The Grace of God

That Brings Salvation Has Appeared to All Men (Titus 2:11)

What if We Really Loved our Enemies?

Posted by israeliteindeed on October 19, 2014

When the subject of obeying Christ’s command to love our enemies comes up, invariably someone will respond with, “Well what would you do if someone broke into your house and was about to rape and murder your wife/husband/child?” It is assumed that our innate love for, and desire to protect, our family will override any silly compulsion we might have had for turning the other cheek. Otherwise you are just a rotten human being, even loveless.

First, this is not a scenario that happens every day. It is unwise to imagine the most tortuous thing possible as a means to extricate ourselves from Christ’s commands.

Second, there are many things one could do in response besides kill. Hopefully, our first response would be prayer. And if that isn’t our first response, maybe we don’t really know or trust God. After prayer, we have to trust that the Spirit of God would show us what to do or say next. And I know that whatever that would be, it would in no way contradict any of Jesus’ teachings. If we have already hidden God’s Word in our hearts, it will keep us from sin when the pressure is on.

Third, I have to repeat the question in the title of this paper. What if we really loved our enemies? I mean really loved them.

Imagine for a moment that your own 20 year-old son (or daughter), whom you had rocked in your arms and raised up under your own roof, fell in with some bad people and decided you were his enemy. One day he pulls a weapon on you and tells you he is going to kill you in cold blood. What would you do? Would you instantly pull out your own gun and fire away, then tell the world, “I had no choice. Self-defense.” Would your story be lauded all over the internet and shared on social media–“Brave father kills son in self-defense.” Probably not. Many people, even unbelievers, would be shaking their heads. How could a father do that to his own child?

But what is the difference between a stranger and that prodigal son?

The difference is that you love your own son. And because you love him, you don’t want him to die, especially in the spiritual state he is in. You would probably be wondering how in the world he ever got this confused. Most likely, your mind would be working overtime to create a way to diffuse the situation so you could help your son. You would likely plead with him, remind him that what he is doing has dreadful consequences to him spiritually. Perhaps you would start weeping with a broken heart for what is happening to him. And whatever else you would do (call the police, try to restrain him, run away), it is very unlikely that you would riddle him with bullet holes to solve the problem.

Now, let’s talk about the stranger. Why do people find it so easy to kill strangers, whether it is the stranger from their own town committing robbery, or the stranger overseas who happens to have a target on his chest due to some political struggle? They find it easy because they do not love him. And because they do not love him, they choose not to remember that he is created in God’s image and likeness. They find it easy to forget that he has a mother and father who may be devastated by his death. They choose to have a hardened heart toward his spiritual state, rather than a broken heart willing to make a personal sacrifice to help him.

The western church has cleverly dreamed up myriad ways to explain away the teachings of Christ, so that she can respond to the challenges sin brings just as the world does, and continue seeking all the things the Gentiles (unbelievers) seek (Matt. 6:25-33). To respond to those challenges as God did in Christ simply costs too much. She wants to be perfect, but she doesn’t want to enter the fire to be perfected. And because of this apostasy and departure from love, she is now plagued with fear.

We have fear of people who practice false religions, fear of terrorism, fear of which way the political games are headed, fear of losing what we have worked so hard to achieve for ourselves. We are no longer seeking first the kingdom of God–that kingdom which is not of this world–that kingdom which we must enter through tribulation. We are no longer seeking His righteousness, a righteousness that overcomes evil with good (Rom. 12:14-21). We are no longer willing to follow in Jesus’ suffering steps (I Pet. 2:21).

When Jesus commanded us to love our enemies, He meant it. He will never change what He said. His commands will never be outdated because of some new and more serious threat. Neither are they burdensome (I John 5:3).

What He commands, He also facilitates for those who abide in Him. He is not simply telling us to treat our enemies as if we loved them. He wants us to actually love them, the way we love our own children. Is that possible?

It is. He showed us the way, and His life flowing in us (if we are abiding in the Vine) makes it possible. While we were still His enemies, Christ died a violent death to save us (Rom. 5:8-10). Such a love makes no sense to the natural man, and he can’t receive it. The world doesn’t operate this way; and those who love the world can never choose this way because they are too invested in the world.

But those who truly die to themselves in order to know God even in His sufferings, even in conformity to His death (Phil. 3:10), will find that they are debtors to everyone, even the barbarians (Rom. 1:14). Being a debtor means you owe them; they don’t owe you anything! This is how the early church gave up their lives–being imprisoned, stoned, beheaded and crucified–for the gospel. This is how they were content to live in the caves of the earth as outcasts. This is how they so easily parted with lands and goods to see that others were fed. It wasn’t that their times were so much easier. It was that they were so closely connected to Jesus and so willing to follow in His steps (out of love for Him), that His love flowed through them and they were empowered to love their enemies from their hearts. They weren’t pretending; a game of pretend doesn’t have that kind of endurance. Their minds were being renewed to love as God does; their hearts were tenderized until they saw themselves as debtors to every man. Was it easy? I don’t think the cross or tribulation are ever easy. Every man cares for his own flesh and wants to see it flourish, but love makes impossible things possible.

And so I challenge you to put in place of that faceless, nameless “enemy” –someone you love. Don’t dehumanize the enemy; that is the world’s way. Humanize him with the face, the life story, and the value of one you dearly cherish. Now ask the Lord Jesus to help you love your enemy in the way you love that person precious to you. Because I truly believe the gap between how we would respond to an only son and how we would respond to a complete stranger is the gap between our love and His love. And it’s not enough to say, “I’m only human.” It is God’s will that His love be perfected in us.

Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness in the day of judgment; because as He is, so are we in this world. (I Jn. 4:17)

But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.

Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. (Phil. 3:7-14)

Have you not yet attained? Are you not already perfected? Begin by counting your worldly gains as loss for Christ. Many are stumbled right here and never get this first step nailed down. Oh, but you must! For where your treasure is, there your heart is also! (Matt. 6:19-21) And then you must desire, with an undivided heart, to know Jesus and to be like Him, even if closely following Him draws you into the fellowship of His sufferings. Forget those things which are behind and press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. I’m on the same journey you are on. Let us not fear those who kill the body, but only fear God.

God bless you.

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2 Responses to “What if We Really Loved our Enemies?”

  1. hoshiana said

    Reblogged this on Hoshi'ana.

  2. I am thankful that there are notable exceptions to the run-of-the-mill bulk of western Christians, e.g. http://spurgeonwarquotes.wordpress.com/

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