Matthew 5:43-48; Luke 6:31-36 LOVE YOUR ENEMIES
Jesus (on the Sermon of the Mount) continues his theme of teaching us to see the intent of the commandments. Jesus references scripture to love thy neighbor as thyself. (Leviticus 19:18, "You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord.") Unfortunately, people read between the left-out lines to quandary how then to treat the enemy. Of course it is easy to love those who love me. The intent of this law is to love everyone in that our neighbor could be our friend or foe. Our neighbor is any person we come into contact with wherever we go. Jesus points out that even the tax collectors and gentiles love those who love them. Jesus points out how He is different in that He loves all, even His enemies, treating them the same, giving them all the sunrise and the rain. Be like Jesus. Imitate Jesus. Be different. Mark 12:32, "The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these."
Luke 34,35 points out that there is no benefit to lending to those who you know you will get the money back. We should give without any expectation to receive anything in return. God is kind to those who are ungrateful and evil. This is convicting to me because I know there are many times in which I do not think enough to realize and give credit to God for all the things He gives and does for me, making me one of those ungrateful. Yet He still gives and loves me.
In verse 44 Jesus gives specific instructions to not only love my enemies, but to pray for them. Prayer changes MY attitude. Jesus announced a revolutionary way to deal with enemies: return kindness for injury, love, for hate, courtesy for dishonor. President Lincoln was great at forming alliances between people of different opinions, bringing together people who disagreed with him on his personal staff. One day one of his advisors came to him and said, "Mr. President, you really have to destroy your enemies." Mr. Lincoln smiled and said, "Isn't that what I do when I make them my friends?"
It's hard to hate someone who is busy loving you and doing good for you. It baffling to the person who is unable to understand what is up. The person wonders why you are not retaliating or snubbing them. The smile on your face is like a spotlight of conviction. Eventually it becomes too difficult to go on hating you. They are not really hurting you, so their efforts are useless. The person may become curious a to what causes you to be friendly when others are not, leading to questions worth answering.
Lord, let us remember that we were once your enemies and you loved us. In that same way let us love and convert those who oppose us.
In verse 48 Jesus tells me to be perfect just like the Father. Now that is impossible without my Jesus's forgiveness through the cross that wipes away clean all my sins. Romans 3:21, "But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law." I am a flawed individual in need of righteousness apart from the keeping of the law that only comes through Jesus. Still yet, Jesus wants me to strive to be perfect like the Father. It is a lifetime adventure to continually grow in character.
Luke 6:31 gives the classic often-repeated phrase "as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them." Treat others as you want to be treated. This includes treating enemies the way I would want to be treated.