Saturday, March 7, 2009
Jesus said to his disciples: "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,
that you may be children of your heavenly Father,
for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good,
and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust.
For if you love those who love you, what recompense will you have?
Do not the tax collectors do the same?
And if you greet your brothers and sisters only,
what is unusual about that? Do not the pagans do the same?
So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect."
Professor of Business Administration and
Marketing Major Program Director
Jesus Teaches about Loving Enemies
During Lent we Christians prepare our hearts for Easter, a celebration of the greatest act of love in history, Christ's willing sacrificial death so that our sins might be forgiven. Romans 5:10 explains that "when we were God's enemies,we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son." In this ultimate act of love for His foes, Christ models for us treating our adversaries with love. This isn't mushy, sentimental love; rather, it is unconditional, self-sacrificing agape love-an action, not a feeling.
However, our love is usually conditional-based upon how other people behave toward us and how they make us feel. Especially for our foes, we prefer "Do to others what they do to you" rather than God's Golden Rule: "Do to others what you would have them do to you." (Matthew 7:12). But, we can be kind to our enemies if we ask the Holy Spirit for strength to demonstrate love toward those for whom we don't feel love.
Proverbs 25:21-23 commands: "If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; if he is thirsty, give him water to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head, and the Lord will reward you." So, if you repay evil with good, you will (1) likely shame the evildoer (perhaps enough so that he changes his ways) and (2) you will be blessed by God. This is not excusing the person-it is loving that individual in spite of his or her sins-just as Christ did for us. Such unconditional forgiveness might lead to that person's repentance and reconciliation. Moreover, acting in a loving way toward and praying for your enemy will free you from bitterness, regardless of how the other person responds.
The best way we can love our enemies is by giving them the gospel-the message of God's saving grace-that we get to heaven through repentance, no matter how badly we have sinned, putting Christ at the center of our lives to help us strive to be perfect.
Of course, we can't become perfect in this life. However, when we admit to God that we have fallen short of His standard of perfection, Christ imputes to us His righteousness-we are perfect in His sight. He then begins the process of helping us clean up our lives, growing in Christ-like character.
Think about your enemy-wouldn't you love to see this for him or her? If we strive to love others as fully as God loves us, such a miracle is possible. "