“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect." Matthew 5:43-48
With Valentine’s Day upon us, my thoughts recently turned toward what I love. I of course love my wife, my family, my friends, etc. I also love golf, chocolate, laughing, and other things as well. Yet, there is one thing that remains the hardest to love: my enemies. As a matter of fact, I even convince myself at times that it is okay to not only hate my enemies, but it is also okay to wish ill-will toward them since they must deserve it if they cannot be a friend to a guy like me.
For some of us, our enemies are a daily obsession. They remain in our minds constantly and we spend hours thinking about what we wish we could do to them. We may even plot against them and gossip about them in the hopes that their life will be just a little more difficult or in an attempt to convince others to hate them too. There are even times when we rationalize with Scripture that our enemies are God’s enemies and therefore are deserving of hatred and condemnation. We may even send hate valentines to them or about them to people we know.
It may surprise you, but in ancient times it was okay to hate your enemies. The way of life at that time was to protect your family at all costs. This was followed by protecting and caring for your tribe next, and your nation after that. Anyone who fell outside of those boundaries could be considered an enemy and you were expected to think of them only as a means to an end.
It was into this world that Jesus stepped and said a most radical thing, “love you enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven.” Jesus takes the system of that time and turns it upside down so that people could see the way the world was intended to be. He tells them that the children of God are people who are known for their love and concern for everyone, including their enemies.
Jesus raises the bar for His people and challenges them to go above and beyond the required cultural norms in order to genuinely and authentically care for others. And included in that group are your enemies. Then, Jesus modeled that kind of care and concern by dying on the cross, a feat that Paul states in Romans 5:8 was a true demonstration of God’s love because He did it, “while we were yet sinners,” (enemies), of God.
So how about you? Are you going to send out a valentine for your enemy this week? Jesus said we can do it by loving them. And we can love them by praying for them. My guess is that the more you do the latter, the more you will increase in your capacity to do the former.
Happy Valentine’s Day, Sunrise!
Posted on Wed, February 8, 2012
by John Hill