Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you…
“You have heard that it was said, “You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.” But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 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 end rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
Matthew 5:43-48 (ESV)
This is a pretty popular passage, but there are some aspects that are often overlooked. Many of us have heard the saying, “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” I don’t know about you, but it has been repeated so often that it becomes almost cliché. However, Jesus places upon this saying the utmost importance. Why is it so important? This, at least for man, is a foreign idea. We prefer to stick with the people we like. We hang out with our friends and family and those with whom we feel comfortable. However, this is not what Christ is calling us to do. He is not simply telling us to say a quick prayer for people we don’t like. He is calling us to LOVE our enemies. What does it mean to love our enemies? Let’s think about what Jesus did for his enemies, namely, us. Paul tells us in Romans that while we were still sinners, Christ demonstrated His love for us by dying on the cross. Love is the willingness to die for your enemies. True love, according to Jesus, is laying down your life for another.
Jesus takes this concept a step further by calling us out on our desire to only love those who love us back. Even those who do not have a relationship with Christ love those who love them. Jesus even tells us that God blesses those who are not His by giving them sunshine and rain. He gives the sinner grace even when they are enemies of God. This is the perfection to which God calls: we love our enemies perfectly, blessing them, serving them and, if God calls us, dying for them. We must look at our lives and ask the question: are we willing to die for those we most hate? Are we willing to love and serve those who would see our lives destroyed? This is what Christ did for us and this is what we must do to be like Christ.
So this week, let us truly love our enemies. When faced with someone who is cruel to us, we return their cruelty with the grace that God has shown to us. When someone hates us, love them the way that Christ has loved us.