Why You Need To Love Your Enemies
One of the most difficult challenges that Jesus made to his followers was this one from Matthew 5:43-48:
43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven.Then he added this for good measure:
46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that?You know that it's a low bar when "even the tax collectors" can reach it, am I right? Funny how some things never change.
But still... love your enemies? It kind of makes you want to say:
"Come on, Jesus. All of that sounds good in theory, but have you even seen my enemies? The last thing on earth I want to do is try to love them. Get even with them... Ruin them... Shame them... that's what I'm about. Not love."
And even when we choose not to take specific action against those whom we consider our enemies, we tend to treat them with indifference, ignore their humanity, turn a blind eye to their true need.
We don't want to see them as someone like ourselves. And we definitely don't want to see them as loved and cherished by God.
I read this amazing quote from Henri Nouwen the other day:
Enemies are enemies by the way we exclude them from the love of God. When we love with God's love we can no longer divide people into those who deserve God's love and those who don't. When we come to know God's first love nobody can be excluded from that love.Come on! How convicting is that? And all Nouwen did was unpack what Jesus taught his followers---a lesson that Jesus' followers struggle to learn even to this day.
So try something today...
Try thinking about the people who you believe to be your enemies. Think about them as God does. Realize that you have been given grace, you have been shown love, and that no one---including you--is outside of that love.
And then pray for them. Send them good thoughts. And be free.
May the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always. Amen.