came down to earth. So the arguments abound. But far from being an impractical idealist, Jesus has become the practical realist. The words of this text glitter in our eyes with a new urgency. Far from being the pious injunction of a utopian dreamer, this command is an absolute necessity for the survival of our civilization. Yes, it is love that will save our world and our civilization, love even for enemies.
Now let me hasten to say that Jesus was very serious when he gave this command; he wasn’t playing. He realized that it’s hard to love your enemies. He realized that it’s difficult to love those persons who seek to defeat you, those persons who say evil things about you. He realized that it was painfully hard, pressingly hard. But he wasn’t playing. And we cannot dismiss this passage as just another example of Oriental hyperbole, just a sort of exaggeration to get over the point. This is a basic philosophy of all that we hear coming from the lips of our Master. Because Jesus wasn’t playing; because he was serious. We have the Christian and moral responsibility to seek to discover the meaning of these words, and to discover how we can live out this command, and why we should live by this command.
Now first let us deal with this question, which is the practical question: How do you go about loving your enemies? I think the first thing is this: In order to love your enemies, you must begin by analyzing self. And I’m sure that seems strange to you, that I start out telling you this morning that you love your enemies by beginning with a look at self. It seems to me that that is the first and foremost way to come to an adequate discovery to the how of this situation. Now, I’m aware of the fact that some people will not like you, not because of something you have done to them, but they just won’t like you. I’m quite aware of that. Some people aren’t going to like the way you walk; some people aren’t going to like the way you talk. Some people aren’t going to like you because you can do your job better than they can do theirs. Some people aren’t going to like you because other people like you, and because you’re popular, and because you’re well-liked, they aren’t going to like you. Some people aren’t going to like you because your hair is a little shorter than theirs or your hair is a little longer than theirs. Some people aren’t going to like you because your skin is a little brighter than theirs; and others aren’t going to like you because your skin is a little darker than theirs. So that some people aren’t going to like you. They’re going to dislike you, not because of something that you’ve done to them, but because of various jealous reactions and other reactions that are so prevalent in human nature.
But after looking at these things and admitting these things, we must face the fact that an individual might dislike us because of something that we’ve done deep down in the past, some personality attribute that we possess, something that we’ve done deep down in the past and we’ve forgotten about it; but it was that something that aroused the hate response within the individual. That is why I say, begin with yourself. There might be something within you that arouses the tragic hate response in the other individual.
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 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. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Matthew 5:43-48 NIV
“But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you. If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.” Luke 6:27-36 NIV
Loving Your Neighbour Includes Loving Your Enemy
Neighbour means something like “friend” in this context. Jesus believed it is well and good to love our friends, but the problem in only loving one’s friend is the person is restricted in his or her love. This type of love is restrictive in that it is selective and prejudiced, because this type of love chooses only those they like and who love them in return.
Yet God’s love is very different. God also loves the evil person, shown by the fact He causes the sun to shine on the evil and the good—not restricting the expression of His love to only one group. God loves the unrighteous, shown by the fact He causes the rain to fall on the righteous and unrighteous without distinguishing between the two. God does not withhold His love from either group.
Another problem with loving only our friends is that this kind of love is not generous enough. It is not lavish enough so that it spills out onto others who are not our friends. It only reaches those who love us in return. This is an eye-for-an-eye love, but love-your-enemy love is like a multi-tiered fountain from which love spills over onto a greater pool of people, enemies and friends.
Loving Our Enemy is Possible, Costly and Rewarding
First, remember that loving our enemies requires removing our enmity against God. God’s enmity against us was removed at the cross through Christ’s death. At that moment He was reconciled to us. Now it is up to us to be reconciled to Him, to respond to Him in love. This is an issue of trust. Without this basis in our lives, it will be impossible to love our enemies.
Second, loving our enemies requires an honest, humble self-appraisal. Listen to the words of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn:
“If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?”
Only with this humble attitude can we do the third step: To love a friend requires death to self. To love our enemies requires death to self at the highest level. It is self-denial at warp-speed times 10. This type of love that Jesus requires of us is to be on the side of all people no matter what they might do to provoke a different reaction. For some, this means hanging in there with the rebellious son or daughter who hates you and your Christian faith. For others, it is the arrogant boss who marginalizes you. This tough love requires hanging in there until you can understand why he or she is acting and feeling a particular way.
Fourth, loving our enemies does not mean unequivocal trust. Enemies who have hurt us have forfeited their right to our trust. They are to earn our trust again. It is important not to let ourselves be victimized again. The words of Romans 12:17-18pertain here. We are required to do what is right. We are to consider beforehand what good things we can do for others regardless of whether he or she is friend or foe; but remember: We do not do these things in order to get an apology from someone or to gain approval. We do good toward them because it is the right thing to do.
We are to live at peace with our enemies, but there are two conditions. The text says “If it is possible,” which means that in some instances it may not be possible to love our enemies. There are situations in which we simply must remove ourselves (if possible) from the situation for our sake or the sake of the other(s) and let God deal with the situation. Our only option in this type of situation is prayer: prayer a changed heart, prayer for God to open up an opportunity to express love safely.
The second condition in the text states, “as far as it depends on you.” Paul is making it clear that though we have a responsibility to love our enemies, we do not have all responsibility to love our enemies. We are responsible to love with a pure heart as best we can; but for the sake of the enemy’s soul, he or she also must learn to take responsibility to love others. By setting an example through loving, we can help our enemies—even provoke them into taking responsibility to love others. Yet no one can make them become responsible and/or loving. It must be an act of individual will.
Fifth, we must accept that loving our enemies is one of the most difficult things we ever will do and is only possible through the grace of God. We must not minimize this difficulty nor neglect the emotions in loving our enemies.
The conclusion Jesus brings it to is for us to be like our Heavenly Father who is perfect and merciful. That word perfect can make us cringe due to our humanity. Only God is perfect. But the word perfect in the original Greek means complete. It comes from a primary word meaning to set out for a definite point or goal. Jesus is saying for us to make it our goal to love like our Heavenly Father loves.
Jesus brought up the issue of mercy repeatedly. Everyone wants mercy. The Bible tells us that mercy triumphs over judgment. Of course, we want it. Giving mercy requires us to give up revenge and hand the judgment part to God. Loving our enemies doesn’t mean allowing them to continue to hurt us. That would be a failure of loving ourselves as God loves us. We can do what is in our control to protect ourselves while trusting God to step in.
We can always pray for our enemies. Praying is an act of mercy. Praying is loving like our Heavenly Father. Praying changes our hearts.
I remember when the Lord directed me to speak a blessing over an enemy who brought harm to a family member. With tears streaming down my face, and pain in my soul, I did. The person continued acting as an enemy, but it broke the chain off my heart. The love of God saved me from bitterness and unforgiveness.
Loving our enemies means seeing them as human beings in need of the Father’s love.
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