|mural at Sheffield Tasmania|
Conspiracy theories breed quicker than mushrooms. I’d like to add another. The constant appeal to “love your enemies” is being pushed by our enemies. They take the quote Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount and try and manipulate us so as to dominate. What do you think?
On Facebook, in magazines and live chat shows this a repeated refrain, especially in regards to treatment of Muslims. I’ve yet to hear or read of it being quoted to someone from another religious group. So I asked the following questions and also replied to myself:
1. Why should I love my enemies whoever they are?
2. What purposes are there in expressing such love?
3. When does ‘loving your enemy’ end?
As a Christian the answer is easy for the first question. Jesus said it! Matthew 5:43-48. He also just before that quote talked about turning the other cheek. Taken in isolation we could imagine Jesus giving His followers a ‘victim mentality.’ However, in reading the Gospels and New Testament letters I gain a fuller and deeper understanding of what underscores Christ’s challenge to ‘love the enemy.’
Jesus set the example quoted in Romans 5:6-11. We were His enemies, yet He loved us. That love sought to remove the animosity and barriers between Him and us. It cost Him dearly which is why the true symbol of love is the cross. We like to quote John 3:16 concerning this love and fail to appreciate the verses which followed. They speak about the high price to be paid by those who refuse His love, defuse His teaching and abuse His Name and people. Even the Sermon on the Mount, much vaunted as a guide for living, is laced with dire warnings about judgement and Hades. Therefore, how do we express Christ’s love with its warning about rejecting it?
Romans 12:20 tells us to feed our enemy if he is hungry or give him a drink if thirsty. Sounds nice, warm and fuzzy. What we overlook is the judgement which is falling on his head. It is likened to burning coals! What will determine the outcome is his response. Who is the one to decide? The Lord of vengeance and none other. The disciple is to do good works, as Jesus did and taught. What we often fail to understand is that such deeds become a blessing or a judgement on the recipients. As we serve them in the name of Jesus it is not merely as a ‘handout’. It’s meant to be an introduction to the One who wants to be their Saviour with an offer of new beginnings. Did Jesus put a ‘times-up’ on love? Yes! In most cases it would be when death intervenes. For after that judgement takes place (Hebrews 9:27. Revelation 20:11-15.) Some parables speak on this matter and deals with nations, false teachers and spiritual frauds.
When should we imagine our expressing love to our enemies has crossed over into a justice mode? I’d suggest it is when that person (or persons) has received and tasted our love in Christ’s name and then repeatedly trampled on it. When our prayers for him or her are despised and the Lord’s grace repelled over and over then it is time to move on. It could be likened to what Jesus said about a village rejecting the message of the Messiah. Shake off the dust from your sandals as a witness against them. Should an enemy have evil intent upon my family, person or country love for him gives way to a greater love. That is love for my family! What action takes place depends upon what aggression is faced.
When we talk about ‘love and others’ we unconsciously lump them all together. This seems to miss the Scriptural teachings in each case. To love my wife is on a different platform than loving my neighbour. To love my Christian family of faith is a different investment than loving my enemies. To love my Lord and Saviour is a far superior love to all the others and dictates how I love them. Therefore, when it comes to loving my enemies I will do it, even reluctantly, because of my love and commitment to Jesus Christ. As stated above, my underlying reason is to obey Jesus, make an enemy my friend, plus seek to deliver him or her from an eternal separation from the Holy and Everlasting God. Such love isn’t sentimental or pious. It is tough and needs the total resources of the Holy Spirit within to keep the love flowing.
©Ray Hawkins August 2016.