I’m doing a study right now on the Sermon on the Mount, reading through the account given in Matthew. (This particular study is guided by She Reads Truth.) This summer, my husband and I read through Luke’s account and it floored me. I could read this over and over and not grow tired of the precious words of Jesus found here. One particular passage sticking out to me this time around is Matthew 5:43-48. Jesus is speaking directly to His disciples, but others were gathered to listen as well. He has just gone through several old testament laws, taking them a leap further. Now we come to this:
“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 sends 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.”
This question was posed…”What is an enemy? What were you taught as a child about loving your enemies? How has that idea changed for you over time?” And it made me realize that for a very long time, I thought my enemy was anyone who was different than I was, anyone who disagreed with me or held an opposing viewpoint. That’s simply not that case. In verse 43, the word enemy means “hostile.” Look up the word hostile and you’ll see the words antagonistic, unfriendly. An enemy seeks harm. Someone who opposes me is not necessarily my enemy. Hear that?
I think Christians often take this command from Jesus and turn it into, “I’m going to choose to be kind to the pro-abortion people or people from a different faith or those rainbow-flag waving people. I’m going to show kindness to the Democrat/Republican. Now THAT is loving my enemy.” That kindness is good, really. I’m not going to say that you shouldn’t show kindness to those with opposing views. But I am going to just put it out there that just because you disagree with someone doesn’t mean they are your enemy.
You guys, we even make enemies up that don’t exist! “I’m going to boycott _____ because _____.” Are those places actively seeking your harm? Are they hostile towards you? And really- I mean HOSTILE. Is there violence towards you? Marginalization happening because of them? Guess what. Even then, Jesus tells us to “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.” (Matthew 5:14) He says, ” If possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” (Matthew 5:18) This even counts on Facebook! This means that maybe you don’t post the meme, antagonize others, begin fiery arguments…because in doing so, YOU become the enemy that other people are being called to love! How upside down is that?!
We are so caught up in defending our American rights that we are placing those rights above the call of Christ. I have done it. I still stumble. I think this resonates so much with me because I am in it.
I’m asking us, Christians, to earnestly seek God out on who our enemy is. And yes, there are real enemies! There are people in this world who are hostile towards believers. We need only to look to our brothers and sisters across the globe experiencing torture and marginalization because of their faith. It’s immediate and harmful. And yes, there are those who really do seek to harm us-extremist terrorists, individuals who set off bombs and walk into churches and open fire, twisted people who would invade someones home and bring harm to those within, any leader who would oppress the voices of those opposed to him/her. Jesus Himself speaks to this and says, “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well.” (Matthew 5:38-40)
We only need to look to Jesus’ life and death to see the perfect example of how to respond to those who would bring harm. His response to His enemies is breathtaking and so against my own instinct. I fail regularly, and regularly need the grace of my Father in this particular area. I need the discernment offered by the Spirit and the direction offered by the Word. By His grace, I believe that we can change some conversations and be the salt and light He calls us to be. We remember too, that, “…we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” (Ephesians 6:12) We have the mighty weapons to come against that enemy , and praise God that the battle is won.