All this week we’ve explored the blessings of love.
We looked at God’s love through the lens of Psalm 136.
We looked at the meaning of love through the lens of the Apostle John’s epistle.
We looked at how there are different words to express love (which is not a feeling.)
Yesterday we looked deeper into how love is not a feeling, but a choice of the will.
Today we’ll look deeper into that, loving not only those who are easy to love, or loving who we are supposed to love, but loving those who actively hate us. Enemies.
I’ll take a moment here to let you all know something. I enjoy writing, but that’s not the only reason I write blogs every day. I process the Word by writing. When I post a blog essay, I’m not telling you all how to be Christian, though there is some exhortation with each essay. Mainly, I am preaching to myself. I don’t find it easy to love the way the Bible tells us, even to friends and brethren. I certainly don’t find it easy to love enemies. I fail in many ways, every day. So please don’t ever think that I have it all together!
But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men. (Luke 6:35).
And again in Matthew:
You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48 You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. (Matthew 5:43-48)
Barnes’ Notes explains:
We are bound to love our enemies. This is a law of Christianity, original and unique. No system of religion but Christianity has required it, and no act of Christian piety is more difficult. None shows more the power of the grace of God; none is more ornamental to the character; none more like God; and none furnishes better evidence of piety. He that can meet a man kindly who is seeking his hurt; who can speak well of one that is perpetually slandering and cursing him; that can pray for a man that abuses, injures, and wounds him: and that can seek heaven for him that wishes his damnation, is in the way to life. This is religion, beautiful as its native skies; pure like its Source; kind like its Author; fresh like the dews of the morning; clear and diffusive like the beams of the rising sun; and holy like the feelings and words that come from the bosom of the Son of God. He that can do this need not doubt that he is a Christian. He has caught the very spirit of the Saviour, and he must inherit eternal life.
It’s easy to love those who love us. It’s simple to treat others lovingly who treat us well. Jesus said even the Gentiles (who do not know love) do the same.
A Christian’s love must be different than what is expected. It has to be different from the kind of love the world is used to. It must be perfect.
But how can our love be perfect? We’re imperfect sinners!
John MacArthur here in his sermon Love Your Enemies part 3:
The point is this: you are to be like God. You say, “Well, that standard is too high.” You’re right, and that’s exactly what He wanted the Pharisees to know. You can’t make it. … What Jesus is saying in the Sermon on the Mount is the same thing, “Be perfect.” They’re supposed to say, “But I can’t be perfect.” And that’s when He says, “Right; and if you fall short of perfection, you need a Savior.” And that’s where Jesus comes in, and brings to you what Peter calls the divine nature, and makes you like God, a partaker of His nature. Then God, in a miracle of salvation, does for you what you could never do for yourself – be like God. When you came to Jesus Christ, positionally, you were made like God. You were given His eternal life, His righteousness, you became like Him in that sense. And now you need to bring your behavior into harmony with your position.
Oh no! I still can’t!
John MacArthur continues:
Listen: a Christian is not someone who keeps the Sermon on the Mount. A Christian is somebody who knows he can’t, do you see – and comes to Jesus Christ for forgiveness for the sin of falling short, and receives from Christ the forgiveness, and then the power to begin to live these principles. That’s the point of the message.
If that makes you cry, good. It did me. His standards are holy and high, and we can’t make it. It makes me cry out Abba! Father! Help me! Help me to love like you would have me do! And He will.
A note about the photo: It was taken by a friend of mine who works with the American Legion, an American veteran, who was in NYC for a conference on the day of 9-11. He took this photo the day after. He gave this picture to me and spent some time telling me how the day was for him and his colleagues. It was an emotional day for all of us, though it’s hard to believe it has been 17 years since then. I watched in shock as the towers fell (and knew many were dying at that moment), the pit in the ground in PA where the plane dove in, the Pentagon ruptured and a Navy man who lived in our town was killed inside. Whether it’s an individual enemy at work, or a national enemy out to destroy America, and every enemy in between, it is very hard to love your enemies. Yet Jesus did, while He was being nailed to the cross, He pleaded for mercy upon those who nailed Him and wanted Him dead. The truth is, before salvation we were all enemies of God and we all have that depravity in us that wants God dead. Praise Him that before we knew Him, He first loved us.