She had once been a good friend, but for a time she was my enemy.
Four years after becoming her pastor, I noticed our relationship changed from friendly to unfriendly…at her request. The church’s governing body made a decision affecting her position in the church. A decision that was actually for her protection and the church’s, but she didn’t view it that way. They were questioning her integrity. And though I only consented to the decision, I became her target. I knew we were enemies when I noticed every Sunday that she was reading her Bible while I preached. Happily, a couple of years later we were friends again.
Jesus’ command to love my enemies doesn’t make the task any easier. “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you.” (Matthew 5:44 KJV)
Loving my enemies means admitting I can’t love my enemies…at least not in my own strength. The command is ludicrous when taken at face value. I’m supposed to love someone who hates me…who intends to physically or emotionally harm me? No one in their right mind attempts such a feat or even sees the need to.
Thankfully Jesus’ world isn’t like mine. In fact, his famous Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) is decorated with what appears to be senseless commands. Loving my enemies is but one. Obeying this command-and others, entails letting Christ fulfill it through me. When I rely on his indwelling Spirit’s strength, I can love those who are unlovable and who don’t love me in return. And Jesus doesn’t ask me to do what he didn’t. While hanging on the cross…bruised and battered, he asked the Father to forgive those who were crucifying him. His enemies.
Why should I love my enemies? Because God does, and because it’s his mandate for me to want everyone to experience his love as I do. Only unexplainable love can accomplish this. Who don’t you love that you need to?
Prayer: Enable and motivate us, merciful Father, to shine Your love by loving all people regardless of whether they love us in return.