Love your enemies…

Open Bible 1“Love your enemies. do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.” Luke 6:27-28.

If you’re like me, you might have wished you had just scrolled past this short article.

What under heaven is Jesus thinking?

Is there a text more challenging, more piercing, more provoking in all of Scripture?

Is there a single statement that is more illuminating of the condition of our hearts? 

We struggle truly loving those closest to us. I don’t mean that we don’t have a form of love for them; certainly, we do. What I am speaking of is the passionate conviction to apply ourselves to living for their good…to serving to their benefit. We struggle because there is often a part of us, deep down, that hopes to benefit from such loving displays. We love and (kind of) hope/expect to be recognized for it. In these cases, we demonstrate self-love.

Man’s greatest issue is his infatuation with Himself. We are self-seeking and self-serving at our core. We process most events in our lives through the filter of “how is this going to affect me? What is the implication on my life?”

Perhaps that is the Lord’s point. Maybe Jesus commands us to love those who hate us so that our selfish hearts will come to light. Perhaps he wants us to see our hearts as He sees them. Frankly, Jesus did not command us to love our enemies because He was concerned that they should live better. He is not seeking to make them more comfortable or more confident. The command, while it affects others, is like a searchlight aimed directly at our inner being. He is seeking to expose the self-centeredness that lurks within us so that we can wrestle it to the ground and diminish its control in our lives.

How can I be sure of this assessment? Because Jesus also presented a contrast for us in Himself and His own actions:

  • He loved us while we were His enemies (Romans 5:8).
  • He prayed for us while we were His enemies. Examples abound but do not gloss over His prayer from the cross- “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.”

Today, as we consider that Jesus loved us from “enemies” to “family,” let’s not yield to the temptation to mitigate the weightiness of this command. Let’s not minimize it or make excuses about how “we are just not Jesus.” We are not Jesus, but He lives in us so let’s not proclaim how much less accountable we are. Instead, in light of His love toward us as enemies, let’s allow God to expose and transform our hearts to the place that we can love our enemies, bless them, and pray for them as Jesus did for us. Then, and not one second before, will we know what it is to be like Him.

A blessing that provokes a curse…

Open Bible 1“He who blesses his friend with a loud voice early in the morning, it will be reckoned a curse to him.” Proverbs 27:14

Blessing a friend is good. Blessing a friend first thing in the morning is good. Blessing a friend in a loud voice is often good. Put them together and you may become the subject of your friend’s disdain.

There is a right time and a right context for everything. Standing to shout out your school’s “fight song” is good in the stadium after winning the game. It is generally frowned upon in class during a midterm exam.

Many “good” messages have been lost because the messenger did not consider the context from the recipient’s perspective. As one who speaks to groups multiple times per week and without a manuscript, I can tell you that I miss the mark here far too often. Sometimes my “filter” doesn’t catch a thought before it crosses my lips. (That’s not an excuse…just a fact of my present reality).

I wonder how many times we have a “good word” for a person’s situation but it is missed because our timing was off. For instance, a friend’s child is overdue to get home from school and hasn’t answered the phone. Is this a time to comfort your friend or recite recent statistics on child abductions? The answer seems obvious.

Christians mess this up too. “Hey brother, I didn’t tell them anything that wasn’t true! I’m just speaking the truth!” Sure friend, but aren’t we called to speak the truth in love? How is it loving to say what you said, in the way you said it at the time you said it? Did the hearer see your anguish in delivering such a message due to the inherent implications?

Jesus instructed us to be “wise as serpents and as harmless as doves.” Serpents are not powerful but they are hypersensitive to their surroundings. Rarely will a snake dart out from under a bush to attack a person walking by.(Back them into a corner and you may have a different story.) Doves are harmless and pleasant.

So how do I do this? Here are six considerations:

  • Be clean. Check your heart motive. Are you compelled to speak “the truth” because you are aggravated with a person or jealous for God’s glory?
  • Be aware. Play the conversation through as if you were hearing it as the person you are speaking to. How did you receive it?
  • Be humble. You’re not “all that.” But for the grace of God…there go I.
  • Be empathetic. Listen. hear. empathize.
  • Be gracious. If someone says they “get it” and apologize, taken them at their word.
  • Be encouraging. They should feel more emboldened in God’s love after you leave than when you got there.

If you have thoughts, I’d love to hear them.

#P5: Demonstrated Values…a Memorial Day Reflection

US Flag“But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8.

The verse above removes all doubt of the limitless nature of God’s love toward us. Not just love of Himself, His purpose, His own glory…but of the deeply rooted value He holds toward us. He loves us.

It is one thing to say that you love someone…that you value him or her…but the truest measure of such devotion and value is demonstrated in the price willing to be paid on his or her behalf. I have heard some say along the way, “I love my spouse, but I just cannot continue to honor my vow of marriage.” This love has limits as is demonstrated by the unwillingness to continue in devotion, “til death we do part.” It may be a love that goes up to the point of deep personal angst…but not to death.

Christ held nothing back. There was no reserved love or withheld devotion. He gave ALL.

I was reflecting on this today in light of the observance of Memorial Day in the US. In like manner, today we observe commitment of men and women who gave their lives in defense of this nation. Not some geographical land mass…but in support of the ideals of the nation. I have said often that the commitment made by veterans, living and dead, is no different. Our oath is the same. We promised to defend the nation (our ideals and way of life) against ALL enemies, foreign and domestic. We promised without reservation to follow the orders of our commanders, our leadership and to give every last measure of strength to fulfilling our assigned objective.

Again, it is one thing to say that and another thing to see it demonstrated. Each veteran who puts on a uniform demonstrates a willingness to fight, but those who have fallen in battle demonstrate that they were willing to die rather than fail their commitment.

Today, we honor our war-dead. We honor them because there is no doubt about the level of their commitment or the limitless nature of their love for our nation. Jesus said, “No greater love has any man than this, but to lay down His life for His friends.” No greater love.

So today…celebrate! Have a barbecue and don’t feel at all guilty. Your right to do so in a free country was purchased for you with blood of a friend. He or she died to demonstrate the value of our nation’s ideals. While you are celebrating…remember. You, your life, your FREEDOM meant (demonstrably) so much to those who’ve died that they gave their last full measure of devotion to secure it for you. Finally, value your freedom as precious and worthwhile, It is a wonderful possession and a sacred trust. Your freedom has been entrusted to you.

As Christ died for you, removing all doubt of His love for you…so the American Soldier who died on the field of battle for you demonstrates His love for the ideals of a nation that he or she entrusted to you.

God bless those who’ve given so much and may we all walk worthy of such demonstrated love.

Shalom, CA