Monday, January 18, 2016
Scratching the Surface
(A Brief and Incomplete Guide to Loving the Unlovable)
It’s one of the hardest things about following Jesus: “Love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you!”
It’s so hard because enemies want the worst for us.
They work on it.
While the natural response is to “do unto them before they do unto us,” Jesus says following Him includes loving the unlovable: “You’ve been told to hate your enemies; but I say love and pray for them. If you do that, you will show how much you love Me. As you do it to/for them, you do it to/for Me. Really, if you love people who love you, that doesn’t make you any better than anybody else. If you’re going to model Someone better and show how I’m really your Lord, you will treat everybody – even enemies – with love and offer prayers for My best in their lives.”
Let’s look closer.
Following Jesus includes loving enemies with that distinctive Christian behavior called agape love; praying and working for the highest good for others no matter who, what, where, or when without the need or expectation for response, regard, or reward.
Following Jesus includes loving enemies by praying for their salvation by grace through faith in Jesus that will be evidenced by them talking, acting, and looking like they’ve been born again.
Let’s look even closer.
Despite our best efforts to reconcile with enemies through Jesus according to principles outlined in Matthew 18:15-17, they still may want and work on the worst for us. Still, Jesus says following Him includes turning the other cheek, walking the extra mile, feeding, clothing, housing, and caring for our enemies in a Matthew 25 kinda way without exception.
Even when our enemies persist in being irregular, irascible, and irreconcilable, following Jesus includes intercession for them; or as a mentor once urged, “Sometimes it’s better to talk to God about someone than to talk to someone about God.”
Many years ago, a wise counselor said this to me: “You are not responsible for what others say and do. You are only responsible for what you say and do; and how you respond to what others say and do.”
At Montgomery, Alabama’s Dexter Avenue Baptist Church on November 17, 1957, Martin Luther King, Jr. talked about this hard part of following Jesus: “Over the centuries, many persons have argued that this is an extremely difficult command…They would go on to say this is just additional proof that Jesus was an impractical idealist who never quite came down to earth…[But]…far from being the pious injunction of a utopian dreamer, this command is an absolute necessity for the survival of our civilization…It is love that will save our world and our civilization, love even for enemies.”
He went on, “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…who hate you most…who have misused you most…who have gossiped about you most…who have spread false rumors…He realized that it was painfully hard, pressingly hard. But He wasn’t playing.”
He continued, “This is what Jesus means…He says, ‘Love your enemy.’ He doesn’t say, ‘Like your enemy.’ Like is a sentimental something, an affectionate something. There are a lot of people that I find it difficult to like…I don’t like them…But Jesus says love them! And love is greater than like. Love is understanding, redemptive goodwill for all men, so that you love everybody, because God loves them.”
Specifically, King noted, “You refuse to do anything that will defeat an individual, because you have agape in your soul…You love the individual who does the evil deed, while hating the deed that the person does. This is what Jesus means when He says, ‘Love your enemy.’ This is the way to do it. When the opportunity presents itself when you can defeat your enemy, you must not do it.”
Jesus also put it this way, “Love everybody as much as I have loved you.”
That includes enemies; and that means offering agape to them and prayers for them.
Blessings and Love!