Read Luke 6
I would like to believe that I have no enemies, but it may not be entirely true. I know that I have at least one enemy whose goal and ambition it is to destroy me, but this enemy is not human. I suspect there may also be some humans who, although they may not know it, are enslaved to this enemy who also would consider me their enemy. It is these that I would like to think I would be able to love in spite of their hatred toward me.
Let me attempt to describe this in a more tangible way. I recently read an article published by the Islamic State which attempted to explain why these Islamic extremists are murdering Christians, Jews and homosexuals and even other Muslims they consider apostate. This is not the kind of hatred that can be reasoned with, yet this is the kind of enemy that Jesus calls us to love. These are the people that we, as followers of Jesus, are compelled to show mercy to, despite the fact that it may cost us our life. This is exactly the kind of love that Jesus modeled for us when He did not resist those who condemned Him to death and nailed Him to a cross and left Him there to die. It is only because He was willing to do that that we are able to know and understand what love really is.
In today’s reading Jesus challenges those following Him to choose a path of love rather than attempting to justify hate.
But love your enemies, and do good and lend expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful, and the evil. Be merciful even as your Father is merciful. (v. 35-36)
Do not misunderstand; this is not easy to write about. If I am honest I have to admit I do not like this command to love my enemies. There is a part of me that would much rather attempt to justify nuking that entire patch of sand we call the Middle East into huge sheet of glass in an attempt to rid the world of all the hate, but there is a serious problem with that line of thinking. When we use hate and violence in an attempt to rid the world of hate and violence, we are not only hypocritical, but our action is counter productive. When we add more hate to the hate that already exists we multiply the hatred and play right into the hand of one who is truly our enemy.
Satan has been attempting to destroy humanity ever since they all got tossed out of the Garden of Eden in Genesis 3. In His mercy, God won’t allow Satan to destroy us directly, however, Satan does seem to have some latitude to use his deceptive schemes to try to convince us to destroy each other. This is why responding to hate with more hate does not work. Only love can absorb and overpower hatred, and I believe that ultimately love will win. Unfortunately, for love to win it sometimes involves great sacrifice on the part of those who chose to love, but at the end of the day, this is the kind of love that overcomes the enemy’s hatred, and Jesus promises that the reward is worth the cost. What we have to decide, as we walk out the life we have been given, is which master we will serve – will choose to embrace love at any cost? Or will we choose to multiply hate? There is no middle ground.