“Father, forgive them. They know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34)
Love your enemies.
No teaching of our Lord’s has been more attacked, slandered, ridiculed, and vilified than His calling on people to love those who hate them, to turn the other cheek when hit, to go the second mile with one’s oppressors, to give one’s shirt to someone stealing his coat.
And yet, this may be the most amazing, revolutionary, world-saving principle ever.
The text is Luke 6:27-35. It is a larger rendition of the same message found in Matthew chapter 5, the Sermon on the Mount.
Verse 27 of Luke 6 answers three huge questions…
“Lord, is this teaching for everyone?”
No. He said, “I say to you who hear.” Not everyone hears or gets spiritual things. “The natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him.” (1 Corinthians 2:14)
“Lord, what do you mean by my enemies? Who are my enemies?”
Answer: Those who hate you, threaten you, curse you, hit you, take what is yours. It’s not that you make them your enemies so much as they put themselves in that category by their actions.
“Lord, how can I love them? I don’t even like them?”
Answer: He did not command you to like them. Some of them He doesn’t like either. He commanded you to love them. And in Scripture, love is never simply an emotion but is always accompanied by action. Love is something we do.
So, when the Lord commands us to love our enemies He gives four actions that explain precisely what He had in mind.
- We are to do good things to our enemies.
- We are to bless our enemies. That is, say good things to them.
- We are to pray for our enemies. Ask God to do His will in their lives.
- We are to give to our enemies.
These are the four most basic acts of love: Do good, bless, pray, and give. You do these things to your beloved child or grandchild — and a whole lot more, of course. But you do these four things. You do good deeds for your children, you bless them, pray for them, and give to them, among other things. But these four actions are what the Lord had in mind when He called on us to love our enemies.
It’s world-changing. In fact, it’s more than that…
When we do loving things for our enemies, 12 things happen.
- God is honored.
- Jesus is pleased.
- The Holy Spirit is able to use our actions to accomplish His will.
- The devil is infuriated. You are not playing by the rules.
- The enemy — those who did the bad things to you — are puzzled. They fully expected you to retaliate and do unto them as they had done to you.
- The critics of the church are silenced. They were all prepared to watch you respond to the bad guy with evil deeds of your own, which they would use against you. But instead, you do loving things and they don’t know what to do.
- The church itself is blessed.
- Christians going through hard times see your behavior and are inspired to do the same.
- Outsiders are drawn to Jesus. Finally, they see someone doing the same kind of things He did!
- You yourself are blessed.
- Your anger goes away.
- And according to Luke 6:35, your reward in Heaven is great.
Nothing you and I will do in this life is more important than to show the love of Christ to people who get on our nerves, constantly harass us, persecute us for our faith, and make life miserable for us.
This is not natural. It cannot be done in the flesh. It’s supernatural and doable only by God’s Spirit.
Only the godly and the faithful will do it. The rest will respond with lawsuits, attacks of their own, slander of their own, and retaliation.
Jesus understood this. He said…
–If you only love those who love you, where is the power of that? Lost people do that.
–If you only do good to those who do good to you, where is the power in that? Unsaved people do this every day.
–If you give only to those who plan to give back to you, big deal. The world does this all the time.
But if you are a follower of Jesus Christ, you are not going to be allowed to retaliate. You will love your enemies, do good to those who persecute you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who threaten you and give to those who would take away what is yours.
Do that and the world changes.
You have His word on it.